Today’s Gift

 

I came across the quote below today and it hit me that I have been pulling back from life.  So 2015 for me will be a year to identify and face my fears.

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“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ― John Lennon

(Please forgive me if the quote is not accurate.  I typically like to check first before sharing, but today affords me no time.)

Finding a Place for Me

It’s becoming clearer to me that, as the years go by, I am becoming a more and more of a rare bird. Not that I’m saying I’m totally unique. There are other childless not by choice stepmoms out there, but it’s hard for us to find each other online, let alone flock together.

After receiving a second baby shower invitation yesterday – making it two baby showers scheduled for February – I tried to fight the sinking feeling that all, if not most, of my immediate social circle was now crossed over – not a one of them has any children over 6 years-old. The depression began to surface along with the realization that things will not be the same with any of these people again.  Most get-togethers will be child-centric.  All conversation will be child or mothering-focused. I wondered, just how the heck am I fitting into this picture anymore?

Here I am.  No children of my own. With older stepchildren (23 and 17). (Let’s not even explore the fact that none of them can truly understand the complexities of the step relationship.) What have I got to add to this clambake? Can my heart even take being around all these “mommies”?

Don’t get me wrong.  These are wonderful, sweet people and I love them, but the breadth of shared experience is shrinking between me and them, and I’m starting to feel less and less “in-place.”

“We need to find friends our age without kids,” I said to Hubs as I tossed the pink and brown invitation on the counter.  Hubs sighed and nodded in agreement.   The fact is, I’ve known that this has been coming for a while now, and I’ve searched in vain for a place to find people more like me.  But a search for childless stepmoms on Meetup.com doesn’t exactly produce results.

So how do I find it?  That place for me?  A safe place to spread my wings and learn to grow and heal, so it’s not painful to be around all the moms?  I guess this has become my mission for 2015.  Wish me luck.

Run, Run, Runaway

I’m back! I think. I’m alive! Sort of.

After a too long hiatus of sorts, I’m back on the blog.  My life was thrown into chaos between health, family, and work that I had no time to devote to it.  I’m trying to find the words to even describe everything I haven’t been able express in the time I haven’t been blogging.  But I will say this,  it’s pent up. I realized it after taking a long overdue (I’m talking years) visit to my massage therapist.  I went to see him to address some neck pain I was experiencing and he was stunned at how tight my neck and shoulder muscles were.  It took him 45 minutes to even loosen the muscles before even wanted to touch my neck.  “All the thoughts that are unexpressed and all the words unspoken, that’s where they go,” I mused half to him, half to myself.

So here I sit at my keyboard trying to get some of it out.

It’s been over two years since I realized that pursuing pregnancy in my 40’s was unwise.  A decision that was backed up by my body presenting me with an autoimmune-based arthritis over a year later.  But even now the emptiness I feel because of not being able to be a “mom,” still brings me to my knees unexpectedly. I thought I’d be stronger.  I thought I’d find a surrogate that could fill the baby-shaped hole in my heart.  Something that could lighten the weight of my empty arms.  But it’s still there.

I feel alone in this.  While my husband understands, there is a part of him that cannot possibly understand because he has children.

Recently, friends of ours who have battled infertility for years found something that worked and are expecting a child early next year.  I’m thrilled for them, but also feeling left behind.  They’ve crossed over.

Another friend, a former sister-in-arms, is now on baby number three and is now doing everything she swore she wouldn’t when she was struggling.

And to add to that, another younger couple in our small group of intimates just announced their pregnancy.

Smash, Bang, Boom… all sorts of unresolved grief has now just made it’s presence known in a BIG way.  Everyone is crossing over and I feel isolated and alone.

I’m struggling with this. Wondering why God said, “N0.” Especially when I witness everyone else seemingly getting their, “Yes.”

For the past two years I have been fighting against it. Trying to turn the lemons into lemonade. Trying to find a source of fulfillment.  Trying to give back.  Trying to re-channel my grief… and failing.  Throwing energy into church. Throwing way too much energy into work. Trying to financially hold my family together. Encouraging Hubs to get this parenting act together. Some of this is done out of necessity, some out of hope, and some out of sheer desperation.  But I’m coming to a breaking point. I’m tired.  And I’m angry.  I want to disappear.

