Hold on, let me go overthink about it....
That quote above is a start to a funny meme...and it's funny because it's true. Man oh man have I wasted countless hours of my life overthinking things I absolutely CAN NOT control. Anyone else?? You too, cool. Let me help you know you aren't alone. Read on.
All of my life I have obsessed over having the life I was "supposed" to live. White picket fence, 2.5 kids by 23yo, an adoring husband to grow old with that has no expectations of my aging body, a thoughtful job that never took me away from my duties to item 2 & 3, and ALL of it with ZERO encounters with any problems!
I just knew that once I followed all the rules, surely I would be rewarded with this life...in fact wrapped in a perfect little box. Ummmmmm, out of check with reality much??? Yep, that last part is the kicker here. I really believed that a problem free life can be earned (or exists at all). I am fully aware of how cray that sounds but it's truly what I had faith in...even tried to build my legacy on. Spoiler alert...it's all a lie that life, it's merely something that I created with my over thinking. And what has it accomplished?? Nothing to write home about, that's for sure. Only pain, tears, confusion, defeat, and heartbreak to name a few. Disclaimer: I love my life, but I work hard as hell everyday to live a life I love. Make no mistake...it’s not perfect, but it’s mine and I even got an adoring husband who accepts my aging body without expectation in this deal!
Before coming to this realization though, I can actually name nights I've lost sleep reeling through all the possibilities of a situation that in fact, turned out completely different than ANY scenario I could come up with. You know the worst part? Each time it didn't work out how I overthought it would (sometimes it ended up way better than I could have imagined, insert current life, because God) I took it as a failure and a set back. I saw my perfectly boxed life slipping through my fingers and the side effect...you guessed it...more overthinking. So what's a girl to do??? Well, I would love to tell you that I kicked this nasty habit once and for all, but that's not true. I have gotten better over the years...however, I do believe this never goes away...but we do have a choice in it. Yes, it's a choice. Every time I feel it happening, I must make a choice to stop it. How? Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
-Leave the space you are physically in and get some fresh air. Sometimes merely changing your surroundings can put out an overthinking fire that's dying to blaze. If you are in a moving vehicle...please stay buckled in, roll the windows down, and change the radio to your fav uplifting song. Music heals my soul and sometimes, when I am just not capable of finding words...I get the message through the very next song.
-Don't talk to anyone about your thoughts EXCEPT trusted advisors in your life or GOD. That's it. As humans it feels good to purge our crazy thoughts from time to time...to everyone we know...thinking maybe we can gain perspective faster that way...but it's a slippery slope, trust me.
-Keep a gratitude journal. Write in it every morning (5 things you are grateful for in that moment as well as your goals, choose to write those goals as if they have already happened and be bold with them) then in the event you feel yourself losing your grip...go to it. Read what YOU have written down to be the most important items to your life. It's kind of hard to overthink your situation when you are busy being grateful for what you already have. This one takes discipline, but by far has been the greatest help for me.
Please, let me be honest...these are only 3 of MY coping mechanisms. I have a whole arsenal full, because sometimes...you just need to try something new. So, whatever you find that helps you, do that. My choices may fall short for you, but the point is to remove the habit to overthink from the equation as much as humanly possible.
There is peace on the other side, and by peace I mean wisdom. Each time you allow your mind to be calm in an out of control situation, you are allowing yourself to learn from what's happening. That lesson gives you wisdom that you will carry into the next out of control situation and so on. Life isn't perfect and honestly your life shouldn't fit into a box. It's meant to be lived and learned wildly...but we hold ourselves back all the time with this overthinking mess. Let me share a secret with you...bless and release. Bad things are going to happen...hell good things are going to happen too...bank on that. The only thing that you can control in any of it, is your reaction. So, what will it be??? Growth and forward motion OR overthinking and staying put??? The beauty is, like I said, we get to choose...
Often in the midst of tragedy, it is difficult to find gratitude. I am no stranger to this and I'd bet my bottom dollar you agree. It's normal to go through something hard, then start questioning yourself.
"Why me?" has been a common theme in my life.
Recently, I've gone through several negative “bad” situations that have left me on a roller coaster of emotions. I am living out stages of grief like never before. Most days are good and then it hits me...the pity party of the year. I loathe self loathing...so I try to snap myself out of it quickly...but what happens when you just can't find your joy?? Well, that's a loaded question. There are lots you can "do" but just how many actually help?? Not many in the long run. Yes, of course prayer soothes me, my workouts ease the stress, my wine numbs the pain...but those are only temporary. Then I am right back where I started, in this crazy cycle of feeling less than or punished...asking why the "bad things" just keep coming???
Let me confess to you...
For a long time I subconsciously "well sort of" had made this pact with God. It went like this...I will work hard at doing good things because I want to be a good person...but secretly, for each "good thing" I am making deposits to my spiritual bank account. Hoping that God takes note of all the good energy I am sending back into the world. Collecting all these good things so that maybe someday I can cash them in. Can you relate?? Geez that feels better to let out, but also I am a bit embarrassed.
To clarify, I don't mean that I am only doing good to gain favor...I just mean to confess that part of me believed that if I did a lot of good, then "bad things" would happen less and less around and to me. How wrong I was and how much time I wasted overthinking this idea. Truth is bad happens...to us all. We live in a fallen world and for one reason or another...our choices OR someone else's, cause bad things to happen. And in case you were collecting "favor" like me, you aren't alone in wishing there is some way to prevent the bad. In my realization of this phenomenon in my life I also must make note of the other side of this lesson...
What I have come to realize (outside of the fact that collecting "favor" is an utter waste of time) is this, maybe all bad things don't happen TO us, maybe they happen FOR us?? Hmmmmmm. Now that's an idea. It seems the more gratitude I have during (and after) the hard things, the better I feel. The faster I "recover". They say it is pretty hard to complain and be grateful at the same time, and I agree. I find myself rolling with the punches a little more freely these days. Not because less bad is happening, but because I am able to see the blessings in the bad...not just the temporary inconvenience of pain. It isn't always easy and sometimes I have to revisit the idea over and over...but all in all, I find what I can be grateful for in the bad, and it's changing my life.
