I want to interview you. . .

Have you been through a difficult time that taught you something wonderful about yourself? I want to hear about the wonderful thing! I want to hear about how you changed and grew from your experience. I will be featuring these interviews on a podcast I am creating. This project will focus on stories of everyday women with inspiration to share from beauty that sprung from chaos.

How do I look at such a toxic and traumatic time through a lens of love, and why would I want to??

I was scrolling through TikTok last night, watching the many videos on trauma, toxic relationships, and narcissism that tend to be on my “for me” page, and I recognized myself in literally almost every post. I understand the trauma, I have lived in the toxicity, I have labeled my ex as a narcissist without any formal diagnosis. And, then, the really wonderfully terrible thought drifted through me – God made the narcissists too. Ugh.

What did this realization mean for me? Well, it made me sit in silence for quite a while, thinking about just that. So what? I know everyone is a child of God. Even the bad ones. Why was God speaking to me at that moment, while I was whispering “yes, girl, you deserve so much more” at my phone screen down the TikTok rabbit hole?

He was calling me to Him. He was asking me to be still. Isn’t that the hardest thing our Heavenly Father EVER does???? I have such a difficult time being still and listening.

I write about my experiences in a toxic relationship to help other women know they are not alone and possibly learn from my mistakes and from the hard lessons I lived through. As the wife of an alcoholic, I learned a great deal about alcoholism and navigating that difficult life. Sharing those years of the dark times has worth to others. I have been thinking a lot about this. The topics I have been inspired to write about have centered around this. Naturally, I have considered writing about abuse and narcissism, toxic relationships and the trauma it caused me and what I learned about myself from the experiences. But HOW do I do this? How I do this matters. It matters to me, because how I think about things affects how I approach and live my life and it matters because how YOU, the reader or listener, hears my message will affect how YOU internalize the information. It is so easy to jump on the victim bandwagon. How do I share those traumatic times without sharing through the eyes of a victim but sharing through the eyes of a victor?

When my ex went to rehab again, I don’t remember which time, the community actually knew what was going on – he had outed himself as an alcoholic so to speak. I had a choice at this point that had to be made. How do I talk about him, when acquaintances ask, in a way that my kids will be hurt the least? I was hurting, I was feeling victimized, I was angry. I had to sit in the awful stillness until I was able to see through the hurt. I loved this man, no matter what he had said or done because he was the father of my kids and because way back when I said “I do” to him and made him a promise of for better or for worse. So, I chose in that moment to look at him, look at our trauma as much as an emotionally traumatized woman could, through a lens of love. When people asked me about his drinking, about our separation, I answered with, “He is a good man who has a problem with alcohol.”

Now, don’t go throwing your hands up asking me why I was protecting this man. I did it for my kids. I did it for him – if his reputation in the community was going to be tanked, he would be responsible, not me. I am fully aware that every time I say something negative about my kids’ father, whether anyone else judges me for it or not, I judge myself. I do not live in his skin, I do not know the intimate struggle of alcoholism, and I know full well what he has lost. He has lost me, he has lost YEARS with his kids, and much, much more. I know what I went through in that toxic relationship is not something I would wish on my worst enemy – but I put myself there because I chose to stay in it for better or for worse, until I didn’t. I cannot blame him anymore. But oh my gosh I did. If TikTok had been a thing 5 years ago, I would be one of the women I was “yes, girl” commenting. Instead, my inner circle very gracefully handled my anger and my sorrow with me. But, staying there, in that mindset, keeps me in a victim mentality and I am not ok with that.

