10 years ago…

Ten years ago I graduated from my undergraduate work.  I work at a university so this time of year always brings back fond memories.  I cannot believe so much time has passed.  It is so hard to see how much we have changed and all that we’ve endured unless we take the moment to do so.   Here are ten things I’ve learned since graduation:

  1. Your parents want what what they think will increase happiness and decrease pain, not necessarily what is best for you.  They do this through the lens of parent love, but their wishes and hopes for you may not be what is in your best interest.  Take it with a grain of salt, consider their love for you, and do what you feel is in your best interest, not what will make them happy (I’m still learning to do this).
  2. Education is always beneficial, but it doesn’t matter what your degree is in… as long as you finish it.  So, make sure you spend the four years of college (or 11 in my case since I went on to get a PhD) studying something that inspires you.  You get a job through who you know and who you are as a person, not solely because you have the “right degree”… it doesn’t exist.  But being smart, creative, and an agile thinker will always serve you well.
  3. You will regret more of what you don’t do than of what you do.  It is better to make a move and make a mistake than to never move at all.  I saw a bumper sticker with the quote, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~John Bingham  Amen to that!
  4. Don’t stoop to another person’s level.  Since entering into the “real world” I’ve realized there are a lot of lazy, lazy, lazy, uninspired people out there… don’t be one even if you find yourself surrounded by them.  They may make more than you, have a better office, have a better title, but at the end of the day you know that you did your job to the best of your ability and then some.  Always take pride in your work.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to others.  I am very guilty of looking at others and thinking, “wow, they must have it all, they must not have the demons in their head like I do”.  This is false.  All the perfect people and families you see on Facebook are just facades.  There is always more going on than you can imagine.  So don’t compare yourself to others.
  6. Learn to forgive yourself.  I have an easier time forgiving others than I do myself. It has been one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do and I’m still not good at it.  The compassion you show others should also be shown to yourself.
  7. Never lose your enthusiasm for life.  Marvel at a sunset, take time to smell the flowers blooming, be in wonder at the beauty of a butterfly, let music wash over you, jump for joy when you hear the ice cream truck, trick or treat, believe in Santa for the night, do everything that you did as a kid.  Just because your body ages doesn’t mean your soul has to.
  8. Great friends are there when you are at your worst and at your best.  They are there when you make mistakes, they are there when you are successful.  They provide support when your soul is crushed and they laugh when your spirit soars.  You will only find one or two that are truly great friends… count your blessings when you do.
  9. You will never stop learning who you are.  The 20’s were a wild ride and so far the 30’s have been a great period of self-discovery, but you will never “figure it all out” or have a complete understanding of what you need in this life.  But always make time to get to know yourself along the way.  You may be surprised at what you learn.
  10. Serenity.  I love the serenity prayer because it is so relevant, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  The last part is the hardest for me… the wisdom to know the difference between that which I can change and that which I cannot change.

~AA

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Broken

I feel like there are so many parts of me that are broken and that, perhaps, they may never heal.  I am hopeful that they will.  That I will be stronger from all of  this.  This is more difficult than I ever thought imaginable.  I could not imagine doing this if there were children in the picture.  I feel like I’ve made so many mistakes, but that is part of life, right?  Mistakes are part of what makes life worth living.  They teach us things.  They force us to expand our hearts, to expand our ability to forgive.  Probably the most difficult thing is to forgive ourselves for our imperfections.  I have so much compassion for others, but the person I have the most difficult time forgiving is myself.  Why is that?

There are so many conflicting emotions.  I’m longing, alone, hopeful, strong, wishing to hold onto the past, wishing to move forward.  I went to my counselor today.  It was helpful.  I so needed to speak to someone.  To help me continue to move forward when all I want to do is give up.

Thank God for music.  It so resonates with me.  It helps me process the emotions that I cannot vocalize or put into writing.  Right now the song that is really sticking with me is Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper.  Some may think it too “pop”, but she’s been through so much and completely gets the underlying point of the song.  I love it.  It inspires me.  Gives me hope.  I feel like a Phoenix, but my ashes are still burning.  I haven’t risen yet.

Destroyed

I have been destroyed.  This weekend was horrific.  The only positive thing is that I think I’ve hit bottom.  I like to think of myself as a strong person, but I’m weak, I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I’m destroyed.   I keep reminding myself of that saying, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves to annihilation over and over, can we find that within us that is indestructible.”  I’ll get through this eventually, but right now I’m barely keeping it together.