Next time you face adversity, look for the blessings you can be grateful for in the moment... and I promise you...(if you try) you'll like what you find.
Have you ever seen time stand still? Like it feels as if the world has stopped spinning all together?
Ask anyone who has experience with IVF...and I bet you’ll get a resounding YES! (hand raised emoji here).
On 5/16/2018 we started our IVF cycle. Officially, it began on 7/20/18...but we said “let’s do it” back in May. Our first cycle wrapped 90 days later on 8/16/2018 and the results were devastating.
I mean we spend half our lives trying to prevent pregnancy and then when we actually want it...it's a negative. Over and over and over.
So after all the $$$$, shots, bloating, swelling, surgery, meds, supplements, more shots, pain, confusion, tears, zero coping mechanisms, 6AM blood tests, ultrasounds, waiting...and our 6 (SIX) embabies...all perished. Without a trace. Except the enormous hole that is now left smack dab in the middle of our hearts. Now that you know the ending to our first cycle...read on to find out what we learned from it and why we are choosing to do it again.
IVF isn’t for the faint of heart. They tell you the odds going in, yet when this is “your only option”...what’s a couple to do?? So we went all in.
I have to start with sharing that I didn't want to "do" IVF. I struggled with the decision for over a year before finally deciding to say yes. Why? Many reasons for sure...but the largest, my fear of failure. At the time we started the IVF process I had finally overcome some huge life and health obstacles. For the first time, in what seemed like forever, I was living healthy. Mind, body, and soul. The fact that the odds weren't in our favor gave me terrible anxiety, for obvious reasons. I love my life. I wasn't in a mood to step into something that I knew could crush me. But I did it anyway. Because sometimes against all odds...we have hope anyway. Starting a family is such a sensitive subject. I had no idea just how sensitive really. Kids had been off my radar for quite sometime. (my “be His legs” blog explains in detail all the moments leading up to this yes, if you'd like to know, peek around) I just figured that when I met the right man, it would happen. Just like that. Boy was I wrong. First off I was in denial for 4 FOUR years before seeking help...my #1 goal is to keep you from doing that (if you haven't already). Denial...such a difficult choice I made...but my choice nonetheless.
When we started casually "trying" (four years ago) and month after month there was a negative...I started blaming and shaming myself big time. I was really hard on myself. Thinking maybe I was being punished. For what? Who knows? But I really lost myself in this. Never once did "fertility issues" enter my mind. I always blamed my extra weight...the extra booze...stress...my past...all the things pointed to me. How wrong I was but it's the truth and I don't want you to fall prey to your own thoughts in the way I did. So life events happened...family loss, moves, lots happened in those 4 years. I wasn't even in my 30s when this began so I just thought we had time. And the truth is...things change after 30. This milestone obviously doesn't mean kids are out of the question, but I was completely unaware of how much my body had actually changed in these years.
The worst part of the "unknown" stages (the time before I actually sought medical guidance and made up my own reasons for why babes weren’t in our lives) watching "everyone" getting what I was praying for...sometimes even when they weren't even praying for a family. My heart would break every time I saw a birth announcement. I mean of course I was happy for my darling friends and family...but ouch. More shame followed. Rinse and repeat. At one point I seriously counted 45 birth announcements in a 90 day period. I mean either I know too many people or I was being punished...what the what man??? It seemed like a cruel joke. I would ebb and flow between strength and pure weakness. The 2nd worst part was the dreaded questions..."when are you going to start a family?" or "how many kids do you have?" or "you better hurry up, you aren't getting any younger!" Even better..."If you would just stop stressing, it would happen." (for the record this is the WORST advice you can offer, it stings like a paper cut in the midst of these struggles). Stop the questions...they aren't conversation fillers and truth is, you have no idea how much weight is in the question being tossed around so nonchalantly. This was such a hard time in my life. I felt attacked with these questions and my heart ached all the time. It was so hard that I eventually reached the conclusion that kids just weren't for us. (I had no medical advice or reason to think this, but I was just certain) It just hurt too much to keep hoping our time would come too.
Let me tell you something...our minds are powerful tools. We can use them for good and we can let them destroy us as well. It's all a process of trial and error too. I guess I believed that if I could be "ok" with the idea that we couldn't have kids then it would make it easier if we never did...oh my word...that's so ridiculous and for the record, being prepared for tragedy NEVER makes it easier. So, I went deeper down the rabbit hole, until I couldn't even see the light anymore. I won't go into full detail on this, but know you can make it out of this pain. Wanting to be a parent and create a human with your spouse, to start a family...and not being able to is HARD. Like so hard no one can even understand. I see you. I am you and I promise, you can find the light in this. It takes time. But you will.
So, I had mentioned I didn't want to do IVF at the beginning of this...and that's the truth. I hadn't really even heard of this idea until the last couple of years of trying. It was a hard no. Hard pass. Until it wasn't. I decided to make the appointment for family planning and off I went. To sum up what happened in the next year...in a nut shell... I learned that our no kids issue was related to medical issues from both parties. Holy shit...what a relief ( I am not kidding at all) it was like learning that this was a 50/50 deal took so much weight off of me. We learned that in fact our only option for kiddos would be to give IVF a try. I should mention that my part in the infertility was a medical condition that took me a full year to get a hold of...so IVF was still a hard pass for me. It was so strange how giving these symptoms a name really helped to heal me. I no longer felt like I was drowning. In this year I actually learned to enjoy the present. To live in the now. To appreciate every breath. I had wasted so much time wishing for something that may never happen. I will never do that again. I am enough, with or without kids...and you are too.
