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 sick...you 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.}

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fearfully Brave

I shared this picture on my Facebook last Sunday because I was struggling to figure out how I was going to make it another day.
Last Sunday, I was so defeated. I had been parenting alone for over a week with only one 4 hour break. I hadn't had an overnight break from my kids in a month. My house had been hit by a tornado of messy, sticky children and I just didn't feel like I could keep up. And that Sunday night, I had found out that I was most likely going to be parenting alone for another 7 days.
It doesn't seem like a lot. It's just 7 days, right? But between work and school and meetings and homework and cleaning and parenting...I could barely stand the anxiety I was feeling.
I layed down on my bed and cried.

But after some sleep and snuggles from the children who make my life full of ups and downs, I took life one day at a time.
{And I do have to say that the kids' dad ended up taking off two days of work to help out}

The thing is, I will always be a work in progress. Divorce didn't come with some handbook on how to do everything correctly. I've gotten so darn angry sometimes, I've felt so defeated sometimes, and other times, I've felt immense amounts of relief and happiness. This isn't something I worked into my life and thought, "Well, that looks like it might be fun to try out!" I didn't birth two children with the intentions of raising them 75% of the time on my own.

So there are days I fall so far down that I'm not sure I can crawl my way to the top. There are days I get anxiety about really simple things because I'm afraid that my life could be ripped out from under me once again.

This life I live wasn't some dare. It wasn't about two stubborn people who weren't willing to work on their marriage so they just decided divorce would be easier. On August 23rd, 2013, divorce wasn't something I would've thought we would be facing and yet, a day later I was staring the possibility of divorce right in the face.

I deal with the backlash of divorce every day. My daughter still cries a lot that her dad isn't there to tuck her into bed most nights. Yesterday she told me that she will never be ok from all of this.

I got through this week because my friends and family carried me. I got through this week because I prayed and my Heavenly Father sent me miracles. I don't need these things every week but this week, I did. I needed extra help and it was there for me.

Life is just one challenge after another, mixed with a lot of beauty to make each challenge worth it. This week didn't disappoint. Along with the anger and the anxiety, I was filled with joy throughout each busy day. I was able to smile and laugh and be a mom and work and go to school and be successful. I was able to buy a new pair of shoes and take my kids out for a birthday dinner at Red Robin (Did I mention my little guy turns FIVE this week?!!). I was able to read scriptures with my kids before bed two nights and listen to General Conference with them this weekend.

It isn't all bad even though sometimes the bad tries to consume me and convince me that my life sucks.

Although I'm exhausted and I often feel unable to take another step, I've kept going so far and I plan to keep going from here on out.

I'm going to make it. You're going to make it.

The future I had hoped for has burned to the ground but in it's place, I can choose to rebuild a new future.

I'm going to make it.

It doesn't matter what I face. I have faith that with the help of my family and friends and my God, I will be able to wake up to a new tomorrow each and every day.

When I am consumed with fear, someone always seems to be there to remind me that I am worth it. I am worth every ounce of love another person is capable of giving. Although I was abandoned and heartbroken last year, I am still worthy of love. I am worthy of someone's eternity.

I am worthy because I am a daughter of God and I believe He has a plan for me.

I am brave because I chose to wake up and live today.

I am breathing through my fears and that is brave.

Being brave does not mean never being afraid.

Monday, September 22, 2014


 Raising children is hard.
Going to school is hard.
Working is hard.
Keeping my house clean is hard.

Trying to do all four of them as a single mom is hard.

And lately, I feel like I've been failing in at least 3 of these categories at a time. I've been so overwhelmed. My eyes start to droop around 7pm because I'm just so exhausted. I don't know if I've ever felt this exhausted, not even as a mom of a newborn. But maybe I just forgot what that felt like.

I've had so many nights where I lay in bed and wonder how I'm going to get everything done the next day. How am I going to have time to sweep the floor and fold some laundry and do two homework assignments and give my kids quality time with their mom?

And the thing is, I don't have time for it all. That would explain the sticky floors, the sink full of dishes, and the laundry that's been sitting in the washer for a few days. It would also explain the amount of tv my kids have watched in the past week.

I've felt like a failure so many times in the past week and most nights, I'm so close to tears when I think about the times I told Petey she had to pack her own school lunch or get her and her brother breakfast because I just couldn't do it.
But we've pushed through. When I feel like I can't keep doing this, I keep doing it anyway. I just focus on one small step at a time.