When I filed for divorce I knew it would be hard. More importantly I knew it would be hard for my kids, even though they were two teenagers and a twenty-something. I had seen my friends go through divorce and I had watched a couple of my friends in particular handle it with such amazing grace and I wanted to emulate them. I did my best to walk through the divorce with the same public front. But at home I was devastated. I went through waves and waves of emotion. I hated it. I just wanted to get to the other side without feeling any of it. But, what I tried to never forget was that my kids, our kids, love their dad. They recognized the need for the divorce and they honestly did not want us to stay together – they were good with it all. Our lives were much more calm and predictable. My ex-husband was going to have enough work to do in repairing his relationships with his kids, if he chose to do so, without me adding my two cents about how exactly I felt about every little thing he said or did. So, I did my best to shelter them from it. I did not always succeed and they did have to see me broken on more than one occasion but I did my best to be a good mom to them through it all. I firmly believe that no matter how old your kids are, they do not need to be privy to the ugliest parts of your marriage. There will be time for those talks on the other side of divorce, when everyone is healed and wisdom can be imparted, if it ever feels appropriate. As a woman who wants her kids to see her as a Christian, as a lover of Jesus, as someone who lives what she believes, how could I choose over and over again to destroy their dad instead of treat him as my God would wish me to? But, YES, I could very, very easily have been the woman who TOOK HIM DOWN so to speak. But, is that who I wanted to be? Nope.

Believe me, this attitude is often difficult to hold. I still struggle, and I fail, and I will never claim to have been good at it, but half the battle is knowing, right??

So, when God whispers to me that narcissists are His children, it is a call back to this. Back to Him. He wants me to write about my struggle, He wants me to help other women, He does not want me to play the victim, or to explain my toxic marriage and divorce in detail. He DOES want me to share what I learned through it all. He wants me to approach sharing my story as if I am sharing it with my kids – through a lens of love. And, although it would sometimes be easier to explain with examples – as an English teacher it is soooooo hard not to cite my source – God has called me to share the fruits more than the details of the trials and tribulations of toxicity. There have been SO MANY FRUITS. Truly. I have been blessed by the dark times in ways I would never give up. This is what is worth sharing. 

If it was toxic for me, it was toxic for him

When I was in the middle of a toxic relationship I pulled in close for survival. I felt like a victim. I felt like my partner was creating this toxicity on purpose to punish me for not being the woman he wanted. It did not matter what I did to try to become the woman I thought he wanted, I never felt like I was enough.

But what I could not see due to the bubble I had crawled into to try to protect myself, was that if I was in a toxic relationship, SO WAS HE. He was not choosing to live in a toxic place on purpose. Who would do that? He was miserable too. No one actually wants to live that way. This is powerful now, in looking back. It strips away the animosity I have felt about this period of my life. He was not to blame. I was not to blame. We were both just bumbling through a really terrible time in life and we had no idea how to do that together – I don’t actually think we were built to support each other in this way. We did not fit together in this vitally necessary way a couple should.

I did not know how to strip my life of this toxicity. I did not want to quit on my marriage; I wanted a healthy and strong relationship. I wanted to honor the covenant I made before God until my very last breath. But, I am human and I was full of self-doubt and self-loathing at the time. This was on me, by the way. Other people do not have the power to strip me of my confidence, not even my most loved ones. It is a response to situations and people and one I am in complete control over, even when I don’t feel like I am. I did not possess the understanding, at the time, of what was happening to create this bad juju in my home because I was only beginning to research alcoholism and I had beaten myself down instead of facing my reality. I knew I could not escape, I didn’t want to. I wanted it to get better. And, the only way that could happen was if I worked on myself. I could not change him. I could only work on me. It was his responsibility to work on himself. I was ready to be a woman I loved again and one my children could be proud of.

I feel I should mention here that counseling was a part of our efforts to find a way forward, both individual and couples counseling. I believe in counseling. I saw great value in sharing a marriage counselor that we both saw – together and independently – this meant the counselor could see both sides and did not blindly advise either of us without knowledge of the personality and narrative from the other side. Believe me, this was sometimes quite irritating. I mean, what woman doesn’t want her therapist to agree only with her and the way she sees her life? But, alas, that was not an incredibly healthy approach for me from inside my bubble. The marriage counselor was able to bring my spouse’s perspective and hurt to me where I could see it. I sure as heck wasn’t allowing my spouse to broach that beautiful bubble of emotional protection very often. More importantly, the counselor helped me recognize the need for communicating when things were NOT ok – recognizing emotional abuse is not easy for a Positive Polly in a defensive position. I also saw a counselor to help me work on ME, independent of what I wanted in my marriage. Perspective is a wonderous thing.

