I will be participating in the River Clay Fine Arts Festival in Decatur, Alabama this October and these sweet little 6×6 birdies will be there!
I am spending a good bit of time in the evenings and on the weekends creating pieces for this show and I am loving every minute of it!
Weekly check ins. This is what Champagne Sundays are all about.
I have become wonderful friends with my next door neighbor and each Sunday we get together on the front porch and have champagne from my vintage champagne glasses and discuss the week we’ve had and the one coming up. We celebrate our wins and we dissect our losses.
We are at different stages in life – she has a little and I am five minutes away from an empty nest. I have about 10 years on her but I haven’t really noticed. I think at some point, in adulthood, friends are friends without regard to age.
I love my neighborhood. I am surrounded by homes that have stood for more than 100 years, including mine. My house has now stood through two pandemics and multiple wars. Several families have been raised here and these rooms have been filled with love, laughter, sorrow, and just the everyday joys and mundanities of life. Several decades ago, stting on the front porch in the twilight hours was the entertainment of the day. Folks visited with each other and relationships were the focus of life. No television. No internet or virtual anything. It was all about face to face relationship building. And I bet they didn’t even know it – it just was.
It is becoming more and more clear to me in my life that it is my people who are my everything. Maybe it is because I am about to lose my last child to the university life that is making me hyper aware of how quiet my house is when I am here alone. Maybe it is having my boys home with me again, all of my people here under my roof, that has me so aware of how much I have missed them and how fleeting this time is – that this is most likely the last time in my life I will have all of my babies living with me for any significant period of time. After this school year I will get visits, not children living in my home.
Maybe it is missing the relationships I built at work over 11 years while I am building new relationships with some really fun people in this new position.
Or maybe it’s all this change in my life that has me craving the connection with friends. Who knows.
What I do know is that at the end of the day when only 85 of the 2000 things have been marked off the list; when I have successfully completed anything, really; the only things that I will truly remember a month, a year, 10 years from now, are the memories I make with my people. I have no idea whether I cleaned the house last Tuesday, but I do remember having dinner at a friend’s house while she so graciously shared some sound financial advice and experience. I cannot remember one day last year where I went to bed feeling like I had completed everything that needed to be done – but I also can’t remember what those things were. I do remember some very pleasant conversations with my ex (which I now treasure), some heart to hearts with wonderful teenage people, advice from dear friends, laughing on my birthday. I remember the people and the memories made with them.
I also realize I am replacable at work. I did a lot. I had a lot of hats. I took on more than the average chief. But, since leaving the position, those jobs are being absorbed. Someday I will retire even. And, although you can be sure that I hope I have made a difference, I hope I continue to receive messages like one I got today from a former student sharing some of her brilliant writing with the message “Some writing I’ve done recently. I owe my skills to you. I miss you,” I am also fully aware that I am not destined to make some sort of name a building after me kind of impact. I made a difference on a more individual level. I miss her, this student. But I miss the connection that we formed when we bonded over Henry David Thoreau in her 10th grade English class several years ago. I miss having life changing conversations with teenagers who have minds open to every possibility under the sun. This wonderful young woman changed my life as much as maybe I changed hers. The ability to grow intellectually through conversation – it is the lifeblood of a good life!
Now I am not at all hating on technology. I have a love affair with all things tech, actually. And I fully advocate for the use of tech and participating in social media and all that. It’s one of the ways I stay in touch with my college roommate or see what my sister (who always lives a country or two away) is up to. Use the tools available to keep up the relationships with the people you love.
Our Champagne Sunday talks are almost always about the people in our lives, not the tasks. I encourage you to start your own Champagne Sunday, or supper club, or girls’ night out, or even a vacation with your favorite people. Spend your time where it really counts, on relationships, on people. Do not get bogged down by your to do lists and the mundanities. Live! Share! Be vulnerable with your people. Share your love – it is an infinite pool that grows and grows if you let it.
I have realized here lately that when there is a situation that I cannot control I analyze it, come up with all sorts of possible explanations and solutions and tornado myself into an anxious place of f e a r. I am doing this because I trained myself, during the dark times, that occupying my mind with anything feels like an action, and an action feels like it is working toward a solution, and working toward a solution allows me to avoid feeling my present situation. It also, I told myself, prepared me for any and all scenarios either the worst or the best and anything in between so I could better brace for what comes. These were the ways of survival. But these are not the dark times. When a situation has no solution this action sends me into a spiral and just confirms there is no solution and this breeds that all consuming f e a r. As my sweet counselor likes to ask when I am stuck in such a tornado – is this a playdoh problem or a rock problem – meaning is it one I can actually push around or is it out of my control, unmalleable?
How do I change how I handle the rocks?
I be still. (U G H)
I live in the moment.
I allow myself to feel, leaning into the tears, the frustration, or the anxiety, if you will. Because let’s face it, if we are facing a rock that is causing us to seek solutions when there are none to seek, then it isn’t some kind of happy, happy, joy, joy thing that has us all tangled up in tornado thinking. It is something not going our way, or that requires a “wait and see what happens next” approach, or is just simply at the mercy of someone NOT US. What is that wonderfully terrible truth???? I am the only one I can control. Yeah. That.
