Empty Nest Series: From Super Hero to Pinch Hitter

There is not great advice out there on transitioning to becoming an empty nester.  All along I’ve not been a fan of the term ’empty nest’ because of the word ’empty’.  It’s not empty because you and/or your spouse or partner and maybe some pets are still live in said nest.  Maybe something like ‘lightened nest’.  My nest is lighter.   A term with a more positive connotation would be preferable.  My nest has changed but it isn’t empty.

Starting clear back in 2009 when my oldest daughter graduated high school, I had started reading books, articles, blogs and whatever I could get my hands on about transitioning into this lighter nest time in my life.  Considering that my youngest just moved out last year in 2018, nine years later, I’ve had quite a bit of time to do research.  I’ve even conferred with my therapist.  But the advice you get is about all the same.  Grieve that time in your life, but not too long and definitely don’t talk about it.

That’s the thing about being a parent, you spend an awful lot of time keeping your mouth shut and honestly, I get tired of it.  Not that I want to tell my adult children what to do or run their lives (though I’ll be honest, I have to catch myself out of habit and well, you want the best for them), but I want to be able to honestly express my feelings.  Not to make my kids feel guilty but so if they have families one day, they will know that this time in your life is a bittersweet one.  So that other parents out there feel that they are heard as well.

There are many things I don’t miss about being a parent.  All my time is dedicated to another person and my calendar was full.  I don’t miss having to have meals on the table every day.  I don’t miss a messy house or dishes left in the sink.  I love having freedom to do what I want when I want without (outside of kenneling the pets if we travel) outside of my job.  I don’t miss all the noise and the fighting, I like the quiet.  I love having my washer and dryer free all the time and I’m not waiting on someone to unload one or the other.  I love having a home office and an exercise studio/guest room.  I love that my life is now my own after having my first child at the age of 20.  And maybe someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll turn the studio/guest room into a room for grandchildren.

But I’ll admit, something very important is missing.  I’ve tried all the advice they have suggested which essentially is: Fill all your time up with something else.  Get a new hobby or go back to an old one, travel more, volunteer, go back to school, go after that career you’ve always wanted, start a business, join a club, make new friends and so on.  In theory, that sounds like solid advice and maybe it truly works for some but it hasn’t really worked for me.  I don’t sit at home doing nothing and feeling sorry for myself, especially since my husband and I work opposite shifts off and on during the month so I’m home alone quite frequently.  I already had a dozen hobbies, we travel about the same, I am going back to school in less than a month, I’m not a club person, maybe I’ll make new friends but I’m an introvert and not horribly social to start with and well I don’t have some new career I’m dying to start.  In short, I’d been living my life alongside raising my girls.  The more independent they became, the more time I devoted toward my interests.

Last fall, I signed up with a local organization much like Big Brothers/Big Sisters to be a lunch buddy for an 11-year old fifth grade girl I’ll call Madison.  Though you were to go just twice a month to eat lunch with your ‘little’, I usually went once a week when I could.  Here I was in the middle school my three daughters attended and that once was the high school from which I graduated.   I could still show you my locker in high school, #111.  I’ll admit, I’ve tried different volunteering activities and this is the first one that I really enjoyed and looked forward to doing.  I finally found something fulfilling.  Toward the end of the school year, the coordinator determined that we were a ‘match’ which means Madison and I can now spend time together outside of school with permission of her parents and of course, when she is available.  Though it took some back and forth (Madison’s parents are divorced and she floats between the homes) and some phone tag but the other day, we finally had our first day out.

I took Madison to meet my oldest daughter and while there she met a few of her friends and my daughter’s cat.  Then we visited my middle daughter and her three cats and three fish tanks.  Though my youngest was at work, she lives with the middle one, so Madison got to meet her two cats as well.  She loves animals and wanted to meet my daughters she’s heard so much about.  Our last stop was the local coffee/chocolate house downtown.  We each picked mango smoothies (with whipped cream) and walked down to the river to sit on an iron bench I sat with my own daughters when they were little.  I told Madison stories about my girls bringing bread down to feed the ducks/geese (which you’re not supposed to do now) and how my middle one would come and fish trying to catch these ginormous catfish that live in this murky river.  She told me stories as well about her family and things she’s done.

As she’s talking, I glance over at her, her feet up on the bench, oversized sunglasses on her face, my heart seizes.  I realize how much I miss these moments with my own daughters when they were younger.  I have an ‘AHA’ moment right there happily hanging out with Madison and I realize all the empty nest advice I’ve read or been given, doesn’t even touch the one key thing I’ve been missing.    It was as if the last puzzle piece of what I was struggling with finally clicked! into place.  Everything finally, finally made sense.

I went from Super Hero to Pinch Hitter as my kids grew up and moved on with their lives.  I’m still close to my daughters, I still see them frequently, we still spend time together.  We’ve had a few growing pains and bumps, but mostly things are good.  We’re still a close-knit family though everyone’s schedules are a bit challenging to get us all together.   But I’m a pinch hitter now.  Once in a great while, they need me but they are independent grown women.  I talk to them at least once a day via messenger app.  We have a group chat and individual chats.  That’s one blessed thing about technology that we didn’t have twenty-five years ago.  We can be in touch, just like we were when we all lived together.  Just less crowded and we aren’t fighting.

I had been chiding myself because I believe that I shouldn’t ever feel sad about having a lighter nest.  “You started out with no kids and you were fine back then.  You had a great time, you weren’t sad and down.”  But parenthood changes you.  I’m not the same person I was at 19-20 or in my teen years.  I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I’ve become a different person who has rounded out their life.

When your child(ren) are born, you put on a cape and become their super hero.  You’re responsible for all their care, they are completely helpless.  As they grow, there is usually a pretty intense love affair between you.  First smiles, first laugh, tiny fingers gripping onto one of yours, wrapping their arms around your neck, you saving them from all sorts of scary things, they become attached to you at the hip and then for a while they don’t like you but then they come back.  You’re the first person they show things to and you walk with them as they learn about and explore life.  So many kisses and hugs and bedtime stories.  So many sweet moments tucked into all the hair-pulling exhaustion and frustration and then one day, it’s all gone even if you have a good relationship with your adult kids.  But it’s changed as it’s supposed to but no one really tells you that you’re left a bit empty.  Maybe that’s how the word empty came into play.