It occurs to me that I don’t even have a sense of me any more. Where did I go? Did I miss something? Was I too concerned that my grief was so prolonged that I tried to bypass acceptance completely? Or is my grief, anger and pain about this a security blanket?

All I know is this: something is missing in my heart. I watch friends who are moms interacting with their children and my arms ache to hold the children I’ve lost. I see my pregnant friends in celebration, doing all the things I dreamed of doing when I first found out I was pregnant, and I yearn to have that experience. I see my MIL gush with pride over my two-year-old nephew and I feel so disconnected from that side of the family, because I couldn’t give her a grandchild. I see my Skid acting so distant from me, and wonder if I had been able to give him a brother or a sister if it would have made us feel more connected to each other.

I’m left wondering if this ever goes away. Wondering that if in my mad scramble not to become the woman who holds onto to her grief too long, I’ve in reality prolonged this. All I know is that I cannot stand it anymore. I’m tired of falling apart every time someone announces a pregnancy. (Yeah, I’m looking at you Kate Middleton.)

I need to step away from trying to find fulfillment in helping others and start helping myself.  It’s like the drill you hear before take off.  I need to put my air mask on first before I can assist others.

It’s time to stop running and face this grief head on.

 

 

 

 

Aside

Ode to a Bad Day: Remembering What It’s All About

Last week I was having one of those bad days.  Not so much in that my day was riddled with a series of  unfortunate incidents that would someday become an amusing anecdote.  It was bad day because of state of my mind and heart.
I was worried that Skid had been making some very bad decisions, ones that could effect our family.  I was hurting for Hubs, because he was agonizing over how best to correct things. I was concerned for family members hundreds of miles away who had just experienced one death in the family and were now facing another.  I was stressed about my job as organizational changes were causing a ripple of  job eliminations. I felt conflicted because some dear friends of ours started their first round of IUI. While I was happy and hopeful for them, the baby-shaped space in my heart made itself heard as well.

It was a lot of weight; I had very little muscle to move it.  It was enough to make me want to lay my head on my desk and give up. But I didn’t.  Instead, I directed it elsewhere.

I donated money that would allow a child in foster care to have a nice present and cake on his birthday. I sent encouraging cards to my far away relatives.  I extended a helping hand to coworker who was struggling with a problem.  I smiled at the cashier at the drug store.  I gave grace even when I could find none for myself and my burden began to feel lighter.  It wasn’t going away. I still have to deal with stresses, but they felt a lot less cumbersome.

This I feel is the essence of Christianity.  Knowing the feeling of peace and the power of grace and, instead of just hoarding it for yourself, passing it on.  Putting yourself aside and reaching out others whose needs are greater than yours.
Any bad day pales in comparison to the Biblical accounts of the crucifixion of Christ. He had been beaten, mocked, had a crown thorns thrust upon his head, and nails were driven into his nails in his hands and feet, and the Roman soldiers were gambling for the remnants of his clothing.  That’s a bad day right there!  But even in the midst of all this, Jesus still found the love and compassion ask for forgiveness of his tormentors and reassure the repentant thief that was crucified beside him. He remained true to his purpose: to extend God’s grace to mankind.

Just think for a moment about your worst day ever and how you may have acted. Then think about yourself in that situation. How many of us would have cursed the soldiers   How many would have told the thief  “I’m kinda having a bad day here. Don’t really have it in me to deal with your problem today. Can you give me some space?”

I’m far from perfect.  In fact, if I had a quarter for every time I rolled my eyes at someone in public, I wouldn’t have to worry about my job!  But I’d like to change. I’d like to get to point where grace becomes a permanent part of my mindset.  Where I could remember put my burden down in order to help another with his.

I don’t think that Christianity is closed-system.  It’s not simply about my relationship with God.  It’s how that relationship extends beyond me.  Isn’t that what Christ’s example is really all about?