I wonder now, how many other women sit in the toxicity of a marriage that is plagued with bad juju and see only the abuse instead of two people no longer having any idea how to do life together. When people crouch down into protection mode their defenses are thrown up and their offenses are not always kind. When we place a protective bubble around ourselves, the good stuff can’t get in either. The one who is supposed to be battling life with us is all of a sudden battling US, and it breeds the worst kind of fear – and, I admit, I engaged in the blame and deflection game to help me build myself up to get through this fear. Is this common? I think it is. It has taken a TON of self reflection to get to a place where I can see how my protective armor also kept me from seeing any good, or seeing any responsibility I might have had for our misery, for that matter. The bad always outweighs the good, whether I want it to be that way or not. It is human nature.

Now, I am NOT saying that emotional abuse was not present. What is that common saying right now?? Hurt people hurt people. I am also not saying that this mutual battle stance was an excuse to engage in emotional abuse, really, there is never an excuse for such behavior. What I am saying is that without this bubble i would have SEEN it and I would have freed myself sooner (my care is my responsibility).

When I look at the whole of my marriage, things changed. I cannot prescribe the end to the beginning because that would be lying to myself and to my kids to help justify the end. Instead, I know, and my children will know, that it was good, once. We loved each other and cared for each other differently then. The parents they saw divorce are not the parents from their childhood. And, that is ok. We changed, life changed, circumstances went south – and not in the pretty southern hospitality kind of way. My bubble kept me from seeing my reality and kept me rooted in the past – a magical place of potential that, without my bubble, I would have recognized could never be realized.

Divorce is like a living death. Nothing is going to change that. I can see, though, from here, WHY we hurt each other the way we did. I can understand how protection prolonged our inevitable end because we did not allow ourselves to feel or to see the other person’s pain and deal with it in a healthy way. And, in some couples, I can see where the opposite may be true and that this protection may actually push the couple closer and closer to divorce when, if only they could pop those bubbles, they could find their way back together.

My walls of protection KEPT me from being vulnerable. That was the purpose. I didn’t want to feel the hurt. I didn’t want to deal with my own role in the spiraling chaos of my marriage. I wanted to be Pollyanna and play with my babies and visit with friends and wish it all away. If I could have only seen the value in sitting in my hurt and opening myself to the vulnerability I have now – I could have seen the necessity of the ending that inevitably came. I kept myself in the toxicity. I did that to myself. I also know that my sweet counselors tried to coax me there but I wouldn’t hear of it at the time. Ohhhhh hindsight. You are sometimes cruel.

Today I offer grace. I offer it to myself for being a woman who was experiencing emotional trauma and for the times when she did not handle it from a place of love but instead from a place of protection. I offer grace to my ex for the same.

I will make it a point to always remember that time in my life. Being conscious of where I have been will be a barometer for future relationships. I will fully understand the worth of a partner who treats me well and who has my best interests at heart. I will argue and fight, when necessary, with a new awareness of the fragility of love and the importance of respect and self-reflection in the care of this love. Most of all, I will remain aware of the ease in which that damned protective bubble begins to rise and I will pop it with open communication with my person. I will recognize emotional abuse and toxicity immediately this way. Remaining vulnerable will keep me rooted in reality. I will only know if I have found the man God has meant for me if I remain open and communicate with him all that is me, in spite of my fear of being hurt. I know, now, that a life partner who can handle my worst, my most anxiety ridden paranoid fear level, from a place of love – he will be the one worth holding on to forever. I will not settle for anything less, God does not mean for me to settle for anything less.

I WILL SURVIVE . . . getting off of sugar. Again.

Gloria Gaynor may not have meant a sugar addiction, but her song most definitely plays on repeat in my head as I let go of all things carb laden. . .

As I wrote in the last post, it is high time for me to feel good again and to STOP the whole sabotaging of my progress nonsense my inner child has engaged in since my birthday weekend in FEBRUARY.

I know what to do. So, this past week, I started. Again. I am too embarrassed and honestly have lost count as to how many times I have started over again. But, I am ready, now, to dig in. I am out of school, stress has lessened, and I have more control over my days.

So, here is what I do the first week or two to ease myself back into a low carb lifestyle.

I just eat low carb. It is that simple.

