Once a single mom…

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I have been wanting to do this for some time now, but I wasn’t sure quite how. All it will take are a few clicks, yes that’s how. But how to communicate the feeling beneath what I need to say has been the task. It’s been the challenge and the privilege of this outlet with every post.

Ending this blog has been decision that in time I knew I would get to. Even though my gut has been leading me elsewhere for quite some time, hence the posts few and far between. However, there are much, much bigger decisions to be made in life than this. When one book closes, thousands are waiting to be opened. I’m ready to walk into that library.

For the past few years I have found a voice through my story thus far, Holden’s story, or really, my story with Holden in it. I’ve cried, laughed, been angered and frustrated with, felt relief throughout, expressed my shame, as well as felt unconditional gratefulness all while typing out this journey of willed freedom in words. And not that there is anything truly special or unique about my own particular journey through finding identity in grasping the label of a single mom. We are a dime a dozen after all. Both unfortunately and fortunately.

My intentions of this blog evolved throughout the time I wrote these posts. At first, maybe a stance. Other times, sharing for family and friends geographically distant. Later, vulnerability. Connection then became intention that I didn’t know I needed at the time, unbeknownst to me initially. The responses from people who found it, or who I invited to read, became the food to feed what I needed during this phase in my life. The phase that I defined by confusion, superlative thoughts, growth, and setbacks. The phase that I could learn and grow from during because I was so supported by all those validating and sharing with me as well.

I am in a better place every day. I have been for a while. But that doesn’t mean I’m done having some hard days forever. And having those days don’t mean that I’m not okay either. I’m actually quite”good.” But as my days unfold, I continue to over-think, sometimes take things personally, and acknowledge the hurt (too much) when it surfaces. Often I get tired of being strong. Often I need validation. I’ve learned though the experience of handling my own that when one isn’t there to validate, you must validate yourself. What a gift of self-love and what a strength to shine. And one that feels impossible to gift yourself when getting caught up in that shame cycle all over again. Something I learned along the way. It’s a daily decision to let go but only hold on when I need to, and not just what I want to. Little by little I am still continuing to learn how it is okay to ask for help and let love in for both my child and myself.

For many, many reasons, this chapter is coming to an end. Because I am now married and because I am turning thirty this year, it is no longer authentic to keep using this title to write anyway (haha). To keep finding identity in a situation that first began this blog some time ago. Situationally, it’s different now. My life is full of so much love when I allow it. Life seems to be an organism, both changing its environment and its environment changing it. Constantly evolving. Though I can no longer classify myself with this title in genuine authenticity, lingering lessons of this time in my life remain. I know this much remains true:

To let go of responsibility of my child and to accept help will be both a challenge and triumph when I decide to do it. To not feel the need to constantly be “on” is very close to impossible for now. To soften the need of feeling completely responsible for my family takes time. To not instantly feel rejection during times when it really isn’t has become a new language that I am still learning. To constantly oscillate between wondering if some of my own needs are important enough or not-so-important-enough before deciding to advocate for them, and even after I advocate for them, will remain an internal conflict. Carefully calculating every decision I make and not allowing myself to let go and just “be” had become my philosophy that still gives me a run. I am aware of all of this. And I am committed to gratitude for what I have in my life. Because what I do have is love. And what I have had all along is love.

Single-motherhood or just being human? Probably both.

And what else I know to be true is this: Holden is thriving. In all of his environments. He is loved by so many and the healing continues. Every day.

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Does Holden Have a Dad?

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That curious little boy with bright eyes and bedhead standing face-to-face with Holden (with his own bright eyes and bedhead) looked up and asked me that this morning at Pre-K drop off.

I noticed my instant reaction was full of thoughts. Conclusions already made. He already knows the answer to that one. He knows Holden is somehow different than the others in this class when it comes to his family. It’s already starting… at four-and-a-half. Here we go.

My head replayed instances where this young child did most likely already see Holden with his step-dad, knowing that he had one.

Did I immediately come to conclusions because that’s where I’m comfortable? To jump ahead and not allow any other possible explanations. Couldn’t it just be mere childhood and innocent curiosity? Because I am the only one who brings Holden to school day after day; that’s all this young child had seen as of recent, anyway. And in actuality, I’m sure there are other children in his class that come from step-families as well. But maybe not.

