Reality

Pulling in the driveway to my 50s cozy home, playing games with the kids in front of my fireplace, driving through downtown each day on the way to work, listening to planes fly over at night, waiting for trains, work, homework, dinner, bathes, games and movies and bed…. My daily reality. Some may cringe at the thought of some of those things; I however, smile each time I see downtown, hear a plain, the train whistle. Curled in bed with my husband each night we are so content and happy, yet sometimes it still feels unreal. Most of the time it’s just normal, my daily life, I don’t think about what it used to be, rather I am living in the moment. But there are moments, which are quite frequent, that I still get giddy, filled with a rush of excitement, pride, satisfaction. All at the thought, the reality of my life. 

It is such a freeing feeling to be living my reality, as it was once an image, an image that was more of a what if, something that seemed unreal, that it wouldn’t, rather couldn’t be a reality. The thought of making it happen seemed unrealistic, impossible, up and moving a family of five, jobs, schools, homes. It seemed like we would be stuck… perhaps we would be content, but content can be mundane. I think contentment can eventually lead to an inability to accept change. Or perhaps content is what we tell ourselves to hide the fact that we’re settling. 

I know I am no longer settling. I love feeling relaxed to be in my own home, not trapped, I love having the freedom to experience new things, trying new things. I love that I get excited to spend time with my kids and my husband, that we enjoy each other. That my kids are flourishing and growing….. I love that I am writing to the sound of the train, but yet silence. 

That I am living my reality.

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Accepting Insight From Others..

This week I started my new job. Naturally, that brings excitement, in the past nerves, but this time I didn’t really feel that, it brings new energy and motivation, changes, eagerness and determination to succeed. I experienced a whole variety of emotions. The first few days are of course, well first days. You don’t know anybody, awkwardly walk around because it’s not yet “my space,” no clue what is going on really, where things are, what is expected. This for me is not comfortable, I like control… and I like to really know what I’m doing, feel assertive, confident and not only meet, but exceed expectations. In this process, for me, the only way I can describe it is that sometimes my brain hurts, or I feel happy inside, but I am focused and processing so I can come off as unhappy or blah… So I’m told…. I did not realize this as much until my husband pointed it out to me. He said, you are a pretty negative person, it seems like you look for the bad in things. Once again, I am reminded how I have become somebody I don’t want to be and have not always been. I do not dislike my new job, nor have I complained about it, but when I am asked about it I state facts which are well facts. Which does not show how much I am loving my new job. But his comment/observation, caused me to look at myself and determine why I was presenting in one way and feeling another.

This is where all of my feelings listed above come into play, a new job is mixed emotions. I was happy to take this insight and check myself to be sure I am displaying how I am feeling.

At the same time, I think it can be hard for people to accept that we as human beings can have multiple feelings about the same thing.  We can be happy and sad at the same time, we can be excited and still worry and be focused and not jumping for joy.  We can also protect ourselves from disappointment by putting up a little bit of a wall to try to normalize what is going on, to not allow feelings of impulsivity to take over our lives and to gradually ease our way into new situations. Feelings of one extreme or another, non stop can be pretty exhausting.

Another part of me knows that over the years I have become more negative than positive. I believe I have posted about that before, it is a daily struggle, so it seems.  I do feel that I am getting much better with it; at the same time I work hard not to dwell on that fact that I have negative thoughts. Stressing too much over my thoughts and changing them is also exhausting.

So what do I do about it..

I am continuing to focus on living in the present, I am willing to accept insight about myself from others, because their feelings and perceptions, no matter what I believe, are completely valid to them. I value insight from others, more from the people I care about maybe than strangers, but it helps me to be a better person I hope. I wonder how much other people are willing to accept or value insight from others. I feel that chances are if other people are seeing something that you don’t, it is worth taking a look at why. Maybe it’s them, but maybe, we can learn and grow.

