Strong Women.

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I “like” (and actually like) this page on Facebook called Thought Catalog. It’s a site where various people have shared experiences and often lists of things. Sometimes they are goofy, other times serious, and other times quite thought provoking. When I click to read them, I notice that they are actually blogged on WordPress, but when I try to share them on my blog, they never link quite right.

Anyway, I read one today on strong women, which I totally identified with. The Boyfriend can tell you – it’s not easy loving a strong woman, but the rewards are bountiful if you are man enough to do it. Of course, The Boyfriend would laugh at that statement too. He is always telling me how he’s too sensitive to be a man’s man, but in reality, being yourself is more telling of how strong a man you are, especially when being yourself doesn’t fit the neat little package that everyone tries to fit you into. I think that is one of the many reasons we are such a good fit – we buck the stereotypes that are out there for us and we don’t even give it a second though.

Here is the list, as seen on Thought Catalog.

30 Things Every Independent Woman Should Have In Her Life

1. A tool kit, complete with a screwdriver, hammer, tape measure, spare light bulb, and a long-burning candle and matches just in case.

2. A workout routine she can reach for when she needs to blow off steam or give her peace of mind.

3. A budget, a healthy savings account, and a financial plan that involves knowing how to handle all of her bills every month and take care of any emergency things that may come her way.

4. Health insurance. Really. Even if she thinks she’s young and invincible.

5. A sense of style that is unique and doesn’t require spending hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars on things that are trendy or fashionable but she doesn’t even really like deep down.

6. The self-confidence to run to the corner deli in sweats, because A) she values her comfort over what other people think of her appearance and B) who cares if they’re looking anyway?

7. A proper education on sex, regardless of where she stands on sex itself — knowing how her body works is key in taking care of it.

8. Her own Netflix account. Few things are worse than using an ex’s account and having to think about them every time you want to watch a movie.

9. A special pump-up song that always manages to rally her mood whether she’s sad, focusing on something, or just getting dressed for a night out.

10. A healthy relationship with social media that doesn’t involve getting into Twitter fights, posting endless selfies, or stressing over how many likes something got in the past hour.

11. A good relationship with her mother, or with a maternal figure, at least. You might think you need your parents less as you grow up, but really, the relationship just changes, and it helps to have an adult around who has already been. there.

12. A well-tailored professional outfit that she always has clean and on hand because life is full of surprises, and you never know when your dream interview or meeting is just around the corner.

13. A bottle of champagne in the fridge for impromptu celebrations.

14. A bed she can retreat to when she needs it most — think quality sheets, a nice comforter, good pillows, and a mattress that wasn’t purchased used or donated from a friend or family member. Getting a good night’s sleep makes all the difference in the world, so why not invest in it?

15. A good number of meals that she can whip out on her own. Because you can’t live on Seamless for the rest of your life, and there’s a maximum of times you can see the delivery man in one week.

16. A driver’s license — even if she lives in a city with great public transportation — because you never know when you’ll have to step in and take over the wheel. (Bonus points if she has a working knowledge of stick shift, and how to change a tire.)

17. A signature accessory, whether that’s her rings, a lipstick, a nail polish, or a perfume. You don’t want your most marked accessory to be your cell phone.

18. Thank you notes and stamps, and penmanship that doesn’t make her cringe when she sits down to write a note (be it to a prospective employer, someone who gave her a gift or invited her to a party, or simply did something nice for her).

19. When the WiFi, her computer, or her TV blows out on a Thursday night and all she wants to do is get lost in Netflix or her favorite show, she can fix it without smashing the modem and thus restore her night in and her personal mental health.

20. A freak’um dress, a classic LBD, and a dress her grandma will be proud of her for having. Because an independent woman is prepared for any and all dressy occasions.

21. A book in her bag for any time she has to wait for a meeting, appointment, or when she’s traveling.

22. Actual silverware, and not just plastic forks and paper plates. Investing in steak knives might be the advanced course, but baby steps (and maybe a few real wine glasses) count, too.