Today as I was thinking about one of my favorite motto's, "I can do hard things", my mind went back to 17 year old me.
 This is her. Her name is Kissing Sun Firefly and she spent six weeks of her summer learning how to make fire out of wood and a piece of rope, cooking with a tin can and dried foods, hiking 20+ miles a week with everything she had on her back, and sleeping under the stars every night.

Out there, I learned what it means to do hard things. There were so many nights I would cry myself to sleep because I was so lonely out there. I often felt misunderstood by my parents and even by my group of youngwalkers and trailwalkers. That first week was physically exhausting and I got so dehydrated that I was vomiting uncontrollably during one of my first big hikes.

I remember feeling like I would die out there. I remember being so embarrassed that I had gotten dehydrated and I wondered how I would ever make it. But I kept focusing on one more step and then one more and one more until finally, I had made it to our week's destination. I remember the tall grass, the ants all over the dirt, and the girl with the curliest blonde hair I'd ever seen reading her Book of Mormon to me to calm me down. I layed there under the sun, wondering how I had gotten from point A to point B without dying.

I felt like I had accomplished something so incredible that day.

A few weeks later, we were hiking through a dried up river bed and I had my hands through my sleeping bag/backpack and all of a sudden, I tripped and my hands weren't able to catch my fall. But my face did. I could feel my lip swelling as the blood ran down my chin. I couldn't do this anymore! Hiking was too hard. I couldn't handle being out in the middle of nowhere and getting hurt. But I kept going that day. I cried a lot because my battle wound really hurt but I kept hiking and we made it to our destination. That afternoon, I walked down to the dried creek bed and sang, "For Good" from Wicked over and over again. I cried. I sang. I listened to the wind. I felt peace. I knew I could finish this hard thing. I knew I could work things out with my parents and believe in myself.

I knew I could do hard things.
ANASAZI taught me lessons I still apply in my life. It was a turning point in my life. I was strong before ANASAZI but when I came back from those six weeks, smelling worse than death but feeling happier than I had in a long time, I was a warrior.

And I'm still a warrior.

I have felt so much failure recently that I have to take a step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes the small picture doesn't show me what I've accomplished because it emphasizes all of the things I'm doing wrong.

But the big picture---the big picture shows me how far I've come and how much I am capable of enduring.

So tonight, I'm not going to focus on my messy house or my children that went to bed in their school clothes. I'm going to focus on the fact that I worked five hours and came home and did homework with my daughter while babysitting two extras, and then I took 3 online quizzes and got all A's and wrote an essay.

And now I'm here and it's ok that I'm still not choosing to clean. I've done enough for today.

I can't do it all but I can do enough.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Breathing, Living, Learning, Growing

I am a huge fan of music. Music helps me cope with a lot of things in my life, especially this past year.
Lately, I've been going back to the same two songs most days.

Colbie Callait's 'Try': I have been listening to this on repeat as I sit in the carpool pick up lane at my daughter's school and start to feel anxious because that 20 minutes in the carpool lane is often my only quiet time to think about life. I turn it on when I look in the mirror and realize I was brave enough to fight my eating disorder and get myself in recovery months ago and now I'm here---and it seems like just yesterday I was there. And then I start to worry because am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I a good mother? Am I worthy of someone marrying me and taking on the responsibility of my children? Will I be wonderful enough that a man would choose to do that when he could marry someone who doesn't have kids and an ex husband?

These are real thoughts and they run through my head a lot. A lot.

"You don't have to try so hard. You don't have to give it all away. You just have to get up. You don't have to change a single thing."

I feel so unworthy of dating. I feel so unworthy of love. But Colbie helps me remember how hard I'm trying and how I don't have to do that. The right guy and the right friends will love me not for how hard I try but for who I am---for who I am right this very moment.

Christina Perri's I Believe is also at the top of the list. Everytime I hear the last line of the chorus, I can feel in my heart the exact words being sung.

"I have died so many times but I am still alive."

Because I have died. I have felt loss and abandonment and insecurity times a thousand this year.

But I am still alive. I am still fighting. I am still moving on with my life.

I'm trying to be the mom my kids need and the provider they need and still be me and do things for myself.

If you're wondering how well that's working for me, refer to my mention of anxiety above...