It’s a process, going from Super Hero to Pinch Hitter, usually a gradual one but you’re now a bit player in their life.  What annoys the crap out of me is when people, well-meaning as they are, tell you ‘well that’s how it’s supposed to be, they are supposed to grow up’.  No shit.  Thanks so much for that.  But no one tells you that no matter what you do, even if you’re happy to not be caring for someone and to be on your own again, that you miss all the love.  Not that you and your adult kids don’t love each other but they aren’t running up to you four or five times a day and wrapping their arms around your neck and giving you sloppy kisses.  No one is looking up to you daily (though this wanes as they get older).  You’re not the hero anymore.  Maybe a little, but it’s more in the background.  You’ve been pretty much retired and even though I volunteer and spend time with someone younger, it’s not as if she’s my own child so it’s different.  She’s happy to see me and excited to spend time with me.  Now the only people who are excited to see me outside of Madison, aren’t people at all but my pets (thank god for them right?).

After I took Madison home, I drove back to my house in deep thought.  It made sense now.  I can do all the things on the list of ‘what empty nesters should do’ and it’s not going to replace the sweet love and moments I had with my daughters.  Even if I worked all day with kids, it’s not the same.  I’m guessing this is why people are so happy when they become grandparents.  They get their Super Hero cape back, at least for a decade or so.  Or maybe with grandparents, you get to keep it longer?  But this makes sense to me, this is why going back to school, delving into 200 hobbies, starting a business, etc. doesn’t quite make you feel whole (or at least me – I can’t speak for others).  But acknowledging what is really going on with me, helps.  I can be gentle with myself and not chide myself for struggling a bit.  There is a reason I am struggling and even though my girls are productive and amazing grown ups, I’m grieving parts of parenthood that can’t be fixed by anything.  It just is.

I’ve had my cape cleaned and it’s tucked neatly away in my closet in case I need it some day.  But until then, I will allow myself to feel what I need to feel.  I will be gentle with myself and understand that it’s not something you ‘fix’.  That there isn’t a book or article or blog or maybe even therapist who is going to tell you that it’s really okay and not suggest shoveling a lot of activities into that missing piece.  It’s okay for me to be sad and sometimes feel a little unneeded because the truth is, I’m not needed as much.  My feelings are valid.  I’m not being silly or a pathetic person, I am being human.   It’s okay if sometimes I feel like I’m not as useful as I once was or miss reading bedtime stories, and all the hugs and kisses.  There is no shame in that.  It’s okay to be sad sometimes while being relieved you don’t have to cook dinner every night.

Bottom line: Being a parent changes you.  You’ll never be the same person again but that’s alright.

 

Advertisements

Honoring Yourself, No Matter What

Honoring Yourself – Honoring what you want, what you need, what you don’t want, so on and so forth.  This seems like a simple concept but I have struggled with it my entire life.  Mainly because I was brought up in a dysfunctional home and subsequently two dysfunctional/codependent marriages which taught me over and over that my needs, my wants and my desires were not important.  I was to self-sacrifice all the time.  You’re upset, poor baby, are you just feeling sorry for yourself?  You don’t want to do that, too bad, you need to make me happy.  You don’t want to take on this job duty that you had already told me you did not feel you were a good fit for, too damned bad.  The list is never-ending of how I have not honored myself, my needs and my wants.

As I approach my fiftieth year, I look back at all the ways that I have let people walk all over me, bully me, push me and just plain out terrorize me for no good reason at all.  Granted, when you’re a child, you don’t have a lot of say in the matter.  As an adult though, even though it may not feel like it, you most certainly have the right and the ability to put up those boundaries.  Yes, maybe it means you lose your job or you have to a find a new but better fit.  Yes, maybe you lose some friends who didn’t treat you well or at least put them so remotely on the edge of you life that they can no longer take advantage of you.  Yes, you may quietly (or not so quietly) push away family members who are toxic and selfish.  Yes, you may break up from a long-term relationship or marriage.  Maybe it takes two divorces before you realize you’re in a holding pattern of abuse.  Abuse you allow because of whatever reason.

Though not always easy to remove yourself or stop a situation where you are not honoring yourself, it usually is pretty simple.  You remove yourself from that person, situation or job.  Just yesterday, I was relieved from a duty that over a year and a half ago, I told my boss and the other person(s) involved that I was not a good fit to fill nor did I want to do it.  I already had a full plate with my current duties.  I had considered moving up into a more corporate position but mostly because I felt that I “should”.  Why did I feel like I should, because everyone was telling me, you need to move up, succeed and the other truth was there were two other employees in my direct office area that were making me miserable.  They were toxic and I never felt at ease or comfortable but by some miracle they had both quit within a month of each other.  The power of just one person to make your life hell always amazes me.  Even when you don’t engage them, their sheer presence within your vicinity is poison.  I never believed all that ‘energy’ bullshit until then.  You felt darkness enter the room with them.  When they were absent from work, you felt joy and a lightness because their negative/evil energy was not there.

The bottom line is I like my job.  I like that it is independent, my boss is in another state and I have the autonomy for the most part to perform my duties and I do so well.  Not perfect, but well.  But for over the last year, I’ve been so unhappy.  Not because of my core job duties I had been doing for twelve years but because of this new and very visible job duty that forced me to work in a global sense.  It’s not that I couldn’t perform this new job duty well, it was that I was too torn between two full-time jobs and I’m a 32-hour full-time employee.  I had streamlined my main job which the person before had been working 40-50 hours a week to within 32-36 hours easily.  But this new duty, the one I was assured would not get much bigger, exploded into something I could not keep up with, even if I worked 40-50 hours a week.  Then there was also the fact that I had told them NO, NO, NO, NO.  Work is one of those things where it’s really difficult to refuse work.  because they are paying you, to work.  You don’t want to be seen as the difficult, pain in the ass employee.  I always try to be the employee I would hire for my own business.  My supervisor doesn’t have to babysit me, I do my job, I take responsiblity for my mistakes and my work load.

Looking back though, I’ve all but made myself sick over this new job especially the last few months when it’s become way too much for me to handle.  I’d been communicating with my boss since last fall that I think this duty needs someone else, I’m not able to keep up.  Nothing in the corporate world ever moves fast it seems.  At least not this kind of thing.  But after many discussions with my boss, I was finally able to sign off giving this duty to a person who truly wants the responsiblity.  I’ll still be in this arena, at least for a while and I’m good with that.  Makes no sense for all my knowledge and training to just be wasted but when I got off the call yesterday, when I saw the form reducing my role to a lesser one was signed, it was as if someone had taken a 100-lb concrete weight off my back.  Not that I don’t want to work hard, I do, but I was just not the right pick for this one.

Lesson learned, even if it means I might come across as difficult or even maybe a bit insubordinate, I should have stuck to my guns.  I should have prepared myself to look for a new job and stood my ground.  By allowing myself to be run over, I was angry and frustrated for over a year.  On top of that, I was driving my husband, kids, cousin and close friends crazy with my bitching (sorry guys, but thanks for sticking with me).  I could have offered to be a backup which would have been a much better spot for me because the experience breathed new life into my career, forced me to get out of my little corner of the world and work with people all over the globe.  This gave me new experience, new confidence and new self-esteem as well as reminded me that I can do whatever I set my mind to.  But I also know I’m not the big corporate career ladder climber.  I don’t want that stress, that responsiblity or all that political landscape you have to figure out and tip toe around.