This weekend J came home.  He is on a work assignment in a different state.  I was too exhausted to put energy into finding a place to stay for the weekend, plus it is my home too.  I didn’t leave.  So we were there for the weekend from Friday through Sunday.  It was hard.  It was confusing.  Saturday I went out with some friends.  I’ve come to realize that I simply don’t need to have a drink at all during this period of time.  I thought a few drinks couldn’t hurt.  Boy was I wrong.

Soon, everything started just welling up in me.  I excused myself from my friends and told them I was tired and going home.  I went to my car and just broke down.  In an effort to get out of there, I was able to drive my car a whopping 30 feet to a parking lot across the street and proceeded to fall apart.  I was so destroyed.  I couldn’t drive.  All I wanted to do was to run my car into a median or a large pole in an effort to end my life.  I was stuck in downtown, crying and completely losing it.  I didn’t know what to do, so I called the suicide hotline.  Which, by the way, was not helpful at all!

The lady told me to stop crying.  Asked why I was upset.  I told her.  She said, “well, if you’re the one who wanted the divorce, why are you crying?”  I hung up on her.  Eventually I got enough of my shit together to start making the drive home, although I shouldn’t have been driving in my state.  I wasn’t drunk, I was simply at the beginning of a nervous breakdown.  I was completely disoriented.

I made it home with great difficulty.  Started what seemed like an endless walk to my home (where J was).  I could barely get myself to walk, much less climb stairs.  I had to take breaks on the way up to the 3rd floor.  It wasn’t pretty.  Sobbing, shoes and purse clung to my chest like a doll.  When I got into the apartment, J was on the couch.  I continued to just lose it.  Wailing.  That is what I was doing.  Wailing.  My soul was so ripped apart, there was nothing to do but give in.  It was horrific.  It was terrifying.

He hugged me and held me while I collapsed on the floor.  Eventually I told him I needed to get into the shower–I find it soothing to be in a shower when I feel really terrible.  I got in the shower, but it didn’t provide me with the relief I needed.  I got a razor blade from my bathroom drawer.  I was in so much pain and distress and it wouldn’t subside.  I was so done.  I wanted it to end.

I started to try.  To let my lifeblood run free.  I pushed the razor against my skin.  It hurt.  I wanted to do it so bad.  To get it over with.  I kept trying, kept not being able to press hard enough.  J came in and took it from me.  He got in the shower and simply held me while I cried and broke down further.  He got me out of the shower and put me in bed.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t do anything.  Eventually even the tears wouldn’t come.  He stayed with me all night.  I’m glad he was there.

Sunday was difficult.  Waking up and feeling completely empty, foggy.  I play on a soccer league and in a wind ensemble.  And I had practices for both on Sunday.  I went to soccer practice, but J is on my team.  He was there.  I was physically ill.  I left early, but he walked me to my car.  He had to go back to his work assignment, so we said goodbye at the car.  He tried to kiss me.  He told me to let him kiss me.  He started telling me that he wanted me to tell him there was hope for us.  I was dumbfounded.  After all that had transpired in 24 hours he thought it was a good idea to ask me for more (earlier in the day, he told me that “sex makes you feel better”–I think he was joking, but I wasn’t really in the mood).  I proceeded to break down again, got in my car and left.

My girlfriend B came over and we went to dinner.  I’m so grateful for her.  She has been my savior through this.  I told her everything.  It is so hard to reach out to others when you are suffering so horribly b/c you don’t want to burden them and you are ashamed of the things going through your mind.  I lover her so much.  I also emailed a bit with C on Sunday.  He is so accepting of me in my most horrible form.  I’m blessed to have two people who truly love and care for me no matter what.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.  My family loves me, but they aren’t helping me.  My mom is trying.  She’s amazing, but I haven’t talked to my dad in weeks.  My brother doesn’t really know how to help, but he checks in with me from time to time.

This morning is a little better.  I’m working, so that helps me move forward. I know it will be difficult when I’m back home and I can let my guard down, but I need to let myself feel the pain and to work through the pain.  I’ve taken a leave of absence from my soccer league and the band that I play with.  I cannot deal with any additional responsibility right now.  I just need to focus on getting healthy and refocused.

Be kind to one another.

