Save Yourself

One day. Be patient. Keep preserving. You’ll get there. Stay positive. You’ll get everything you deserve. Keep pushing forward. Good things will come.

What a difference a year can make. On this day last year I laid in bed hurt, physically and emotionally. I did not know what to do or say. Soon I’d receive phone calls that forced me to say something. I let it out. All the secrets I had felt necessary to keep. Nearly 4 years of terrible, ugly things that I kept inside and very few people knew about. I sobbed, asked why me. Why do these terrible things keep happening to me?

Through the past 12 months there were forced glimmers of hope. Times I felt like things were turning a positive corner.

Hindsight is 20/20.

I’ve had to make some pretty hard, life changing decisions. Things I wanted to run from rather than deal with. I’m so glad I dealt with it all.

The hardest of all the decisions I had to make was the one to put myself first. My whole life I always did for others first and myself last. I went into a profession where I’d do the same. I was unselfish in every aspect of my life. I thought this was the best way and only way to live and be happy. At 27, almost 28, I learned this was so far from the truth. I was silly to think it was. After all, I preached “self-love” and nurturing yourself in order to nurture others. I often told the “airplane” story. The one where we have to put on our masks first when in an emergency situation and then help others, because if we don’t help ourselves eventually our own air runs out and what good are we to others if we are dead?

I found myself crashing, completely exhausted. They refer to it as Compassion Fatigue. I needed to start taking care of me, and doing it first. I had to start right away and go all in, no little by little. I did it. I did it all the way. It was not easy. I lost people along the way, both by my choice and theirs. I miss the memories, but I don’t miss the way these people drained me. I learned who gave me life, and those who sucked it out of me. And through this I also learned how to recognize who is who sooner rather than later.

I am happier, more full of life and love. I realized how thin I was spreading myself and how little love I was actually able to give because of it. I feared that loving myself would prevent me from giving love to others. This was so far from the truth. The more I love myself, the more love I have to give. I am selfish with my love. I love all who enter my life, whether they bring life or try to suck it out, I choose to love them anyway. One thing I learned not to do is give my love in the form of my time to those who are not doing the same for me. They say life is about give and take. I can see how that can be, but I choose to look at life differently. It’s about give and give. I give life to you and you give the same to me.

Love and be loved. Share a smile with someone. Remain positive, despite the negativity that may surround you. Rise above when someone tries to bring you down. Forgive those who hurt you, but don’t forget how they made you feel. Take everything as a lesson, learn from it, and put it into practice. Wake up each day with the idea that it is a new opportunity to be better and do better. And above all else, love yourself madly, fiercely and compassionately.

 

-SM

Advertisements

My Mind

My mind, it knows no boundaries as it rests and dreams of you. 
It’s not just in the late night hours that my mind finds its way back to you. 
It wakes up in the early morning hours, too, reaching out for you. 
It travels throughout the day, searching for your sweet smell. 
It often wanders to places deep within itself. 
Thinking of your smile, your hair, your lips, the creases in your skin. 
My mind, it wonders, does your mind think of it?

The Walls. 

The following is a poem I wrote at a time when the grief of losing my father was almost unbearable. I was away at college and often received phone calls from my oldest sister about things that were going on at home. Though I’m the 2nd youngest of 10, I was relied on as if I were the oldest, or had all the answers, even at 19 years old. I witnessed my family grow further and further apart. My relationship with my mom was pretty much nonexistent and getting all my siblings together was a headache. We were all grieving separately and in our own ways. I had emailed and shared this with my entire family, including aunts, uncles and cousins who lived out of state. My hope of sharing it at the time with everyone was to get them to wake up and see we are not heading in the right direction. It didn’t happen right away but we eventually found our way back to each other. I have no idea if this poem impacted that at all. 