23. The self-awareness to be grounded in her own beliefs — be they religious, political, or anything in between — but the open-mindedness to respect when other people do not share her views.

24. A knowledge of what she wants from a relationship and not feeling any need to subject herself to tired dating rules — and refusing to settle for anyone or anything less.

25. A favorite drink that she orders without hesitation, whether it’s whiskey on the rocks or the most basic Cosmopolitan ever.

26. The memory of at least one relationship that does not make her cringe in retrospect — or if it does, she also has the knowledge of what went wrong, what she’d change (about herself), and what she can do right next time.

27. If she’s into sports, she has her favorite teams and doesn’t need anyone to explain rules to her.

28. That one friend she shares a special language with, and whom she can text at a moment’s notice for a pep talk, a rant-fest, or anything in between.

29. The knowledge that she looks good, and that she deserves to feel as good as she looks — no external compliments, signs of affection, or cat calls required to think she’s worthy.

30. And the humility to suck up her pride and ask for help when she needs it — be it from a man, another woman, her boss, her parents, whoever. Because you can be an independent woman and still need other people, and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your independent life.

A Happy Medium.

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An immense amount of stress has been lifted off of me since The Boyfriend has agreed to do all the traveling. I think part of it was done out of guilt, since he couldn’t seem to meet the September deadline we had fuzzily set for him to be moved down here. It’s nice though and I have no intentions of going back on this part of the deal. I just wonder how long it’s sustainable. How long will he continue to go back and forth every weekend – 8 plus hours in a train, just to keep this relationship going? I guess it will be a test of how serious he truly is about us moving on together with our relationship. It’s the waiting part that kills me though. Feeling, from time to time, that maybe it’s not worth it. That’s what makes me doubt this more than anything. As my friend LLE said “he needs to fish or cut bait”.

I’m willing to wait a bit longer and see if he’s serious or not. The relationship is worth a little more investment in time (and headache of still having my weekends interrupted by trips to the train station 25 minutes each way) in order to find that out. <3

Support.

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Sometimes when I get bogged down in my own life – the stresses of work, pressures of family, and the duties of being a single mom to three kids…I have to take a step back and find my support system.

Many times, this is my wonderful mom. I always joke that she’s the best husband I’ve ever had. She helps with the kids when needed, she’s done loads of laundry for me to help get me caught up, she’s done homework with my kids, activities, and even been a chaperone to their field trips (since my work flow doesn’t often permit me the time to take off in the beginning of the week easily). When she sees me get really run down, she does all she can to help get me back on track.

Other times, it’s PLM, my lifelong friend. She’s someone I can always go have a good cry on her shoulder and vent, vent, vent – then she always reminds me what an optimist I really am. She may not live the same stress I have, but she empathizes totally within her own and gently guides me back on track as well.

Occasionally I turn to The Boyfriend, although it’s more difficult to feel support over the phone (although he’s amazing at it when he’s actually here, with me <3  ). I know he tries, but sometimes he’s not able to respond. I know that’s because instead of me being able to tell him face to face, he’s got his own life – 240 miles away. Recently when I reached out because I was having a panic attack, he was tied up at work and never really was able to respond. I assume by the time he got home, he was probably so exhausted, he just couldn’t deal (his days at work have been long recently). This turned out to be a good thing because the anxiety (and having no outlet for it) actually convinced me to step out of my box and take up an offer of a social situation I may not have normally put myself into.

Recently, I met a new friend at a party. I swear, single parents have a radar for each other. I don’t know if it’s the circles under our eyes, the silent sadness of having to watch your kids be their amazing selves while having no one to share in that joy with anymore, or if it’s just the desperation we all feel to try and have a social life, the way “single” life is supposed to be – but it’s there. As my new friend and I were joking about endless laundry that you stay up at night watching guilty pleasures on TV or bad movies, H said “there’s a group of us”. I laughed and asked “really?” Then I was invited to join this group for a movie night, on a Tuesday. I have to tell you – it was fabulous. This group of single moms and dads get together, often during the week because we all have the same issue of our weekends being filled up with kids and activities, so they have it on nights when their ex-spouse has the kid(s). They typically meet up in a town about mid-way between the locations of the friends (which is about a 20 mile radius from the town they meet in) and just cut loose.

