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.
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. Today is about putting down the shame and guilt and rising strong...I never prayed for what was coming, but it was exactly what I needed...
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.
Time. It's is something I always took for granted in my past. With my Dad specifically. Losing him made me realize that time, it is a precious commodity that you can never ever get back once it is gone. Use it wisely and very carefully.
So here I am, embarking on this brand new journey with the love of my life...but I had so much I still needed to resolve behind me. I struggled hard with that for the first months after meeting my husband, then he had a opportunity to move to the Windy City, and he asked me to come along. With reservation I said yes...but not because I didn't want to go...I backtracked a bit and really wrestled with the idea of moving with a man I wasn't "even married to". That idea was pushed on me by loved ones who meant well, but had no business in my decisions. Southern charm is a real thing, but so are southern traditions and at this point in my life...I had proved to be a rebel in the tradition department.
That move actually gave me something I had dreamed of for years, but never had the courage to do. Moving from Nashville to Chicago began the journey to the person I am today who learned to be brave enough to share her heart. At the time of our first move...I truly didn't feel my story was worth telling. I was still running from it in fact. Trying my best to say and do all the right things. To make sure everyone only saw the parts of my life/past that I wanted them to see. Moving represented freedom from my past. But moving also meant that I would have to reflect ( I learned this hard lesson as I was driving across state lines). No one ever told me that moving from home would rock my world. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time. Lots of tears.
The move forced me to take responsibility for me. To decide. To choose me first. Those were things I had been avoiding for a very long time. So I said goodbye and moved, forward.
Remember that summer several years back from this move when I said goodbye to my Dad for the last time in person...the one where we promised to stay in touch and didn't, well that is were these series of goodbyes began. You see had I not made the decision to separate myself from him...I would have missed all of this. Saying goodbye to him lead me to choose those who loved me without stipulations. To choose to surround myself with family and friends that didn't abandon me. Saying goodbye to him, lead me to meeting my husband. Our goodbye was a gift he gave me that I will forever be grateful for. It became the gift that kept on giving when his soul left us just a year after I moved.
When I got the news about Dad, we had literally just returned from CO. We visited to share the news of our brand new marriage (a few days before at the justice of the peace, yes we eloped...for many reasons, which is not the point here wink emoticon) with his family...and to celebrate the life of my FIL who had passed away a year before. We had just completed our second move, this time we had landed in Boston. My Uncle called and asked if I was sitting down. I was and truly had no idea what he was about to tell me. I thought maybe they were having a baby...but no. Your Dad is gone. 4 words. I had planned and prepped for this conversation so many times. Not one of those thoughts helped at all. Want to know the first thought I had?? My uncle answered it before I could even ask. No, he didn't suffer. My second thought? Was it related to drugs or alcohol...I am sharing this fact because grace is my best friend. I struggled so much as a child of addiction. My thought made perfect sense, but it felt so bad. So hurtful. But before I asked that...my Uncle assured me it wasn't as he laid out the details. No one is perfect. I am allowed to be human and rest assured my very next thought was repeating he didn't suffer. He is no longer suffering. It was like a weight was lifted. I felt immediate relief that he was finally at peace and literally walking around in heaven. My 3rd thought...how am I going to tell my brother and sister? They already knew. Thank God. Then the intense grief came shortly after. I began to cry and I don't think I stopped for a month. I booked a flight immediately and went to say my final goodbye.
For what now seems like a fleeting moment...I had the thought that I wasn't allowed to grieve. Why? because I hadn't talked to him in years. In fact a short few months before, he had called me. I didn't answer because I didn't know what to say...so when I got my wits about me, I did call him back but got his VM and didn't leave a message. I brushed it off and went about my business. Guilt. It's real and raw. I replay that moment over in my mind still to this day. What's done is done, but if you can learn from me...answer the phone. I promise you won't regret it. What changed my mind about allowing myself to grieve? Dad did. You see although we hadn't spoken in years, he followed me. He kept up with all the moves I had made and was still so very proud of me. I didn't know this until the moment I'm about to explain...but that's how he worked. As we went through his few assets...my Uncle found a Boston Red Sox jersey. And let me tell you my Dad wasn't a baseball fan. I lost it, full on ugly cry when he handed it to me. It reminded me that I was and will always be his daughter. And that I absolutely had every right to grieve. As unconventional as our relationship was, it was ours. And telling our story sets our love in stone. It looked messy and chaotic from the outside (because it was) but it was still love. Dad reminded me that you don't ever give up on loving someone. You may separate but love wins. All the love he'd ever had for me...was represented in a Red Sox jersey. Go figure.