“The Walls”
2 years, 8 months, 24 days, 29 minutes
“Tick Tock,” goes the clock.
They walls don’t move,
But yet, they rock.
How do we stop it?
How did it start?
A family together, falling apart.
Now it’s clear.
We sit in fear.
I try to move forward.
Once strong, now a coward.
The clock keeps moving.
But we sit still.
They say free time is time to kill.
But what is free about death?
No time is free, no time will rest.
You either move with it, or get lost in it.
But no matter, you cannot forget it.
Piece by piece, tick by tick
The walls crumble brick by brick.
We need some spackle, or some clay,
Or maybe just one more day.
It hides within us, waiting to emerge.
Dig deep, find the urge.
Step up, speak out!
Come now! Relieve this doubt.
Stand together more now than ever.
Not one by one, but side by side.
Before the ceiling and floor collide.

one day at a time

We’ve all heard it. And have even rehearsed it to ourselves over and over again. 

One day at a time. You just have to take things one day at a time, you will be okay, one day at a time. 

I’ve heard this a lot over the last few months as I go through my divorce. I’ve heard it so often from so many caring and good-intentioned people that it has made me think (and also become annoyed). 

Do we really have any other choice? What is the alternative to “taking things day by day”? Taking it on every other day? I don’t think life works like that. Sure, eventually it won’t be a daily struggle. Eventually we won’t struggle with it at all (hopefully, right!). Until then it’s either taking it head on every day, day by day, or just giving up all together. 

So what am I learning? I wish I had the answers. All I know is you have to do it. You have to take it on. You have to live it, breathe it and yell it out. You have to acknowledge that it’s there and that you are struggling. Rejoice in the days that it doesn’t feel so bad and get mad at the days when it doesn’t. It will be an up and down battle. Just ride out the waves. 

I also have come to realize that there is no time limit on when you’ll get through it. So, my advice to anyone having to “take it day by day” is to throw that expectation out the window! After all, expectation is the root of all evil (and heartbreak). My heart has been broken by someone, I won’t continue to break my own heart. It’s hard not to feel that aching “when will this just be over?!” feeling. Believe me, after 3 months of being separated from my ex and her already moved in with someone else, I have thought and felt this often! 

I’ve also thought, “Why me?!” Why can’t I just be more like her and just move on? Well, I’m not her and, thankfully, I’ll never be her. Now, I won’t sit here and bash my ex, because I loved her deeply and will care about her always. What I will explain to you is this: there are two different types of people in this world. There are people who make things look “easy” as they can quickly move on, seeming unaffected by things. These people oftentimes are even able to express themselves eloquently quoting some inspirational quote about letting go and moving on after heartbreak. Great, you can read! Sorry, I shouldn’t get so snarky. I can tell you, though, these people are just really good at putting on a front like they have moved on when they actually have yet to truly confront, feel and deal with anything. Not to say they never feel pain, rather they feel it and run from it. They become so good at it, too. It makes me jealous at times. Then I remember the other type of people in this world. People like you and I. People that feel deeply and madly. People that have been hurt, but continue to open themselves up, because to them there’s no other way to truly love and live life. It hurts and cuts deep, but it also allows us to feel happiness greater. You see, when you allow yourself to truly feel everything that happens in your life, you are able to grow emotionally. While we may wish we didn’t feel negative emotions, it’s those emotions that help us to recognize and appreciate the positive emotions. 

When our hearts break we feel empty. There’s now this void that seems impossible to be filled. And the more we hurt the bigger the hole. A hole that will be filled again, eventually, and only filled by happiness, because happiness is related to the feeling of wholeness. You see that hole from a broken heart may feel large, but imagine just how much happiness is going to fill it! It may sound cliché, but I have to believe it’s true. That’s just the type of person I am. I have seen and felt too much pain throughout my life to believe that “happily ever after” doesn’t exist. 

I may not be there, yet. I don’t know when I will get there, but I will get there. One day at a time, day by day.

you are what you eat

I recently found something out that could have changed the course of my life and it is a really hard thing to shake off.

