Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I am a Child of God

 Tonight was a night of reading old blog posts.

I was reading through the posts of when our separation began and when that separation turned into a divorce.

It was hard to read because I can remember the feelings I felt as I wrote. Even on the most uplifting posts, I know how scared I was in those moments. I know how raw those feelings were.

I read through a few posts about my kids. I was reading about how it wasn't fair for them to have to share their parents and go through these trials. I was so worried about them. Their sweetness had turned to anger and sadness that seemed to last months. Some of the ways they react to situations now are things I noticed had started after their dad left.

But I think of all the ways they've grown.
They were so little back then. I felt so guilty putting my 5 and 4 year old through a divorce. It didn't matter that we were extremely amicable in front of them or that we talked positively about each other when the other wasn't around. Scratch that, it did matter. But they could still feel the changes and the stress and the anger.

I keep thinking about how much I've learned this past year. I am a different person than I was. I am a better person than I was. I am more resilient and less judgmental.
And then I think about my babies. Physically, they look so much older than they did a year ago. But they have grown much more than that. They are different. They are wiser. They are closer to their Heavenly Father.

Often times, instead of giving my kids answers to their every day challenges, I ask what they think they should do. Then I ask them what they think Jesus would do. At ages 6 and 5, they are grasping the concept that they are children of God so strongly.
Every day, as they each leave the house for school or babysitters, I tell them, "Mommy loves you. Jesus loves you. You're a child of God."
One day, as Ninja hopped out of my car for preschool and my mind was thinking about the fact that I was running late and had a busy day ahead, all I said was, "Goodbye. I love you." and a few seconds later, he poked his head back in the car and said, "I'm a child of God, mom!"
I haven't gone a day without saying it since then.

Two days ago, my little Warrior Princess came in my room and handed me a piece of paper.
As I read the words "I have worth. I am worthy of love.", I couldn't keep myself from smiling and giving her the biggest hug.

She sees that message every day of her life when she walks in my room and for some reason, those are the only two sentences on my 'whiteboard of positive messages' she reads outloud to me almost every day.
These same messages have been on my white board for 6 months now. They all apply and help me. And in turn, they help her.

I remember the first day she read "I have worth" and asked me, "Mom, what does that mean?". I got to sit on my bed and explain to my little 6 year old what true worth is and where it comes from.
I pray every night that she always remembers.

We aren't a perfect family. They are not perfect children. I am far from being a perfect mother. But I don't think perfection is the ultimate goal on earth. Perfection is something we attain when Christ makes up where we fall short.

Every day, I try to become like my Savior and every day when I fall short, He sends me reminders that I am still worthy of Him. I always will be. Whether He has to make up 10% or 80% for me, He still loves me.

I'm so proud of my children. I am proud that I am their mother and that we are together for eternity. I am proud of the choices they make and the love they show toward other people.
I love who they are. I love being able to witness who they are becoming.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

 "There's no one alive who is youer than you."

A month ago, I was trying to come up with ideas for my birthday post. I wanted something different and more vulnerable than the things I normally post---and might I add that I feel like I post a decent amount of vulnerability here.

When I woke up that morning, the only thing that seemed to fit was to thank God that I have been allowed 27 years of learning and growing on this earth. Whether 27 sounds old or young to you, it is such beautiful thing that 27 has brought me to this particular point in my life.

With 27 years of bravery under my belt, I realize just how many incredible things I can do.

A few months ago, I was working hard to get my ariel. I know, weird, right? I used to be able to tumble back and forth but never in my life had I successfully done an ariel. I decided 27 is going to be the year. So there you have it. Sometime this year, I'm going to be able to do an ariel. Impossible is not really a word I believe in.
Twenty-six was a huge testing year for me and I'm ok with that. Without this past year, I wouldn't be the Suzanne that I am.

Although there has been pain, I have gained confidence in my ability to be a single mother, a working mom, a student, and a good person. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the things I have done.

I've hated myself a lot of this year. I remember days where looking in the mirror and seeing any kind of beauty seemed impossible. I remember thinking I'd never love myself or be loved again. I remember looking at my stretch marks and all of my imperfections from having kids and wondering how anyone would choose to marry someone like me.