It was easier to jump to those conclusions alright. Especially since Holden has been bringing home some language lately that I know has NOT been introduced in this household (haha). Language that allows me to believe that children are far more advanced socially than one would think at almost 5-years-old.

But back to that moment. I smiled, waited for Holden to answer the question. Knowing that quite a bit of time between the two of us has been spent getting excited and packing his bag to visit his biological dad, reading books on step-dads, building separate relationships and making memories with the both of them, introducing this idea of having two dads in his life who love him very much. Something that makes his family both different and special. I felt the urge to protect him and answer the question for him, but I didn’t. And Holden didn’t answer the question either. He just stood there, taking in the question. Wondering, I’m sure, how to answer. Does he really know that all this makes him different? It’s all he really knows. And maybe he wasn’t thinking about it at all, either. Holden doesn’t love to answer questions anyway. I think that’s his stance on being the only child. He has been picking and choosing which questions to answer and whose questions to answer (since there have been a lot of them- both people around and questions) since he was a baby. I didn’t force this one either.

And within seconds, they started to giggle, hugged, and were off and engaging in something else. Wrestling on the floor, building blocks, painting, name-writing, playing with arts-and-crafts. Off to play and learn. I so anticipate that red folder that comes home at the end of the day with all of his creations made of construction paper, glue, markers, and love.

I already knew that I can’t protect my child. There will be a lot out of my control. There is a lot out of my control already. And this is just the beginning. The beginning of social influences that might begin to open Holden’s eyes to the ways in which he is different from his friends. Being the child in a step-family won’t be the last way either. For this particular topic though, Holden will decide how he wants to answer that question the next time it’s asked, but for now he chose not to. And it might not have to be so complicated. It was so darn early in the morning after all. It takes him a few hours to wake up, to get his wheels rollin’. I struggle to slide his uniform on day after day, as his body instantly morphs into a 46-pound limp noodle at sunrise. “My legs don’t work this early!” as he throws himself on the floor pretending to cry. It’s only when he starts to play does he really wake up. And then he’s off to learn, through school, and through his “fwiends” even more.

An end to the meantime

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It took more than a few days for me to fully accept that my time in graduate school had ended. No papers to complete? No exams and studying weighing on my shoulders? No clients to think about? On top of being a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter coupled with my unrealistic expectations each one of those roles weighs heavily in my heart. I had been referring as these past couple of years as my meantime. That’s how I got through it, really. Though graduate school may be a minimal achievement for others around, for myself and my own capabilities, it equaled an immense accomplishment. Day after day of draining any ounce of my mind, body, spirit. Pouring it all into the experience. Fully and completely preparing myself for a career in mental health counseling. It’s where I had found purpose amidst the time it took me to figure myself out, and I squeezed every drop out of its process. Something I can now do with this learned vulnerability and awareness, but now also something I have been trained to do.

Knowing it wouldn’t last forever allowed for me to give it all I got. And that’s what I did. Because also, I had been loved along the way. That’s what made it even possible for me to now live this luxury of doing what I want to do while finding fulfillment, contributing to society, and bettering myself by attempting to live a life I preach and teach.

All the while my sweet Holden, family moving right along. Living and growing in their own lives during my meantime. My own time to discover and learn. I went back to school when Holden was a toddler, and now as I begin my career in this area, he is wearing uniforms to school. He’s quite a child now. A child who sings, “Sweet Home Lama Lama” and likes to watch “The Lizard of Oz.” A child who loves to go bug-hunting and splash in puddles. A child whose deep chuckle can make anyone smile. A child who argues with me about who loves who more and is also quick to disinvite me from his birthday party. A child who squeezes me so tight during tuck-ins that I have to tickle him to let go. A child whose first breath became my one major reality check to make good decisions and instilled within me confidence that I could live and lead a happy life.

Two years will soon be just a snapshot of his life, during my meantime. Two years will soon be just a snapshot of my life. But, that’s not to say the guilt wasn’t real, isn’t real. The days that would fly by with minimal interaction with mommy will continue to make my nose tickle and eyes water. I’ve played tug-of-war between feeling utterly selfish by depending on so many others to help me with my child and my internal willingness to progress in life by getting through graduate school and committing myself to doing something meaningful. Because it had been a very real conflict every day of that meantime.