So fast forward to about a year and a half in recovery (we will call it) and my hubby asks if I had considered IVF at all. To be honest I hadn't. I was finally in a place of happiness and joy that I hadn't known in a long time...this process just seemed like a derailment was inevitable. I didn't want to take it off the table completely but I also knew the major reason I didn't want to was fear. And let me say...it takes a lot of work to make yourself whole. It's a huge accomplishment to discover your worth. I don't mean to say that kids would take anything away from that...I don't think that at all, but there is power in knowing who you are and what you want. I know women who have dreamed of motherhood since they can remember...also I know and love friends that know kids are not for them. My point is that I encourage you to follow your heart on this step (and any for that matter) there is no point in doing something for someone else. Doing what we think we are "supposed" to isn't healthy and really just breeds unhappiness in the long run. So, I honor your choices and I respect that we all get to choose our own path.
I knew that I just wanted to be healthy. I want to share that I had become ok with a childless life. That doesn't mean I can't embrace motherhood, but it does mean that I in fact can picture a happy future with my hubby...without children in it. I want you to know that you matter regardless of any outcome. HEAR ME...the outcome of this process (or any process) doesn't define your worth one way or the other. You matter because you are alive. Baby or not...you are beautifully and wonderfully made.
So, back to my husband's question. This was the first time HE had started the baby conversation so I started praying about it. It was clear to me that not trying would be way worse than giving it a go, so I knew what had to be done. I pushed through my fears and made the appointment. And now we are full circle.
We started our cycle 7/20/2018. When I say cycle I mean the very calculated and scientific process that is known as IVF. It's not fun. And I could go way into detail...but unless you go through it, you just can't even imagine how difficult it is. As a nurse, I understood most of the process by proxy...but for any of you that don't come from a medical background, I bow down to you. You are brave souls. Injections in the stomach are the worst...and in the butt UGH. I can't even. My hormone levels were all jacked up and crazy part is I was choosing this. We knew that they whole "cycle" would last about a month. So we did the things. Went to the appointments. Prayed and cried and waited. Each cycle is different for each woman...but a few things are the same. Meds/injections, egg growth, retrieval, transfer and then the two week wait to see if the embryo implanted. That's the absolute worst. Can I get an Amen if you've been there??
So, after what seemed like a year (but only 10 days in reality) I got the call. Mrs. Calderon...I am so sorry but today your pregnancy test is negative and none of your embryos made it. Immediately I couldn't breathe. I was sobbing and overwhelmed with sadness. I was so attached to those babies. We had created them, with a little bit of science. They were ours. They made me a Mom and I could feel something deep in my bones shift. I sat on my bed and my first thought was (I even ate the damn pineapple core!) then my next one was it's going to be ok. I started to process that no embryos made it and for whatever reason, this little embaby didn't stick. The grief still comes and goes daily but I have to share with you that I knew Jesus was physically sitting there with me holding my hand, crying with me. God doesn't want things like this to happen. But I can promise you He brings beauty from the ashes. I felt peace that I have never known (even through all the tears) and I knew without a doubt...I sure do want to be a Mom. A dream I had buried so deep under fear and mistakes and rejection...a dream that was abundantly clear...because seriously, no sane person goes through IVF if they don't really want to be a parent. Our dream is alive a staring back at me. Another real truth...I believed with my whole heart that this was going to work. And although the first ending is devastating, this is the first time in a long time that I had full faith. I so wasn't prepared for the heartache, but that's because I believed...and that my friends is a BIG win. I rarely do things that I am not certain I will succeed at...and I did this. With my husband by my side. We did this and we will do it again. 100% all in. The things we learned about each other are fabulous and honestly this brought us closer together than I thought possible. He's always been my ride or die...but having to give your wife a huge shot in the bum daily...well that will change some things. In a good way.
I believe that this was part of the plan. I truly do. We are a team and we have always been able to do hard things together. It's become second nature to us really. But this tested our patience and heart strings in ways that we had never known. I saw a side of him that I hadn't before. A tender side that had no interest in me feeling alone in one second of this. One that asked questions to ensure that I was going to be safe. That losing me was a risk to great to bear. It's times like these that your warriors step up to the plate. He sure did, just as I knew he would. I have more heroes in all this too. I am so grateful for that. Like I said before this has changed me. I am acutely aware of how precious life is...how fragile. Also, how little power we have in what happens. We can try to control it all we want, but it's a waste of time. I get it. And I am guilty. Moving forward to our second try...we have learned so much, we are better equipped and we just won't take no for an answer. Yes this is hard. Yes this is painful physically and mentally. But we aren't scared anymore. We know that trying again may end with the same results. Why are we trying again? Because we know that looking back in 20 years saying wish we would have tried...isn't an option. So we will exhaust the possibilities, not out of desperation, but out of love for each other. We will continue to grow our partnership running in the direction of love, NOT fear. We will try again. Because we are able.
If you are battling the symptoms or in a cycle of IVF currently my heart is with you. It's a club I wish we weren't in together, but I am happy to give you a hug or encourage you the best I can. It is not lost on me that our situation isn't the worst case scenario...however it is OUR worst case. So feel your feels. Stay positive but give yourself time to grieve. You are allowed to be angry and cry and feel defeated. Just don't unpack and live there. No matter the stage you are in...I encourage you to repeat this to yourself..."my worth isn't defined by the outcome of this process...either way." You are loved. There is so much to learn from this journey if you open your eyes and drown out the extra noise. Don't let this ruin your spirit. I know that's easy to say...but it is possible.
We will try again, not right now, but we will. This has catapulted us into some really big changes. One step at a time. This is only the beginning of building our family...I know in my heart what's next is going to blow our minds! Thank you for sharing in this journey...for praying...for loving on us...it's made all the difference. Below are a few snapshots I took to remember the process. Please know that there are so many details I am not sharing...because they are painful...but this is our truth. And I am so freaking proud of us.
...Beautiful Destinations. But not before a whole lot of hard lessons. Welcome to the final chapter of this story.
As I stepped on the scale at my Gyno in early 2017, I started soaking in the hard truth. Something was really wrong. I was officially at my heaviest weight EVER, regardless of diet or exercise. This couldn't just be what my 30's felt like, right??? My anxiety was so bad that I literally couldn't function some days. I suffered, I mean I didn't realize how bad until after reflecting a bit...but the best description is suffering. So, this is it. Today things are going to change. And they did. Oh did they change. I'm not sure how I'll come out on the other side, but it's go time. **(to the few of you who loved me, I mean really loved me through these years...I can never repay you...forever grateful, you know who you are. )
So what did we find??? Hasimoto's Hypothyroidism. The diagnosis that changed everything.