But this year, I've learned that whoever ends up with me will be lucky because I have worth. For every negative thing that can be said about me, there are ten positive things to counteract it. I have the ability to love and be loved. I was a good wife. I will be a good wife again someday.

I am doing the very best that I can and that's what matters.

The other day, I was at the doctor's office and I had to be weighed. You guys, I was panicking! I have not weighed myself since I started eating disorder recovery because I'm working so hard to see my worth without a number attached.
Anyway, I saw my weight. Hmm. Ten pounds heavier than a few months ago.
A few months ago, that would've sent me into a spiral. But a few days ago, it didn't. Instead, I was grateful. I was grateful what that ten pounds represented. It represents strength and recovery and health and happiness. It represents becoming whole again.
I was surprised at my own reaction. I was surprised that any amount of compassion was able to be focused from me to me.
I was able to see straight through that number and find beauty. I was able to love the person that I am right now instead of panicking and wanting to change everything about her.

I'm a warrior. I've said that a lot this year. Sometimes I've believed it and sometimes I've said it because I wanted to believe it.
Today I believe it.

Instead of fearing the future, I plan on punching fear in the face and showing life what I'm made of.

So for my birthday post---a month late---I wanted to share a side of me that you may not see very often. I love music. In fact, music is definitely in the Top 5 of things that helped me through divorce. So many times I would be driving and crying and a song would come on the radio that comforted me and reminded me that I am going to make it.

In some of my darkest hours, the place where I turned for peace remained the same.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today I Watched Porn

 I'm assuming that title caught your attention. And I'm glad it did. Whatever reason brought you here, I hope you'll stay and hear me out through the end.

Because today I did watch porn. I wish I could have prepared more for today or been "sick" during my Philosophy of Sexuality class but I don't have the best grade right now and I can't afford to miss any assignments.

So I went---knowing we were diving into our chapter on pornography.

I figured I would have the chance to reiterate my feelings about pornography use and that our discussion, although uncomfortable for me, would give me an opportunity to stand up for what I wholeheartedly believe in.

None of those things happened.

I got into class and our teacher was holding a dvd. I couldn't make out the title other than the phrase "feminist pornography" I prayed it would be a documentary like the last one we watched. I squirmed as I waited for class to start. And after taking attendance, he announced we would be watching a video and would have to write an essay on it before next Tuesday. And then he pushed play.

It wasn't a documentary. Or maybe it was. Yeah, I guess it would be considered a documentary since there were interviews mixed up between vulgar scenes. I tried not to look up after the first exposure. I knew I had to keep my composure so I started taking notes on any of the interviews I heard and tried to let my mind wander when the interviews weren't playing.

I guess I just don't get it. Now having been exposed to mainstream pornography, I am even more at a loss as to why some people don't think pornography is dangerous.

Among my anxiety, I felt a lot of sadness---that some women are treated poorly, that some women feel suppressed and choose this lifestyle, that some people can't feel satisfied in a loving relationship with just one other person.

I don't get it. I don't want to get it.
I believe in physical love, love between a man and a woman who have vowed to be with each other for eternity.

Today brought back pain. A lot of pain. And feelings of inadequacy.

I wish that pornography wasn't available like it currently is. I wish there wasn't a chance that my very own son or daughter could stumble across the videos I watched in class today. I wish that people viewed sex as more sacred than the media tells us it is.

Because when a person becomes addicted to pornography, they start to lose the real love in their life. They have a harder time differentiating between what is real and what is completely fake.
Pornography seems equivalent to selling your soul to the devil.
I felt Satan in that classroom today. I felt the darkness that came and I felt it leave as I left the class, praying to overcome my anxiety and finish my next classes.

If there is any truth to saying that pornography can "spice up your love life" and is healthy within a marriage, I would counter by asking, "Why take the risk?"

Why risk what you have for something that could possibly harm you and your relationship?

The people you love are not worth that risk. They aren't. Real love is more powerful than anything you will be able to find on a computer screen.

Real love will always be greater.