When I became a single mom to a five-month old four years ago, the future was blurry. I wasn’t prepared to look forward, and I sure didn’t want to swim circles in the past occasionally rising for air. It was painful, embarrassing, shameful. Subtle scars still resonate. It. Takes. Time. But I sort-of knew one thing back then, that my life at some point would move on. My life would become something special because of the presence of this child of mine, but also because I had been loved, and finally because I owed myself a chance.

 

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The day will come

I took Holden to see Inside Out over the weekend. After Kick and Holden returned home from the first all-boys/men camp sleepover with 5 boys under the age of 5 and their dads. The trip consisted of fishing, four-wheelers, BB guns, pillow fights, and body odor. You know, “man” stuff. All and all, it was a great weekend, especially for Holden.

Upon returning home, Holden was a crabby mess of course. Exhausted from the excitement and stimulation. I was aware of my own annoyance as I couldn’t wait to have my sweet boy in my arms hugging me and indulging me in all the adventures he had been on over the past 24 hours. Telling me stories. The minute he walked in he had to show me the details of his Red Ryder that had been in the closet since Kick had presented to him at his 2nd birthday party. It had finally been the time to wipe the dust off and put it to good use. He showed me where you look to aim, how to shoot it, and the little switch around the barrel. His mouth moved a mile a minute.

But then, he took a turn. Eyelids heavy, he refused my wish for him to take a bath. For me to wash him from the stench of that boy smell. The combination of sweat, dirt, urine, and McDonald’s breakfast. Through one ear and out the other my words went, not even a glance to my eyes letting me know he was merely listening. The voice within my heart saying, “All I wanted to do was spend quality time with my child AFTER I clean him up, and right now he doesn’t want a thing to do with me nor does he respect me!” (I think I’ve told you before, I’m anal.) This thought was on repeat. Anxiety rising. I’m aware of it.

Well, he took that bath alright. He put up a good fight at first but only to succumb when the effect of the boys’ weekend was too much to bear- the itch to the back of the underpants. “My bum hoits,” he tells me. Translation: my bum hurts. His speech delay is still lingering after 2 years of therapy- the odd pairing of a Boston accent and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, not much hygiene present during this outdoor rendezvous.

Alas, bathed, clean, smelling good. No more bum hoiting. Off to the movie we went. As a budding therapist, I couldn’t wait to witness the mental health aspects of this children’s movie! I had read the articles and anticipated all that I had been learning over these past two years in graduate school in color on the big screen. Holden and I have been talking about each emotion that we had seen in previews. His favorite? Anger, “because he gets vewwy mad!”

Much more than the flowery, exaggerated, and totally missed by all children plot line (other than the adventure these characters/emotions go on) was the theme of how each emotion serves a purpose in your well being. At the end of the movie (read no further if you haven’t seen it and want to be surprised), Sadness finally gets to feel important- she’s the character that solves the challenge in order to get the little girl “fixed”. When I interpret its depth, sadness does serve a function in everyone’s life. Without acknowledging this emotion as legitimate and giving it some attention, we fall off balance. We change. We find ourselves behaving in ways that don’t align with our values. We’re conflicted. It’s so very internal.

Much more than this takeaway and all its excitement (I could talk about that for hours) though, were the the thoughts I have as a mother. Some kind of inspiration within me. The little girl, 11, was going through transitions in the movie. Memories kept, different emotions taking precedence over them. Stored, then. The memories served to function the different personality islands, or “traits” as I saw them. I was reminded that Holden will only be a child for a very small part of his life. A child that needs to fill up his “Goof Ball” island, his “Family” island, “Friendship” island, and any other island he takes to, feeds, and builds up. Before any other more serious islands come to fruition (Girlfriends, Social Skills, School Pressure, etc.). He should be living in silliness, napping when dirty, getting stinky with the boys. Letting his bum get itchy. BEING A CHILD!

The day will come when it’s no longer cool to come home to Mommy, express his excitement, and fill me in on his adventures.

The day will come when a girlfriend is way more important to fill in on all his thoughts.

The day will come when it won’t be cool to give me a kiss and do our secret motion from Little Rascals where you wiggle your fingers under your chin to each other and say goodbye at the door.