So today, as I my concerns and troubles continue to mount, I need to ask myself what can I do to help someone else with theirs?

When WordPress Attacks! Apologies

Oh my goodness!  What a crazy morning this has been.  And when I received a nice little pick me up, I went to share it.  Then (Cue the Jaws soundtrack) Wordpress when crazy on me this morning and posted and posted and posted some more!  AAACCCCKKK!

I did not mean to blast you with repeated messages this morning!  Please forgive me for of the bombardment.  All the extra posts were deleted, but I can’t retract all the emails that have been sent out.  (Sigh) No good deed goes unpunished!  

Have a great day all!

Little Gift of Guidiance That I Received Today

Little Gift of Guidiance That I Received Today

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Thankful Thursday: Four Years and Four Days

I realize that it has been awhile since I regularly posted here.  August was a weird, emotionally “bouncy” month.  I’ve had to take time to process how I’ve been feeling as well as distract my mind with other topics.

Today’s Thankful Thursday is in remembrance of an important day, and anticipation of a much needed respite.

 

Four Years –

11 years ago today, I married K.  I only was granted four years of marriage to him, but they were four great years.  We both had good jobs and a quaint little home in an 40’s bungalow.  We enjoyed travelling together, and enjoyed exploring wineries and breweries and were just as comfortable dining at dives as well as fine restaurants.  We ate dinner every night in our dining room with the television on in the other room, so we could answer the questions on “Jeopardy!” while we discussed our days.   K was hesitant to have children because of his limited physical abilities and heart condition, but we were still open to adoption if we ever had the resources.  But overall, we were pretty content.

I’ll admit that there are days I long to go back to that time.   Those days were not always perfect, but they were happy ones, even at the end when trips to the ER became an almost bi-weekly event.  I am extremely grateful that had those years with K, and today is special reminder of those years.

Four Days –

The girls are coming!  Yes.  We’ve made it happen – the second annual girls weekend is next week!  The three crazy broads are back!  Last time we got together, I laughed harder than I had in long time.   I really need this weekend to shake off the pressure that has been placed on me by others expectations of me recently. These girls are scattered across the map, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.  So I’m taking advantage of my time with them. Every woman needs time like this with her girls.

 

 

 

When Seeking Prayers for Strength, Avoid the Interweb.

This has been a tough year, and yesterday was no exception.  While I’ve been struggling with giving up my Mommy hopes, there has been a pregnancy that’s been running parallel to my situation.  And yesterday, the baby arrived.  I did not think that I would take it as badly as I did.  But, “Whoop, there it is.”

2012 has been the “Year of Tears” for me.  Especially since my doctor confirmed that, at my age, chances are slim for a healthy natural pregnancy.  “Egg donation, surrogate, or adoption are more viable options,”  said the learned doctor.  And since Hubs and I don’t have the resources of  say a Bill and Guiliana,  I’ve had to try to cope with the loss of that dream while still grieving my two previous pregnancy losses.  This is not something that is easy to “settle into.”  Letting go of a lifelong expectation – a dream of which I THOUGHT was my calling – has been a tough, draining journey.  Not one day has gone by where I haven’t shed tears.

It is a process.  I am all at once trying to renew my faith and find a new purpose while grieving and yearning for what cannot be.  I feel both forsaken and blessed at the same time.  My emotions rotate on axes of  surrender and rage, peace and sorrow, grief and hope.  If you get them all whirling fast enough, you’ll see a blending together that translated into the hot mess that was me after yesterday’s birth announcement.

So last I night I went in search of some sort of comforting prayer to give me strength on the one place I probably shouldn’t: the Internet.  In search results for “prayers for strength, childlessness,” I received a number of results that referred to “the curse of childlessness.”  Really???  A curse is what you call it?  Sure, that’s how it feels sometimes, but think about what that implies!