So we said goodbye, with Soulshine playing as the soundtrack of his life. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I find peace in knowing the next time I see him...we will never have to say goodbye again. And...that he isn't suffering anymore. He suffered for over 50 years. It was time for him to go rest easy on the mountain. His three kids were on the front row. Together. We held hands and that moment united us again as siblings...family that always sticks together. We are left to live his legacy...to show that there is redemption. That He creates beauty from ashes. And I had the honor of fulfilling my Dad's wishes by laying him to rest with his Mom. His ashes are leading to redemption.
To those of you who knew him...and loved him in the times I wasn't present, I cherish you. I always loved him. Love him. But the gap you filled saved my life. Forever grateful.
To anyone who is suffering the loss of a parent way to soon (or at all)...it's a club my husband nor I ever wish on anyone. It's unfair that we can't all live forever, but know that we feel your pain. We see you. We are you. You are never alone in your grief, that never goes away. We know your heart and we are always cheering you on. I am no longer addicted to goodbyes, I long for hellos.
Continue to follow our journey...Dad still teaches me all kinds of things...many that are helping me change the world around me. He's now my guardian angel and I talk to him more than I ever did before. We are finally at peace.
Love you more...
Doesn't everyone have a defining moment in their life? Multiple ones...where you know nothing will be the same? Moments you never saw coming because you were looking in all the wrong places...?
Gut feeling, intuition, little voice...these all describe that message we get from deep within. The one that's leading us exactly where we are supposed to be. All of us. Yet, how often do we ignore it? Why?
Ever found yourself in a place you never meant to be? Me too. Many times. Now, have you ever considered that your own choices are (in part) what got you there? In that tough place that has you feeling like you are drowning without a life preserver. Time and time again. To be honest, it used to be easier for me to blame my life on my circumstances. Or lack thereof. To reason through how suffering is a part of life. So often in my life I've refused to take full responsibility for how I found myself in the situations I did. Until I changed that. About a year ago, I sat through an intense therapy session. One that brought me to crocodile tears. One that could have crushed my spirit. If I let it. I've been known to have a flare for the dramatic...but this was something I hadn't prepared for at all.
She asked a very simple, logical question that brought me to my knees. Literally.
Her question, "Have you ever thought about YOUR responsibility for the chaos in your life?"
What??? Come again??? As I sat in silence and my eyes welled up with tears...my heart beating faster and faster...I thought, well, no lady I hadn't thought of that...ever. My thoughts were heavy and hot. Full of shame and blame. Painful. For a moment I felt like I couldn't breath. This question forced me to look within. After years of looking anywhere but there. Ugh.
You mean somehow I had a choice in all of this? Like I asked for this?? Defensive. Immediately. As the tears streamed I responded...out loud, calmly...Are you suggesting that the way I feel is my fault? (My attempt at trying to level with her, as if that's what she intended, which wasn't true).
Her honest response changed my life. Softly she said, "First, let's take the word "fault" out of this. This isn't about fault or punishment. What I'm saying is that you have choices in everything you do. You get to decide if you want this chaos that exists in your life to win. You choose the life you want. Have you ever considered that?"
Choices?? Decisions?? I'm speechless. In 31 years I've truly lived and died by what others wanted, thought, or needed from me. I suppose I thought about my choices before, but every move I made wasn't based on what I wanted or needed. Each decision was a step forward in what pleased others. What helped me blend in. Seem normal. Can you relate?
I left that session hurt. Bruised but not broken. I spent the next few days unpacking how I'd come back with a better answer next time. How? I had to sit down with my own thoughts and sift through each moment. At first it was excruciating, but as I saw my responsibility in my choices (good and bad)...I started to understand more and more of how I got to that very place I was sitting.
Much of the responsibility I started with was actually in NOT dealing with my life. My past. Stuffing it down and putting on my happy face.
The largest blessings this could have cost me was my dreams. My love. Who am I kidding...Everything. But I decided NO. I was determined. I am determined. My eyes are wide open and that was an incredibly difficult decision.
For years I've know I am "different". Highly Emphatic. Deep inside I know God is preparing a way for me that I can't comprehend. In many ways it scares me. That's obviously my human brain that causes that. Almost like I'm afraid I can't live up to what He's got in store. Like I'm not enough. So, acting like I "didn't have a choice in life" served those fearful thoughts well. He is always guiding me to my greatness...but...each time I heard that "little voice", I stopped it. Stifled it with noise. Fear. Whatever. Until I didn't.
As I took more and more responsibility...I realized that I always made choices, just the wrong ones. The safe ones. I didn't like to rock the boat. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to hurt anyone, but I no longer worry about making a few waves. I no longer quiet that gut feeling. Wanna know why? Because God is never wrong. He's in the business of redemption. He's got our backs. Free will is an interesting blessing...we can use it to step into our greatness, or to sink our dreams and potential.