Yesterday after work, my husband left for his night shift and I retired to my exercise studio that looks over my backyard and the fields/woods behind our house.  I had opened the window and rode my exercise bike, then did some free weights.  I finished the routine with some yoga.  For yoga, I turned off the music and opened the window more so I could hear the frogs in the swamp as they peep in unison and the many bird songs that our yard is blessed with.  Once I got to my floor work, I realized that I was actually listening to nature’s music outside.  I also realized that it had been a long time since I had been relaxed enough to even notice all that goes on around my home.  I’m fortunate to live in the country which suits my personality just fine.  The closest house is a quarter a mile away.  For a good ten minutes, I remained in corpse pose with my eyes closed listening to the frogs, the birds and the occasional sound of a vehicle traveling down my road.  I had lost the joy of living because I was anxious, stressed and not honoring what I truly needed.

As I laid there, I made myself a promise that I am going to take care of myself no matter what.  Even if I’m afraid I might lose my job, lose a friend or whatever it may be that I’m afraid of if I don’t comply.  Granted, there are rules and laws that I can’t ignore but let’s all have some common sense here, ok?  There are always things we have to do that we don’t want to do like certain tasks at work, chores, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. but are necessities of life.  But in this case, I honestly didn’t have to take on this additional duty.  And I did say “NO” multiple times but eventually caved against my better judgment.  I told myself that it was just because I was being a big old P that I wasn’t taking this on that maybe I was just afraid but this would be a good move for me.  Nope, I truly didn’t want the extra responsiblity at least not on that level.  I should have stood my ground, politely and respectfully of course.

That’s been the problem all my life, I’ve always been afraid to assert myself.  I didn’t believe that my wants, needs and desires were not important.  I should self-sacrifice always but that’s all bullshit.  I’m much better at standing up for myself but obviously considering this last year or so, I needed to take it one step further.  Held fast, and as always, my biggest folly – I SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED MY GUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s always an epic fail when I don’t listen to myself, my instinct or my gut.  It’s always an epic fail when I let someone talk me into something that all the way down to my core, I know I do not want to do or be or take.  At my job, the worst case scenario is that they fired me, though I doubt that would have happened but I could have found another job.  The bottom line is that I did have a choice though not one I wanted to really have to deal with but I could have survived losing my job.  We almost always have a choice, the result might not be pleasant if things don’t go the way we hope but usually they are survivable.  Sometimes events or things that seem the end of the world just are new starts into something wonderful.  I think had even the worst case scenario had occurred and I got fired, I would have been better off because I would have honored myself.

That said, I’m really happy that it worked out in the end and I get to keep the job I have had for over twenty years.  Of course, I could get laid off or fired but for now, things have worked out.

As I approach my fiftieth birthday early next year, my mission is to always take care of, honor and protect myself regardless of the situation.  Even if it means an outcome of which I may be afraid, I will stand my ground and stand up for myself.  Scouts honor!

 

 

 

 

 

My Struggle With Intuitive Eating & Emotional Overeating

Toward the end of 2018, I decided to make some pledges (not resolutions) to myself and my own well-being. They are:

  1. My Health & Fitness – Conquering my overeating & shed the extra “person” I carry from the result of not dealing with my emotions, boredom, etc.
  2. My Peace – I can’t control other people/situations but I can control how I react.
  3. My Self-Care – Putting this first, I deserve it at all times.
  4. My Joys – Once my responsibilities are taken care of, I deserve to spend my time in ways that make me happy and joyous.

So No. 1 is what I’m going to focus on though they all sort of tie in together. First off, #1 is not a diet. I’m not counting calories or forcing myself to work out to burn calories. Sometimes I log my food to pick up on trouble spots, make myself more mindful when I’m eating at points that I’m not hungry and maybe need to address some underlying emotions or issues. When I started Intuitive Eating, I didn’t address the core reason I struggle with overeating to start with. Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic household, food became my drug of choice since when you’re 9-10 years old you usually don’t have access to drugs and alcohol. Though watching my father, I knew I didn’t want to abuse alcohol. Food was my friend, my comfort and still is today except now I want to go a step further and shed my frequent need for comforting with food. This feels like one of the final steps I need to take in my journey to overcoming my past abuses and traumas. Frankly, I don’t want what happened to me in the past to win.

Long story short, I didn’t truly follow Intuitive Eating (IE) as it is intended. I used it as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, but I wasn’t eating to true hunger, I was shoveling junk into my big mouth to buffer the pain and anxiety from my past. Then I blamed IE for failing me. Nope, I failed me. I was eating when I wasn’t truly hungry. I wasn’t listening to my body but to my emotions, my fears, my anxiety, my stress, my boredom, etc. IE didn’t fail me, I failed IE. I failed myself but it’s okay. It’s all in a learning and recovery process.

People who have suffered abuse, sexual trauma/rape etc. especially women, tend to be overweight as a coping mechanism.  Wearing a “fat suit” makes you feel safer from unwanted attention. Start to lose weight, get smaller and the moment you start garnering more uncomfortable attention, you’ll unconsciously start overeating to pad up your protective fat suit.  In a way, it feels like your superpower to be invisible to other people.  You can fade into the background considering you’re not being targeted for fat-shaming. 

In my life, I have experienced verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse so I struggle in many different ways but I’m determined to overcome these coping mechanisms. It’s time I break free of my past and live a freer life. I know I will always be haunted by my past but I don’t want it to win. I will falter but I will pick myself up, brush off and keep going. Eventually, the falls will become infrequent and I will also learn to catch myself before hitting the ground sometimes. But I have to be patient and kind with my trips. I just want to overcome and drop this baggage. I want to stop suffering, stop overeating and take care of my body. It feels like this extra “person” of fat/weight that I carry around weighs me down and serves as a constant reminder that I’m still letting my past win.

The principles of IE are simple:  Eat when hungry – eat what you want until just satisfied.  Incorporate gentle nutrition and joyful movement.  Well this is my take on it, the book is more involved but this is the overall view.  When you are struggling with emotional/stress overeating, it throws in an additional challenge.  I’m not going to diet any more.  I’m not going to weigh or measure myself.  It has never once helped in the long run.  I’m not going to berate myself for what I eat but I’m also going to stop ignoring my emotional overeating and fool myself to believe oh, it’s just intuitive eating.  Um, yeah, Laura, nope, nice try.  Stop excusing your overeating as IE.  Just stop it already.