In case you're wondering how I reacted in class today, I didn't raise my hand a single time. I couldn't. My mind had shut down and I couldn't even stand up for my values because my brain was busy focusing on getting through the class without a meltdown.
I don't exactly know why my teacher would expose our class to that material. I think he thought it was necessary but I can assure you, it wasn't.
I'm not angry. I'm just sad.

Because I think my bubble had been holding on by a thread and today, it was completely popped. Today I was exposed to so much harshness that surrounds us.

Pornography is real and it is dangerous.

Protect yourselves. Protect your families.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I Wish I Would've Known: Divorce

 I've been thinking lately about my divorce and how the last year {or even two years} played out. I made it through some pretty awful days but there are things I look back on and think, "Wow...I could've handled that a lot better than I did."
Because trauma can cause you to do some pretty crazy things and feel some pretty crazy feelings.

So I wanted to talk about that today; what I wish I would've done differently in my divorce.

I wish I wouldn't have yelled so much.
I wish I wouldn't have yelled at my husband and my parents and my children and myself. I wish I wouldn't have projected my anger at the people I love the most. Maybe my husband could understand why I was yelling because of the pain his choices were causing me. But my family members? No. Even if they understood and were patient, I could have dealt with my anger a little more healthy than I did. I could've smashed plates or thrown rocks at the wall or punched my pillow over and over instead of stuffing my anger until it exploded randomly at whoever was nearest.
I wish I wouldn't have gone numb for so long...and I also wish I could've stayed numb longer. Because right after he left, I went into fight or flight mode and I chose to fly away as far as I could go and pretend like everything was fine. I convinced people I was amazingly strong and that I wasn't lonely but the worst part was that I convinced myself I was amazingly strong and didn't need to grieve like a normal person.
So when the numbing went away, it was horrible. Instead of feeling the pain and heartache in the moment, I was flooded with it all at once, months after the fact.

I wish I wouldn't have doubted myself.
When my husband left, I was firm in my belief that my ability to cook and clean wasn't the reason he left. It didn't matter that he had told me those exact words, I knew it wasn't true. But after the numbing went away, I started to doubt my ability to be a good wife, mother, sister, daughter, and really, I just doubted my ability to be a good human being. I felt like I was worth nothing. My husband had never in our marriage said anything negative about my weight or my looks but because it was an insecurity I already had, I projected that as "the actual reason he left". It was the only thing that made sense to my broken brain. I didn't love my body so I just assumed he didn't love it either.
 I wish I would've asked for more help and felt less guilty when I received help.
Help during divorce is necessary. It just is. There were times I would be crying and a friend would stop by and just take my kids---no questions asked. I had so much help in some of my darkest times. But there were times when I needed help and should've let someone else into my home when I wouldn't. I felt guilty asking for more help but because of this, I had days that were harder than hard but that didn't have to be as hard as they were.
 I wish I would've thought about me more.
I thought about how divorce would affect my kids, how people would judge me, how people would judge my ex-husband, how my family would accept everything, and how unworthy I was. What I didn't think about was how much I was hurting and how much compassion I needed to have for myself. It was so easy having empathy for the hard things my children were going through and I even got to a point where empathy for my ex-husband became possible. But empathy for myself was non-existent. Instead I spent all of my "free time" at the gym or obsessing over my food intake or dreaming about dating and feeling anxious that no one would want to date me and making sure I was still spreading my time among my friends and dishing out time to new friends or numbing my mind with television.
I wasn't thinking about my heart and empathizing with the pain. I was beating myself down for all of the reasons I wasn't good enough. Self-care was non-existent even when it looked existent because I was doing things all for the wrong reasons. I was punishing myself, not loving myself.
I needed my own empathy. I needed to give myself compassion. And I didn't do it.
 I wish I wouldn't have gone off my anti-depressant.
Yup, it's true. I take drugs! I was on anxiety medication the day we separated because I had been getting anxiety for months leading up to the day that huge bomb was dropped on me---I now refer to that as my psycho-good intuition because there wasn't really any proof that things were really wrong. But I was worried that the numbness I was experiencing was as a result of my medication and I was worried that I'd go off the medication a year or two later and all of a sudden, I'd have all these pent up feelings from my divorce. So I went off of them right after our separation started. Weird. And the worst part was, it took me a while to realize how much that affected me during that time. I felt like the same old Suzanne but inside, I was going crazy. I was feeling crazy. I was experiencing anxiety that felt like what PTSD is described to feel like.
In case you're wondering, I no longer feel shame associated with my medication. My goodness, who freaking cares what people think of me swallowing a Zoloft every night? I get to choose what is best for me and I am choosing to help myself have a better life! So I'm sorry if you don't agree with that---actually I'm not really sorry but I do respect your opinion.
The main thing I wish I would've learned a year ago is that people make mistakes and that's ok.
A year ago, I was angry and I wasn't ok with the imperfections of others and my own imperfections. But it's ok that I made mistakes. It's ok that my ex-husband made mistakes. It's ok that my parents made mistakes.
Everyone does it.
We don't have some guide book to help us through our rough times. We figure it out on our own and sometimes, that includes a little trial and error {or a lot of it}.