I do not count. I do not care if it is all that healthy. The whole point is to wean myself off of the carbs, which I am highly addicted to. I have found this is easiest if I allow myself whatever it is that I LOVE to eat if it is low carb. There is a lot of cheese involved, I will tell you that. And, it is not the healthiest. But, healthy choices come next. I have to get past the absolute need to eat white chocolate almond bars first (thanks a lot Hershey).

I also drink a TON of water. I work on making this a focus and I never stopped taking my probiotics. That is just a must.

The next phase will begin when I have made it 10 days of low carb. At this point, I will make planning and tracking a main focus. Stay tuned. . . I will let you know how it is going, the challenges I fail and the ones I conquer.

When stress eats away my progress. . .

Hot Now doughnuts are my nemesis . . .

I work in education. This means that this, this month of May, is the most stressful time of the year for me (the second most stressful being the start of school). I gain pounds almost every May and lose them in June. This is unhealthy. It is even more irritating.

Buuuuutttttt . . . I know what to do!!!!!

Buuuuutttttt . . . I am an emotional eater.

I eat my stress. Especially when my stress is compounded.

BUT, do you know what is different this year???? I NOTICED THIS PATTERN! This has happened every year now for 11 years. ELEVEN YEARS. Now, I know what you are thinking . . shouldn’t I have noticed this before now? UH, YEAH. Only, I guess I did – I just had the mindset that it is something to endure – not something to prepare for. So, now I am at the end of this “most stressful season” and realizing this change in mindset gives me the motivation to identify stress sooner so I can create strategies to push through it in a healthy way instead of in the Bonnie way, which clearly does not work.

I have tried several diets and ways of eating and my success boils down to the following things:

  1. I have to like what I am eating. I do not do well if I have to “get used” to the way something tastes.
  2. I know what to eat. My issue is one of emotional eating. I know what to eat and when to eat it, I don’t always follow my own directions because I can be bratty that way.
  3. I know planning is e v e r y t h I n g . . . .
  4. If I get too strict with myself I will rebel against myself. Ha. I am such a BRAT.

What do I do with this information??? Well, first, I wait to really delve into a plan to conquer the stress eating until after the last day of school or #4 will be a factor. But THEN I will be back with a plan. I can, between now and next week, take notes in my planner of what is triggering stress for me. Research research research. That and make water a priority. I can do those two small things until I am in a position to do some bigger things to get myself back on track!

How do you, my reader, redirect your sugar monster (or whatever type of monster your emotional eater self is) when you begin to feel stressed or anxious???? I could use some ideas 🙂

My closet is my happy place. . .

Who doesn’t have Han Solo guarding their workspace??

When my ex-husband went to rehab for the second time, our closet became MY closet. It was a beautiful walk in deal – not huge but not tiny. I had taken the dimensions and designed shelving and spacing and it had been rebuilt just for us. I cannot explain why exactly this closet became the symbol of my reclaiming of my life, but it did. I cleaned it out and donated everything I knew I would never wear again. I organized it by style and color. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. When he returned from rehab after this particular stint he moved home for a couple of months. I was so emotionally attached to the closet space that it upset me greatly to think of having to rearrange this masterpiece to accommodate his clothing again. . . I wasn’t ready. It was like the closet was a symbol of my life if it were put together, neat and tidy. Adding anything would mess with the organizational system I had created. Perhaps it was also a representation of my giving over complete trust in him to love me, as if moving into my closet was allowing him to move back into my heart. (Cheesy, corny, I am an English teacher/librarian, remember??? It is how I am wired.) Also, this closet had been where I would go to cry so my kids couldn’t hear me. It was a safe space. I wanted my marriage to work and I wanted our family to be a strong one with love oozing all over the place, but I was still heartbroken when he returned; I needed time to heal with him and find a way to be with him and not on the defensive from him. I had an absolute come apart over this closet thing. He was very accommodating, if not understanding. The trauma of recovery isn’t for the faint of heart. It affects everyone in the household – not just the one with the addiction.