This condition wreaked havoc on my life, untreated, for more years than I even realized. I am not going to go into detail about the actual disease, but just know that this discovery explained EVERY SINGLE symptom I had been surviving. EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. Including infertility. My second reaction (right after thank you Jesus)?? Honestly...relief. I finally had a name to put on all of this madness.
If you’ve never heard of the aforementioned condition...look it up. It's a nasty autoimmune form of a low functioning thyroid and it's slow but steady process absolutely tortured me... (side bar: if you look it up and think you feel the same, go see your doc...it's not worth pretending this can't be you too, trust me).
I was so stubborn and in denial that sheer havoc had become my reality. On my mind, body, and soul...but like I said, only now...it had a name. And that name didn't start with "you are being punished for all your past mistakes".
So, first... I had to do LOTS of testing to be sure of what we were dealing with. When we knew that, the plan to tackle this began. There were a couple little "C" word scares, but rest assured those were false alarms and again I will say...cancer is NOT how my story will end. I also learned more about our infertility. It's interesting how I went into all of this to understand more about "why" we weren't getting pregnant...and came out understanding that my overall health had been in jeopardy. (Again, I will say it loud for the people in the back, DO NOT be like me and wait for medical help. The Nurse in me is guilty of waiting to long to seek help, it's not worth the wait. Believe me.)
What came next surprisingly came with ease. I mean I had been dieting and exercising blindly for years so I was used to focusing on health...but this time I brought in the big guns. I adjusted my diet and started on medications and supplements to ensure my overall health. I hired a personal trainer and within a few short months...the weight came off and I could literally breathe again. I dug deeper and focused harder even with big setbacks. I switched up my trainer for OTF (Orangetheory fitness for those who don't know and I am OBSESSED). My specialists follow me closely and we are on top of this. It doesn't own me at all anymore. It's just part of my story.
I had been broken and tired for so long and as I healed I felt like a brand new woman. And really I was. I shed more than just weight in the coming months. I shed expectations and fears and pain. No everything wasn't perfect (never will be) and I still have to make adjustments, but what I have gained is freedom. I found my self worth that day in my Doctor's office. I know that may sound strange (because trust me...a Gyno office isn't where I expected to find my self worth y'all) but it is true. You see what happened in early 2017 was monumental for me. I finally chose to believe that I deserved to be as happy as I always dreamed of being. I stopped accepting NO as an answer or "that's just how it is"...no more. I sought help...because God knows I needed it. I mean don't we all??? I chose me and will continue to do so...every.single.day. Just because it gets hard...doesn't mean I run in the other direction or stop. I may be crawling at times, but I am still moving.
Over the years I have collected so many misguided views of what my life was "supposed" to look like. So much that suffering had become a norm to me...a NORM...what the what?? There's just no reason to suffer like that and I won't ever go back. I hope you will join me in owning your truth. Telling your own story. It's healed my broken spirit and it's given me to power to move forward out of the darkness. Now don't get me wrong. Growth happens in darkness but I have emerged. Changed. Redeemed. I know that this is a work in progress. I know that my story is still happening...and I am still writing it.
This story began with me opening myself to tell our truth. The hard truth. The places in my childhood that used to haunt me. The events as I grew up, that filled me with shame. Now that it’s out there, I think my Dad is proud. I believe he’d love that I buried the bad and quite literally am carrying the best parts with me now. That sacrificing my happiness is no longer part of my life .
I have lived a life full of ups and downs...it's been unfair...and at times I really wanted to throw in the towel. However, through all of this I am sure He has bigger plans for me. I have no idea what they are, but the dreams God has placed on my heart are driving me home. I would love to have this story end right here with a million dollar movie ending...but the truth is, my story is just beginning. I want to share a little something as I close...and I hope you'll take what you need from all of this...
***There's a story in the Bible that talks about Jesus meeting a sick man outside of a pool that had healing waters in Bethesda. The story goes like this...the man had been ill for 38 years (a really long time). He waited as many sick people did at this place, but every time the waters were stirring (the time when the next person to step in would be healed)...he was unable to get himself to the pool and if he ever got close someone else would go ahead of him. When Jesus came to him he asked a very simple question..."Do you want to be made well?"... Then Jesus said, "Rise up, take your bed and walk." ***
As I read it, it's almost as if Jesus says, forget the pool...you don't need that to thrive...get up and walk!
This story reminds me beautifully of how we complicate our lives for no good reason. We focus our attention on unimportant things and we blame all kinds of things for our "sickness". I am guilty and I do not believe this is the only time I will have to ask this to myself. So...my question to you today is the same. Do you want to be made well??? I had to want to be made well before it could happen. Our desire to live a life we love cannot simply be a dream...it must be a priority. The circumstances of my life no longer dictate what my future looks like. I am on a journey that is all my own. And so are you.
I did rise up and walk...I used our story, my story...to be His legs.
Love you all...take care of yourselves.
The next few months I made half-hearted attempts at self care. Transformation. To be honest, every decision I made was out of fear and not for me. (I had been doing this for so long, that I didn't even realize it had become second nature) I did what I thought I should do or what I believed others wanted from me. Strange thing is this, none of it worked. Well that's unfair...some of it worked, temporarily. Ever have that happen? You read a book that inspires you in the moment or you start following a public figure that you look up to...only to eventually start looking at yourself and wonder why you don't measure up? Yeah. Me too.
I spent the better part of 2016 trying to keep from feeling so empty, all while being sure no one saw the darkness. My efforts weren't totally in vane though. Some of that experience finally sank in...it just took the right timing. Even my therapy worked, but only when I really started to unpack my baggage. And that time wasn't right now.