The other night, hubby and I went to Walmart to get some groceries but it had started pouring down rain while we were inside.  Our car was halfway up the parking lot so I grabbed ahold of the cart, bracing some of my weight on the handle and started running toward it.  Because some of my weight was being carried by the cart, I felt this incredible lightness.  I couldn’t tell you how many pounds the cart way holding but it doesn’t really matter.  The experience made me think of how much better I would feel if I was not carrying an extra ‘person’ of weight.  How much lighter and stronger I would feel.  How much more I could do.  Of course this triggered the whole dieting thing in my head, but I pushed it out of my mind.  I can’t live my life dieting.  But I can live my life honoring what my body wants and needs.  I can honor my life by dealing with the hard emotions, loneliness, sadness, grief, anger, frustration, etc. by facing those uncomfortable feelings.  My body is padded with all my overeating.  

Another recent experience is I deleted all my fitness tracking apps off of my phone.  Since my late teens, movement has been mandated exercise to lose weight.  I must walk, ride, run, hike – X amount of time at Y intensity to burn Z calories.  It was never about joy or enjoyment.  Diet mentality sucks.  One day I walked four miles with my daughter on the bike path.  Several times I caught myself thinking – ‘you better walk faster you’re not burning enough calories’, ‘quit stopping, your heart rate will drop’ and ‘push, push, push’.  Each time, I would push those thoughts out of my mind and go back to enjoying what I was doing.  If I wanted to stop and poke under the leaf litter hoping to find an early wildflower, then so be it.  If I wanted to stop and take a few photos of an area, no problem.  If I just wanted to stop, close my eyes and breathe in the fresh air, go for it.  Somewhere along the way, I had completely given up my enjoyment of being outside moving.   Without realizing it, we had walked four miles (my phone auto tracks steps and I checked out of habit).  

The next day, it was warmer and the sun was in and out.  Being in west-central Ohio, the winters can be brutal and I wanted to get back outside.  This time I drove to a park fairly close to my house that has a lot of off pavement trails as walking on pavement makes my knees and hips hurt if I do it too much.  Even though it was muddy, I brought an extra pair of hiking shoes and set off.  This time the exercise Nazi in my head was quieter.  A few times, she popped up but I ignored her commands.  I wasn’t on a set schedule and had several hours to myself.  Before, I would have my exercise tracking app on and be compulsively checking it for my average walking speed, calories burned and time elapsed.  I’d be hiking briskly, not stopping to admire much of anything.  

Three different times, I had scared up a giant blue heron who was fishing in the creek and nearby small lake in the park.  The last time I saw him, he was standing on a slowly shrinking ice patch at one end of the lake.  He cocked his head to one side so he could see me better as I slowly approached.  I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures with my camera.  I crept along the trail excited that he hadn’t flown away this time.  He watched me cautiously and I watched him.  As I gently took soft steps, I was able to get closer photos until I had walked right by him (or her – I have no idea how to tell them apart).  I stood there staring back at him, taking in the quiet of the day, the sun coming in and out from behind the traveling clouds.  Maybe, I thought, if I were to have a spirit animal, maybe it’s a blue heron.  

Eventually, I moved on and he stayed on his ice perch to fish.  As I finished my hike, I reflected on my heron encounter.  A month ago, I would have been so focused on burning calories that I would have barreled down the trail scaring the heron a fourth time.  I wouldn’t have given myself permission to just go gently, slowly and enjoy the encounter with reverence and awe of such a beautiful bird.  My mom used to say ‘like a bull in a china shop’.  Well that’s been me going through my life breaking things and missing the delicate cues of the world around me.  Missing the beauty of the ‘china’.  I don’t want to be the bull anymore.  I don’t want to charge through my life.  

When I got back to my car, I was surprised to find I had walked five miles based on my phone’s step counter.  This time I checked out of sheer curiosity and not a goal.  If I had set my goal to hike five miles, I would have charged through just wanting to get it over with and on to the next thing.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed the hike like I did that day.  I’d been impatient and making up reasons in my head why I couldn’t possibly hike five miles.  But this time, I took my time, I took many photos with my phone (prompting me to order a recharageable portable power source since I almost ran the phone battery down).  I spent time just being present, being mindful.  I didn’t even notice I had hiked so far because distance wasn’t my goal.  Left to my own devices and enjoyment, I obviously will hike further than I would expect.  

Between the grocery cart experience and that day’s joyful hike, I realized I am on the right track.  I want to be lighter, more joyful, less encumbered and simply mindful.  When I ordered the power source, I also ordered a small sling day pack to carry a water bottle, maybe a sketch book, some charcoals and possibly my Nikon camera.  I also ordered a bracelet with a butterfly charm as a reminder to focus on the beautiful, to fly above the world’s expectations and BS, as a promise to myself to enjoy life, to honor what my body needs, to conquer the emotional/stress eating, to live the very best way I can.  I also ordered a pack of my fave Pilot V5 roller ball pens in a bunch of colors just because I wanted them and the bright chartreuse green is my fave.  

I don’t know if I will get smaller or lose weight.  The only way I will know is by how my clothes fit because I just can’t weigh or measure my self any more.   I don’t have an ideal size in mind, I figure this is up to my body to let me know what my size should be.  I believe that if I can for the most part eliminate emotional/stress overeating and that I listen to my body giving it gentle nutrition, that I may end up smaller/lighter.  Or not.  Either way it doesn’t matter.   The goal is to overcome old, poor habits and trust myself and my body.  That’s it.  To learn how to deal with my stress and emotions.  Instead of grabbing something sweet that I am not truly hungry for, I sit down and journal my feelings or go for a long walk to ease anxiety.  It’s all about self-care which I have ignored for years.  

It’s time to be brutally honest with myself each moment of every day and ask myself ‘what do you need right now?’.  There is truly no better time than right now to be my own best friend.  

 

 

Empty Nester – The Roller Coaster from Hell

Being the parent of adult “children” is equivocal to being locked into a roller coaster from hell.  While that may sound dramatic, there is a lot they don’t tell you about being the parent of adult kids.  Probably if they did tell us, no one would want to have kids.  But let me explain what I mean by roller coaster from hell:

  1. You’re stuck like Chuck on this thing.  Locked down tight, no escape on this journey of wonderful highs and screaming, scary ass fast traverses down that big hill.  In other words, you’re job as parent is over in the hands on sense.  You can offer suggestions, give advice, help out if asked but mainly you’re a helpless slob tied to a roller coaster you can’t control or stop.  Unless you disown your children or have some magical way to disconnect from worrying about them, it’s a powerless, scary and exciting ride.  Not all of it is negative of course.  Actually the positives usually outweigh the bad shit but it’s impossible for me to not worry especially if the weather is bad or your oldest is taking off for France for a month with her girlfriend who is working on a contract job.
  2. It’s a delicate balancing act, you’re always teetering on the edge of what to do and what not to do.  Or say.  You’re speeding toward a hair pin turn and you have to stay on track and not go off the fine line or you’re going to crash and break into a million pieces.  It’s hard to let go of wanting to guide them, protect them and keep them safe.  They have to live their lives and make their own mistakes, have their own adventures.  We get to be the bystander with no control, no real say just trust that your parenting has given them a good solid base and you always just have to let go.  Even when everything inside of you is terrified, you have to just cross your arms tight against your body and hug yourself.  You find yourself saying “please, please, please…” in your head a lot.
  3. Screaming in terror is only allowed when you’re on the coaster without the ‘kids’ around.  When they are present, you have to STFU, nod a lot, say “that’s cool” or “I’m so excited for you”.  You have to put aside your parental fears and concerns so you can be supportive of their dreams and adventures.  It gets exhausting.  I wish I could find a better way to let go but I think the instinct to protect your child is so deeply rooted in your DNA by then, it’s fighting nature.  This shit is hard.  Some of the hardest things I have had to do as a parent is to just keep my big ass mouth shut.  I have to really focus on how I would want my parent to act.  Put myself in my kid’s shoes.  Some days, all I want to do is crawl into bed and pull the quilt up over my head.  I’m getting better at this, but letting go even if your oldest is now 28 years old, is tough.  You’re still terrified of losing them.  That NEVER goes away.
  4. You feel like a dick because of everything you put your own parent(s) through.  You know they are laughing behind your back thinking, serves you right.  But then again, they are on the ride with you, these are their grandbabies.
  5. Some days you’re on the gentle kiddie coaster where life is calm and just going along at a reasonable pace with rolling hills.  Then there are days, you’re on the biggest baddest muther roller coaster in the world.  This coming Sunday, I drop my oldest off at the airport for her to start an exciting adventure in France for a month and I’m going to be crying the whole way home.  Actually, I probably won’t even get out of the airport.  Who knew there was so much crying in being the parent of adult kids?  Wasn’t this supposed to stop once they graduated high school or college?  Nope.  I’m excited for her, I really am.  This is a dream of hers to travel overseas and I’m proud of her for grasping the opportunity full force.  She’s braver than me.  At her age, I would have been worried about so much stuff that I would have talked myself out of the entire opportunity.  I’m grateful she has the balls to do something I wouldn’t.
  6. This ride doesn’t end until you die.  I don’t think you ever stop worrying.  My mom worried about me up until her last day.  I have a feeling she’s probably worrying about me in heaven too.
  7. Like everything in life that is worth having or living for, it isn’t easy.  It’s intense, scary, joyful, fun, rewarding, full of love and fear all at the same time.  It’s not all bad.  It’s probably most of the time a very fun ride.  But those lows seem to be very low as a parent.  There may not even be anything negative happening to your child but there you are, locked and loaded, riding along screaming or laughing depending on the moment.

Parenting no matter what stage you are in is not for the weak of spirit and heart.  Though I rarely see much written to parents of adult children so here is a bit for you.  The great part is there is a whole bunch of us strapped into the same coaster, we just need to reach out to one another for support and to know we aren’t alone.  I’m here, I’m listening and yeah it’s one crazy ride.   Say a prayer for me this next month that I don’t go all crazy and such.  I’ll be happy when March 30th arrives and my baby is back home but until then, I’m holding on for dear life.  Au revoir!

Intuitive Eating Didn’t Work (Completely) for Me – Battling Emotional (etc.) Eating

Last year, I went on this whole intuitive eating bit.  I read books and listened to podcasts, I did parts of a workbook, I wholly wanted to incorporate this into my life.  And to be clear before I continue, I still believe diets don’t work nor do I feel weight or BMI should be a measurement of your worth or health.  You are GORGEOUS and AMAZING no matter what that stupid scale says.  We have to quit judging each other whether we are fat, thin, tall, short, black, white, brown, red, male, female, neutral or trans gender, sexual orientation, rich, poor, average, whatever.  Just stop it.  Just fucking stop judging.  If you’re a kind person and you can deal with my nasty sense of humor, chances are we’ll be friends.  Or I’ll at least tolerate you with returned kindness.

Also, I still believe intuitive eating should be part of my life, eating when I’m hungry and really thinking about what I want to eat.  However, I gained 30 lbs over the course of this new intuitive eating.  Why?  Because my body craves shit.  It craves sweets and junk and frankly, I’m still have not completely conquered my tendency to eat when I’m upset, stressed, bored or its evening.  For some reason, evenings are the worst for me.  And my body isn’t craving celery, it’s screaming SUGAR!!!!! FAT!!!!!! SALT!!!!!!  I read in a book that your gut biome, if it’s out of whack can cause these kind of cravings.  Regardless of the reason, I have a lot working against me (though probiotics, fermented food and yogurt tend to make me sick).  It could be that and/or it could be past abuses, trauma, coping mechanisms, etc.

I really don’t know why my body doesn’t say ‘apple’ which would be good for me but rather ‘milk chocolate covered caramels’.  I’m not making this shit up, if my body (and/or mind-emotions-psyche-gut biome) had its way, I’d eat nothing but sugar day in and day out.  Which makes me feel awful.  This summer, 9/28/2018 to be exact, I was road riding on my country roads.  It wasn’t particularly hot or windy, actually the conditions were pretty nice for cycling.   Except I was struggling and frustrated, even on a flat section of my route.  When I got home, sweaty and exhausted, I dug out the scale hidden away in my garage where I had put it so I wouldn’t use it, and weighed myself.  I had gained over thirty pounds.  It doesn’t take a physics genius to figure out that the heavier and larger you are, the harder it is to propel your fat ass around with two wheels, a chain and crank.  I had literally added a bag of kitty litter to myself.  Strapped on a bag and just took off again.  Of course I was struggling!

So I took the scale back up to my bathroom and stuck it in the closet.  Again, I use this as a marker as my weight can jump up 5 lbs just from a heavy work out.  Using my phone, I took multiple full-length ‘before’ pictures of my body and emailed them to myself to keep as reference.  I dug out the tape measure, opened my long standing Excel spreadsheet with measurements clear back to 2004, and started a new section.  Then I recorded my current measurements.  I’ve found even if my weight doesn’t move, my measurements can drop significantly.   If you want a less potentially triggering way to track your progress, skip all that I’m doing and pay attention to how your clothes fit.  Do what works for you.

I started to sort of watch what I ate.  Though late November, 11/28/2018, to be exact (what is with the 28th of the month and epiphanies lately?), I found myself pissed off about how I ate the night prior.  Actually, I’d been building up to this point.  My life is pretty good except for the stress and crap at my job and this stupid overeating.  I will be 50 in February of 2020.  I do not want to be struggling with the same crap for the next decades of my life.  I want to be fit and healthy.  Not necessarily thin but I want to conquer my tendency to choose crappy foods and stuff crap in my hole when I’m feeling anything but completely serene.  I want to overcome this coping mechanisms so I whipped out my cell phone and reinstalled the app, My Plate, and started back in my food journal.