Now, when I say this closet thing is a big deal to me, I mean it is a BIG DEAL TO ME. When I started dating after the divorce I sorta started judging each man by whether I could see myself allowing him a fraction of my closet space EVER. Honestly, I am pretty sure I used this to give myself an excuse to not date because how would I really know after a date or two anyway if they were worthy of closet space???? But, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I really did know after a date or two that the date would never be a man I could share my sacred closet space aka LIFE with. Who knows. This was one of those evaluation practices that ran on gut intuition and not facts or an evaluation of boxes a man’s qualities might check off of my “perfect match” list.

At this moment, five years or so from the morphing of the closet into a coping mechanism to deal with the pulling apart of my life, my family, and three years or so since the divorce and my re-entrance into the dating world, I am still very fond of my closet but it does not hold the same uber significance for me that it once did.  My post-divorce house was built in 1909 and (I assume thanks to the needs of some previous owners) I have a nice size walk-in closet here as well. It is large enough that I am turning part of it into a very small (tiny) office space – to write and begin podcasting. I love my closet. I like that I have shoes in color order, by season. I like that my clothes follow a ROYGBIV pattern and are all facing the same way, grouped by type. I like my neat stacks of sweaters and tshirts. You see where I am going. My house can be in utter chaos and the first place I straighten and get put back together is this closet. My closet is still sometimes my safe space. It calms me and makes me feel safe in chaos. It just makes me HAPPY. And, thanks to embracing vulnerability, it is now nothing more than this.

How I lost the first 40lb: PART 2

After doing a great deal of research, I chose to eat a low carb/keto type lifestyle as a way to lose weight and get healthy. After much research I found that this way of eating:

  1. Reduces inflammation – this is the one thing that keeps me coming back. I have -0- cartilage in one knee and when I am eating low carb/keto my knee does not hurt me at all. When I am eating an average amount of carbs I am taking ibuprofen all day to relieve the pain.
  2. Improves energy and sleep
  3. Improves brain function
  4. Loss of the irritating feeling of being hungry
  5. Improves mood overall

I also made this choice knowing it will need to be a lifelong lifestyle for me. Once my body is used to burning fat instead of sugar it would be a difficult transition back to burning glucose. Choosing to eat this way for the rest of my life, not just for as long as it takes me to lose weight, has also made a difference in my approach. I have researched and gathered an arsenal of recipes and go to snacks to keep my healthy and low carb.

Weaning myself off of sugar is never easy. After birthday cake it takes me MONTHS to get back on track. I just love sugar! So, to start, I just allow myself to eat whatever so long as it contains few carbs. I also up my water intake. Drinking a ton of water is very important on this diet. In the next week or two I work on keeping my carbs under 20. After about 3 weeks of this I am in control of my cravings enough to begin to work on also looking at my fat, protein, and calories. I eat low carb veggies, healthy fats (like avocado), and protein (limiting dairy).

When I get back on my bandwagon of keto living I use ketone strips to confirm I am burning fat instead of sugar. I will track it on occasion to be sure I am staying there and I use the CarbManager app to track my progress and my macros (carbs, calories, fat, protein).

When I get to the 4th week of a low carb way of living I find I am no longer feeling hunger the way I am when I am eating carb laden foods. I can go longer periods of time without eating and I love this. I do not like feeling hungry and I also do not like eating several times a day. I can eat lunch and dinner only and lose weight and feel great. My blood pressure and blood work has come back excellent for the past two years of mostly eating this way as well.

Here is one article that outlines some of the benefits of living low carb.

And here are some awesome keto podcasts too.

Wait. What?? What do you mean I am not in control?

Who doesn’t love a fun SnapChat filter????

I have mentioned that I do not like to feel out of control. So, that moment when I realized that regardless of my herculean efforts to control my life and that these efforts were really just to soothe my anxiety and really did not have much bearing on my situation at all – well, it kinda freaked me out.

Now, I knew I could not control my kids. I mean, have you ever met at toddler? All you can do is set parameters and cross your fingers you will be there when those boundaries are breached so you can limit the chaos or damage. I knew I couldn’t control my then husband, I knew I could not plan away his alcohol addiction. But, that does not mean that I didn’t try.