Rock bottom has been a place that I have rebuilt my life, a few times along my journey. 2016 was no different. I finally reached my breaking point. I had stuffed and stuffed all my feels down...and it was no longer sustainable. I remember the moment I knew everything had to change. Like, if I were going to survive this, kind of change. I will spare you the details, but it wasn't pretty. During this time I lost one of my favorite people, my PawPaw. He had a long battle with heavy diagnoses, but that man was a beacon of hope. My hope. I take joy in knowing he is pain free and telling corny jokes in heaven...but I sure would love one more hug from him. Everyday.
So, just as stepped forward knowing I needed to change...this loss knocked me right back to my knees. You know they say when it rains it pours...and I was starting to feel like my storm would never pass. I wouldn't come to terms with this loss for many months and the process was ugly.
Ever been at a bar in the wee hours of the morning (definitely not sober)...most likely making a fool of yourself, but in the moment you feel like you are crushing it at life. Then you walk into the bathroom and catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror...yeah that moment...when you see that you in fact are not the beautiful, fun, table dancing queen...you had totally been when you walked in...you are actually a sweaty mess making really terrible life decisions. Yep...that was me at the end of 2016. I finally succumbed to the fact that the only way out of this mess, was to go straight through it. And so it began.
I knew the change that was about to occur would take full commitment. It wasn't just about the weight gain...or the daily tears (in my closet) about my inadequacy as a human. It wouldn't simply take a diet change or a few audiobooks. It would take everything I have...and I was finally ready to step out on the limb. So I did.
This process came similarly to the stages of grief. My first Nursing job (critical care) helped to catapult me into truly understanding grief. It comes and goes and there are no rules. Helping others navigate this in fact proved to be of no help in my personal life. I so wanted to hope that helping others grieve would "fix" me, and that I wouldn't have to do the hard work of digging deep, chasing down this fear, and burying it. Not so much.
January of 2017 I started making some calls. The first one was the hardest. To make an appointment with my Doc about my health and the dreaded “family planning”. Well for us...the lack there of, our own little family. You see, for 4 years I had been praying for those babies I had began dreaming of long ago. Suffering each month I saw a negative. I was in total denial that fertility issues could be a part of this...and making that call (to me) meant I was admitting defeat. I had decided that maybe kids just weren't in the cards for us...like as if “making this unrealistic conclusion” would help prepare me for the worst case senerio. For the record...being prepared doesn’t make any tradegy or loss easier...ever.
So, I prayed. Scheduled the appointment and half-heartedly agreed to show up...I was drowning in sorrow, but deep down...I knew I had to prove myself wrong. I had to rise. Imperfections and all. The morning of that appointment I chose to change my life...once and for all. You see the process is what I’ve always feared...the process holds the whole story. The most scary and the most beautiful. And I knew in order to write my new chapters...I’d have to face embracing the process head on...for real this time...
Selfish. Ambitious. Choice. When did you become the judge?
10 years ago I wanted nothing more than a house full of my own children...but deep down I was scared. I come from divorce. I come from regret. I come from trial and MUCH error. Even though my biological clock was clearly ticking...could I possibly raise a human without completely ruining their soul??? What if I never found a man that I knew I could trust with the task of husband and father again? What if I never became a Mother, then who would I be? What if I never became anyone without kids??
These are all real questions I used to ask myself on a regular basis (some I still do...) Early on in my twenties I chose divorce over abuse and let me tell you...until recently in my early thirties...I truly believed I was being punished for that sin. My mind needed to have a reason I was seeing EVERYONE around me get exactly what I was praying for. (Even though I really had no idea what I wanted). So, it must be a punishment right??? Good grief. Jump to conclusions much?? I used to thrive on that game. Deciding what I wanted in life, and then coming up with EVERY reason that it just wouldn't happen for me. A lot of that was fear and I have addressed that in other parts of this story...however I would like to now share the part of my story that I never saw coming.
I always wanted kids...until I didn't. And before you stop reading, it's not that I don't really want them...it's that I don't like to feel like I am nothing without them. The world has a way of sneaking in the back door and stealing all of your joy as it relates to this issue...if you let it. So , here I am, 30 years old, child free and completely lost. For many different reasons...but not being a Mom is one of them. Remember all that needing to ask myself what "I really want" in the last chapter, boy did that go over well. (insert eye roll) There's something I learned in 2014-2015...it was the skill of looking inward for the truth. The thing about introspection is this...it sucks...at first. It's like a muscle and as long as you use it often it stays strong, but building that muscle in the beginning really sucked for me. It's really no fun to take full responsibility for your own happiness. The gurus describe it like it's easy...and that's just not true. Which is why many people never do it. I knew that freedom was on the other side of the introspection, so I began to climb the mountain. One fact that kept glaring me in the face was this...
I always thought I would have time with my Dad to one day reconnect, in a big way.
Full disclosure, I always thought that would happen when I had kids. At the time I began using that as a comfort, it seemed like it made sense. But it made as much sense as saying I would quit smoking when I had kids...none at all. Here I am, child free...Dad is gone and there is no time to make sense of this. I know I must move forward but how? Did I just keep telling myself that I wanted kids because I thought I should? Or that it would be the stage when I got my Dad back? Why am I all of the sudden feeling like children aren't in the future for me? Overwhelmed. I will have to unpack that at a later time.
The shame and guilt was consuming me. I had so much to be grateful for in life. A loving husband, full of grace for me...and great career, a new business that was thriving, new friends, and a place to start over where no one knew about my past. The perfect fresh start...turned into my worst nightmare.
I had coached families for years as a Nurse through death and dying. I was fully capable of understanding the stages of grief but the trouble was...this happened right in the middle of my fresh start. I was so angry that right in the middle of finally finding my way, it seemed as if I was taking 100 steps backwards. Losing him caught me completely off guard. I much preferred the space where we loved each other from a far, but he was still alive...a phone call away...These two years were very dark for me. I suffered every single stage of grief...multiple times. On the outside, absolutely no one knew it. But I was dying inside. Have you ever felt like you had every reason to be happy, but just couldn't find it. That light, that peace??? Me too. So, I started looking for it everywhere. Even though I no longer felt my biological clock ticking per say... I prayed everyday that I would get pregnant so I could find my joy again. I am so grateful God has bigger plans. Having a child in the state of mind I was in would have been...well the timing wasn't right. Period. I am thankful God didn't give into my selfish prayers. As if having children "fixes" anything. Unanswered prayers are full of grace that you can see...once you finally open your eyes. Sharing with you the reason I was praying for kids...just feels like something I must do. There is power in vulnerability and I just can't believe I am the only one that has prayed for something for selfish reasons. So here it is. My truth.