So, for right now, I’m going to make an effort to put anal mom-mode on the back-burner. Let the kid be a kid. (I thought I was doing this already, and maybe I do it often, but it’s nice to get re-reminded.) Indulge in childhood wonderment. Before his memories are stored in shadows, before emotions other than Joy resonate with how he sees and feels the world, before he cares too much about things other than what he gets to see today and who he gets to play with and what he gets to play and what he will learn today and how much time can be spent dancing, before it’s no longer the best part of his day to open his lunchbox and see the shapes I cut his sandwich in, and before he knows a little something about what it’s like to be any kind of adult much sooner than I would hope he would.

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To my son’s step-dad on Father’s Day

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Today is your first “official” Father’s Day. The first day we can celebrate you as a step-father to Holden since we’ve been married shortly less than one year ago. A special day indeed as we are spending it together, and I will love and cherish the moments. Usually we don’t have this. For some reason there was a level of understanding this weekend, further healing.

No one asked you to be here, but here you are.

You’re here, and it’s also much more than that.

You’re his heart, his guide, his protection, his stability, his home. His Kick.

No doubt, something special exists between the two of you. He shows his love for you in all the ways he knows how, for a wild-haired and bright-eyed four-and-half year-old. You’re the one that gets the most affection- the most spontaneous touches, the hugs, the snuggles. He gravitates towards you. He needs to be around you. Hugging your leg. Sitting on your lap. Laying his head on your shoulder.

In a candy store, he picks up a box of Good & Plenty’s. “Can we get these for Kick?” he asks knowing you like them. You’re on his mind.

His eyes watch you, follow you. Waiting for the moment your eyes match his. He smiles knowing you see him. Hoping you’re proud of him. Then quickly glimpses at me to make sure I saw the connection. He focuses on you. Mainly. Always you.

You stand tall and firm. He dances and bobbles around you. Lives in his childhood wonderment and returns to you.

You let him in just enough, and he lets you in fully. You’re teaching him a steady balance of vulnerability and boundaries.

And for right now, You’re the only one whose disappointment or discipline upsets him. He takes it, learns from it. All it takes is a few stern words. It’s as if there’s some magic or power behind that deep voice that speaks his language.

He wants to do what Kick does. Shoot a bow-and-arrow, go fishing. Often times when we’re not with you, he doesn’t hesitate to remind me, “That’s what Kick does!”

“Hey, Kick!” resounds off the walls in our home.

It replaces “Hey, Dad!”

I often wonder what it’s like to be in your shoes. Not being given the title “Dad” for the presence, the love. Not getting to be totally acknowledged by the word. Because that’s exactly what it is, a privilege, a recognition for all that you do for him, for us. I feel that way about being called “Mom” at least. Every time I hear that little voice say it, I think about the preciousness. I would imagine some pain exists below the surface not hearing that little voice say it, though we all know the magnitude of your involvement in his life. “Hey, Kick!” does resonate own sweetness.

I think back to the time Holden was a few months old… a year old… a year and a half. The word “Dad” couldn’t leave my mouth alone, without tears… without anguish. My voice quivered.

Time heals. Much later than that we began to read books at bedtime on Dad’s and Step-Dad’s. I was strong enough then to say the word “Dad” aloud, around the time Holden was able to speak. Partly because I knew I needed to do it for him, but because you instilled within me some kind of strength also. A team effort.

One day Holden will decide what he wants to call you. When he has developed enough to fully understand. To make decisions. To use what you’ve given to him. To hear the word “divorce” and make sense of the world. Of his life. Of his relationship with you.

For now, he loves his Kick. In this moment. All day today. And that’s what he knows.

Something Right

His eyes are fighting to stay open. Lids are working hard but surrender. His breathing becoming heavier and heavier. His body remains heavy. His fatty hand lies limp on my shoulder. Nose to nose. He’s wearing his fire-truck jammies tonight.

Bodies facing each other. The only thing that lies between us is his minion… his t-rex… his ninja turtle… his olaf… his silky blankie… his water cup.

The humming of frogs and crickets echo outside his bedroom window.

I find my own eyes fighting to stay open too. Drifting away, but coming back. My songs have gotten slower, less pronounced. Though I find myself to be one of the world’s worst singers, he insists on me singing him songs every night. The batman theme song is at the top of his list these days.