The next time she asked me that question, my answer was swift and full of passion.
"Yes. Yes I have considered that I shape my life through my choices. They are important to my happiness and because happiness isn't a destination I consider each choice carefully. I'm certain I may not always get it right, but I'll learn and grow through that. Deciding to connect with myself in the most authentic form aided me in building my dreams, which are really big."
It's very interesting how one question can change everything. Shift your course? Change your path? Or...did that moment lead you back to your path after somehow you forgot to take responsibility and got lost? You decide.
As we embark on the next big adventure in our lives, I'm certain this lesson will serve me and my soul very well. My hope is that you ask yourself the same question she asked me. Be honest and if needed, adjust. Forgive yourself and begin again with grace.
We can reach for the moon together friends. However it starts with what we really want. So...stop fighting your little voice. Here's to being brave enough to dream big and take action.
How many times must I rebuild?? I've asked myself this question so many times over the last 5 years. Partly because I've finally recognized the difference between rebuilding and building walls...and then another part of me knows I'll never stop.
In my life each time I was abandoned...each time I felt useless and unwanted...I added bricks. A few at a time. But these bricks had no solid foundation and on many occasions my walls were destroyed fast and without understanding. I'd let someone in who appeared to be interested in a partnership, but in reality...they were only emotional vampires who came to take whatever I'd give. Which in most cases was everything I had. You'd think after doing this repeatedly with the same ending (different characters)...I would stop. But to keep with the honest theme here, I can't. I believe I was born with a gift. To save others, heal them emotionally. When their burdens are too heavy to bear, I carry them with them...which mostly turns into for them. What a heavy burden to bear huh?? Yes. Yes it is. Over the years I'm learning to develop this gift. The older I get, the more I am certain my Dad had the same gift...but we will discuss that later.
At 28, I had begun rebuilding again. This time I was determined not to go backwards (although my mind would try diligently to do so often). I'm an overthinker. Anyone else? I put careful and mostly way to much thought into everything I do. It's debilitating at times and I often believe I get this from my Dad too. The root? Fear of failure. Being seen as weak. Being misunderstood. All things that bring rejection and more fear. I didn't know it at the time, but at this age is when I started the process to stop the madness...when I started to believe there could be a better way.
So, for the time being I found comfort in the small things...like living alone. Learning to take care of myself without assistance from anyone. I thought I had mastered that a few times before, but that wasn't really true. Now...approaching my 30s I was finally figuring it out. Sort of.
In the back of my mind, I always believed Dad and I would get a second try. Maybe when I got married or had children...we'd fit back perfectly into each other's lives. But God had other plans. You see in the front of my mind was a wall I'd built. A wall, that to me, meant he couldn't go where I was going. Why? Because I simply wasn't strong enough to handle it. Him. It was a defense mechanism that I stood firm on...then. I sincerely believed I could find myself in this world without him.
I'll tell you now...I was so very wrong. And we will leave it at that.
After finding myself physically well...I became very careful about where I spent my time. So I thought. Turns out, I had a few people near and dear to me that were hurting internally just as much as I was. Hurting and stuffing their emotions down into that dark place we hope we never find again. We were all trying to "find ourselves"...and we began trying together. Then, in the midst of this rebuild, something huge happened.
I met my husband.
But I need you to understand that before he and I met...I had already decided I wasn't ever getting married again. I was genuinely making plans to join the Peace Corp. However, he changed the game. He helped me save my own life. A true gift from God. My Dad never met him. In fact, Dad left this world a mere week after we got married, what I had hoped would be a vibrant celebration...new beginning for us all...turned into just that, but not how I had dreamed it would. Even though I hadn't spoken to my Dad in a few years, never meant he wasn't in my heart or mind. I wish I had told him that. Somehow as I type this, I feel like now he knows.
Everything moved so quickly with my future husband. But I felt safe. Doesn't mean I didn't fight it. Why? Because at this time, deep down, I still felt like I didn't deserve to be happy. As I had just come out of the biggest health scare of my life, I truly believed that was my second chance. My "win" if you will. But then...then walked in my angel. My darling husband. Oh my...he sure had no idea the baggage I had to unpack...the preverbial suitcases I had been dragging around for almost 29 years. What a treat he was in for. That we both were in for. If I'd had my defensive minded way, I would have used my daddy issues to single handily destroy any chance of a future with this man. But God said NO. This man was my real deal. The one who would consistently love me more and more each day. Love me like Jesus does. I mean...what are the chances that I met a man from CO, who graduated college in the same town that held all my favorite memories with my Dad??