I’ll admit, food journaling tends to piss me off.  I SHOULD know how to eat.  I know what’s healthy (for the most part) and what’s not.  But I also love to lie to myself and conveniently ‘forget’ I ate a big old candy bar after lunch because I had been slammed with meetings and people asking me a bunch of questions that they already know the answer to at work that day.  I also know though that food journaling works for me.  As much as it’s annoying, it forces me to be accountable to me.  They say oh find someone to be accountable to, a friend or loved one.  This may work for some people but I would totally eat more in rebellion.  Maybe it’s the Irish in me.  Screw you friend that cares, I’m going to eat this family sized candy bar just to show you!  Show them what?  I have no idea.  But basically it comes back to our five-year old selves – ‘You’re not the boss of me!’.  Except it’s self-destructive.

The hardest person for me to be accountable to is me.  I’m going to kick my own ass all over the place more than any other person on the planet.  I am my toughest audience, friend and well, sometimes, enemy.  Plus, food journaling helps me get back into healthy eating.  As much as I hate to admit it, when I eat more fruits and veggies and less crap, I feel amazing.  I am being rewarded for taking care of my body, but my rebellious stubborn side still wants to punish myself for whatever dysfunction that still lives on inside me.  Taking care of myself whether it’s food, exercise, sleep, rest or disconnecting, is the way I overcome this tendency to disregard my needs.  Putting my needs first is sticking it to the man.  Whatever the ‘man’ from my past really is.  I’ve read 100’s of self-help books, journaled until my hand hurts, been in 100’s of therapy sessions and still old habits hold on.

Overcoming my emotional (etc) overeating is my goal for this next year and beyond.  While they preach you just have to accept yourself as heavy if this is where you end up when you utilize intuitive eating, I don’t want to keep struggling the rest of my life with carrying basically the equivalent of a thin, petite woman on my frame.  I’ve named her Agatha (no clue why) and imagine her as this old crabby lady trying to slow me down.  I’m carrying her piggy back and she keeps kicking me in the fat rolls with her sensible SAS shoes, the chunky heels leaving bruises while berating me for this and that with a harsh, nasally voice.  I really want to get Agatha the F off my back.  And her weight off my body, my joints and free myself.  Each time I choose healthy, each time I exercise (I bought a basic exercise bike for my living room cuz I know I will use it over a gym membership) and each time I chose to care for myself, more and more of Agatha starts disappearing.  It’s as if she slowly turning to dust, particles being swept up into the breeze and leaving me just a little more lighter.

Granted, I have an active imagination but I find this to be great motivation.  The food journal app, the scale and the measuring tape are all tools in this journey.  They aren’t something I need to rebel again (though I still catch myself).  Will I one day be able to truly intuitive eat?  I don’t know.  Maybe I will need to use a food journal the rest of my life.  Except maybe I go down to 2-3 days a week to keep me honest or if I’m having a bad day where I know I will revert to bad habits, I can use it to keep Agatha from returning, kicking my sides like I’m her pudgy horse she’s got to ride to a bridge tournament except she’s late and she hates being late.

I haven’t eliminated any foods from my diet though I did switch up to dark chocolate from milk chocolate.  I tend to binge on milk where the dark I don’t.  These are the changes, I am making.  Dark has more antioxidants so it’s good for me and I still get to really enjoy  chocolate, just not in huge quantities which are not so good for my body.  I’ve eliminated sugar from my hot and iced tea.  I still use half and half in my hot tea but I haven’t increased the amount to make up for the sugar.  Weird thing is, the cream tastes sweet to me now.  My iced tea, I put in an herbal fruit flavor bag with my regular family sized decaf ice tea bags.  Sometimes I cut up oranges or lemons or whatever to put in my iced tea so I enjoy it more.  I really don’t want the sugar back into it.

Another change I made several months back is cutting caffeine out of my life.  Going into menopause, your body suddenly gets super sensitive to everything (as if you weren’t being punished enough with mood swings and hot flashes).  I gave all my caffeinated tea except for some oolong to my youngest daughter.  I don’t recommend starting this during the work week though.  The first day I went decaf, I was at work and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I didn’t even drink that much caffeine to be honest.  A few cups of tea a day.   If I missed my morning tea, I would get irritable and would most likely garner a migraine.  It had started to feel like a chain around my neck.  I HAD to have caffeine.

You know what though?  After a few weeks of limiting caffeine (I’m not a Nazi about it, if I get a little caffeine here and there it’s ok), but my migraines disappeared.  Oolong tea had helped that previously but probably because it’s so caffeinated.  The other thing I struggled with was if I skipped a meal or didn’t eat ‘enough’, I’d get a migraine.  Now, I don’t drive my husband nuts when we are traveling or doing something that he has to keep me on a consistent eating schedule or I’d get a migraine.  That was annoying for both of us.  Whatever sensitivity I had regarding meal timing and migraines, went out the window which helps me eat only when hungry a key component in intuitive eating that I truly agree with.

Taking care of myself has been paying off with better overall health, I’m down roughly 18 lbs and 10.25 inches overall.  I just feel better in general.  Giving up caffeine has been an added bonus and each day, I try to find new or better ways to eat, sleep, exercise and take care of myself.  Small changes can add up to huge results in the end.  Not that I don’t still struggle with my emotional eating.  But at least now, using the food journal app, I catch myself when I’m doing it where I would completely ignore this before.  When I catch myself, I have to do the hard work of figuring out what is really the problem.  THen when I determine the issue, I must determine how to address it.  What can I do to help myself feel better?  Soothe myself with something besides food.  It’s frustrating after all these years I still haven’t conquered this but I’m  back at it.

The bottom line – do what works for you.  That’s what it all comes down to in the end.  Experts, well-meaning friends, diet gurus, etc. all want to tell us how to ‘fix’ ourselves but it’s never just so simple as oh, I need to educate myself.  We know an orange is better than a Snickers bar.  We have to dig deeper than just eating 1800 calories a day.  We have to figure out why we are using food to comfort ourselves, etc.  We all have our own reasons.  Women who were sexually assaulted have a high probability of being obese which is really the shit since we have been through enough already.  But we wear our ‘fat suit’ as protection or it seems like protection.  Whatever the reason, don’t get angry at yourself.  Be kind to yourself as you would your best friend or child.  Say, it’s okay you do this but let’s find a better way to cope so we don’t feel worse later.  You deserve this kindness.