It was so nice to have that presence. Even going into a room of essentially strangers, it was nice to see their eyes weren’t just saying “who is this person” rather “hey, we know your story because we are living it. What’s your name?” I felt totally at ease.

It’s nice to have that physical presence of people who won’t judge me if I can’t make an outing because they know how crazy my life is. They won’t be bored if I talk about work or any of my geeky likes, because they are so happy to not be talking about kids for a couple of hours that anything is a relief. Although, I have found that single parents that have primary custody of their kids do tend to like a lot of the same nerdy things. LOL!

It was nice not to come home to an empty home, wishing there was someone else there to tell about my day while my kids were at EX’s house for a few hours. It was nice to feel understood. It was just nice to be in a room where I could be with others, feel support, and possibly even put some of the things stressing me on the back burner.

Finding your support systems and using them is the only way to get through life – especially as a single parent. <3

Optimist.

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There are days I still struggle. I am definitely not a bitter person, but there are times where I feel a little bitterness creep into me. It sinks in deep, into my bones, and just infects my mind and body.

After having a happily hectic weekend with the kids, which was amazingly productive but exhausting, I realized that I was only so happy because it was hectic. It was so hectic, it allowed me to temporarily forget the stuff that has been plaguing my thoughts, as of late. This lead to me the realization that I needed to work on those issues instead of just putting a Band Aid of being so busy I didn’t have to think about them.

In life, it’s easy to not deal with situations or issues. It’s easy to either avoid them or just go on, pretending they never happened or aren’t looming in the air; but they still are. It’s like the 5,000 pound gorilla in the room that no one talks about – and it’s sitting on my chest at the moment, staring me in the eyes.

Not every one looks at life the same as me. I think it mostly goes back to the influence of my dad. He had lots of -isms he would say to me that I still think about today when I’m going through life.

Even though when I was younger, these saying would occasionally get on my nerves (mainly because my dad was right), as an adult I now keep these in mind:

“Is this a hill you want to die on?”  Is the problem big enough that it’s worth upsetting the other person? Is the problem (and the person) worth expending the energy to fix it, or will it be a waste of time – either because the friendship/relationship isn’t worth it or you know the other person is 100% unwilling to listen or compromise? Does the problem hurt the other person somehow (which would be the ultimate test, because if it does, my dad would say, you have a moral obligation to discuss it)? Does the problem greatly affect you in such a way that it needs to be addressed for your own well being?

“It’s not always what you say, but how you say it.” Oh my, how true this one is. By how you say it, it’s the inflection in your voice, your body language, and your facial expressions. Those were the main things my dad was implying to me when he’d say that. What I’ve found now is that it’s not only those cues, but also your choice of words. Choice of words can be so difficult because everyone’s meaning of words can be slightly different. A funny example of this is a conversation between The Boyfriend and me. I was talking about some past discussion between us and I said something about him yelling at me. He got a little defensive at this point and said he didn’t yell. Before I went off and started to rehash the conversation (which didn’t need to be done, so thankfully I stopped myself) I recalled what a stickler for words he is. He has his own certain associations with specific phrases, which since we’ve been together so long I know this about him, so I changed it to raising his voice. He was okay with that. Inside, I was immensely frustrated that a simple conversation had to be stopped because of, what I perceived as semantics, but since it wasn’t a “hill I wanted to die on” I simply turned it into a laughable discussion of the differences in communication between us. It wasn’t the meaning of the sentence that ruffled his feathers, it was how I said it. The context was still the same whether I said yell or raised his voice.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.” My dad used to tell me this and it would make me want to blow my stack. LOL! From time to time now, it still does. It’s true though. Even the stuff that seems like big stuff, in reality, it’s really just small stuff because you always have a choice on how you live it. You choose what you allow into your life. The big stuff, the stuff that messes with your mind and works on your self-esteem, you can almost always eliminate if it’s not a hill you want to die on. Plus, if a problem is that big that it can’t be fixed, it likely needs to be eliminated anyway.