He was up at 6 a.m. today. On a Saturday morning. Ready to go, play, explore. I’m tired, exhausted. Foggy from staying up late studying for my graduate exam coming up shortly. Up with the dogs early. Fifteen hours later, after a busy day of just being a kid, is tuck-in time. The day consisted of monster-hunting, swimming, laughing, playing, crying, fighting, and boo-boos. “Lay wiff me, mommy,” he pleads. His eyes hopeful and tearing up.

How often I’ve turned down this request. To study. To write another countless paper. “Mommy has to do homework.” He tells me “okayyy” with a quivering mouth in disappointment. The nights of being let down add up inside but every time he asks, his hope rises to the same level.

It takes constant effort to minimize my own anxiety, my own worries about crossing off the to-do list, being productive in the limited amounts of time I have for myself. It is doable though. Controllable. To just say no to myself and to be there, be present. Aligning my breathing pattern with his. Trace my fingertips across that big forehead he got from his mom. Admire the innocence, wonderment, pureness of him. Be aware of the love I have for this child of mine. Remind myself this is why everything.

It’s in these moments, not when I am crossing off the unending list that cycles my anxiety, that I know I’m doing something right. While I am there with him. Know I’m doing something to comfort him, inspire him, love him. Let him in, and him let me in. When he’s not hiding under the dining room table yelling, “you’re not my best friend anymore!” in response to me saying we can only play tag one more time (after about 13 rounds) because it’s bedtime.

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Self-forgiveness

Have you forgiven yourself yet?

A question quite simply. Yet with limitless depth and discovery to be had.

It’s a theme that has come up in my life recently and I believe is worth a share.

One might quickly answer, “yes, I think I have,” such as I did instantly upon being asked. And one I often asked clients as well, desensitized to the effect but reminded when it’s turned on me. How beautiful the ability to be introspective- something that’s all your own and no one else’s responsibility, to do with it what you please. I encourage everyone to pay attention to their own. Doing something with it can change your life.

Normally when we think about forgiveness, we think about others initially, right? We think about those who have hurt us, scarred us. We think about how difficult it is to forgive one who is sorry, and an even grander challenge to forgive those whose apology we do not receive. We think about all the wrong that was done to us by others. All the pain and sadness it’s caused us. They have caused us. We, as humans, naturally tend to victimize at the mercy of others’ actions. It’s all very legitimate and is a process in itself. However, I argue the greater battle is the pathway to forgiving our ownselves- forgiving myself for something I sometimes remind myself was brought upon myself by me and only me. Ridiculous. Cheesy. Intangible. Yet, the wrong we did to ourselves will continue to do to ourselves if we don’t do something with that ability to be introspective and begin to forgive.

It might sound silly. But, healing. Wouldn’t it be nice to show ourselves the same kind of compassion we so desperately yearn to show and give others? If you’re like me anyhow, it’s a value of mine to give this gesture to others. But, why am I not just as worthy?

It’s something I’ve been at a tug-of-war with since my real life began the day I had my son, the day I like to reiterate on this blog gave me lenses to see the world a little more realistically. Would it be possible one day to finally forgive myself for my own great mistakes… the shame I brought upon myself.The shame that cycles until that day I can say, “no more!” But, it does get easier. I can tell my story without the tears nowadays. I have been able to do that for the past couple of years. I can laugh now. I can own now. I can change now. I’m in control. And I know that has a lot to do with much more than self-forgiveness too. But, with that, I know I’m close, if not there already.

The journey towards self-forgiveness is a voyage. It doesn’t happen right away. Nothing in life that is worth it does just that. It takes courage, vulnerability, and effort. And all of those won’t compare to the healing that rises from it all.

Have you forgiven yourself?

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Support

As I tuck another semester of graduate school in mental health under my belt, my mindset transitions from dedicated persistence to reflection. Looking through a retrospective lens, my heart remains full. Full of appreciation, love. Overflowing with gratefulness. Because really, I could not do what I am doing, could not have done what I have done thus far… that is, without the people surrounding me. The village surrounding me- in my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my friends, my mentors. Mom and I often joke that she’s going to be walking across that stage and receiving a masters degree alongside me for all that she’s done for my family and me when I can’t be physically present. How many drop-off’s and pickup’s from school she’s been there for, how many healthy home-cooked meals she’s prepared, how many books read and tuck-in’s she’s given to Holden all during times I’ve been working or in class. And it’s not just her presence alone, but it’s time spent being silly… dancing, exploring, singing, questioning. Time when Holden can just be a kid.