Although there are things I wish I would've done differently, I've accepted that I can't change the past.

And the greatest part is, we've made it out alive so far! And not only are we surviving, most days we are thriving.

Divorce isn't the end of all happiness and peace.

I am happy. I have found peace.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fearfully, Faithfully, Beautifully

Once upon a time, there was a scared young woman who didn't like not knowing the future. She knew that the future could bring happiness but it was also full of uncertainty.

She was afraid to look in the mirror because she didn't know if she liked the person staring back at her.
She was afraid to be alone because the horrible stories in the news made her feel vulnerable to the world.
She was afraid to date because she knew what rejection felt like and it didn't feel good.
She was afraid to be herself because what if people didn't accept the real her?

Amidst her fears, friends would randomly say things like, "You are such a strong woman.", "My husband and I were talking about how any man would be lucky to have you as their wife.", "Thank you for helping me through that." and she wondered..."Do they see who I really am? Do they notice my flaws?"

The answer is yes, they do.

And they loved her anyway.

Because somewhere among the loudness and the lack of a filter and the short temper, they saw who she really was. They saw the good.

It was because of them that she continued to fight. It was because of what they saw in her that she began to notice some of the goodness too. She began to realize she isn't worthless or stupid or ugly.

She is loveable and funny and compassionate.

She couldn't have done this by herself. Even brave people need help. Two years of therapy, anti-anxiety medication, prayer, and love have helped her to be as brave as she could be. I don't believe God gave her this life because she was strong enough to live it. I believe He gave her this life because He knew He would help her live it. She isn't stronger than the average person. She is stronger than the girl she used to be.

And it's ok to not do it alone. It's ok to rely on professional help or need medication or some homeopathic remedy or friends and family. It's ok. It doesn't mean we aren't strong. Asking for help is a sign of strength. It takes bravery to know you cannot do this alone.

Some days, she wakes up and just feels so much compassion for herself and other days, she has to rely on the things people tell her. She has a list of compliments people have given her this past year to read on the days she has lost all faith in herself.

Today she is ready to fly.
Today she doesn't fear the future.
Today she trusts God's plan and knows that whatever happens, she is a fighter.
Also, she sees beauty today. In herself. In the world. In her future.

Friday, October 24, 2014

About A Boy

 I feel kind of bad that I slacked on the birthday posts this year. I'm usually blogging about my kids' bithdays the day after it happens because I'm so darn excited to talk about how special they are.

But work...and school...and being a single mom...and getting know, life happens!

So my Ninja boy turned FIVE! Have I mentioned he's my BABY?! And he's FIVE?!

It's true...

{Also I never mentioned I changed my kids' names on the blog. But I did. I let them pick because this is a blog about bravery and strength and my kids emulate that every day of their lives. So Spidey's name is now Ninja.}

Ninja is my favorite boy in the whole entire world.
He learned to crawl at 6 months old but refused to walk until he was 14 months old.
 He was born a climber. He could climb on my kitchen table at 9 months old. Hello, heart attacks!
 Ninja was a tiny baby. He was full term but weighed only 6 lbs 6 oz.
 That "small" thing changed quickly. At 2 months, he was over 12 pounds and by 6 months, he was close to 20 pounds. He was the squishiest baby and I loved to squeeze his arms and legs.
Around age 2, his chub turned back into teeny tiny and he's stayed there ever since. At his four year doctor's appointment, he was in the 4% for height and 6% for weight but this year, at his FIVE year check up, he went up to the 8% in height and 20% for weight. A small victory for a small boy. :)

