Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Authenticity

I am not going to sit here and tell you that it is always going to be ok.
 
Because some days will be really crappy.
 
I don't care who you are or what your life is like, you will have bad days.
 
So it isn't necessarily a matter of making every day amazing---it seems like the heart of the matter is making sure we are strong enough to handle the days where we are punched in the stomach over and over.
 
We can choose our safe places. 
But sometimes our safe places are compromised.
We build them. They seem like they're strong. And then someone finds a way to destroy a piece.
 
We have to learn to rebuild them over and over again.
Because we are going to have to.
 
This is life.
 
Although we can find safety in outside sources, I think safety needs to generate from within.
Because "What can I change about this situation?" seems like a much stronger question than "Will you protect me from this change?"
It shouldn't be about what life gives or takes away--it should be about what we put into life and what we take away from the experiences we are given.
 
I am not going to sit here and tell you that everyone will love you.
 
They won't.
 
You will find that even on your most genuine of days, people will judge you frontward and backward. They might do it behind your back or they might do it to your face but it will happen.
 
Your job is to love you.
Your job is not to judge them.
 
Two wrongs don't make a right. But if you take one wrong and one right, you can feel peace knowing that you made the right decision.
 
People will call you ugly, horrible things. They will think you are someone you are not.
Life will knock you down.
 
Get back up.
You need to get back up.
 
I am not going to sit here and tell you that this rollercoaster ever ends.
I really don't think it does.
What I do think is that when we face the bad days, we get braver. And when we bask in the goodness of the good days, we have more gratitude.
 
Be your authentic you.
Love the you that you already are.
 
People might tell you it isn't good enough. But you're here. You're breathing. You're trying. You are good enough.
"As I began to love myself, I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today I know this is "AUTHENTICITY". -Charlie Chaplin-

Today this is my favorite quote.

Today I believe that authenticity is what keeps me going.

Sometimes I fight the feelings in my heart that tell me I don't hate people. Sometimes I want to hate people that treat me wrong. But I cannot and will not become a person that I am not because of the actions of someone else. I will not hate others because that is not who I am.

I fight to be authentic. I fight because I do not want to forfeit who I am for who someone believes I am.

We cannot rely on the actions of others to determine our lives.

I am going to get up tomorrow---and the next day, and the next day...---with genuine intentions to be me.
Although this looks different every single day, being authentic to myself is what keeps me able to empathize more openly and sort my feelings more efficiently.

I will not believe the negative things said about me because for every negative lie, there are a thousand positive truths.

Today I believe the truths.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Be The Good

I question my intentions a lot.

A lot. A lot.

This has so many pros and cons. On the one hand, I want to be secure in who I am and the choices I make. On the other hand, I want to make sure my intentions are accurately sincere.

Because what I really strive for is sincerity.

I am not a 1950's housewife who has the table set every night at 5:00pm and a perfectly tidy house. I am perfectly capable of being me without having a companion by my side. My sarcasm is thick, I'm often obnoxious, and I'm also one of the most compassionate people you will ever meet.

These aren't things I was taught. These aren't things that society or my parents have engrained in me from a young age.

My experiences have shaped me but they didn't create me. They molded the already existing me; the me who curses often and loves to dance and is sometimes so awkwardly open that it makes people squirm.

I was me before any of this began.

I may not always be confident but it only takes a small amount of courage for me to become a lion.

A friend and I were discussing this today---sincerity and so many things that encompasses. We started talking about Relief Society, which is a program that was created within the LDS church when Joseph Smith was the prophet. My favorite description of the Relief Society can be found in the church handbook and it states that Relief Society was established for "...the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan...".

The destitute.

Not the perfect. Not the "have it all together".

Relief Society is for those of us who don't have it all together.

Sometimes I just don't understand it. I don't understand why it isn't ok to sit down on Sunday and when the person next to you asks how you are doing, you say, "My husband is dealing with an  addiction right now and it has been really hard on me." and be able to talk about how life is hard and everyone has unique challenges and we are all in this together---no judgment---just unity and a whole lotta love.
Because in the above situation, the response might be, "I have been feeling worthless and I don't always believe the people in my life really love me." Or maybe the response might be, "I can't even imagine what that must feel like. Can I take you out for ice cream tomorrow so you can get some things off your chest?"
I have been LDS my entire life but through some of my most destitute times, I have seen this world in a completely different light.
And it is a light. It isn't a darkness.
I have seen beauty where most people would claim only dark clouds reside.

I used to struggle to have faith in humanity when I would catch glimpses of the news or experience hostility in various situations. I mean, hello...Ferguson? I didn't even have to be a news watcher to see the anger and hatred that can cause people to make horrific decisions. I wondered if maybe my broken-but-still-slightly-intact rose-colored glasses were just my imagination.
I wanted to see the good.

It took me a while to realize that instead of looking for the good, I have the ability to be the good.

I can restore someone else's faith in humanity instead of waiting for someone to come hand me my own dose of faith. And when I pass out smiles to the people I come in contact with, my faith in humanity is equally restored when I experience the majority of them smiling back.

All it takes is a tiny dose of bravery and a whole bunch of love.

I know we are getting there. I can feel it. I have experienced so many real moments in my own church and within my every day relationships. It is possible because we are capable.

Love wins, my friends. It takes love to battle the evil we are exposed to. Hate doesn't conquer hate. Love conquers hate.