All the coincidences that occurred to bring us together...were not coincidence at all. They were perfectly orchestrated by Him. Every detail carefully thought out and planned. The reasoning was beyond my human understanding. Still is, but I no longer believe I don't deserve happiness. On that hot June day 5 years ago...God showed us the beginning of our greatest journey, that could only be lived together.
26 and 27. Mid to late twenties. These were supposed to be some of the best years of my life right? Not so much. Yeah I know...I was hoping to catch a break a some point too. However, these years gave me my independence back. Actually it's when I had the chance to take it back. These years changed me, tested me, and caused me to choose once and for all...who was I going to be? Many days and nights during this time were filled with tears. I was very lonely despite being surrounded by friends and family. Every move I made was truly living out of fear. Of what?? Everything. I stepped into the people pleasing role without blinking an eye. Striving for perfection always. At work, with friends, and family...you name it. At the time I hadn't yet discovered that everything in my past caused this development, but I would down the road.
I moved to a small apartment in Nashville with my dogs and we began a life. I lived paycheck to paycheck and I numbed my pain with everyone else's woes. I became the "yes" girl. An extension of the "I'll do anything to make you happy" girl I'd already become. I sought out ways to help anyone and everyone I could, as long as it meant I didn't have to dive into my feels. On the outside it looked as if I was kind and nurturing person with a zest for helping others (which I genuinely am) but avoidance is what I would call it in those years. I became the life of the party as well. Most thought I was "living it up" from how I seemed so carefree on the outside, but I was dying inside. I should note that there were a couple of angels that walked these dark days with me...you know who you are...and I will leave it at that. I am a firm believer God gives us free will so that we learn. Our choices of running from our greatness often break His heart, but it's a must. These years taught me several things, but the 2 most important are as follows:
1. I can't save the world alone and I am not sure why I think it's my job.
2. Addiction is real, and it doesn't look they way most people imagine. Sometimes it's not the substance we are addicted to...it's outrunning the feelings we can't manage.
I was a few years away from figuring much else out, but I know I became addicted to seeking validation is all the wrong places by living out of fear. Oh and P.S. it never worked.
My circle narrowed and I spent much of this time in a fog. I am not proud of many of my actions during this time. In fact sharing how hard these years are is really difficult for me. I met some amazing people and did a few cool things, don't get me wrong, but internally I was a basket case. Broken and putting on such a show. And it somehow would creep out when I had one to many adult beverages. I am sure you can relate...and if not...kudos to you. Like I said, many tears. Not proud.
Then it happened...something so devastating that it shifted my entire life. It's hard for me to talk about this part so I will be brief. I had the scare, to date then, of my life. It brings on an ugly cry as I type, but this chapter is important for my future so I feel lead to share a bit of it. In my fear I pushed everyone away, including family. I simply couldn't share my weakness with others so I went into a dark hole and wasn't sure I would come out at times. I took the medications, did the procedures, showed up to my appointments, etc...and then I waited. I was certain I was being punished for many things, but the biggest one, was my divorce. I genuinely believed I deserved to suffer and that this was how my life would end. It's amazing what living out of fear looks like inside others minds huh??? I know my fear was ugly and out of control. After many months of lying in wait continuing treatment...the news I finally received was a true miracle from God. Your tests are clear. No traces of Cancer. I remember sitting in that office and thinking these exact words...this is my second chance, thank you Jesus, I swear I won't waste it. I promise. This wasn't how my story would end and I knew if I wanted things to change, it started with my me. I prayed a prayer of gratitude and when I walked out into the sunshine that afternoon, nothing would ever be the same.
In the next chapters my story will start to look completely different. The good starts to out weigh the bad. On the exterior at least, and as you can tell this story is shifting. Into what I'm not exactly sure yet, but I promise I will leave it all on the table because I still strongly believe sharing this story that eventually leads to redemption is part of my journey. Why? Still not sure about that, but like I said before, when He calls you to do something...you listen.
I need to make a point to close this chapter. You see my Dad had a hand in my creation. In raising me. He didn't always get it right, but without him I wouldn't be able to share this story. Share my heart. Share me with the world. He's a huge part of the reason I am here. So, as far as I am concerned, if all he got right is myself, my sister and brother...well if you know us, you know that's something he left this world very proud of indeed. I must also note that the third and probably most important lesson I learned during these years is grace. And...I started to replace fear with Grace. Grace for me. Grace for all.
*Father's Day will never be the same again. It's a hard day for many reasons, but to honor my Dad's life this Father's Day, I send hugs and Eskimo kisses to heaven. Rest easy.