I would find happiness occasionally but then it would slip away again. I was functioning, but barely. My weight gain got out of control, no matter what I tried...my health was in the red and life just started to feel like a dead end road. Despite all the goodness I had around me. I was looking at it all wrong. I kept thinking that happiness was a destination. One that I could reach or earn. Simply not true. Can you relate?
The more I searched for my happiness in the world around me...the more empty I felt. What a roller coaster ride I was on and truthfully I was afraid to reach out to anyone. Comparison became my nemesis. It stole every ounce of my joy. Ever wonder how people who seem to "have it all" can still be so miserable??? I can tell you first hand, I lived it...and a major part of it was comparing my chapter 1 to others finished novel. Doing that wasted so much time. But in order to tell you my whole story...you have to know the truth. Through the grief of losing my Dad, I learned what depression is and how real it's effects are. I relate 100% to anyone who feels the stigma as well. And if you are reading this...and feel like you can't talk to anyone about how you feel...talk to me. I believe you. I know your pain and I am telling you, YOUR STORY IS NOT OVER!!! It's so important that you hear me when I say that. Reach out, anytime of day and I will help you look in the mirror and see how precious you are to the whole world. Especially the one directly around you.
I was praying for all the things I thought would bring me happiness...and maybe one day they will...but today is not that day...
What is the one thing in your life that you literally run from? That one "thing" that you will do just about anything to avoid?
Mine is conflict. Ugh even the word makes me cringe. It's a complicated explanation, but here it goes...
I like to think that I deal well with conflict, but truth is...I just do whatever it takes to keep it from happening. Most of the time my basic and essential needs are put aside as I do this. Not good. Ever. I have spent my life going second so that conflict is almost never part of my day. (Yes, I realized how unrealistic this is...) The sneaky thing is that I really like to put others first. I enjoy helping others feel special. Giving, being easy going...and all that jazz, but there are supposed to be boundaries. Right?? Yes. I am just now, at 30 years old, coming around to realizing that I have a major problem of using kindness to fuel my avoidance of conflict. It's like an addiction. Can you relate? I will tell you this...coming to terms with this has been a long process and one that I am not sure will ever be complete. I stay torn between being a YES girl and wanting to live in peace and tranquility. The struggle is real and I am constantly jumping on and off the struggle bus.
To be completely honest though, as much as I avoid it, conflict is really all I've ever known. Chaos if you will. Pain. As a child it was out of my control, but as an adult I am finding that when I feel peace, immediately I will seek out conflict. Peace feels wrong...different...way to easy. Not for me. Chaos and conflict give me a space where I can accomplish and solve. In conflict, I get results but the funny thing is...life doesn't have to be that way. To some this may simple, but the "pain" of life was the most comfortable place for me to exist. Survive.
My husband is a great source of peace in my life and truly one of the only human beings I allow into my head. I let pretty much everyone into my heart, but until this very post...you've never been in my head. My mind...where a lot of scary things happen...and to be fair (finally in my 30s) there is more bright than scary. But for most of my life seeking out conflict has exhausted me and left me empty. See why I said it's an addiction?? It's taken so many years to see that the cost of my actions is two high a price. From the outside I appear to be such a wonderfully helpful and kind person...and I am...however, the turmoil I put myself through to see others NOT have to have conflict or pain, is out of control. I learned this skill from my Dad. I watched him countless times. Create a mess only to then try to clean it up (sort of). We created these habits...wait for it...so we didn't have to deal with our own feels. Address our own problems. Our own deeply rooted pain. I personally have opted for less of pointing my finger at someone else as a distraction, and more of gathering the hurt and trying not to let it spread. It seems noble but I would like for you to know (right here, right now) the real sadness it causes me. My Dad suffered so very much during his years on this earth. Creating and solving conflict was his coping mechanism. As a child I watched, trying to help as much as I could, but it was just to big to carry. So, I developed a habit of feeling like I had to solve every problem within 100 miles of me. I had failed him (so I thought) and I am still on that mission to never let it happen again. He had a great big heart (no matter the shitty choices he made at times) and in the end he is remembered for the way he made others feel special. How he created spaces for others to exist in peace (even if he himself was always suffering) I try to do that too. But not at the same cost. Not spinning my wheels and never feeling peace. I know if he were here...that's what he would tell me now. He'd say, "BoHogs, don't do it like me...do it like YOU, because you are meant to change the world in a BIG way baby".
Real talk. The thing about becoming aware of your behavior, means you are obligated to evaluate and change it (if needed). Well, that's what happened to me anyway. You know...the old saying..."when you know better, you do better." To me that's always seemed a little unfair (mostly because I don't like the pain associated with dealing with my own feels) but it's completely true. So, how does one who despises conflict, seem to be surrounded by it all the time??? Good question. One that I am still working to answer myself. The thing is I really don't like conflict, but it had become a coping mechanism for me over the years. When I need to "feel better about me" I help a friend (or 10) with their conflicts...or I look for ways I can "help out" anyone, anywhere. For a long time I never really saw the danger in this...until I did. One day I looked up from being the "helpy helper" I am and I was exhausted. Defeated. 45 pounds overweight. Sad. Lonely. Lost. I was no where near where I wanted to be in my life. Where I thought I was supposed to be, but how was I going to make a change? Where would I start? I had to start dealing with those feels and when I opened Pandora's box...the first thing I had to address was this...
Why am I allowing conflict to consume my life? Letting this create unhappiness and pain? Where do I really want to be?? This lead to me having to review my "blueprint" for life and this changed everything...the next chapter starts with me thanking God for unanswered prayers.
