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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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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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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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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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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Back to School

I’m about to embark on my next journey. And I wanted to take a moment to live in the moment. The feeling I have in my heart right now is heavy, but in a good way. I have a heavy feeling of gratefulness and feel as though I’ve taken a further step into healing. Just by knowing it’s around the corner.

I start graduate school on Monday. To obtain a Masters in Community Counseling at that big university down the street. A Masters, for now. Graduate school was always an idea, but never quite a goal to check off the to-do list until a few years of real-life experiences bombarded my overall well-being. Instilled within me was a want and a need to give back. To whom? I didn’t know when I applied, and I still don’t know quite yet. But to give back what has been given to me- the logical pathways, the emotional support, the strong rationales to recover from being so damaged. To instill within others the confidence that they can make lemonade out of lemons too.

I wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for the people surrounding me, that’s for sure. Let’s be real, I have help. And lots of it. It really does take a village to raise a child. And I’d say it takes a country to raise a child while mommy goes back to school.

I resisted that help for a while, but it wasn’t until the resisting stopped that I was able to truly recognize what needed to happen to better my own life, and ultimately better Holden’s as well. To be vulnerable, and to accept help.

Not only am I just grateful for those who watch over and love on Holden when I’m not there, I’m also grateful to those who have stood behind me, supporting me, pushing me, and encouraging me to further my education. Those two groups of people aren’t mutually exclusive either.

So, to my parents and family, my boyfriend and his family, Holden’s school, and my countless friends, all I’ve got to say is thank you. Really, to my own village, thank you.

And a thank you to a psychiatric nurse practitioner who planted the seed when I was at my weakest. One little hint at potential in my future. By encouraging me in saying, “the best healers come from wounded warriors” some time ago.

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If ya got one good friend in this life, ya lucky

Miss Gertie used to say it to her 13-year-old daughter Christine and best friend growing up in a small town in the south of Louisiana. They’d fold their arms and knelt across the bed from one another. Talking about what teenagers talk about. First kisses, cars, life aspirations. Dreams of their first apartment together at  the Pontalba house in New Orleans. Conversations would go on for hours, only to stop for Miss Gertie’s tea with a side of saltines and butter.

“If ya got one good friend in this life, ya lucky.”

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That’s where it all began. My mom’s lifetime best friendship with Christine.

It wasn’t a surprise that this past Monday that there was not a dry eye amongst the congregation as mom read aloud the eulogy at Christine’s funeral. Unfolding their lifetime relationship. These ‘first’ conversations publicly praised to all that loved Christine probably for the first time.

A life that ended “too soon” as people say so commonly these days.

How was 43 years of friendship to be summarized in one small speech? How could you possibly say everything you’d want to say? These were the questions mom struggled with as she picked up the pen and started to write. Their friendship wasn’t something one could put into words. Countless memories, countless conversations, countless feelings. They made each other better. Partners in good crimes. Up at the altar, mom displayed a certain grace one would think would be similar to divine intervention.

For mom Christine was not a friend, but a sister. “Aunt Tine” was one extraordinary, loyal person. A mentor. A lover. A supporter. A believer.

One of the sweetest souls you’d hope to come across.

A friend you could only hope for your own child to have. A friend I would hope Holden can have.

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I heard recently a line that I haven’t been able to shake. “We all have an expiration date.” Sounds terribly harsh, but it’s terribly true. It’s easy to live day-by-day making decisions as if we are invincible isn’t it? But it’s moments like this- having to watch mom profess her 43 years of friendship in a matter of 15 minutes, losing those closest to us, ones that lived and were always there- that remind us that of that exact fact. Kind of makes our “big” deals not seem like such “big deals” in reality.

Life is short, but sweet for certain.

Rest in peace, dear Christine.

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Nostalgia

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My lips pressed up against the back left of his head. My nostrils taking in his sweet smell of Johnson & Johnson’s no-tangle baby shampoo. It wasn’t his usual scent, the combination of urine and maple syrup. He was clean and it was bedtime.

He was snuggled in the crevice of my armpit on the couch. I can’t remember the last time Holden sat still for longer than 20 minutes, and I didn’t even care we were watching the ‘Elf on the Shelf movie’ in April. His choice, I couldn’t argue for my only other options are Elmo and Barney. Of which all three movies I can completely script out every line after the astronomical amount of times we’ve watched them.

He hasn’t been in a mommy phase over the last couple of weeks. Always choosing whoever is more fun to be around when we’re with other people. Primarily because mommy and time-outs go hand-in-hand almost daily. It breaks my heart more than it does his. The ever-so-frequent temper tantrum in which all 31.6 pounds of him is thrown to the ground I assume could be comparable to a soap opera audition. I will admit though, the time-outs really are starting to work. I can actually seeunderstanding come across his face near the end of his time-outs when I ask if he’s ready to be a good boy. Earlier today I laughed to myself as we walked down the hall and he pointed to his time-out corner and let out a whine and looked at me. I looked down and said, “No baby, no time-out. Good boy right now.” He smiled with a nose scrunch and said, “heh.”

It was past his bedtime, but I didn’t care. Normally I do, sticking to the routine religiously. Not tonight. He didn’t mind sitting next to mommy and I had to indulge. I had to reap the handful of these minutes I’ve had such withdrawls for since turning two, since the loving-mommy phase ended. I let him blow his grape-scented Jelly Belly bubbles the Easter bunny had left in his basket Sunday as he sits on the couch. I combed through his freshly-rinsed hair with my fingertips and closed my eyes. He laid his head back on my arm around him to blow the bubbles higher. I kissed his temple and left my face against his. Felt my heart beat.

After I tucked him in tight for the night, turning on button number two on his sound machine, the rain noise, and turned off his light, I immediately started flipping through pictures as I do often when I am in need of more Holden. Skim through the past two years of his life, all his memories. All he knows.

Tears drop down my cheeks.

Nostalgia. In just the few minutes I had snuggling with him on the couch, I was flooded with this overwhelming… joy? I guess that would be the word closest to what I’m trying to describe. It’s physical, deep. The consistent feeling I would have throughout the first few days of Holden’s life. When I got to hold him, touch him, smell him, love him. And that’s all I had to do at the time. That was my purpose.

It’s not that the feeling isn’t there anymore. It’s just not as apparent when I have diarrhea smeared on the couch and toothpaste in my hair.

That joy is still present during the toddler phase, but it’s these subtle moments that channel it back to me. These quiet minutes with Holden on the couch before bedtime, in which I can completely tune out….”SANTA! THIS LETTER IS FROM TAYLOR? TAYLOR MCTUTTLE?!”… and just be next to him, hold him, smell him, love him. All I had to do tonight.