And along the way, somehow I found audacity to challenge that time being spent, if it didn’t align with those rigid rules and structure I needed probably more than Holden did or does. And I’m conflicted with that. Undoubtedly raising a child for the time being under the same house as your own parents leaves little room for who has the final word. I can caught up in the moments. Though, there’s always some perspective to be had, and that’s what helps. That’s why I’m thankful. The reminder of being possibly unthankful for my endless support. Not me?? Yikes…

There’s Nick, my husband. Or Kick, as Holden’s speech delay granted him some time ago. Somebody who I could talk about for endless hours, yet still leaves me at a loss for words. He’s been my backbone throughout this wild adventure of progress. And for what he gives to Holden… it’s given to me, too. Sometimes I choose to sit back and watch them together. The bond they have is untouchable, and it grows stronger with each interaction. Day after day. Playful, guided. Instilling within the innocence of a child wonderment, abilities, thoughts, openness, and morals. I fight back the tears knowing how precious of a relationship the two have, as it’s unconditional in all ways that there are. Knowing how it was being absent, and loving it every single moment of it that I have now. Priceless moments building a sturdy foundation of which his life is now rooted in.

The selfless, supportive team that has lifted me from the ashes of my own emotional rehabilitation and have supported me in my aspiration to become something more capable than what I had ever planned for my own self. I am truly becoming something. And there’s so much more I have left to learn. Yet, this journey is conflicted by the guilt I have deep down from being an incredibly busy person on top of being a mom. Because the mom to Holden I want to be remains above all other wants and wishes for myself, and naturally I end up feeling selfish for taking advantage. But for now, I know that I am where I need to be. I’m mindful of the knowledge I continue to gain, for the learned insight and perspective in place (and the perspective given when mine slips away), the gift of intuition, the experiences to feel deep, and the capacity for compassion. But above all is the growing awareness of the need to be present. Undistracted. Focused and listening, reflecting. How incredible of a gift to give somebody else, and not just with my patients as I am learning, but a gift to give those around me as well… and to Holden. To be in the moment. It’s something every one of them deserves. Something that has been a challenge amidst long days and endless pressure. When days begin and end far from when sunlight shifts. Something that will take constant effort and reminding, but I know this is where a true relationship can prosper. Just to be in the moment. I know this to be true.

I have been given the luxury to become something and do something that I want to do. Something that is full of purpose, for me. To do my part in some kind of greater good of which the details are unknown. But to do this is not separate from being the mom I want to be. It can be both, and it will be so. That’s my way of contributing back… of doing something with all that I’ve been given. For that I’m eternally grateful. For that I’m grounded, centered.

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Found.

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It’s neverending isn’t it? And everyone’s got one. Undeniably.

The journey. The twisting, turning, road we are all traveling in our own individual worlds… trying to get to where we want to be while experiencing all life’s experiences, to put it concisely. Experiencing those experiences, a simple way to phrase the spectrum of vast disappointments, triumphs, heartbreaks, celebrations. Deaths, births, and everything in between. The environment that molds you or you aid in molding. That journey is a dichotomy in its purest form. Both predictable and unpredictable. Chaotic and peaceful. Hurtful and fulfilling. I’d argue no one really wants to be alone on their’s either.

Somewhere along my own journey, one that surely by now, anyone who’s reading this knows a little about, love found me. He found me. He found us, Holden and me. (I like to refer to this duo as two-for-the-price of one.) Unpredictable. And I was at peace. The exact opposite of the innermost struggles and now very complicated values I had been trudging on my own pathway for a while until shortly after that September evening we first met.

I had moved mountains already, but those once treacherous mountains were found to be subtle molehills once looking through the lenses. And I had lots of work left to do.

He told me early on that I was like an antique he looks for when he and an artist friend go picking. The vision of something tarnished and worn, but something with potential far greater than what it appears to be. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed up by being given a little TLC… with an end result far more precious than a naked eye could realize. Truly, he found me. Found me in this world, but really, found the real me before I did myself. It was as if the sheet slid down over my head swiftly down to my ankles, but kept sliding further away. The dust flailing from my shoulders in silence with each particle reflecting the sunshine beaming through the windows with a brighter appearance than I could remember. I, too, then discovered I wasn’t done. I hadn’t moved mountains to just stop there. My journey persisted onward.