I pray to God in thanks for allowing me the situation, because if it causes me to feel intensely then my heart must be all in. I don’t tend to get all worked up about situations that do not involve people I love. I give Him thanks for allowing me the love that causes the instance and I praise Him for creating and sharing this sort of love with little ole me. And, then, I ask HIM to solve it. What is a rock for me is always playdoh for HIM.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I allow myself to NOT see solutions and just sit in the present, not predicting, not worrying, and not telling myself stories that are most definitely pure conjecture. Do you ever do that? Brene Brown calls this a “shitty first draft” or how we explain things to ourselves when we are hurt or offended, insecure, etc. The stories we tell ourselves from a place of f e a r. These stories need to be checked for truth because, generally speaking, they are anything but. Recognizing a shitty first draft (SFD) reaction to anything will deflate an escalating situation quickly. Check yourself as that tornado begins to form for the SFD component.
I allow myself to feel the blessings of the moment and not search out the sorrow. I allow myself to be thankful for the grief or uncomfortable unknowing. It is ok to not feel peaceful, but there is some kind of peace in letting go of the fear. I must really just stay in the present. Wow. Soooooo hard for me.
Be present. Be present. Be present.
I am sensing a running theme. . .
Being present as a person who loves to plan her future is, well, sometimes a bit tedious. My head is always trying to look ahead and skip the uncomfortable parts. BUT, what I am finding is that when I cannot see a future, I am more engaged in my present. I am spending more time present with my kids, you know, engaged in conversation, laughing and talking. I am cooking dinner more, painting more, and spending more time with friends. Hmmm. Maybe I am not really spending more time on any of these things. Maybe I am just enjoying them more because in the back of my mind I am not already jumping to the next thing, planning away my present. Regardless, it feels good.
When I recognize that a rock has started knocking around in my brain, I pray and give it over (I do tend to be fairly specific in the way I would prefer for God to handle it, but you know, He is God. He will exact His will. But, it doesn’t hurt to put in my two cents, ya know?) Then I focus on my present. I fill my time with my people and my art. I make a conscious effort to Be still. Be thankful. Be HERE.
My oldest, the one who made me a mom, graduated from college with a degree in biology on Friday. He has worked hard both for the degree and to become the responsible, dedicated man he is. He has successfully completed his final weeks of coursework, found a really cool internship opportunity in South Africa, and packed up and moved home all in the wake of his father’s death. I am so proud of him, and his father would be too.
This is our first event without his father. I wanted my son, and my other two kids, to feel their father was a part of this momentous occasion so I found the fraternity pin (they belong to the same fraternity) and I had a battery replaced in one of his father’s old watches for him to wear while he walked. I chose a graduation gift I thought my ex might have chosen with me for our son, a dive watch in the same brand of the last watch I had given my ex and that he had loved and worn every day for the last few years. I think he would approve of my choice for our boy.
It is strange, now, that the responsibility to be sure he is included is mine once again. It is sort of like I have been made the wife again in death. Really, I just love my kids and they loved their dad and I do not want his absence to feel like a gaping hole for them. He loved them. In death, I can be sure they know it.
Watching the graduates walk across the stage, each full of potential and promise and the wildness youth bears, I reflect on how I learn so much about life by watching the young people who are always around me. They are unafraid to take chances, change trajectory, and jump in with both feet at a moment’s notice. How much more important is this sort of impulsivity here 25 or so years older? Now, when I realize how precious life is, how fleeting it might be, how few opportunities we are given to love deeply, or change trajectory, or slow down even – NOW is when I need to embrace that impulsivity and “why not?” way of thinking and embrace all that God may place in my path.
Now is the best time to remember that it is PEOPLE, relationships, that are my treasure. It is the love I have to give and the love bestowed to me that I need to fall to my knees and thank our sweet Lord for placing in my life. He has blessed me in more ways, especially in this last year, than I ever thought possible. He has shown me His love for me through others when I have least expected it. He has answered prayers and opened doors and placed just the right people in my path to push me in the directions He wants me to go. It is lovely, but He wants more.
I may not exactly choose to go and spend weeks or months in South Africa like my son, but you better believe I will not hesitate to go where I am moved to go – I am not going to worry away my opportunities to live, LIVE my life with love and laughter and drama and all the other good and bad and wonderful and tragic days that this life may hold for me. I will be open and free to travel or even move if I am so moved by God to do so. I am thankful for my Lifetime moments as much as my Hallmark moments. I am thankful to just feel again, all of the feels, to have been broken open and set free to experience life once again. It’s funny how a graduation ceremony reminded me of all of that. Why is this so hard to hold in every day life?
I only have this ONE life. That. Is. It.
I want to live it body and soul.
Let us all . . .
Love with wild abandon.
Be present. Be present. Be present.
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.
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 think 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.
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.