For a period of time I made it my priority to spend time with him and grow our relationship. I made sure he could see evidence of my devotion and strove to create a deeper friendship between us. I was careful to have alternate beverages in the house. I planned social outings with friends and we went on vacations. I took care of all of the kid responsibilities so he could be devoted to work. We were not a perfect family, but I worked hard to build a life that would make us all happy and content. I wanted him to have the family that was worth fighting for.

Yeah. It doesn’t work like that.

Addiction really doesn’t care. We could have been the royal family with the most supportive members and the most money and the most fun activities planned all the time and addiction would infiltrate anyway. His addiction was not about me or our kids or our family. I had heard that addiction was a disease, but really, what did that mean? Well, now I know. Like cancer, it can strike anyone in any family. And, only the one who is in the disease can engage in the treatment for it. The kids and I couldn’t do it for him. And, the craziness of alcoholism or any addiction really, is that no matter how much the addicted person may WANT to be free of it, it just isn’t that simple. Sigh.

I remember very vividly the day I realized that I no longer wanted to live the life I found myself in. I have never felt so alone. We were at a family reunion and I was surrounded by my family, my extended family, and my extended extended family. Now, all that comes to mind is Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” I was surrounded by my people and I was alone. I was trapped inside this knowledge of what was happening to my husband and, as a result, how miserable and helpless I felt and how the chaos was affecting our kids. At the time, my ex didn’t even realize the insidiousness of the alcohol and it wasn’t something I was able to explain with enough clarity for him to understand. It was like seeing this tsunami approaching, knowing the destruction it will bring, knowing I needed to prepare and guard against it, and not at all having the ability to do so. I was not in control.

I did not leave at that time. I chose to stay. But, this meant finding a way to crawl out of the misery and helplessness I was feeling. In order to do this I had to concede that I had NO control over this situation, I could not control his alcohol consumption. I could not best friend him out of it, or love him out of it. I could choose to live in anger or I could choose to live in love. I chose love. Love of my family, love of my husband, and most importantly, love of ME. Disclaimer: I am human. I did not stay in that place of love 24/7. How could I? I am not a sitcom mom and as much as I really, really want to most days, I do not live in a Hallmark movie. I was living in the Lifetime movie channel where things are messy and not pretty. I made mistakes, I got angry. I lashed out. But, my ultimate goal when I woke up every day was to see my life and my people through a love paradigm. This is still my goal. How could I have regret if I loved my way through the difficult times instead of allowing bitterness to reign?

Now, in reaction to this epiphany what ensued was, in all reality, an Escape Plan. You know, when the idea that you might be ok with divorce? The Escape Plan begins the moment you allow this thought to even enter your mind. When this happened I began spending my time with one foot in my marriage and one foot out the door, preparing myself to live on my own. I explained this to myself, at the time, as an effort to prepare myself for anything, as if my preparedness would stave off the ugliness of alcoholism and keep divorce at bay.

Also, doesn’t work this way either.

But, in all of this I did learn the very deep and honest truth: I am the only one I can control. That’s it. Just me. So, I am the only one who can create a life I love, find the happiness I desire, and live the sort of life my kids can be proud of me for. Ya’ll. THIS was my turning point. My life is MINE. It was at this low point, I began living like it.

I am thankful for these very trying years. I learned a lot about the world of addiction and through that I learned very important skills for a successful life. I learned to set boundaries. I learned to choose happiness on days when I really, really didn’t want to. I learned that spending time for myself is necessary and not a luxury to feel guilty for. I learned that I needed to discover my convictions and take the steps toward living them. I learned about codependency and how this is not so nearly as romantic a concept as I once thought. I learned that I still love art, music, and being outdoors. I learned that playing with my kids was more important than cleaning my house. I learned the importance of having a confidant or two to confide in. I learned the beauty of counseling.

I learned that even when I am angry with God, He still loves me. He did not give up on me while I was throwing the ultimate angry temper tantrum and giving Him the silent treatment. He waited patiently and showed me in my still moments that He was still there, in the eye of the storm, guiding me.

In my entire life, my biggest dream was to be a wife and mother. I had not thought much beyond this, really. And the crazy thing in losing part of this dream, has been to discover that THERE IS SO MUCH MORE. Oh so much more to life and so many more dreams to be had.