But this is life and I'm fighting through it. I'm still breathing. I'm still waking up every morning.

These past few weeks have had a lot of hard moments intertwined with the normal busy chaos. I was planning a trip to Las Vegas with some friends and in that same week, Spidey started having meltdowns that I was leaving him so much.
I tried to spend quality time with both kids before leaving but as I drove away that night, I felt so much guilt. Because although I knew I needed some time to myself, I felt like the worst mother for walking away at the worst possible time.
I was having an incredible time. The days were some of the best I've had in a long time. But each time Spidey would call and cry, I would feel so torn between relaxing and just getting back to him and holding him.
Each day, I was laughing and relaxing and having some of the best conversations with some of my favorite people and each night, I prayed so hard that Spidey would feel comfort and that he could just enjoy his time with his dad.
Just leaving on this trip was brave for me. I have never been on a girls trip that didn't involve family members. I knew that when we started planning this, it would be tricky. Because although I have a few friends I tell everything to, I have so very many friends who mean so much to me and I've never been a fan of "clicks".

But it ended up being totally fine and I'm grateful for that because I worried about it. And I'm not the only one who worried about it.
These girls have been through a lot with me. Three of them spent the evening at the temple with me the night my husband left me. The other two have been equally incredible this year. I know this trip wasn't just planned by me and it definitely wasn't for me alone but it certainly was a perfect way to remember where I was a year ago and look at where I am today.
These friends were some of the first to know what was happening as my separation turned into divorce and they have checked in on me, even when I just wanted to stay in bed all day and cry.
Visiting the Las Vegas temple was high on my list and I'm so glad we fit it into our weekend because it was one of the highlights. I had the opportunity to really feel peace and relax and I stopped worrying about the kids for a while and think about what I needed in those moments.
Did I mention I was brave enough to wear my Porn Kills Love tshirt as we walked down the strip of Las Vegas?

The second we decided to go to Vegas, I knew I wanted to wear this shirt because this subject is something I believe so strongly in.

This is something I will never back down from. Ever.

As fearful and intimidated as I get around people, I just cannot take a back seat when the subject of pornography is brought up.

This week, in my Philosophy of Sexuality class, we watched an amazing video by the XXX Church about how porn kills. It was powerful and yet, I already knew what most of my class would think about it. As the video started, so did the snickers. The girl in front of me kept whispering to her neighbor, "That's so dumb. Porn kills what?!" and I wanted to shout, "PORN KILLS LOVE! IT KILLS MARRIAGES AND FAMILIES AND CAREERS!"

I could feel my heart beating all the way from my forehead to the tips of my toes. I felt like the video was going on forever and I wanted it to end because I knew what would happen next.

When it finally ended three hours eight minutes later, my teacher asked what our thoughts were and without another second, my hand shot up in the air. I took a deep breath and said something very similiar to this:

I know that my opinion won't be very popular among this class. I could hear the snickering and the confusion of what porn kills. I could see the eye rolls and the shaking heads. And I get it. Before last year, I didn't quite understand what pornography was capable of either. But my marriage was ruined because of pornography. My husband left me last year and my kids have had to endure our divorce and all of the pain that comes with their feelings of abandonment. Porn kills love and even if you think that statement is dramatic, I am living proof that it can be a true statement.

Pornography addiction has caused enough trauma in my life that I no longer am willing to sit in a room and not share my opinion if the subject is brought up. I knew I would not have an audience of people who understood what I have lived through but I will never regret that opportunity I had to share a part of my story with a room full of young college students.

I used to view pornography as bad mainly because of my religious beliefs but I never really knew what an addiction to pornography is capable of doing to an individual, to a marriage, and to a family.

There were some hard moments, walking around Vegas and seeing pornography and a lot of other things that made my heart so sad. This really is the world we live in.

I guess if I could just have one wish come true from all of the things I've learned it would be that each and every one of you who decides to click on my posts and read my words will do whatever you can to protect your families from pornography. And also that you'll love the people around you and have compassion. We can't understand everyone's situation but we can make a goal to try and remember that everyone has a story and everyone has trials. Try not to be hard on the people around you.

I am still alive tonight, friends. Although I've been so broken for so long, I see healing and the possibilities that come with moving on. When I look back on everything I've done this past year, I am hopeful that this next year will be full of even more growth.

God stretches me and teaches me and I am trying my hardest to learn what He wants me to learn.