Happiness…

When I’m happy, as in…signing along to the radio, stress free, relaxed, smiling at the sunrise (even while smelling manure), greeting my kids with smiles, making my husband coffee, dancing while getting around, happy to go to bed early… that kind of happy, it’s pretty great. Finding joy in most any situation. Staying optimistic when it’s easiest to be pessimistic. Appreciating life rather than finding flaws about something, anything really to complain about. This kind of happy was once a norm for me, at least I thought it was. But recently, as I’ve actually been feeling this kind of happy I’ve realized I’m not sure when, if ever I’ve been this happy or really felt it like this. 

I have once been told I live in a bubble. I recall as a child being called smiley, sunshine, and able to spring out of bed bouncing with joy and energy. I have generally been a happy go lucky, enthusiastic, optimistic, cheery person. Somewhere along the way, I’m not even exactly sure when, but that went away.  Even in its absence I can put on a really good show, wear a smile, laugh and have a good time. And that is not fake, but it’s a temporary, situational happy, not the true happy that I described above. But over time that situational happy slowly became a norm. But, I thought I was truly happy. Feeling this happiness now I look back and realize in between those moments I was short, easily agitated, annoyed by little things, had little patience and felt anxiety over many things. That became my normal. 

Today, in having a long, heart felt, always inspiring conversation with a very close friend I talked about my journey of reflection and being ready to get back to being easy going. It was a moment of laughter on both our parts as easy going is not really a word people would use to describe me these past few years, even though at my core it’s who I have been and strive to be. 

I had said that I was tired of life being so much work, that it shouldn’t have to be so much work and the changes I have made are steps to eliminate some of that work. And then I wonder if it is a fantasy for life to be less work, maybe life being a lot of work is just adulting, maybe it’s a fact of life, maybe things are not meant to be easy. If that is true it is not something I am willing to accept. Yes, we may have hard times, but I believe in finding the growth that comes from hard times. I believe in finding meaning and a positive in the negative because let’s face it, the alternative is dwelling on defeat, negativity, disappointment, maybe hard changes, however we look at it. And obsessing over the negative it is not going to make things better. 

If life turns out to be constant hard work, even with all of these changes I’ve made then so be it. If this happiness turns out to be temporary then I suppose I will accept that, but I will at least know with all of the hard work there will be times of true happiness.

The Effects of Change

It has been some time since I have posted.  In that time we have experienced lots of change, Ben’s new job, moving, remodeling, new schools, new doctors and now my new job. Changes also take place in the form of relationships, dynamics, beliefs, daily routine, etc.

Those smaller, more subtle changes can make just as big of impact as large life decisions like moving and starting new jobs. There have been some changes in this past year that I will never be able to undo, wish away, or forget about. They are changes that have changed my relationships, beliefs, motivations.  They have inspired, pushed and forced me out of my comfort zone into new adventures; which from where I am at now is definitely a good thing I suppose. It has led me to new possibilities for myself and my family.  With accepting a new position I have been asked quite a few time why I am leaving, why I am doing something different?

To answer this was a year long exploration for me, maybe even more. Along my journey to becoming healthier, happier, confident, I discovered areas of my life that were not healthy.  My emotional and mental health, the part of me that has always made me excited to be pregnant, give birth, get up in the middle of the night and clean up after my kids and have energy to burn. I spend my days teaching others how to be healthy, how to cope in healthy ways and what healthy communication and relationships look like.  I have more recently been thinking if our lives are healthy, balanced and we have control over them, we should not need to cope so much, I should not have to be so aware of how I am taking care of myself, how I am keeping myself from burn out. Thinking about that constantly in itself adds more stress to my day, that I in return then need to cope with. At what point does this cycle end? This is what has validated my job search.

I recently attended a training that focused on self care to keep from burn out, which at one point it was said “if you’re doing all of those things (self-care) and still drained at the end of the day, maybe this job is not for you.” I had already decided that for myself, but hearing it professionally was validating. I realized while helping others is very important, rewarding work, I was no longer willing to do it at my own expense, my children’s expense, my husbands expense. My stress, emotional drain, lack of energy, and constant need to cope could not be the focus of my life anymore. I began to see my career as a piece of my life that provided me with the means to experience the life I want and to live day to day how I want to, by who I am and by my interests. I want to go to work and enjoy it and be able to come home and have energy to enjoy life.