You are sooooo mental (said in my best Valley Girl voice)

I HATE FEELING OUT OF CONTROL. I think the first time I felt out of control I was with a college boyfriend, whom I knew had been cheating on me with MANY other girls, who began flirting with some girls at a sandwich shop. Actually he may have just talked to them. Regardless, I grabbed his sandwich and stomped on it. I am not kidding. I STOMPED ON HIS SANDWICH. I was immediately embarrassed and panicky. What was that????? That, ladies, was my first firefly, lol.

Now I see that 1) I should never have stayed in this relationship because I was the only one in it and 2) I should choose my friends, and my boyfriends, WISELY. People who love you and get you do not inspire you to stomp on their sandwiches.

Do you have a tribe??

I am blessed with the most incredible tribe. My people love me, call me out, inspire me to achieve at higher levels, and generally be a better person. I have several friends who constantly leave me in awe of their accomplishments and their drive to reach for MORE. These women are powerful in their fields and loving in their homes. I admire and respect these women and want to learn from them. I have heard more than one inspirational personality state that choosing friends who exude the qualities you wish to possess or who achieve at the level you would like to achieve, is critical for your personal growth. I must agree with this. However, I don’t actually remember choosing my people. I just naturally gravitate toward women who inspire me, have qualities I lack (but need), that I respect, and that I feel good around (laughing is key to life, ya know). My people have my back and they get me. They forgive me when I am irrational and they are patient with me when I am emotional. Having these people in my life grounds me and gives me the support I need so I do not go mental!

In addition to having a group of girlfriends who lift you up, if you are dating after divorce, pay attention to the men you are choosing to spend your time with. Do not get caught up in the old dating game. My father once told me, when I was dating as an adult in my 20s, that I should be careful who I spend my time with because I may not always be able to control who I fall in love with. Surrounding myself with the sort of people I know are good for me is far more important than I may realize. He was so right. Isn’t that sort of the premise of choosing friends who push you to be a better person?? Surround yourself with those who make you better? This same premise should apply to the men we choose to date as well.

So, why do we, as women, so often choose to spend time with men who do not do the same for us as our girlfriends? Shouldn’t the person we choose to spend our lives so intimately with be chosen, at the very least, with the same standards we use to choose our friends?

Dating, after divorce, has been different than dating in my 20s. It is not that everything is jaded, it is that I now understand with an incredibly heightened awareness of how important it is, how non-negotiable it is, to find someone who will be my best friend and my most enthusiastic cheerleader.

Once, in Sunday School, not many years after marriage, our class was asked who our biggest supporter was. Who did we think supported and believed in us more than anyone else? I responded: my mother. Most of the other members of the class chose their spouse. It was not my then husband’s fault that he did not fill this role for me. We were just very different people and we did not click on such an intimate level. I think back on this and see with glaring clarity the holes he and I left in each other. We did not know it then, of course; this is the bittersweetness of hindsight.

I have spent the past couple of years sort of dating and learning more about myself, eventually arriving at a place where I am happy and content on my own. So much so that I had resigned myself to this solitary life for a bit. If I were to ever enter a romantic relationship again it would have to be something spectacular. I will not settle for anything less. After much reflection on what I did not have in my marriage, what I thought I wanted in a significant other, and what I knew I needed in someone who was to be my life partner, I called on a friend to pray for him with me. I set my standards to a level that was only attainable by God. And, I couldn’t be happier. I am confident that some day, God will lead me to this man, whomever he may be, even if it is not anytime soon.

Choose to spend time with people who will have your best interests at heart and will push you to succeed at what you are working to achieve. I don’t mean for you to surround yourself with “yes” people. I mean choose those who believe enough in you to believe in your dreams, whether they understand or want the same things or not.

Spend time with people who will lovingly call you out when you are wrong, or cannot see the forest for the trees, being completely irrational, or are just needing a little nudge back to the sunny side of the street. Choose friends who weather conflict and will grow with you in your friendship.

Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.

Choose to spend time with friends you can model on your way to success.

Choose people you feel SAFE with. Those you can trust and with whom you feel safe to laugh and cry with WILL NOT inspire sandwich stomping. This is the most important thing. . .

Set your standards high, ladies.

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