Life is full of choices. There is always an option and very few definites. For instance, over a year ago, I had told The Boyfriend that since we had finally decided to move in together, and because with my kids I am missing out on so much being gone every other weekend, it needed to happen by September of this year. I was so happy and focused with that decision because it would finally put an end to the back and forth, it would give us both an actual support system at home full-time (instead of just over the phone, which just isn’t working anymore), and it would finally allow our relationship to continue to grow. However, by September he was not ready. I had the choice of no longer traveling, taking that part of my life that soaked up 8+ hours on a weekend I had off from the kids, delaying a ton of housework and also delaying my school time OR I could continue a relationship with him, choosing to let him keep his life where it was (for the time being) until he was better prepared to move. I chose him. I looked where my priorities were, I looked where my emotions were, and he was the better option. I could maintain the stress (at that point, at least) of the travel, of having to drag my kids out every other weekend very late at night, of hindering their ability to have friends spend the night Friday night (and Saturdays are not an option due to a lovely 8am mass time), and the stress of essentially putting my social life and academic life on hold, for him. That was a choice, there is no way he could have forced me to do it.

Ownership. Ownership of my actions, ownership of my decisions (good and bad), ownership of what life hands me, and realizing that I have a choice in it all – that’s  my personal outlook on life which allows me to stay an optimist. I will not blame others for my circumstances, rather realize that I have the choice and decision to change them.

So, today, life is good. You know what? I have a feeling that tomorrow will be even better.

Effort.

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Sometimes, you have to make an effort. You can’t just live your life, expecting everyone else to accept your issues and your faults and for them to completely re-vamp their life to be focused on just fixing you. Sometime, you need to fix yourself. Sometimes, you have to put others feelings over your own and do the right thing for them, even when it’s difficult for you.

Sometimes, I need to take time and figure out if people are actually capable of respecting what I need, in addition to their own needs.

Just a random thought after a dark, difficult week.

Wounds Worth Working On. Some Are Not.

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Sometimes you can have such deep scars from an event in the past that they haunt you. You can move past them and feel better, but as soon as those parts of you are awakened again, you realize they are still there.

I’ve been in a bad place, recently, with my own self esteem. Some of these are my own issues, others have been brought on by things that have come up with The Boyfriend, and the remainder is stuff in dealing with EX. The problem I’m running into is that it won’t do any good for me to work on me, until I can alleviate the other two.

With my scars, I have a problem deciphering when I’m hurt and should be hurt versus when I’m hurt because of the past. I don’t know when certain things happen if I should stick around to hopefully work it out (or try and talk through things with EX) or if I am becoming an enabler for their bad behavior – which makes me feel worse about it. I won’t lie, there are times where I just feel like avoiding it all and just say “f*ck it, I’m going to work on me without you”, but I can’t do that for two reasons. Number one: I love The Boyfriend a great deal and I’m not sure that’s the fair thing for me to do. Number two: I can’t avoid EX and successfully co-parent, so I’m kind of stuck with him as well.

I feel confident on my own, which is what sometimes makes me think I’d be better off that way. I don’t feel confident when around certain behaviors though – the ones that make me feel like I’m less of a person. The ones that seem to just trounce on my heart, on my very being of who I am.

Yet, because I am keenly aware of these scars and where they came from, I am un-trusting of my own heart still, at times. I know what it’s capable of – completely enabling bad behavior and addiction. I also know it’s capable of pulling away out of the fear of being an enabler. So, as you can see, I’m stuck in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t battle in my head.

I know I can’t spend the rest of my life, running from the things that poke at these scars…but I also can’t spend my life trying to fix or deal with people who poke at them.

Which leads me to the topic of my brother’s wife. She is still a thorn in my side that just won’t forgive me for whatever it is I’ve done. She has given me no explanation, no reason for her disdain, and no hint on what brought it on so suddenly (except for the fact that it coincided with my divorce). What’s worse is that after my mom started standing up for me, she turned her back on her as well. That one shocked me; how someone could just try and shut out their own mother-in-law in a family as close as mine.