Before my wife and I decided to file for divorce fights often ensued due to our financial situation. I was no longer in a job making the money I once was and, though we were making ends meet, it wasn’t enough for the things we wanted to do with our life together. There was a glimpse of hope as I applied to a specific job referred to me by our good friend who ultimately helped get me in for an interview. The interview went so well that I thought for sure I’d get hired. After weeks of not hearing anything back I finally got an email stating they filled the position with someone else. It was such a let down. Fast forward a few month to now and I’m finding out that I was actually going to be offered the position but HR didn’t follow through on their end, and, politics involved, bypassed the request to make the offer to me, offering the job to someone they knew personally.

This stung! Of course my first thought was, “This would have saved my marriage!”

But would it have? Who knows, and honestly, I can’t think it would have. Money wasn’t our only issue.

It’s hard not to play the “what if” game, especially when I feel so stuck in my current situation. It’s even harder to convince myself that no matter how many scenarios I play out, I never truly know how things would have turned out. The only thing that’s certain is it didn’t work out that way and I have to let go of the idea that I could have changed anything.

But, how do I do that?

I’m learning that you can’t keep living in a state of hope. I had hoped it would have worked out this way or that way. IT DIDN’T. That’s the harsh reality.

I’m also learning that we have less control over our lives than we think. You can Control your mind, your words, your actions and your reactions, but that’s about it. You can’t control everything that happens to you. Just like you can’t control how people feel about you. You can only control how you put yourself out there and hope it’s received in a positive manner.

This has also caused me to take a closer look at my life and the events, people and choices that have lead up to my current situation.

I’m starting to truly understand the meaning of “you are what you eat” or better yet, you are a reflection of what and who you surround yourself with.

Even if we believe we are stronger or better than what’s around us, eventually it seeps in and becomes part of us. Imagine having a healthy lifestyle. You exercise regularly and eat relatively healthy. One day you might decide to grab fast food for dinner. You reason with yourself that it’s okay because you don’t do it often. A few days later you are running late and forget your lunch at home. Instead of stopping somewhere with healthier options you just grab something quick from McDonald’s. The weekend comes and friends invite you out and after a night of drinking you stop for pizza and splurge on a soda. “Just this week” you tell yourself. You’ll work it off at the gym, anyhow. This soon starts to become a habit. You maintain your gym regiment, but start to feel it’s harder to get through your workouts. You start to skip a day here and there, and soon you stop going all together. You’re too tired to cook so you order in. Fast forward a couple months and you’ve gained weight, your sleep cycle is irregular and your work is starting to slip. You attribute all this to stress or maybe a relationship issue you’re having, not realizing how your habits have affected you. This can be said about the type of people you surround yourself with. You were always a level-headed and driven individual. Your friends often admired and looked up to you. You’re friends, though, tend to talk more about their ambitions than do anything to reach their goals. The more you hang out with these people the less motivated you become. After all, you’ve accomplished far more than they have at this point in your life, so it’s okay to relax a bit. Soon you all seem to be in the same place in life. The only thing is, they haven’t really moved much up the ladder. Overtime you become so unhappy with your situation that you start to take it out on the ones closest to you, maybe you change a job or go as far as to quit your job without having another lined up. You had enough in your savings to get by for a little bit and you deserve a break anyways. With your resume you’ll find something new in no time! Weeks turn to months and now you’re scrambling to find a job. Anything would do at this point. You’re having to settle for less than you had before, just something to get by until you find something better. Now everything is suffering. Your physical and emotional health are being negatively impacted. What do you do now? How do you get out of this hole? You feel so depressed.

It’s time to reevaluate. You feel you don’t have the time to really sit down and evaluate all aspects of your life, but you do. As long as you are living and breathing, you have the ability to analyze your current situation and make the appropriate changes. It won’t be easy. It will actually be pretty hard at first. It will be worth it.