~AA

New Year

Happy New Year!  It has been a rather interesting end to 2011, but I look forward to 2012.  I feel optimistic.  J and I met a few times for lunch over the last few days.  He is heading to a work assignment out of state today and will be there through mid-February.  He then will be in Europe until mid May.  It is sad.  I miss him in many regards.  Our meetings have been very amicable and I am grateful for this.

He met with a counselor who specializes in adult children of alcoholics.  I hope this will help him. He deserves such a beautiful life, but I couldn’t do it any more.  I know there are great things for him in his life as there are for me in mine.  This has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life.

And it has given me such perspective on who my true friends are.  B and her husband K have been amazing.  They have taken such good care of me and support me without judgement.  It is a wonder.  I’ve also been confiding in a new friend, M.  This has been very good for me.  My parents don’t really know what to do and my brother is trying to figure it out as well.  So, the fact that I have two people that I can rely on is just such a blessing.  I don’t know where I’d be without them.  They’ve consistently made time for me, listen to me, comfort me, give me perspective, and have helped me begin the healing process.

I’m so grateful for today.

~AA

Better

Today is a much better day than yesterday.  Yesterday was Christmas, as you know, but it was my first Christmas alone.  It was nice and lonely at the same time.  One of my friends Skyped with me for a bit, which was so nice.  I needed to see a friendly face and to be part of some Christmas celebration even if it was virtual.  B had me over for dinner.  It was so nice.  They sent me home with so much food that I don’t even know where to begin!

Yesterday I talked to J for a bit.  I’m pleased that things seem amicable at this point.  He keeps wanting me to reconsider, but I’ve told him that I just cannot.  There are many things he needs to work on and I am simply spent.  I’m a bit on alert b/c he has called my family and my best friend (B), but I understand why he did.  I just don’t want him making an effort to turn them into his tools to get me back.

When I spoke to my mom yesterday, it wasn’t very good.  I know this is a confusing time for them.  She said things like, “you know… it is difficult enough to find someone.”  Later that day, J said the same thing.  I want him to continue having support from my family and B as needed, but I don’t want it to be b/c he is trying to manipulate the situation via my friends and family.  The most poignant thing for me yesterday was the realization that even if my family disowned me for this decision (which I know they won’t), I would still make the decision.  This is my life.  Mine alone and I have to do what is in my best interest.

As B. Clewly Johnson so aptly stated,

Follow your instincts, your intuition. Don’t stay with people who, over time, grow apart from you. Move on. This means do what you think will make you feel okay – even if that makes others feel temporarily not okay.

Be inspired.

~AA

Selfish

I’m going to be a bit of a selfish B*tch right now, but I am so f-ing sick of people who said they would be there for you and are simply not there.  What am I learning from this experience?  In addition to learning that I need NO ONE to get by in a relationship, I need NO ONE to help me.

The only people that have really been there for me have been B, my brother and my friend M.  Ridiculous.  Lesson learned.  Don’t put faith in those who have not stood next to you when you are truly in need (despite what they say).  I go to the ends of the F*cking Earth for people.

Yes, it is Christmas, but I know you have the means to give me support by a simple text or short email, but are choosing not to.  I don’t need that much.  Just a “thinking about you” would go a long way.

I wash my hands of all of those people.

~AA

Family

Family can be so complicated.  I spoke with my mom to day and it wasn’t the greatest help.  I know she’s trying to be helpful, but saying things like “well, maybe you should do counseling, perhaps you’ll work it out, you may never find someone that gives you everything you need, have you tried XYZ.”  I felt horrible.  Like a failure.  I’ve got such a positive outlook right now, but the thought of disappointing my parents is truly unbearable.  I was sobbing and not because of the divorce, but because I felt like maybe I should just stay so they won’t think less of me.

My brother is really wonderful right now.  We’ve had a relationship where he would mostly call me for support and now he’s got to give it to me.  He said he feels like our relationship has made a 180 b/c I’m always the one giving the advice and support.  But he fully supports me in this.

I will be okay.  I know they will love me.  But I do feel like I’ve let them down somehow.  It is difficult.

~AA

‘Twas the Night…

…before Christmas and I am at peace.  My life has been changed and I look forward to what lies ahead with optimism and an open heart.  This is my first Christmas alone, but I am glad to have some time to myself and I feel so loved by the most important people in my life.  It is time like these that you realize who your true friends are and those who are merely only there for the good times.