Love yourself, take care of yourself and know that right now, no matter what you weigh, you’re amazing and deserve love and respect.  I love you all and I’m right there with you.  xoxoxox

 

 

 

The Depression Cure- 6 Week Check-In

If you have ever or do suffer from depression, you know what havoc this complete bitch can do to your life and your happiness. Six weeks ago, I found this TED talk by Dr. Stephen Ilardi and it has CHANGED my life (https://youtu.be/drv3BP0Fdi8). If Dr. Ilardi had a fan club, I would join, he is my hero. Yes, my hero is a profession at the University of Kansas. Thank you, Dr. Ilardi, from the bottom of my heart. I’m totally going to write him a fan letter when I finish this blog post.

After watching his TED talk, I researched some of the six steps he outlines in his book, The Depression Cure. The one I started doing that very day was taking Omega 3’s as he suggests in his book, but I messed up and was only taking half the recommended dose. I’m sensitive to medications due to being hypothyroid, so it was probably just as well. In late August, I had taken two online depression test which both came back ‘moderate depression’. Disclaimer – Use these tests only for a marker and not as an actual diagnosis. The one I put weight on is the “Psychology Today” depression test because there are 120 questions meaning it’s more in depth and is put out there by a reputable magazine. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/health/depression-test. If you take the test and score within a certain range, they will suggest you see your doctor. Please do so, especially if it’s serious.

But anyway, the first two of the six steps I put into place was taking Omega 3’s daily (accidentally 1/2 dose) and at least 30 minutes of vigorous cardio (brisk walking/jog – for me) three times a week. When I took the one test at http://www.psycom.net on 8/31/2018, it showed me at moderate depression. The Psychology Today test I took that day showed me the same results. Ever since I was actually diagnosed with depression at age 35, I’ve used these marker tests to just gauge if I needed to see my doctor and/or therapist. In all honesty, looking back, I’ve struggled with depression from childhood until just recently. That’s around forty years of my life.

A few weeks after starting the two steps of Dr. Ilardi’s book, my depression for the Psycom.net test dropped to minimal depression. It had never been that low. ‘Mild depression’ had been the lowest. Same with the Psychology Today test. I retook that test as well and for the first time ever, it came up with a score of “12” in a scale of 0-100. The higher the score, the more you rated on the depression scale. The words “You show absolutely no signs of depression” underneath my 11/25/2018 score shocked me.

Now six weeks in, I’ve added another one of Dr. Ilardi’s steps where you stop your tendency to ruminate about things in your life, especially negative ones. I’m still working on this because it really is a bad habit especially of those who have been struggling with depression for a long time. You catch yourself doing it and distract yourself or tell yourself to stop, focusing your attention on something positive. It’s that proverbial snowball turning into an avalanche kind of things. Starts small but takes on a life of its own.

The other step I added is light exposure especially in winter. Though I have yet to order the light box he recommends, but I’ve been wearing my sunglasses less right now during these bleaker Ohio winter months. I wouldn’t recommend this mid-day in summer, but right now sunlight is at a premium. And it seems to boost my mood as well. We spend so much time indoors but our eyes/body/brains need some sun. He explains it in his book.

So today I took the Psychology Today depression test again. I scored a 12 on 11/25 and today, 12/22, the day after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, I scored a 3! These steps are working! I’m not even full into them or even taking the full dose of Omega’s 3’s yet and the difference is staggering. I can’t wait to write Dr. Ilardi and tell him. Along with a string of ‘thank you, thank you, thank you, bless you’. I feel like a different person.

Okay I’m going to take the smaller quiz from Psycom.net and see what it says. Hold on I’ll be right back…. NO DEPRESSION!

The first time ever it said that. Even back in 11/25 it came up ‘minimal depression’. Amazing. I was skeptical about The Depression Cure and I receive no money or benefit for recommending this book or to view the TED talk at least. I just want people suffering from this shitty, time-stealing mental illness to at least explore the steps outlined in the book. Fish oil isn’t hugely expensive and I buy huge bottles of it at Sam’s for less than $20. I don’t even eat fish or like the taste but I don’t get the burps, etc. from it. I really thing the Omega-3’s has been the key component in my recovery. The other steps have also helped but Dr. Ilardi explains in scientific terms why we have too many Omega 6’s in our diets and not enough Omega 3’s.

If I knew this back when I was a teenager or young adult, how my life might have been different. Depression has robbed me of motivation, confidence, happiness, and time. So much time. I’ve been beating myself up about not following my dreams. Earlier this year, I gave up on writing a fiction novel after not hearing back from the first and only publisher I sent it to. I self-published it and didn’t even promote my book. Now, I’m totally rewriting it, using a different format and really working at. Crafting. The story and making sure every sentence is my best. Before I was just worried about getting the word count where I wanted it and just getting done.

That’s what depression does, it steals the joy out of your life. It robs you of enjoyment when you do the things you love. It puts you in a grey cloud bubble where you stalk around the house feeling put upon, sad, despondent and worthless. Then you turn around and beat yourself up for being that way. But it’s a chemical imbalance of some sort. It’s physiological and not just psychological. I’m not a doctor but it’s explained more in the book.

Please check out this book. I’m cautious to say I’m ‘cured’ because I’m always a little skeptical but right at this moment, I’m for the first time in many, many years, actually decades, not depressed and life is so much better. I feel like a new person. My life feels like a new life and nothing really has changed. I’ve already put 20k words down in my novel rewrite but most importantly, I’m enjoying writing again. I’ve even rewritten half of the first chapter. Tomorrow I’m going to sit down and edit the third and fourth chapters.

The crazy thing is when I would try to edit before when I was depressed, I would get upset at myself, think I completely suck and give up for awhile. Now, I see where something might not flow very well or I wrote a crappy paragraph but instead of giving up, I just fix it and go on. I don’t berate myself and tell myself ‘You’re a miserable writer, you suck.” I just fix it. I don’t quit, I don’t even want to quit. That’s such a strange feeling. But again, it makes me a little sad thinking of all I’ve lost out on in my life because of depression.

I’m even excited for the new year. I’m excited for today and tomorrow. I’m actually excited about things again, anything. I’ve been living in this dull grey existence for so long. I attributed it to middle age. Been there done that, nothing is thrilling or exciting anymore. Again, here is where depression was robbing me of my enjoyment of life. Yes, I’ve experienced a lot in my life but there is so much more out there I haven’t. A few months ago, I had 0 desire to explore or find new things. Today, I can’t wait to find new adventures. Night and day. Crazy isn’t it?

Well, I have already gone on enough about this new change in my life. I truly am going to write Dr. Ilardi a letter, some fan mail. Thank you for dedicating your time and energy into this research! And if you’re suffering from depression, check out this book and of course if you are in a doctor or therapist’s care, please talk to them before making any changes. If you decide to try The Depression Cure‘s six steps, I’d love to hear from you on your results. I pray they are as dramatic and positive as mine.

