Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Learning to Let Go

Last night I shared a delicious dinner with a close friend who the universe seems to bring into my life at pivotal points and who helps me identify and take the next steps forward along my path.

Last night we talked about the pain of what was uncovered in trauma therapy and how at first it suffocated me like an unmovable weight, a shame I was too scared to share with anyone. And then eventually the past experiences began to feel empowering; I saw I wasn't broken because of things that happened my past, I was strong despite these events. 

Now I'm learning to find my voice and use it when I need to speak up about my thoughts or feelings. But my voice is still shy and timing, for fear that if I use it, I might be rejected or left. That if I actually let go and am just be myself, I may look around to find that no one is left standing with me.

He encouragingly told me that one of the most important, if not the singular most important thing to a child is a feeling of safety and acceptance.  I've never felt safe, I have routine nightmares that linger as a result. He told me it was safe to let go and safe to be myself. Safe to shed the 'shoulds' and stop holding everything inside for fear of what the outside world might think of they knew what was underneath.

But the thing is, I don't even know how to start. How do you start being yourself? How do you get your verbal words and physical actions to align with your true feelings on the inside? The truth of who I am gets distorted as it tries to make its way out into the world. It is incredibly hard to just live as you, without twisting yourself into a pretzel, trying to create some version of your truth that is perceived as more acceptable.

The thing about twisting yourself into a pretzel too much is that eventually you snap. It adds resistance and difficulty to every day life. Imagine the freedom that must come with letting go and letting it flow. Not spending energy on worrying what people will think or how it will land. Letting go of the pursuit of perfection and letting flow the pursuit of being yourself.

Living self-care, empathy, connectedness, vulnerability, and authenticity in each moment is the only healthy way to move forward, but it takes a lot of effort to learn how to put down the weight of expectations, perfection, acceptance, and fear of not being good enough.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Reality of Being the Odd Mom Out

I adore the show, “Odd Mom Out” for its cunning wit and sharp sarcasm in the depiction of the relatable feeling of not fitting into the phenomenon known as a ‘mom group’.  The show focuses on microcosm of a group of wealth moms from the Upper East Side who mostly have the same environmental variables. The hilarious difference is in the moral grounding of the main character, Jill Weber, that leads to conflicting parenting priorities as compared to her head-in-the-clouds socialite family and extended circle of friends.

However, despite the hilarity of the high-pressure parenting expectations of New York’s social elite, 
many single moms experience the true reality of feeling like the odd mom out on a daily basis. Single, working moms are the minority, usually not heard from because we are too busy trying to keep our kids, career and home afloat without missing a beat.  We are underrepresented and inaccurately portrayed on television; I’ve never met a single mom as relaxed as Lorelai on the “Gilmore Girls” and there are few, if any, other referenceable examples of starring solo mom roles.   

Unlike on television, in real life single moms set our own expectations that we need to fill the rolls of both mom and dad, resulting in a self-imposed a bar requiring 200% effort at all times so our children will be minimally impacted by a two-household lifestyle.

I’ve been a single mom since my daughter was an infant and I’ve spent the last five years feeling like the odd mom out. At first, the feeling of being the odd mom out manifested itself at birthday parties, where I was the only single parent (I don’t know where the 50% divorce rate statistic exists, but it is not in the Pre-K set).  I thought the other moms assumed something must be wrong with me that I didn’t have a husband in tow. Or worse, if my daughter got a ‘boo boo’, I was terrified of being judged for not successfully preventing every possible scrape or bruise.  So I kept to myself in a nice cozy corner and spent the time mindfully examining my piece of birthday cake as if I were a pastry-obsessed Sherlock Holmes.

During the course of raising a five-year-old, many special occasions have presented an opportunity to do cutesy things for holidays, teacher recognition, birthdays, etc.  Pinterest has provided a platform for resourceful DIY moms to construct adorably creative crafts, gifts and accessories for all occasions. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “you should check this out on Pinterest”, I would have enough for my daughter’s college tuition! Despite my lack of culinary expertise, I once attempted to make “easy pizza twists” which turned out looking like a volcano had melted down on my stove top. Being craft-challenged and time-restricted, every birthday in my house has been filled with store-bought goody bags and each teacher appreciation event has been accompanied with a gift card; and I have a Pavlovian-level cringe response every time I hear the word Pinterest. 