In order to chase my dreams, it was imperative that I came to terms with my past. Yes, as you have read here, in previous blogs, I have dealt with a lot of my past...but not all of it. I was at a crossroad again. This time I had to decide if I was going to leave "her" behind and truly become who I was destined to be. Or stay stuck in this continuous loop of shame and fear. So, I chose. She chose.
She took her fear and pain and used it. Not in a way that hurt others or herself...but she grew. She changed. She started to rewrite her ending. Her mission became to no longer fight the past...but to embrace the new. She understood with full force that the world IS her oyster. She has collected all the good from the people in her circle, including the ones that have hurt her...including Dad...and she's taking that with her.
She is no longer broken, but being broken isn’t a curse. It’s a gift. Broken is the foundation she built her life on. She didn’t ask for help. And she certainly didn’t ask for this life...but she realized it’s hers and that it is important. Special. Raw. So she finally looked up and saw a real light at the end of the tunnel. For so long, that didn’t seem possible. But through it all she never lost her heart. Her kind. Her faith. Her fight. The woman you know, if you’ve followed her a lifetime...or only a couple of years...is not the finished product. She’s a master piece in the making. She allowed everyone and everything to take from her, more than she gave. No more. She wouldn’t change a thing...however, now she respects herself...more than anyone else. Loves herself. Believes she can have it all regardless of what others think. Her spirit is not broken.
She’s brave, beautiful, fierce, soft, and on fire. Be careful in her space...she will challenge you and see things in yourself that you didn’t know could come alive. She sees it in you, because she pulled it from her own soul. From the depths of her heart. She won’t push her ideas on you, but she’ll ask you to grow and stretch and decide. Decide what YOU want. She struggles in groups. One on one is her favorite thing. She sees ALL the colors. Feels them. Loves them. Loves you. Loves life. Her hardest realization was that not everyone gets to come on this journey with her...but she's so thankful for each person and their season in her story. She's learning and feeling. All the feels. Vulnerability is chasing away her fear. Slowly but surely. She wears her tender heart on her sleeve and refuses to let anyone change that about her. She is humble and full of imperfections. She is changing the world. Just watch for yourself. She can see you...however she’s no longer concerned if you can see her.
She is me...maybe you see some of yourself in her?? Maybe not, but I am just beginning to write this chapter. Live this season, I hope you'll stick with me. And if not, and you ever catch yourself talking about me...finish it with "but she's doing her thing...". She sure is.
We all dream. Even if we think we don’t. Even if we are scared to tap into that space. We dream. When we sleep...when we are awake...we dream.
Some kids dream of being a princess or a police officer. When I was a child I dreamed of being important. I wanted to matter. I wanted my profession to be a Vet or a Dr...I knew others respected these kinds of people and I wanted that. After my Dad’s shooting. I wanted to take all the pain away from everyone around me. I wanted to give him his legs back. I wanted to change the world. His world. I had big vision that someday I would. As I grew up and the world’s views came into focus and my dreams blurred. Over the years I became very good at answers. Telling people what sounded good. What they wanted to hear from me. And mainly learning to say the “right” things, kept me from many gut wrenching conversations. Not all though. No one wants to hear that I wish I could see my Dad walk again. That I truly dream of our families not being divided and life being normal again someday. My deep thoughts felt like a prison most of my life.
Does anyone really want to know what you want? When someone asks about your life to get to know YOU...why is the first question...”So, what do you do?” That question literally haunted me for years. Even in a profession that most people won’t do. Where I held people until they took their last breaths and their families long after...I still wondered if the letters behind my name and title were big enough. If my education was good enough...like what?!? How on earth did this become my mindset??? Why couldn’t I see my value outside of “what I did”. Mostly because for me, it was safe to combine my purpose and passion into what I “did” for a living. That’s noble and I don’t regret it...but who you are and what you do are in fact different. If you already knew that by now...I bow to you...but what kept me up at night is that I lost my way along the years. I lost me. And I’m still picking up those pieces and I’m not sure I ever knew what I really wanted back then.
I don’t blame my career. Becoming a Nurse saved my life. It helped me escape an abusive marriage and gave me stability and strength. I was accepted. I wish I could say I always knew what I wanted...that I had a clear vision for life as a little girl, but that’s just not true. When you have a choice in your 20s you make one that will set you up for stability in the future...even if it’s not exactly what you want. So I did. And then...I was “important”. I saved lives. However, I always felt something missing. If I were totally honest, I’d tell you I always wanted to do hair. Be a stylist. I longed to be someone who can take a situation that was already beautiful and add some flare and spice that really made someone shine. Be creative. Free. A person who showed them the beauty I see in them. So, rather than me being “important when I grow up” what I really dreamt of was to nurture others in a way that made them important. My vision was that we’d all win that way. I still believe that today. Building a rock solid stylist business at an early age was terrifying to me, so I went with the medical field instead. I didn’t understand yet how taking risks would someday fit into my story. This season of my life was structured by my career and in many ways helped me live out the dreams I thought I wanted. I gave my life to trying to show others the beauty I saw in healing, but never thought twice about giving that gift to myself.
Along the way I had some ground breaking moments...ones that changed me forever. Watching countless people live and die with grace. Being part of crafting care plans that were executed like the textbooks said they would...but many that did not. Living, breathing, and nurturing everyone around me. It felt good. I got to do good and get compensated for it. How lucky was I??? Until that nagging “something is missing” really started to get louder and louder. Am I “be-ing” or “do-ing”?? Hard truth. I knew very little then about being.
If I had a dollar for everytime someone said “I could never do what you do” I’d be a millionaire. In the early years it felt good. I choose to do the hard things that so many wouldn’t...they even told me so...until internally I started asking, why DO I do this?? It seemed absurd. Right!!?? What else would I do/be?? How else would I be important if I wasn’t a Nurse?? Those questions, especially that second one kept me from moving forward at all for many years. The common theme here is that I so often let the thoughts and opinions of others guide my path. I trusted that they knew better than I. They didn’t. They meant well (sometimes) but they didn’t know what I really wanted.
