Seven steps to finding ME-MO (my existence as mother and other)
When one’s life resembles a game of tetherball rather than a swinging pendulum, even though one’s notable triumphs are the grandest, the bad days are inevitably just as grandiose.
And, similar to tetherball, the faster and harder the ball (me) is hit one way, it is returned with an equal and timely force. Once the players go off to celebrate their frolic, I am left dangling with only the wind to sway my ungrounded feet from side to side.
It’s been ten years since my daughter passed away after fighting for her life for eight years. Eleven since my thirteen-year marriage finally dissolved and I became a single mother, constantly embarking on paths consisting of redirection.
The bad news is: I am still fighting. The good news is: I am still fighting.
What a row it has been.
Fighting to find my place, my fit in this world. Fighting for my other two children, 16 and 20, to have the “happiness” they deserve; with happiness defined as: not sad. Fighting for justice and equality as a voice for others, as their stories are told.
I feel like I have been fighting for my life my entire life. Maybe such is life.
At 43 I went back to school to fulfill the dream of officiating the title “writer,” even though I had already written and self-published five books. I am now a journalist. Yet until today, I have not “journaled” since my last book was published. I wanted to write about others, and I did, and I will.
Now, once again, I have fallen and failed, and to be honest I have no idea how to pick up the pieces. Okay, yes I have graduated with 4.0 GPA, I am still financially stable, and recently moved to a home I love, but it’s been a rough couple of years as a student, a mother and a partner; these years have taken their toll. After ten years I took the leap of faith and moved in with someone, and less than a year later, he moved out. My own mom suggested I write out what I would tell someone else who was in my exact position; write out what she needed to do to heal and get her life back on track. Thanks mom.
If I told you the extent of my fall, you may turn the page and not return, and you would definitely not purchase any of my self-help books because of the hypocrisy, but let’s just say it involves misery, loneliness, loss of direction.
Don’t be too concerned; most honest people are starting to admit to feelings of hypocrisy. I will let that be, for now, and share with you the top seven pieces of advice I would tell my best friend, client or a reader, which is you, on how to heal betrayal, brokenness, shame, failure, fear of loss of direction and find yourself once again.
No drugs or alcohol. Put the wine glass (and the hidden emergency bottle of gin) in the trash. No alcohol. What they don’t tell you about drowning your sorrows is that you go under with them. I know it hurts, but eventually you have to allow yourself to feel. Give yourself sober time of least a month. Believe it or not, after the first couple of weeks it starts to feel really good. Stop and feel the good, and yes, the bad. Sobriety sucks because for the first time in a long time you are facing all of your realities with clarity. Many of the symptoms of withdrawal, even the physical ones, are worse in the moments you come face to face with the truth, yours and others’.
Phone someone you trust. One and two go hand in hand so which one you do first is up to you. For me this was my number one. You may not even like this person some-days because he or she does not fuel co-dependency – because this person truly loves you. I am talking about a family member, or as close as it gets; someone you trust. The bottom line is that you cannot do this alone. If you are really on the ground, you need strong support to get up no matter how independent you are or have always thought to have been. If you are known as an independent person, you may actually even have to convince the one you are calling that they are truly needed. Their first response might be for you to go see a professional, chances are you already have, and chances are the professional has told you that you need to surround yourself with loving support. Be honest and straightforward, do not cushion or mask the truth of the situation you are in.
Talk to a professional. Again, now is not the time to pussyfoot around the truth. Whether it is a medical doctor or mental doctor – or both – be honest or you are wasting your time, your efforts and quite frankly your money. Life coaches and mentors have also proven to be beneficial to the rising-up after the fall. You never know where that one piece of advice will come from that clicks for you, initiating your healing or setting you on the right track, so be open to hearing it. I have one of the greatest jobs because I get to interview people. Each person has a gift to be shared and it is my duty to listen and write about it. The greatness is not necessarily found in one’s ultimate success, but what has been discovered on the journey. Seven traits I have personally seen in others who are successful since my own falling are: positivity, focus, confidence, diligence, gratitude, humour and kindness. Those traits resonated so much with me, I wrote them down and know they are guiding me in the right redirection.