Where do you start? You start with yourself. How do you see yourself? How do you talk about yourself? Is it positive? If not, start. Start with the way you think about yourself, life and your relationships. Feed your mind with positivity and it will shine through in all aspects of your life. You may realize that some of those friendships you had, the ones you started to spend a lot of time with, are not actually positive ones. You start to notice how your body feels after eating a McDouble meal and downing a Diet Coke. You cut it out. Cut it all out of your life. Now, I’m not saying you necessarily have to remove all of these friendships from your life. You may just need to reprioritize and create boundaries. Limit yourself to how often you go out for a night of drinks.  If those friends truly care about you, they’ll understand why you aren’t going out so much and are focusing more on your health and ambitions. If they cause more drama and stress over the situation, well, you know what to do. Cut them out. They are not good for you. Surround yourself with people that motivate you. Yes, it feels great to be that friend of the group that is the motivator, but how do you sustain that? Who or what is motivating you? We all need someone or something to rely on for those times when we feel we are lacking that extra push to reach a goal. It could be a friend, a popular motivational speaker you watch online, meditation or maybe it’s a book. Whatever it is, you have to make time for it and prioritize accordingly. We all need that fun night out with friends every once in a while. Don’t starve yourself of this if it’s something you enjoy. Just don’t allow it to take away from the other things you enjoy, the things that drive you to do and be better. I am telling you, a positive mind creates a positive life. The more you make a habit of it, the easier it will become and soon you’ll notice that it seems things are coming to you! I know, I know, it’s always easier said then done, but what do you have to lose?

Start with something small like no longer drinking soda, meditation, exercising or reading for 30 minutes a day. Speak positive affirmations to yourself. Talk about your goals with someone. However you decide to start, do it for you and do it all the way. And remember, you will fall, but you will always be able to get back up.

Good friends are not hard to come by. 

We often hear the phrase “good friends are hard to come by,” but as I experience life I am thinking this is not true. Good friends are not hard to come by, because good friends are always there. I believe we often lose sight of this, and ultimately our unknowingly ability to take things for granted causes good friends to become distant friends. Good friends are always there. They are consistent and keep us in check. They do not bring drama to our lives. The consistency and lack of drama from good friends cause some of us to forget that they are even there, until we need them, of course. It’s the friends that may bring more excitement or “more drama” to our lives that we unfortunately tend to prioritize more than those good friends, because their presence is always known. These are the friends we often go to our good friends to vent about. This is not to say those friends are bad people or even bad friends. We need all kinds of friends in our lives, but we need not forget the role each plays in our lives as to not get them mixed up. 

For the last 5 years I have prioritized my “sometimes” friends ahead of my “always” friends. For 5 years I gave up time with my always friends for sometimes friends, including a relationship that I thought was an always but turned out to be a “for now.” Why did I do this? I did it for love. I did it for excitement. And most of all I did it for convenience. It’s easy to surround yourself with people that are within close proximity with you, and friends that are “always down for a good time.” 

In 2007 I went off to college where I would meet some of the best people I know to date. After college I moved away for a relationship, and was still able to maintain some of those relationships. When I moved back home and jumped into another relationship I lost touch due to no longer prioritizing those relationships, as all my focus was on this new love. A new love I couldn’t wait to share with all my great friends who I often talked about with my love. This new love, though, lacked the motivation and desire to meet my friends. I met their friends, though, and eventually, over our 4 year relationship, 2 years being married, their friends were also my friends and we gained other friends that became our friends. This doesn’t mean I never spoke to or saw my friends, because I did a few times throughout the years, but my love’s desire to foster a relationship with my friends still did not exist. Some could say it was control, some could say it was a comfort thing. To this day I have my thoughts, but really I don’t know. What I do know is that I had the control to change things but chose to make my love comfortable and not push them to allow my friends in to our life. 

Now, I sit here going through a divorce, alone, without my good friends here to cry with and take me out on the town to forget my worries and scream “f#%* that a**hole!” Now, I haven’t been completely alone as I have a great family and do have a couple of good friends I gained through this relationship, but it is not quite the same as my girls, my number ones, my there for me anytime of the day or night, seen me puking my brains out and cried with me in the bathroom at the party, friends. Through my divorce they have reached out, expressed their hurt for me and sent positive words. But, just as we have several times through the last few years, we made plans to get together and have yet to follow through. Why? Because me. Because I’ve been the one who has shut them out. I’ve been the one who blew off previous plans because I was fighting with my spouse or because, flat out, my spouse wasn’t comfortable with it. So, it is now on me to repair and rebuild the friendships. With everything I have going on I often become overwhelmed and think, “how do I reconnect with all these people again and do they even want me back in their lives?” You just do it. You make the effort and you prove they are important and that you are a good friend, too. 