I would never say that I have had a plethora of friends, merely one or two good ones along the way.  B has been taking such good care of me.  She listens, she doesn’t judge, she genuinely cares, she loves me and wants what is best for me.  There are few people in this world that I would consider a true friend, but she has been there for me in so many ways.  True friends are the ones that are there even when it is inconvenient, they make time to get to you no matter what when you are in pain, and they provide you with unconditional support to follow your heart.

Today was a good day.  I’ve cried, have cradled my suffering and have renewed hope in the future.  I’m endlessly in awe of the power within us and the range of emotions that we are capable of experiencing when we allow ourselves to do so.

May you all have a Merry Christmas.

Be inspired.

~AA

Self Care

It appears that my greatest struggle right now is proper self care.  I’ve been good about letting myself cry, taking soothing showers and writing to help me process, but I have such a difficult time dealing with eating and making sure that I take time to do it.  It is such a low priority for me right now.  I finally broke down and made myself get some Lean Cuisine’s from Target.  It isn’t ideal, but at least it isn’t McDonald’s (which is all I do care to eat right now).

This afternoon I had a little breakdown.  I was listening to music and one of them just really got to me.  I did something that I haven’t done in years, I went to a church.  I just felt that I needed some support and I don’t want to burden others with my issues.  It was actually nice.  I’m no longer a very religious person, but I grew up Catholic.  I found the closest Catholic church (via Garmin) and went.  It was kind of nice.  I walked in, it was dark with the exception of the alter.  No one was there.  I went to the front, knelt in a pew, looked at the cross and just broke down.  It wasn’t pretty, let me tell you.  Lots of sniffling, crying, sobbing and praying.  I haven’t prayed like that in years.  Repeating the Lord’s prayer and Hail Mary over and over while I just cried.  Not feeling like I even deserved any possible redemption.

The pain can be very unbearable.  Mostly, though, I think the pain comes from the process of letting him go and the guilt that I feel.  Lots and lots of pain.  I keep looking for messages from friends, but I know it is Christmas and everyone has their own thing to deal with.  I did get some this morning, but the day has been very lonely.  This is my pain, my issue and I will get through this.  I am stronger than I know.  It will get better.  I know.  And I have faith that it will.

Support

I’ve been so blessed to have such support.  B has been a trooper.  She’s been there for me whenever I need her and has just been a great friend.  I’ve told my family and they are very supportive of my decision.  I was afraid that I would somehow be disappointing them by doing this, but that was an irrational thought.  They just want me to be happy.  I also have some other emotional support that has been invaluable in this process.

It has been interesting, the comments I’ve gotten from my family and friends.  My dad even told me that J has problems with putting up walls and pushing people away.  He was very supportive of my decision.  I think that was a little bit of a surprise in the sense that I know how much he likes J, but my happiness is more important to him.  I know this, conceptually, but I’ve always tried to be the perfect daughter and always want to make my parents proud.

There are so many factors that go into this decision and for me those included my parents expectations of me and my spiritual commitments/responsibilities.

I talked to J yesterday.  It was difficult.  It always will be, I think, at least in the beginning.  He kept telling me that he felt betrayed, that he thinks I worked myself up into this decision and now I have to follow through for some artificial reason, he asked if it would help for him to talk to my mom (he knows how much I adore her).  His actions at this point are getting very desperate.  It feels horrible that he has to have this experience, but pain is sometimes the best teacher.

I told him that this is what I want and I told him that I simply couldn’t be around him because he has too much power over me and my decisions.  I told him that when he gets back, I’ll either be at B’s place or visiting a friend out of town.  I told him that I have to protect myself and the decision that I have made.  I also told him that he needs to work some things out for himself, things that I cannot do for him.  He’s asked me to stay with him while he works through whatever I want him to work through, I told him that he needs to want to do it for himself, not because he wants to keep his wife.

Yesterday’s conversation was painful, but it was honest and given with an open heart.  I do love him, that isn’t the question.  But I have to love myself more right now and the future that I need, which includes children.  I cannot bring children into this type of relationship.  There are no compromises for me at this point.

I feel strong, but have no delusions that things will not be painful and sad along the way.  This is a healing process and I will allow myself to feel everything that I need to feel.  But mostly I feel hopeful and positive about my future.  That’s all I can really ask for at this point.

~AA