Overall, for the better part of my life, I have not experienced feeling blue, depressed or exhausted aside from the past few years where I was emotionally drained each day before going home. Self care I think kept me going, but I cannot imagine where I would have been over those years without being such a healthy person. But, I am ready for something new, to use my mind in a different way and to look at possibilities for myself and my family.

Some changes in my life this past year brought emotions I couldn’t imagine, that I didn’t expect, caused me pain, changed my perspective, beliefs, attitude and values.  Yet, as I sit here, with a new view out of my window, new surroundings, new possibilities, I wonder if/when I would have had more courage to make the positive changes happen that I have. Maybe I would still be here without those unexpected, perhaps negative changes, maybe negative is not a good word to use. Maybe just changes/differences is really all it is. But, maybe we still would have moved, I suppose that can never be determined.  Either way, changes affect us, mold us, maybe just imprint or make a little dent, scar or beauty mark, maybe they make us blossom, flourish, change color, grow, change shape or looks.  Either way, it is up to us to determine what to do with change, sit with it in misery, ignore it, accept it, embrace it.

It has taken some time for me, but I am starting to feel more at peace. Their will still be many moments when things hit me, when I remember what happened, that some things will never be what they were, but for now, in this moment, I feel happy, blessed, rejuvenated and ready for my new adventure. For this moment changes in my life are good and their affects will continue to be good.

 

Why we are minimizing!

I was recently told that we have figured out in our early 30s what most people figure out in their 60s, if at all. This was said to me in a discussion about why we are up and moving to Kalamazoo, only an hour away, but still a significant move for us.  For the past 12 years, since my husband and I first dated we have always talked about living different places, owning businesses, being adventurous. But, their is always one reason or another for why we stay stuck, stuck in one place, stuck in routine, stuck in a radius of close proximity to our home town. It never seemed like a reality that we could move away since we started our family here and have always had somewhat limited income. Married at 19 and 20, starting a family within months and balancing one income while I raised our kids for 6 years did not make it easy to have even a little freedom to move. I realize now I also struggled with self-esteem and the confidence to be successful without close family around for built in support. Living in Sturgis we have built wonderful support for our family, made friends, have a beautiful home, meticulously well kept, clean and picture perfect, on the outside of course. Inside, it doesn’t always feel so perfect. In fact, it rarely does. I can stand back and look at it all and it feels perfect, until the moment it all seems to come crashing down. Which has been more often than not lately. In a split moment I can go from blissfully happy, calm, enjoying my husband and kids to overwhelmed, emotionally spent with no energy to remain calm when a little stressor arises. The kids misbehave a little and I snap, something breaks and it all seems defeating, I have a long day at work and come home with no energy, but yet still need to maintain the perfection. 

I have recently realized how well I hide my stress, people that I’m closest to did not see how much anxiety and stress I hold in. I hide it for multiple reasons, one is that I’m still able to function quite well considering, it’s what I take pride in, one of my strengths, another is that if I don’t put on a good face I will cripple and not function much at all and last it’s the concept of putting on a smile and eventually you’ll feel happier. It does help, if I feel exhausted and then look and present as exhausted it adds to the exhaustion, like wallowing in my stress. Yuck, I hate doing that. Either way the reality is that many things are stressful and time consuming, maintaining a large beautiful home takes so much energy, hours spent each week cleaning, doing yard work, paying bills, grocery shopping. There is only so much time in a day and for me I have a specific standard for my home, maybe unnecessarily high, but I am not comfortable and relaxed if it does not stay clean and meticulous.  After working 40 hours, doing all of the necessary “stuff,” we still need to cook, do homework, spend time with our kids, time as a family and exercise….. I am exhausted. Not even a physical exhaustion, but mentally and emotionally. And no matter what I will still go, go, go and do what I can for everybody else as best as I can. And I still love to do that, it’s who I am, if I didn’t I would have stress from not helping others, not having time for my friends, not socializing. 