This is only amplified by a few run ins with equally insensitive messages received from unexpected places recently.  Such as the trip to the Christian bookstore in search of a keepsake gift for the baby in question.  As I searched the shelves, I came across one of those frames for the birth certificate that read, “We prayed for blessing and God gave us you.”   That was enough to send me out of the store in tears.  Then earlier this week, someone posted a baby picture that was met with the comment, “A reward for a life well-lived for Jesus.”   So if I was “this is a sign” kind of woman, all this would have me conclude that the fact my prayers were not answered on the baby front means I have not lived my life well, and therefore I am cursed not to have a child of my own.  Really? Ugh.

Well, I refuse to believe that.  Despite my at times grouchy exterior and my propensity to bitch like there is no tomorrow when really riled up, I’ve always had faith and hope.  I’ve never let any of what has happened to me – including losing my first husband or my babies – shake my belief in the goodness of God.  So when I hear or see things like that I get very upset.  So now, fueled by this fire,  I’m taking matters into my own hands with my own prayer(done my way):

This Childless Woman’s Prayer

Blessed Lord,

I am hurting, and you know why

I’m not asking you to change the situation

Nor am I blaming anyone (and that includes myself)

What?   O.K., you caught me in a lie.  I sometimes do blame myself.  You’re right. I shouldn’t.

I know this is just one of mountains in life that I am destined to climb, but I can’t do it alone.

Thank you so much for what I do have in this life

I apologize for sometimes failing to recognize it.

This is especially true when Skid or Hubs don’t replace the toilet paper rolls or “forget” to hang up towels they’ve used,  and… What?  You’re right.  I digress.

What I mean to say is help me to remember to take joy in my blessings.  As much as I grumble about living with messy boys, I love the stuffing out them.

I know getting rid of this emptiness in my heart is a process.

I ask that you grant me the strength and the patience to get through.

This is especially true when dealing with others who just don’t get it  (You know who I’m talking about, and it includes those who write really stupid things on the Intertubes)

Give me the courage to forgive and love these people just the same.

And thank you for blessing me with the restraint to prevents me from slapping them silly.   That would be bad. Wouldn’t it? Give me a sign if it’s NOT bad.  Nothing? O.K.  Thought not.  Moving on.

I know that deep down, this is all part of what I need to go through in order to be the person you created me to be.

And I pray you give me the wisdom to recognize the opportunities in my path.

But I am going to slip up Lord, because the Mommy dream in a strong one.

It’s hard watching others who are blessed with it and not ache so badly for a child of my own.

I need courage to step away from what I thought should be to be closer to who You need me to be.

I told you before K died, ” I can tell You what I want, but it’s Your will not mine.”

So you know I’m willing.  I just need an assist to know and do what is Your plan for me.

And if that somehow includes someone who calls me Mom, then that’s cool too.  I won’t complain either way.  What?  You’re right.  Who am I kidding? 

Thanks again for all Your blessings.

Amen.

 

I Am The Face Campaign

 

Every single day in the US, 2,000 women lose a baby to pregnancy/infant loss. That’s 700,000 a year, a quarter of every female in this country. So why does no one talk about it?

I AM THE FACE is Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope‘s annual pregnancy/infant loss awareness campaign. Through it, we are “putting a face” on miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. We are sharing our faces, and declaring to the world, “I am not ashamed to talk about my baby.”

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23 Times Bitten…

Have you ever watched the cartoon “Home Movies?”  If you haven’t, I encourage it.   The show revolves around a highly imaginative third-grader named Brendon Small who directs and stars in movies that he produces in his basement with his two best friends, Jason and Melissa.  The show is full of witty banter between the kids as they make movies, which end up being parodies of popular films and specific genres, and send ups of conventions within modern culture for the cartoon’s audience.  These children are also surrounded by highly ineffectual adults:  a lazy, booze-hound soccer coach; a milque-toast, “trying to do right thing” teacher; and a cast of divorced parents with neurotic tendencies.  In their interactions with the adults, the children usually end up sounding a lot smarter and more mature to intended comic effect.

In one particular episode, Brendon is chosen to direct the school musical “Bye-Bye Greasy.”  After Brendon casts himself into a starring role, the school bully decides that it should be his part.  While the bully is strong-arming Brendon in a scene, the teacher, Mr. Lynch, approaches the two and ends up in giving a “stern” warning for the bully, “You are two strikes away from violation of my 23 strikes and you’re out policy!”