Ninja is "the baby" and I guess I'm realizing I did that to him. He is my snuggly boy and I've let him get away with acting younger than he is. It's a HARD habit to kick but we are working on teaching him he is capable of chores and big boy talking and all that jazz.
 Ninja is a momma's boy. I love it. Lots of people told me I would LOVE having a boy because he would be a momma's boy but I didn't quite get it until he was born...and then I've loved every second of it. He has such a sweet heart and is so good at showing me he loves me.
 This FIVE year old is so quirky. His red hair and freckles are perfect for him because he is so silly and he love to be the center of attention.

He is a firecracker and often says the most random things.
 At FIVE years old, Ninja can write the first letter of his 8-letter name, he loves drawing pictures but usually they're scribbles, and he loves loves loves video games and Netflix.

Ninja is really intelligent and he learns things really well but if he doesn't want to learn it, he just won't do it. He likes to tell people, "I am in charge of me." and that is so true! It's something I've taught him over and over again. But he kinda uses that sentence to his advantage when he doesn't want to do things. {Sneaky boy...}
My ninja boy really thinks he's a ninja. That's why he picked that name. He is often found karate chopping the air or run at "super speed" around the house. Active is kind of an understatement when describing this boy. He is FULL of energy.

We had a great birthday for Ninja this year. It was so much fun going to Castles N Coasters and spending the day doing things he wanted to do. I look back on the past FIVE years with this boy and I can't imagine life without him. He has been such a blessing for me. He has snuggled up to me on my hardest days and made me laugh when I needed to laugh.

I am the luckiest mom in the world to have this little guy in my life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Power of Letting Go

Remember that overused song, "Let It Go"?
Oh, you do?
Yeah, me too.
I kind of wish that song wasn't overdone on every Youtube channel and Facebook page and meme on Pinterest because I actually really love it.
When I sing it around the house, I belt it as loud as I can.
Because I know.
I know what the power of letting go can do for a person.
I have been the recipient of some pretty painful experiences brought on by the choices of others and although it hasn't been easy, I have seen the power of letting go of anger and turning that into empathy.
And I don't use the word power lightly.
When you are able to let go of the anger you have toward another person, you start to see them as a person who has faults, just like you and I. You start to recognize that the hurt they have caused is probably due to a more deep rooted problem and wasn't specifically directed at you.
I know for me, the person who has hurt me the most is a person I can relate to now. I understand him. I see the choices he has made and I could've been the one to make those same choices if I had been in his situation. I understand the fear of losing everyone you love. I understand the fear of shame and judgement. I get it.
I hate that I get it.
I hate that he felt that way.
I hate that so many people endure these same fears on a daily basis.
The second I let go of my anger, it became clear why this past year played out the way that it did.
I still don't love it. And I still wish I could've done something to change it.
But it wasn't mine to change.
The only thing I can do now is try to understand the situation and have empathy for everyone who was involved---and for me, that includes my ex-husband.
It includes the heartache my children have faced.
And it includes having empathy for myself.
When I make a wrong choice or I say something really stupid, I am going to try and have empathy for this imperfect person that I am.
She needs my love.
She needs my empathy more than anyone else in the world.
The hardest person for me to love is the person typing up this post. It is hard to look past every imperfection and see what other people can see. It is hard to process the thoughts in my head and realize they don't make me a bad person.
The power of letting go has allowed me to show empathy to the people around me who have hurt me.
When I let go, I am unstoppable---which is ironic since I have an eating disorder and OCD, two places where letting go is ESPECIALLY hard and where I feel like I'm in control. But the reality is that letting go means letting go of the reins and saying, "God, I may not understand all of this but I'm going to trust you anyway."
"Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway."
I have seen the middle of some pretty dark storms but with the help of my Heavenly Father, I have been able to endure them and find empathy for the creators of those storms.
{Warriors don't give up.}