The one thing single moms have is time to themselves. Many married moms tell me are jealous that I have ‘time to myself’, but I’m sure if they had legally obligated time away from their children, they would not covet this ‘free time’. Either way, I made single friends who like to go out, see some concerts, and check out new hot spots.  But I quickly learned that singles go out on a whim, and many nights I had my daughter and couldn’t drop everything to hit up the cool event that evening.  I enjoyed single-life gossiping about dating successes and hilarious failures but my stories were also peppered with the saga of losing baby teeth and the funny things my daughter would say at dinner. 
Feeling disheartened and disconnected, my odd mom out sensitivity reached a breaking point when, at an elementary school fair, my daughter’s feelings were hurt when her two friends hopped on a ride that only allowed two kids at a time. Despite my continual efforts to reassure her that they did not leave her out and they did want to play with her, that it was purely the bad timing of the break in the line – she melted down and sat on a hill, sobbing with hurt feelings. I sat down next to her and my eyes welled up with tears because I couldn’t honestly say I felt any differently. I looked around and desperately wanted to find another single parent at the event who could empathize but it was clear this was solely on my shoulders.  I started to wonder how I was going to be enough support her for the next 13 years of her grade school life.

And just when I was sure the evidence was damning enough to prove I was, in fact, the odd mom out, my daughter’s friends’ parents came over and reached out to us. They shared stories of how they helped their children with similar sensitivities. They repeatedly offered help anytime I needed it, telling me that I can’t be afraid to ask when I need a helping hand. And they talked about future fun things for our kids to do together. That night, we all walked home together in a group of giggly kids, babbling toddles and ever-tired yet jovial adults. 

At the end of the evening, I stopped to observe the scene and I realized I was never the odd mom out. Just because my situation is not the same as other families, as parents and children, we were no different.  Moreover, the same parents who reached out to me at the fair were also at those initial birthday parties. It wasn’t just me who was worried about being judged for what might happen to my daughter – it was every mother.  And the Pinterest moms who have enviable creative skills, resources and time – well they have told me they don’t know how I do it. They don’t judge my store bought party favors, they are impressed I pull together a fun party for my daughter year after year.

Although single moms frequently feel like the odd mom out, not fitting neatly in with any one social circle, the fact is that we fit in to all circles. We have the spirit of being single and active and we have the worries that come with being a mother.  I will be forever thankful for that night where I realized we are all in this together, raising our children to the best of our abilities and offering a hand when someone needs a little extra help.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

This is a Love Story

Beautifully written story about Amy Chan, a author and blogger, and her path to find love.

It was a breathe of fresh air to read my has very much been my story in someone else's words. A must-read: http://justmytype.ca/love-story/

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Radical healing - as of June 2016

I've written very sparsely over the last year or so because there has been so much change I haven't known how to articulate it. From a trip to Rwanda to moving into our new house, I finally felt in control of my life and the path I was choosing.  As the new year rang in, I realized I've spent the last five years taking care of everyone else but I knew nothing of self-case for me.  I decided to embark on a path of 'Radical Healing' physically, emotionally and energy wise.

Physically I sought out a chiropractor, massage therapist, joined the gym and started to pay more attention to how what I ate and how I slept affected my well being.

Emotionally, I started EMDR, a specific type of therapy meant to help you process past traumas so that you no longer relive them in the moment but remember them as a memory - they become a part of your past, no longer a part of your present. To successfully do this, you dig deep into the infected wound and clear out each and every piece that contributed to the infection, giving the wound a chance to heal. Once you can see things clearly, you can learn what you need to do to set healthy boundaries and have a voice in your life so that the wound may finally heal.

A third part of radical healing is mentally finding balance. This involves recognizing that good self care involves quality time with oneself. I've learned to calm down when I'm alone - disassociate being alone with being unlovable and instead associate being alone with a loving to myself.  I also took up guitar lessons to give my mind and creativity some exercise. And I've been writing more often, knowing that if I right it out, I can regulate myself from almost any trigger.
We have arrived at the half way point in the year and I would say I am half way better. The intensity of feelings and pain is not less but the length of which they hit is shorter and perspective more easily steps in, allowing for greater resiliency.  I will say physically and emotionally it has been one of the most painful paths I have ever walked - cleaning everything out, digging right down to the bottom of my soul, seeing the truth of who I am and where I've been - it is scary. And I'm nervous about the next steps - does this path end in a place of peace? I can't see the ending right now but I can feel the improvement and the difference in thoughts and emotions along the way.