Our relationship has been it’s own journey too. Unlike anything I’d met along the road. Not in my own family, my friends, within any whimsical relationship. Guidance, tough love, truth. “No bullshit,” he says. Age difference? May have something to do with it. Yet, theres a softness. Pureness. Support and structure. Genuine good intent. Something research shows is one of the most important factors in contributing a healthy relationship, modernly surpassing good communication. But also it’s two individuals, full of both strengths and weaknesses but complementing each other in ways that fit like puzzle pieces just tight enough. Compatibility, but not just that. And a balance of give and take. Knowing without speaking or being heard. But knowing when the words are said, too. Even still, I find myself in a predicament to put to words the depth of it all. Limitless.

I know it exists with him. The love I lost hope in some time ago. When my lenses were foggy, when my journey ended way too soon, and when I was happy with being just contempt and naive. And that was before my world fell apart in a matter of days. I have what I need now, which is more than I wanted, and with that I can do anything.

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Meantime.

Time passes by so quickly these days, it seems. I have to remind myself to come up for air amidst all that we have going on. Selling a few houses, moving a few times ourselves, being a full-time student. I ran my first half marathon in December! Did I mention I have a three year old, too? It’s no lie I am busy, just like everyone else in the world. Yet… I’m at a standstill within myself- this meantime I call it.

I’m about to wrap up my second semester in graduate school next week, pursing the masters that will allow me to practice as a mental health therapist. How swift the time has been, yet it feels like I’ve been in the program all my life. In an ironic way, it’s been one drawn out life lesson for me. I can only wish I had some of these skills when I was young and naive. Sometimes I question why I needed to learn all that I have later, whereas some get it from the beginning. But, I know I already have the answer to that one. All that I have learned thus far has paralleled my own tribulations and journey to overcome. I knew I was in a bad place just three years ago, but just how bad? That reality check came as each prescription flashed across my professor’s power point. “The more drugs they need implemented, the poorer the prognosis.” My lucky number was 6.

As my eyes are buried deep within the DSM-5 and binders large enough to encompass my big family history, life all around me is moving right along. Friends are getting married, more babies are being had. So much happiness and milestones to be shared and celebrated. My heart is full. And I stand still, in this meantime, eager yet waiting for my own progression to pick up where it left off. But, I need to do this in the meantime. All the little steps to deliver immense accomplishment: bettering myself for my own good and for my family, practicing a career that I was made to do starting at 29, overcoming all my obstacles… being happy.

With my own marriage to Nick quickly approaching, I am getting married during this meantime. Literally married on Saturday, back to school on Monday. However, it’s just that right, and just that natural, that it can happen during the meantime.

And within that life moving right along is my sweet boy, my Holden. Growing and changing every day. The guilt I have brought upon myself has been my biggest battle… guilt for not being able to be with him more than I can right now, during meantime. How many pickups from school I haven’t been there for, how many dinners I haven’t cooked, the few times I’ve been absent for a tuck-in. I’d imagine this struggle is similar to that of every working mom out there. I think I feel it so heavy because I was a stay-at-home mom beforehand. Before the chaotic meantime.

Nick jokes that I won’t ever get two-and-a-half years maternity leave again! The funny thing about that is that I know that and I’m okay with that. Because after my meantime, I will be set. Time will probably be a little more predictable than when Holden was born… I guess that leads me to something else I’ve learned. I needed Holden, he needed me. My need for him was deep, he was my emotional crutch and the only thing I had control over at the time. I needed to be there for him at every minute of the day, every day of thee week, for me more than him. How grateful am I now that that time has come and passed.

Still, I have had to learn to not take one second of time with Holden for granted in this meantime. I know I shouldn’t. But sometimes the weariness and exhaustion on days where I’m so physically and emotionally drained and can’t wait for my head to hit the pillow as I wrestle Holden like an alligator just to get his pajamas pulled over his head and fight all the way through brushing all 20 of his teeth, knowing there’s a kitchen to clean, emails to respond to and papers to write… you get the point. Holden never fails to remind me himself of where my heart needs to be. Like the first time I heard, “I love you too, mommy.” Or when he asked me, “You happy now?” Or when he holds my hand and says, “You my best fwiend.” All during my meantime.

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