Xoxoxox – so much love to my fellow depression sufferers…

Laura

Free, Less, & Me

I was writing in my journal noting that it hadn’t even been a month since my youngest moved out. As I reflected on how I was feeling, I noted several words came to mind.

“Free”. “Less”. “Me”.

I dreaded her moving out, cried for days before and after she moved out. It truly was the end to an era of my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been struggling with this whole empty nest idea for about eight years. What will I do? How will I feel? How will I fill the time? How will I feel useful? Needed? I’m not great with the unknown. I want to control everything after growing up in a dysfunctional family. But you can’t control this event nor do you want to. It’s our jobs as parents to raise the baby birds into full fledged adults allowing them to leave the nest and forage on their own. Looking back, I couldn’t wait to move out of my mom’s house. Freedom! Adulting! Doing what I want! Yay! Of course, we all know that it’s never as great as we think because there is always: Bills! Employment! Taxes! Car Issues! Health Insurance!

My life has never really been my own. Maybe a few years late in my teens as I moved from 18 to 19. Then I met my daughters’ father and I allowed my life to get hijacked. So on and so forth, this is all covered in previous posts. But I recovered and made a good life for my daughters and myself. I’ve achieved the majority of my goals that I had from years ago that seem relevant today. Being a famous rock star died out once i had the first baby.

“Free”. I have 4 things I’m responsible for: Myself, Pets, Home and Job. Suddenly I find I can spend a lot more time doing things I enjoy. It’s been going this way for a long time but now it feels more permanent. Outside of my responsibilities, I can chose how I spend my time. If I want to hang out with my kids I can. If I want to spend the day hiking in the woods, I can. If the hubby and I want to spend the day out driving in the Corvette we can (at least until the first salt hits the road). Holy shit! Freedom, or as much as a grown mid-life adult can have.

“Less”. Less cleaning, less cooking, less toilet paper, less grocery shopping, less picking up, less drama, less expectations, less responsibilities, less shit in general. I’m in the process of streamlining household chores, grocery shopping and so on to spend less time on these activities. Less = more freedom, more money, more fun. Essentially less becomes more. More of my own life to life.

“Me”. I’ve spent my life care taking people due to my crazy upbringing and then jumping into young motherhood. Now I can focus on me for the first time in my life. There are no grandparents or parents around pushing their expectations on me. Sad they are gone but it’s simply the truth. These people can really influence your life choices and in my case, I didn’t follow what I truly wanted. I hope I haven’t pushed too much onto my daughters though I know I have in the past. I try to just be supportive now. Me – Doing things I enjoy. Me – Spending quiet time alone which is an introvert’s paradise.

Though I will admit, it has taken me some time to adjust to this time and not try to force myself to be more extroverted because of some odd expectation I had set in my mind. I have the rest of my life; however long that is, to focus on myself for the most part. Which this may just be simple things like doing what I enjoy or pursuing a goal that I find I desire or taking naps. Aren’t naps amazing?

My biggest issue with this change of seasons in my life has been my fear of the unknown and the fear that I would no longer be relevant or useful. I’m not a helicopter mom, nor did I get so involved in my kids’ lives that I forgot my own but the change was significant for me. At times, I miss having kids in the house but mostly, I don’t. They all seem pretty happy on their own and I work at remembering that. I gave them a better shot than I had. I gave them a better childhood than I had. I did my best and honestly, I failed a bunch. I would never get “Perfect Parent of the Year” award but I would get “If You Fuck With My Kids, I Will Kill You” award. They never had to doubt I had their back. They still don’t. I would go all psycho mom on anyone who hurt my kids, grown or not. It’s my job. If they need me, I’m there. No questions asked. Okay, about 100 questions asked, but still there. Some things don’t change.

Bottom line is that you will live through this change. Yes, it can be very sad and you can feel very lost at times. Being a parent is the toughest and most rewarding job I ever had so it’s hard to replace that in my life. I’m really trying to look at it as I was successful at it, as much as anyone can be and now is time for new adventures. Now is the time to get back into my own life, take care of myself, buy myself fun things now and again, relax and enjoy. My life is in a rare quiet moment (knock on wood) so I need to enjoy it. Instead of worrying about what do I need to do now. Who cares? If I look back on my life at the end, will I think I should have started another business, went back to school, filled up my free time pronto? Probably not.

I did though sign up to be a Lunch Buddy for Big Brothers Big Sisters for a young girl who attends middle school. I’m excited (and nervous) about our first meeting next week. This is a volunteer activity that I can have face to face contact with one person with little commitment. I meet her for lunch for 30 minutes every other week (or more often if the Little wants). I chose older children because everyone wants the little kids because they seem less daunting and more cute. My hardest time wasn’t in elementary school but middle school. Nothing more awkward than my 5th grade self. I desperately needed a Big Sister in 5th, and 6th, and 7th, etc. (Shout out to my friends, hubby and boss who gave me a glowing reference – love you guys). I didn’t want to jump full in to a volunteer thing so this seems perfect. Wish me luck! I hope my Little likes me! I love that I have some time to give back to others.

One thing I did promise myself (outside of the BBBS gig) was that I am going to just take a deep breath and not make any major decisions or changes until after the new year. This is to allow me to continue to acclimate to my new reality and to really take time to think about what I want to do, if anything. I tend to knee jerk when I am feeling lost and uncomfortable. I should start a soap making business! I should sign up to volunteer for something I deep down don’t want to do but think I should do! Anything to fill the silence and uncomfortable moments. But those are the moments that I need to truly find my purpose, calling or what makes me happy.

Thats been my folly all my life. Not taking the time to sit in the uncomfortable silence for as long as it takes to find my next path or listen to my heart. I avoid the uncomfortable unknown like the plague and this has never served me well. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off does not lead to smart decisions. Nor did listening to everyone else close to me in my life. Sometimes their advice was right but when I ignored what I really wanted, I did myself a huge disservice. Not trusting my instincts/gut – another disservice. Huge one in fact. Since I can’t fix the past, I can be more cognizant of my future. This time, I am forcing myself to stay still. To listen. To just be for a bit. A few months will not kill me. Learning that I don’t have to be productive 24/7 or have some big goal at every moment, is a good lesson for me.

Be kind to yourself through this entire transition. No one can tell you how to feel (though they will try) or minimize your feelings (also will try – ‘well you knew they were going to grow up’ – no shit – thanks, so helpful). It’s okay to be sad, just don’t get stuck. Your feelings will be up and down or maybe you’ll be elated. Everyone is different. I never can figure out why people expect you to look, act, think and feel just like them. If you don’t, then there is something wrong with you. Stupid.

If you are going through this and need someone to talk to, shoot me a message. I’m here for you. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful support system and realize not everyone has this. Try to remember to be a little excited. This is the next phase or season of your life! Make it what you want! Hugs!