Certain days I feel so well and other days I realize what a work in progress I really still am. Aren’t we all.

10. Soulmates.

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Extraordinary. Extra-Ordinary. Extra: Added, Additional, Over and Above, More, Further. Give me all that above the ordinary and that’s how I want my marriage to be.

I was just barely 22 when I got married the first time. I didn’t have a good grasp on life, I didn’t have a good grasp on myself, and I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who just happens to meet and marry the right person to grow into those first two things.

ex·traor·di·nary

adjective \ik-ˈstrr-də-ˌner-ē, ˌek-strə-ˈr-\

: very unusual : very different from what is normal or ordinary

Full Definition of EXTRAORDINARY:

a :  going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary <extraordinary powers>

b :  exceptional to a very marked extent <extraordinary beauty>

I want that kind of marriage. I want the kind where two people are so committed to making it work that they will work through all the small muck for that ultimate goal.

The Boyfriend is very extraordinary in certain ways. He listens to me – and I don’t mean in that “uh huh, yeah honey” kind of way, I mean in general he really listens. Even my complaints…even when they are directed at him. They aren’t always easy for him to hear, sometimes his feelings are hurt initially, but he really thinks about the things I say to him, he takes them to heart, and if he thinks I’m right, he will actually tell me so and then we can compromise or work on whatever the issue is. He’s done this is so many ways with me already, it’s very hard when we reach times that he’s unable to do that – go above and beyond to meet me half way. It doesn’t happen very often where he’ll totally ignore something that’s bothering me, even after I tell him. Other times, he’ll ignore it the first few times I bring it up (more out of being embarrassed, I think), but he eventually comes around and will truly listen to me. That is such a rare quality in a partner – to not only recognize when their significant other is hurting, but be able to accept that something they are doing is possibly causing it and immediately agree to work on it or compromise…then actually follow through.

I definitely see that quality as a quality my soulmate should possess. In return, I hope it’s a quality that I give in return.

My recent revelation that I know for sure I want to get married again was pretty big for me. However, this time I want to be sure it’s going to be an extraordinary marriage. I don’t want “happy enough” or “we get along mostly”. I want stars. I want someone that I can understand completely (even if it takes a lifetime to) and who will understand me that way as well. I need someone who loves me even with my odd hang ups and who will appreciate that some of the things that eat at me are not their fault, rather the issues left behind from others. I want someone that will look at that and do whatever they can to make some of those scars of infidelity, mis-trust, and abuse, disappear…even when it’s not something they think needs to be compromised on, rather they can see I need it. I’ve always tried to be this way in relationships. I definitely am with The Boyfriend. I have made some adjustments in the way I communicate, so that things are easier for him to hear. I’ve changed how I approach him and the words I use, to help soothe some of the things said and done to him in his past. With the exception of a few topics that we are currently working on (which I hope will be like those items it just takes us a bit longer to compromise). Before I’ll commit to marriage with anyone though, I want to make sure it’s that special knock-your-socks off kind of love where there is a higher appreciation of each other than just the normal kind of love. I want my best friend, my greatest lover, my partner in crime, the one who will understand what I mean by “sex starts in the kitchen” and live that with me, and be my husband all rolled into one. When I know I’ve found that for sure, I will say “I do”.

9. Loyalty.

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This is in reference to my blog entry http://goshthisdivorce.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/sit-wait-contemplate/.

In a time where selfishness seems to be the rule, instead of the bad exception in people, and most people are just out for personal gain in their relationships, it’s very difficult to trust and feel comfortable with the idea of someone being loyal to you.

To me, loyalty encompasses so much. It boils down to doing the right thing for the person you are in a relationship to the same extent you do the right thing for yourself. It’s not in a narrow scope either – it means for everything.