So, where does this leave me?

I had to change things, we had to do something different. We had to eliminate stress. I started to look around and hated having space, space I wasted time cleaning, hated having stuff, stuff that had no real purpose and did not bring me true joy, just more to maintain, bills, money we spent on things we didn’t really need that accumulated by living up to what we thought we needed. It all seemed pointless when what really matters is my family. And everything we built was to give our family more “space,” but we don’t need space. We need to be closer together, spend more time together, spend our evenings active together and not apart in different rooms of the house. 

We evaluated our values, which come down to a comfortable home, which means some financial stability to maintain it, education, to provide our children knowledge and possibilities for their future and to teach them cultural awareness so they have empathy for others, care for people and live life without judgement and fear of things a little different than their “normal.” 

We then evaluated our life, what we needed to do to make all of that happen, I was tired of talking about all of the things we want to do and never doing them. 

Reducing our bills, cutting our finances, minimizing our mortgage and square footage and yard size are all things we came up with. Moving to Kalamazoo is a wonderful solution, more affordable housing in smaller sizes, more culture and family activities to educate our children and… bonus… the Kalamazoo Promise will help our kids through college, another check off our list to financial freedom. I prepared for a smaller house by eliminating anything in our home that wouldn’t comfortably fit into our main floor, we cut expenses, paid off debts and had our home listed for sale within 2 weeks of deciding we were moving on to something new. 

We have been told this seems impulsive, that we made the decision quickly. In a way this is true, we are a family of ADD/ADHD, impulsivity is in our nature. But it’s really 12 years coming. We can’t wait to see what this new venture will hold for us, at least for the next 12 years and the boys are all through school. After that, who knows what the next chapter will hold for us. For now we are slowing down, enjoying every minute together and taking every opportunity to enjoy life with our children. 

Starting over, A fresh start, Is it that easy??

I have been so grateful lately. Thinking about my husband, specifically. The journey we have had, things we have overcome, what we have learned, how we have grown. What that means basically is that we learned together how to have a healthy, loving, appreciative, successful marriage, friendship, partnership.

At one point, thanks to a conference, I looked at my relationship and imagined what it would look like if it was exactly what I would want it to be, kind of like a fairy tale I suppose. Then I was asked, are my actions and words fostering that picture? No, they were not. Maybe sometimes, but not enough. That was a changing point in my life.

I see on Facebook all the time articles of what marriage really is, fights, bad days, struggles, people proud to degrade themselves or their partners. I cringe anytime I see people proud to be a “bitch” or thankful their partner “puts up with them,” when they degrade their partner on social media. These are articles and posts that make me sad; maybe that is what many marriages are, maybe that’s “common,” but it’s not healthy. And, it does not have to be that way….it is a choice.

I am not one who likes to give advice when it’s not wanted or tell others “just do…” because productive communication does not really work that way and some things are easier said than done. People value somebody to just listen and not offer advice. Which I am more than happy to often do. At the same time biting my tongue from offering unwanted advice can be very hard when I see people I love so sad, unhappy, struggling, drowning, surviving in relationships. Day to day getting by for so many reasons, kids, vows, religious beliefs, finances, stability, dedicated years put into a relationship that they don’t want to walk away from. And I get it, I really do; we have had struggles, downs, ups, uncertainty, times we struggled to like each other. But the day I listened to that speaker though it hit and I decided I don’t just want to love my husband and be happy some of the time. I wanted a healthy marriage, to be happy to be with him all of the time, all day, mutual respect, to laugh, be mesmerized, feel butterflies, spend time together (not only in front of the tv or just being in the same house), quality time. I wanted to always love and like my husband. 