While it’s funny, I have to wonder how many times I’ve given twenty-second chances in the name of being nice or fair to people who clearly haven’t shown any regard for me, and just how ineffectual such exercises have been.

Having been brought up as a Christian, I’ve had the phrase, “Turn the other cheek” ingrained in my psyche.  So giving people the benefit of the doubt and untold chances always seemed like the right thing to do.   However, if we are to honor God, shouldn’t we also honor ourselves?  If someone is consistently treating us badly, should we not protect our hearts and not let them drain our energy?   The two major challenges in my life – dealing with childlessness not by choice and living life as a stepmom- have brought this dilemma to the forefront of my life.   I’m grieving, and I need to be a little nicer to myself and give myself to space to heal.  In the past year, I’ve really had to work at establishing boundaries for myself, but it has not been easy.

Typically, the hardest of all is trying to limit ties to people who time and again have shown that they are not at all interested in two-way relationships (and are therefore probably people who I would not deliberately seek out as friends), but a shared person keeps the spheres of our lives entwined.  These are people with whom I have tried on several occasions to maintain good relationships only to either be rebuffed or used.

Even examining what should have been “final straw” moments – trying to reach out only to be ignored or walked away from or continually doing favors for someone, then being told I was out of line in asking when I needed something.   It is clear these really were not relationships.   Relationships require the capacity for give and take and empathy.  If someone does not display either on a consistent basis, it is a red flag that they more than likely are a toxic person.  I’m learning to take a definitive “arm’s-length” approach to such people in my life.

It’s sad, I wished these relationships could be different for the sake of the mutual people in our lives, but these people have clearly shown it’s their way or the highway and they are not interested in truly “seeing” me as anything more to a means to an end, neither are the basis for a healthy relationship.  Therefore, they must be kept at a safe minimum distance.

The funny thing is that when you start acting vigilant about your boundaries, you tend to over compensate.  We recently had an issue with fleas at work.  I was getting bitten and experiencing severe allergic reactions to the bites.   To be on the safe side, I went to the doctor and as we were discussing the situation, she told me that these situations were troubling because even long after the situation was resolved, I’d more than likely feel like every itch was due to a flea bite.   I think that when I am talking to new people, it’s the extremely similar in that I wonder if I can trust my instincts.  I catch myself questioning everything they say and analyzing every behavior that seems selfish or controlling.   Is it a flea bite or just an itch?

So to keep it simple, I studied a few resources on toxic people and relationships, and even delved into some abnormal psychology resources.    Here are a few key markers that I’ve learned to look for:

  • Do they stand by their word?
  • Do they take action or just give lip service?
  • Do they take time to make it about others, and not just about themselves?
  • Are they willing to step back and let others take the spotlight?
  • Are they willing to admit mistakes?

If the answers to these are “yes”, then chances are it’s just and itch.  A word caution:  if you are a” 23 times bitten, 24 times shy” person like me, take it slow.

Sometimes toxic people will court others in an attempt to recruit them.  So a person may shower with complements, gifts, or favors in order the get you on their side, so  it takes time for a toxic person to show their hand.  When they do, you’ll notice subtle changes in the relationship:  veiled or overt put downs, lack of reciprocity, or a feeling like you are being manipulated.  Toxic people have a way of projecting their worst behaviors and fears onto others and are not above employing “crazy making” behaviors to turn the tables and make their victims question their perception of the situation, their innate goodness, and even their own sanity.

This best rule of thumb in dealing with a toxic person is to avoid them at all costs, but if you must be in relationship with them, know your limits and set your boundaries up front.  Do NOT feel bad about saying “no.”   Toxic people know that guilt is their best weapon and will use it to manipulate others. Once you realize that, and drop any feelings of guilt about your boundaries, you render them powerless over you.  In fact, you may find that the toxic person will simply begin to ignore you.  While this may be upsetting or even sad,  realize you are better off in the long run.

Keep yourselves strong and respect yourself!

Love and blessings to everyone!

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