I look forward to the day when judging each other holds no weight. I believe it will come. I believe the harder life gets, the more beauty we are able to recognize. Instead of focusing on the wrongs in the world, let's choose to be the rights. Let's choose to create a life we can be proud of individually---not a life we live because we feel pressure to be a certain way or fit a certain mold.

There are no molds. If there were, God would have created us all with the same exact physical features and identical life experiences.

I have realized that I don't have a mold. There is no one I need to be other than the person I already am. When I fall down or make a life decision that most people wouldn't agree with, I remind myself that this is who I am. People don't need to understand it. Honestly, I would never expect people to understand every decision I make.

You don't have to understand someone to love them.

We all have the capability to get acquainted with our own sincerities. Don't hide who you are out of fear.

Be you.

And I'll be me.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Just Try Harder

I remember when I first became a stay at home mom back in 2010 and my kids were 2.5 years and 9 months old. I remember thinking to myself that I had it all.
I had a husband who was in school and working. I had gorgeous, healthy children. I had friends. I loved church.
Money didn't matter. We weren't ever rich but I didn't care. We payed our bills. We fed our children.
I was happy.
I had everything I had ever wanted.

It's been 4 years and 3 months since then. Everything has changed. Most of the things I loved don't feel existent right now.

I miss out on so many things with my children. Parties at school, playdates, moments when they just want their mom, etc. I'm not always there. I can't always be there.

I hate it.

I don't hate my job. I don't hate school. But I really, truly find myself resenting divorce because of the many changes.

A lot of the times I can get through the hard moments, trusting that there are also many beautiful moments ahead. I try to stay positive. I try to forgive and not judge and love the people around me.

But I don't always succeed. Today I didn't succeed.

Today it wasn't possible to be tough and hold back the tears like I normally do. I couldn't handle the stress.
I couldn't handle the thought of one more day where my kids would have neither of their parents at a school program to cheer them on.
And then I got a call that Ninja had an accident at school and I cried thinking about everything our divorce has put him through. He isn't as emotionally transparent as his sister but the scars are still there. The accidents and the finger-sucking and the baby talk---they are all signs that he is hurting and scared.

The guilt was weighing heavily on me. And along with the guilt, I was angry at the decisions that placed us all in this position. I thought I had let that all go or that I was at least getting better about letting it go but today it all came back.

Today it felt like a punch in the stomach.

All of these things I didn't choose that have effected my life in some of the most heart-wrenching ways just seem so unfair and messy.

When my heart feels this way, it's really hard to not question God. When everything first went down a year ago, I seriously wondered if He had made a mistake in allowing yet another hard thing into my life. Although I know He doesn't make mistakes, I still doubted my capabilities.

Let me rephrase that---I still doubt my capabilities. I do. It isn't a constant doubt but it shows up from time to time.

I used to wonder why certain people didn't seem as engaged at church or didn't attend every Sunday. I used to find myself wondering and maybe even judging people who were less active. Although I was a defiant teenager, I had never truly experienced those feelings {until this past year} and my lack of understanding caused me to think they must've not been trying hard enough.

It sounds so simple. Just try harder.

I love my church. I have a strong testimony and know that Jesus Christ died for me. But I struggle to feel like I belong. I often feel alone when surrounded by some of the most incredible people in my life who are there for me at church. I hold babies and make comments and sing hymns but it isn't always easy. In fact, a lot of the times it is really hard.

I struggle to keep my children in sacrament meeting. That has always been a challenge with my son. I try to stay patient but we usually end up in the hallways or we go late so I don't have to deal with it.

I struggle to stay in Relief Society---especially when we talk about eternal marriage or families. It is really painful to know you don't have what so many people have. It's hard to feel like people don't understand why you're single. It's hard to hear those lessons and feel like a piece of you is missing because your family is broken. You are no longer the "typical Mormon family".

I struggle to substitute in Primary callings. Because after that first hour of "heaven and hell" all I want to do is drop my kids off and breathe for two hours...and then go home and take a nap.

But I should just try harder, right? That's what I would've told myself a few years ago. I should go to church and set the example for my kids and practice more patience.

There are days I don't want to go to church. There have been moments in the past year where I've decided I wasn't going to go back. My testimony has always gotten me there but it doesn't take the struggles away.

It is possible to have a testimony and not want to go to church.

It is possible to feel an aversion to prayer or scripture study and not be a horrible Mormon.

It is.

I know what I want to teach my children. I still fight most weeks to get us all to church. But it is hard. Being a good Christian no longer looks the same way that it used to in my mind. Being a good Christian means trying---sometimes failing---but getting up and trying again. It means fighting for peace when peace seems nonexistent. It means trying to love myself the way my God loves me---and that includes not beating myself up for missing church or falling asleep without praying.

Although I often have an easier time talking about things "after the fact", I want today to be real. I am staying afloat. I am not swimming like a champion and I am not drowning. I am just struggling to float and not fall any further.
I don't necessarily doubt that we will get through this divorce and stand strong like the warriors that we are but somedays, like today, are just so hard.

I know my kids will see my sacrifices someday. I know they will understand when they are older. I'm just so done with missing out on so many things and feeling so exhausted from trying to be their mom and provide for them and giving myself time to be me.

It's probably not impossible---but it seems impossible today.

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.