You see, I am one of those good friends. I was just the good friend to those sometimes friends that ultimately just used me when they needed or wanted something. Some even had alterior motives for our relationship and I learned this the hard way. I made them a priority and did not 1. Make myself a priority, and 2. Did not make my good friends a priority. 

You are what you surround yourself with. While I consider myself a good friend to those I chose to surround myself with, I also became those who I surrounded myself with by not being a good friend to my good friends. 

In realizing this I have allowed myself to remove the blinders and see the people around me for what and who they truly are. When you stop giving in to people so much you see where you stand with them. Those sometime friends are the ones who get mad at you and are quick to talk about you behind your back when you miss one outing because you chose to stay in, or you are busy and can’t run to what they need at that exact moment. The always friends are the ones who understand life happens and you are human. They’re the ones who aren’t  offended when you turn down an outing, even if it’s just because you’re not in the mood, because they’re human, too, and have done the same. We have to recognize the difference between the two before we become so invested and wrapped up in the dramatics of the sometimers, and lose touch with the always theres. 

Because good friends are not hard to come by. Good friends are always there, but eventually good friends need to recognize the sometimers, too, and move on.

Opening Up

As a child we only know what we know through what we see and what we’re told. So how was I supposed to know what was happening to me and those around me was not okay or “appropriate”? Soon I’d figure it out, whether it was through the icky feeling I felt when being told to “keep it secret” or my mom’s reaction when it all came out. Later in life I’d figure out just how much my childhood would affect me and the relationships I’d have with people; family and friends included. I always think of the saying, “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets could hurt someone.” To this day I feel the need to keep some things secret, especially to my mother, though I’m certain she knows all. It is not fun and it continues to hurt. For me, I’d rather hurt than hurt someone else by exposing the secrets.

One secret I kept from my family and just about everyone else in my life, besides my now ex-wife, was my battle with depression and just how deep it was. Some others knew, but not quite the extent of it. This past December, I exposed myself. I sat with my mother, two of my sisters and one niece in a room as I told them I have been battling depression my whole life and I have coped by taking pills in hopes of either not waking up again or just knocking me out long enough to forget the way I felt. I’ve expressed how the numerous failed attempts have made me think of other ways of going about it, but coward out after the thought of it. This had been happening since I was 9 years old. Still to this day I have no idea how I knew at 9 years old that taking a large amount of pills (ibuprofen was the choice at the time) could kill me. I don’t remember what triggered that first attempt, but I remember it completely. I believe it was just feeling alone and unwanted amidst a large number of people. I’d continue to feel this way for much of my life. I’d mostly blame my mother for this feeling of being unwanted because I didn’t feel she was around enough or showed me enough affection. I used to write her letters about how I felt and place them on her pillow. I never received a response from her and this only justified the way I felt. Now, through many trials and tribulations, I have a much more open and honest relationship with my mom. We talk often and she’ll even say “I love ya” to me from time to time. This doesn’t erase all the pain I felt as a child, but it helps ease the resentment I had towards her for many years. I’ve also learned things about my mother that has helped me gain understanding of why she is the way she is and why she deals with or doesn’t deal with certain things the way she does.

Understanding is everything when it comes to growing in relationships.

I’d continue through the years feeling immensely alone, though I was constantly surrounded by people and was generally well-liked. I am still figuring out why I feel this way. Could it be I’ve just grown used to my solidarity? Or is it my mistrust of people’s true intentions? Could be both or neither. Maybe I’m just comfortable in this state of feeling alone, because allowing someone in that may leave is a much worse feeling. There’s so many things in my life that could attribute to this.

Through my sharing of my story we will piece it all together and learn together that our life is not defined by a single moment or experience, but rather a culmination of everything that has ever and will ever happen to us.

 

-SM