From that day on every interaction was a conscious effort, conscious awareness of what I said to him, how I said it, what actions I showed him. Were my actions and words kind, loving, respectful, did I show him appreciation and that I value him? If I thought about what I wanted my marriage to look like was I acting in ways that would make that possible? Each day was about the present and future going forward, not months or years ago. I had to let it all go, start over and only hold on to the good. Not holding on to things that happened in the past that harbor grudges, resentment or hostility.  If something upset me I kept it about that moment, not all of the past things that often get brought up in arguments, no more revenge. I made him coffee each morning, not because I felt I had to, but I wanted to start the day doing something nice for him. I thanked him for helping with the dishes after dinner; and I remember that first day so clearly because he told me I didn’t need to thank him for something he should be doing anyway. I said “yes I do, because I appreciate you.” These little gestures make an amazing difference, these are not things that were natural for us, I dont remember most adults/relationships I watched as a kid looking like this. Maybe I only saw it on tv shows that seemed so fake to me. The posts on Facebook that portray “real” marriages to be not so great in my opinion, was more normal to me. People happy to have time “away” from their spouses, fights, sleeping on the couch, etc.; that was normal. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have disagreements, but we don’t really have fights anymore, we are happy to have time to do our own thing, but not to “get away” from each other.  We communicate our feelings, talk to each other, respect each other, take an effort to share in each others interests…. we like each other and have gotten to get to know each other all over again. 

Is this easy? 

No, it is a lot of work, and it may be harder for some than others, maybe it won’t work for others. I know for me making the decision to be happy and go forward is what I needed. If people can’t forget things from the past, maybe the relationship will never be what I have. I also believe all people deserve to be happy and if that means ending a relationship, then maybe that is what that means. I know that may go against many peoples beliefs, it’s not my ideal either. Of course this also takes effort on both people, my husband and I have both learned a lot, we are both growing, always putting full effort into our marriage. But for me it was my choice to change my actions and thoughts, I couldn’t expect anything in return, what I did was for me. Over time I saw a difference, I received back what I had put in, we both smiled more, spent more time together and grew to appreciate each other and love each other more than I could imagine. 

Successes…

I haven’t posted in some time as I have been processing the stages of grief and I have been consciously aware that my emotions could have gotten the best of me if I let them control my writing. Each week at church I have been contemplating what I would write, but I could not focus on writing a new topic because my thoughts were preoccupied. Until the past few weeks anyway.

Right now has been a several week series titled Home Run Life, where baseball has been a metaphor for scoring in life. Start at home plate, win with God; run to first, win within; run to second, win with others; run to third, success; and score at home, again win with God. We have only gotten to 2nd base as of now reflecting on how we must first win with God and win within ourselves before we can win with others and have success. As I have been reflecting I can say that I have been seeing this play out. This has not been a short journey for me.

I recently received a compliment that I have seemed happy lately. That I am for sure of, it is true; but I of course still contemplated and wondered…what am I putting out there that is different, what are other people seeing that is different from a year, two, three years ago.  I wondered, could it be that I have been focused on my health and exercise; which had really raised my self-esteem? Then I heard the first sermon on Home Run Life, and I went, uh duh, light bulb moment…. I have been back at church for the past year. While God was never absent from my life, this past year I have been “winning with God” and truly focused on myself so that I can have the capacity to love others. To really be the way I want to be with my husband, kids, friends, family. And I can say it has been a progressively great year and it is getting better. Full of promises and the potential to be living the life we really want to have, more simple, secure, family oriented and fun filled. I will admit this reference to a home run life is just one example where I have seen or am seeing this play out, and it is a slightly more materialistic of an example as it does revolve around career success and a little more financial stability. I can truly say though I am at a point in my life that it will not be squandered, underappreciated or taken for granted. I want what to me, seems like basic things to come from financial stability, to not stress over monthly bills, get my kids a college education and give them experiences in different cultures. I want a smaller house not a bigger house, I want less expenses and more of a God filled life, filled with family and friends. To me that is SUCCESS!!