Loyalty is being faithful, not just in body but also in thoughts and actions. In this day and age of social media, instant access to news and personal details about celebrities lives, and the availability of sites to “hook up” with – this can be difficult for some (although if it’s difficult for you, it makes it easier for me to weed out and pull away from those types – so that’s good). You have to respect yourself and your own actions before you can ever be loyal to another person. Loyalty is always having someone’s back – and not just in defending them to other people, but also in respecting that person. That’s where I’ve found people fail the most – respecting the other person. We are quick to jump if we feel like we are being forced in one direction or another and don’t want our toes stepped on, but we don’t give a second thought to how our own actions may be affecting someone else.

Honesty is key in loyalty. If you aren’t being totally honest, you aren’t being loyal to that person because you are not working in their best interests.

It’s funny how I’m finding so many of these tie into one another. I used to think “well, if I could get at least 9 out of 10 – I’m set”. However, in writing all of this out, I’m seeing that, for me, it’s an all or nothing. That’s a pretty high standard and not one I’m sure I’ve found just yet.

I’m Sorry.

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Two important words: I’m sorry. They fix a multitude of things and convey so much more than the root meaning can imply. It can heal wounds and rebuild trust. It’s not a matter of feeling bad or admitting wrongdoing, it’s acknowledging that you have hurt or upset the other person, right or wrong. It’s acknowledging that you value the person more than what’s stepping in the way of your relationship or friendship.

It’s sadly underutilized. I think many times, people thing that they only have to say they are sorry when they are wrong. That’s not how it works though. I have had many times where I’ve been right about something, but either my delivery or response has hurt the other person, so I come forward with an apology. When we yell at someone we shouldn’t, we just assume that they other person will understand that it’s out of our character and there’s an implied “sorry”. That’s not enough though. You have to actually say the words or the issue stays unresolved and festers.

There’s a certain power behind those words that, using other words just doesn’t seem to cut. There’s an almost cop out feel behind the “I shouldn’t have said it that way” or “you know I would never intentionally…” that has always left me feeling like the other person doesn’t really mean it.

There’s also a certain power about saying those words to someone. You feel a weight has been lifted when you utter the words – no matter what the situation.

I think people need to be more humble and mindful of this.

8. Unconditional

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This is in reference to my blog entry http://goshthisdivorce.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/sit-wait-contemplate/.

When you hear the word unconditional, many times it’s associated with love. Unconditional love is a very difficult thing to actually practice in a relationship. For those of you that are parents, like myself, maybe you can understand it better when you talk about the love you have for your kids. I unconditionally love my kids. When you see some of the horrible things on TV about kids and the actions some with clear mental illness have taken (example: the school shootings) my heart immediately turns not only toward the families and the victims, but also to the families of the perpetrator. I can only imagine how much it hurts for them to feel completely angry and still love their child that has done such a horrible thing. That is unconditional love. Not necessarily agreeing with them and all they’ve done, but loving them still in spite of it. Not loving their actions, but loving the person. I imagine how hard it must be to unconditionally support their loved one (in cases where the child taking the bad actions has not committed suicide and are being tried in court) how difficult it must be to unconditionally support your child while completely disagreeing with the actions they took and the crimes they committed. That is unconditional.

I have to be honest here, I’m not sure I can have quite that level of unconditional feelings for someone aside from my children – I really want to think I’m capable, but I haven’t found it in me yet. Sometimes, I think it’s my attempts at unconditional love for others that leads me to be an enabler because I don’t know how to draw the line like I do with my kids.

However, I will say that my unconditional love, support, and unwavering trust can come quite close to that – in the right relationship with the right circumstances. If I said I’d give away unconditional feelings to just anyone, I’d be nuts.

I need someone who can communicate both ways. What I mean by this is that I need someone who can accept that with unconditional love and support, comes my unconditional honesty and I expect that in return. That means if something is on my mind – I’m going to tell you. If something is on your mind – you need to tell me. This sounds easy and great in theory, but is actually quite difficult in practice.

Unconditional feelings grow from unconditional trust. That is an amazing thing, if you can find it. Someone you know you don’t have to question because you know they are always honest, they act with good intentions (even if sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way, they at least have good intentions), and they act with others interests at heart. That’s what I want for my next great love – my lifetime love.