2014 offered an opportunity to change like never before. Up until then I hadn’t really ever given myself credit for how brilliantly I championed change. Adjusted and rolled with the punches. Between multiple moves...jobs...men...heartbreak...I always said I hated change. Which couldn’t be true because I welcomed it often. What I found was that I had developed a dislike for commitment actually. That came from my Dad. He was a non committed nomad. Never staying put too long. Anywhere. So, finally at 29 years old it occurred to me that my commitment issues were what really had me upside down emotionally. Not change. What took me so long?? Not sure. But, change was my friend. Offering shelter and new beginnings. But no stability. I wanted to understand commitment.
2014 I started to learn that I could no longer run from life. Not if I wanted the dreams hidden deep down to come to life. And it was hard. Is hard. I am no longer the same human I was then. That was a girl...terrified and lonely inside. Even when the outside looked bright. I did the hard things again...I learned to stay. Not in a stuck kind of way...in a way that doesn’t escape. Life is hard. I couldn’t out run the hard. Sadly, over the years my connection to Dad was in learning from his mistakes and not living wildly how he lived. In all reality his heart was all I ever really wanted. Once he left this Earth...I realized, in fact, I had it with me the whole time. Deep down I admire my Dad for living wildly. To me he was courageous and strong. It was merely his actions that left me confused. In 2014 I vowed to learn more about who I am...instead of focusing on what I “do”. It’s been the biggest blessing of my life. Yes people make mistakes. My Dad sure did. Humans do really bad things sometimes...but my deep dream is of crafting a way to show people that it’s who they ARE that matters. Because that’s what he showed me. It’s Not really what we do. Once you own who you uniquely are...the rest falls into place. The world may tell you different. But I’m living proof. My Dad spent years trying to own who he was...as a Dad, son, friend, as a paraplegic...I can’t imagine what that felt like...but I can tell you, as his child...I won’t ever forget to own who I am because I watched how it tortured him when he couldn’t.. In the end his laughter and heart are what we remember. Amongst all the bad decisions and hurtful moments...it’s his heart and who he really was that I’m carrying forward. I have 2 beautiful siblings that have a part of his heart too. We all know deep down how much our Dad shapes our lives...if he did anything at all...He loved us, even if he didn’t DO it like everyone else. That’s my take anyway. After his death and as I catapulted myself forward into a new future I vowed to only bring the good parts of his story. Owning it all but leaving the bad were it belongs.
Changing my entire life scared me terribly, but what was more scary?? Thinking about the regret I’d live with if I didn’t even try...I stopped living by what I was “supposed” to do and unpacked my bags. The reckoning was finally here...my blurred dreams were starting to come back into focus...but was I ready??
Now he's gone. Physically. I am broken all over again. Into a million pieces. What's the next move?
Everything had to change. All of it. Starting with me.
I was drowning and kept adding things to my plate to keep a float. Which I know now was completely wrong. Except my marriage and my business. I would never go back and change either of those decisions. Both of them saved my life. Still do.
We were living in a hotel in the Boston area at the time and to say that time was hard, well, would be putting it lightly. So much took place the first year we lived in MA and honestly hasn't really slowed up a bit. Let me recap quickly...
In the month of April 2014 alone...we got married, I started a new Nursing job (in a brand new city and part of the country, our second cross country move in a year), started building a home, moved into a hotel (which was a 4 month stay), lost my Dad, and started a new business.
One month. Holy Hell.
I get exhausted thinking about how crazy life was back then. You see I am the kind of person that jumps off the deep end and I see if I can swim...turns out I've got a lot of fight left in me. But, the point is this...I was searching for something. A change. I was grasping at every opportunity to feel whole again. I was in a dark place. Dad's death nearly pushed me over the edge.
Y'all we started our marriage in a hotel on a random Friday morning...after I had worked an overnight shift with one of my hardest patients ever...and then after it was official he went to NY for a work trip and I went to sleep. No fancy dress, no cake, no fuss...just the two of us making a decision together. Committing our lives to each other in a quaint little 1700's courthouse. I still tell that story just to see the horrified looks on peoples faces. And, for the record not everyone is horrified, wink emoticon.
Let me tell you that living in that hotel prepared us again for what was ahead. It helped shape us to do the hard things. And we had no idea what was coming. We are living proof that the shell of your life doesn't matter. It's not where you live or what you have. Or who your parent's are. It's the peace found in another's heart. The safety and strength to grow. It's when you have love and you give love...He works it all out. We learned to balance each others needs and take personal time as well. We didn't always get it right, but I will always say...the reason I know we will be together forever is because we are the type of humans that can live in a hotel for 4 months. We do what it takes to get to where we want to be. Together. Always together. No exceptions.
Deep down I am still that little 5 year old girl who had no choice in all of this. I protect her everyday. She's the one who hangs tight to the good in this world, the kindness, the hope. She keeps the best memories of my Dad alive. Preserved. So you can imagine, losing my Dad brought out emotions that had been hiding away in a box that I wrapped and secured with gorilla glue and duct tape. To be completely transparent, I am still unpacking that box to this day. But I finally opened it. Flying home from TN after the funeral I decided many things. But...the first was that I would be sure to make him proud. I promised I would find a way out of my darkness. That I would forgive myself for abandoning him. That I would let go of all the anger and carry on his legacy with grace. You see the thing about a child is this...it takes two to create one. He's half of my heart, and I simply can't let his part of my heart live in the darkness anymore. We did that for far to long. I know now I couldn't save him, but I can sure shine my light so that anyone who meets me knows his light too. The good parts of him...of anyone are what really matter. Shining his light helps me put the past behind us. And, I know he's with me. Always.
This life is short. It's hard at times. Not fair. But so beautiful if you are always looking for the rainbows. Trust me, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone...so look for the colors not the darkness. 2014 shaped my heart. It showed me that happiness isn't a destination. It's a state of mind. His death brought emotions, and also a lot of closure...the last few months of this year opened up to a brand new life...and I am not sure I was ready.