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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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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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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I don’t know.

The more I learn, the more I become aware of just how much I don’t know. That’s all a part of maturing right? When you’re young, you know everything.

So, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. The more you know you don’t know, the more you know already.

I thought I knew just enough some time ago. Enough to be happy? Thought so. Enough to get by. I didn’t need nor want to know more.

But, I know more now. And the more I’ve gotten to know, the more I’ve realized happiness, for one thing is a choice, amidst many other things. Happiness does take effort day after day to choose it. By nature, days will come and go that naturally will impose unhappiness. Fight it. Fix it. Choose happiness and be happy.

That’s more knowledge than I knew a few years ago years ago. When I turned 25 amidst a painful divorce. When I was 24 with a newborn in my arms. Or 23 and being married. Or 21 being engaged. Living in a bubble.

So here I am now…I still don’t know a lot. But I know much more. More than just knowing happiness is a choice. That’s just what seems important right now… and wanting to share it. With a three year old. A few months shy of getting married. Feeling as though I’ve aged 20 years over the past 3. And there’s so much that I don’t know still of course… because I now know more. That’s why I’m not shaken, surprised by much. Every now and then that one instance throws me, but overall it’s pretty steady. Knowing now that human behavior is full of endless possibilities… not everyone thinks the same way, acts in the same manner. People are both intentional and unintentional. But also full of goodness (a post for another day). More understanding, more empathic. More accepting, less judging. My armor is knowledge, experiences that led me here. Stability.

Happier. Smarter. Richer for knowing I don’t know much.

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Engaged! (again.)

Boy meets girl.

They fall in love.

Boy marries girl, and the two live happily ever after.

It’s a pretty simple story, right? The one that’s not mine this time around. Mine would be more along these lines:

Boy meets girl.

They fall in love.

Boy meets girl’s little boy.

They fall in love, too.

Boy marries girl, and the three live happily ever after.

I wouldn’t change my story for the world. Not for a million bucks. And get married again? Absolutely. Without a hesitation in my voice.

 

It’s something I should approach with skepticism, wouldn’t you say? Be careful, Sam. You’ve been so hurt, so broken.

And now, to have Holden in the mix. Much more of a heavier weight in this than my own heart.

Trust is an area I surely thought was gone forever. Something that had been flattened, lost faith in it completely. Long gone were the days I could give 100% and be confident in the efforts. How could I become unconditionally vulnerable to someone else after that? Not so sure. Somehow I went there. And without reservation. Wholeheartedly. Dove right in. Believed in him, my special person. Trusted in that this was it for me, for Holden. Even as I questioned why, I had to accept that he trusted in me also.

I received a note from a distant friend recently. She complimented me on my ability to believe in people. A quality that probably had something to do with the mess I got myself into some time ago. And now? That quality got me here. Here: more in love than I knew was possible, happier than I can wrap my head around, and driven further than I thought my feet would ever take me.

Hope is powerful. More powerful than skepticism. And I’m choosing to be happy.

I have the kind of love that is untouchable, too precious… that is, with my two boys. Compassionate. The kind of love that you’ve heard about. The kind of love I’d only prayed would find me in time. The kind that moved mountains, and still does. Continuing to heal and restore me anew. Creating within me something better than I was before, something pushing me to be better than I thought I could all along. The kind that quite simply, only wants only goodness for the other every day. And I will cherish it every day of my life.

So begins the wedding planning, the details, and everything else I cared way too much about at my first attempt at that circus. As much as I would love for everyone to be there rejoicing in my/our happiness (and stress) as I don the most luxurious and uncomfortable gown known to man, while Holden rips off anything “gatchie” (scratchy) such as a tie, suspenders,… or anything for that matter besides “uh-panth” (underpants), and Nick feels anything but himself by having to wear a tuxedo instead of jeans and a t-shirt, while checking the clock an uber amount of time waiting for the limo to pick us up on time, worrying if all the guests like the h’orderves, all while I’d constantly need a bridesmaid to check if my deoderant is working, it just doesn’t seem like the ideal day for us. So, I have handed off the responsibility baton to my endearing fiancé, whose creativity and ideas can give anyone a run for their money, so I’m not too worried. And, I really just want him (and Holden, myself) to be the happiest we’ve ever been, the most comfortable we could be, and the most natural possible the day we begin our life together as a family of three. That’s all.

So, all that matters to me this time around is simply that that boy is there, the girl is there, and the little boy is there too.

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My Moo-mie

Unfortunately the blog has taken the back seat since graduate school began in August. Still working on balancing it all out… but I hope to get back in full swing over the holiday season as I still have lots to share!

I thought I would post this in the meantime for some entertainment. I know it’s a broken record, for all that I’ve been promoting on this site, but it sort of wraps up where Holden and I were and are now in a matter of minutes. A recent project for school that was relevant.

So without further ado, I give you my movie. Or “moo-mie” as Holden would say.

A Reason

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“And I think the biggest honor he could receive is knowing just how much of an impact he made on me… so that I too could come into somebody special’s life who had a child and be all that I could be knowing I had him as an example.”

He was referring to his own step-dad. During an impromptu speech during a big night dedicated to him, some months ago.

The parallels between our two worlds lined up so purposefully. I have the reason as to why everything happened that did happen. All the answers I longed to conquer became unnecessary in a matter of conversations. And had I not gone through what I did… something that came so close to ruining me altogether, I would not have been the person he needed too.

I just can’t quite put into words the effect he has had on our life. Holden and I’s lives. My family’s life.

I’d been meaning to write about him for some time now. To proclaim my happy ending, to share my own Cinderella story. So often I found myself questioning, “why me?” throughout our relationship. Because truly, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

But still, the timing had to be right. The promise had to be in place I had so hoped for since first realizing this was one special person. The bond between he and Holden had to be of the most natural occurrence and respect for each other. Nothing forceful, only introduced with openness and love.

It takes one incredible person to enter into somebody’s life and openly accept a life that was broken, damaged. To dust me off and find beauty in the pain. A power to heal the wounds, a power to inspire and encourage to become all that I’m capable of, something he knew before I did.

And it takes an even more extraordinary person to become and fulfill that which was missing in a little boy’s life… Holden’s very own Kick.

I couldn’t have created nor prayed for anything better than this. And I feel like our happily ever after is just beginning.

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