Find joy in being alone – until you realize you really enjoy being alone. We all need to learn to be alone at times. Some of us like to be alone more than others, especially anyone who has a creative or artistic passion. It is in the times of quiet and solitude that the beginnings of the pleasures of companionship are fully appreciated. Once you accept alone time, you might even remember that you actually like yourself and that you’re not such bad company. Besides your pets and children refrain from trying too hard to surround yourself with people for a while or you may find yourself being phoney, which is contradictory to what you are trying to achieve. (Oh and if you don’t have a pet, think about it, or at least offer to babysit one.) Find delight in remembering who you are: stinky, funny, brilliantly weirdo you. Take all of the grace and energy you have been giving away and enjoy it, until you are ready to be with others or another again. Once you are ready, you can begin to book in small daily bits of social time such as lunches or walks.
One day at a time. Do not allow yourself to look too far beyond today, or the moment you are in, unless it is booking a vacation. If it’s not a positive future event that you are envisioning, refrain from trying to foresee the future at all. They say that we create what we think about, so stop thinking if it’s not what you want to create. Read a book, watch television or go for a massage. Do something that is a complete waste of time and enjoy it, until your thoughts become productive once again. Get caught up in the Wal-Mart time warp (fairly safe for your bank account; although, I have been known to raise some eyebrows at the checkout). Quite frankly, no one knows the future, even when it seems bright. So why worry about the possibility that you might be lonely in a year from now, when you are really not lonely today? Why worry about keeping the job you don’t yet have, because you are still finishing up the project you are working on? Each time your mind wanders in a fearful way of the future, stop it in its tracks and find contentment in the exact moment you are in. This is where meditation can be extremely powerful. Be still, feel the ground beneath you and breathe. If you can do all three, find gratitude because you are alive, and if you are alive, everything is going to be okay. If you don’t have a favourite, YouTube has many meditations to choose from; put one on and if sleep ensues, perchance you will dream.
Make great excuses to get outdoors. I finally have time to read again. One Last Cast, Reflections of an Outdoor Life, written by one of my journalism instructors, Bruce Masterman, was gifted to me near the end of the last semester when we did an author’s trade. It is a book I never would have picked up on my own because its focus is on hunting and fishing, but forever grateful to have read. Through Masterman’s tales of the big catch and the ones that got away, the greatest experience for me, as a reader, came through the emotions and almost physical sensations of standing along side a rushing river, sleeping in a lean-to and sitting by an outdoor fire, even though I had never been to any of the places he wrote about. It was a reminder that any excuse to get outdoors is not only a great one, but one that is always purposeful because of the proven healing properties of nature. If your life feels like it has no direction or purpose, get outside, choose a direction and let it be virtuous, with a little imagination. Let your downfall be your great excuse to divulge in outdoor adventures. Photograph, walk, tent, hike, bike, hunt, fish, canoe, explore, rappel – whatever you do, do it like a true fisherman: elaborate on your excuse and your excursion.
Join something new. By “join” I mean try it out, but be sure you are not signing up for life because that is last thing you need right now. Honestly, paradoxically I hate this one because of the social factor, commitment factor and the potential of conforming. What you are looking for is to experience something new, or perhaps familiar, that involves people – not so much for the intimacy or social factor, but for the fact that it makes you get up and shower for something besides work. Some examples are: church on Sunday, a Wednesday night golf league, Alcoholics Anonymous, a boxing class, yoga or art class. If you want to be really brave, you could try a book club or another “club” but be sure your membership has an expiry or at least a renewal date. The last thing you need right now is another commitment where you will lose yourself before you have fully found her again.
Once you have embarked on the fist seven, you will be ready to expand on your newfound horizons, but remember it is a process and there is no rush. I promise you, with all fingers crossed, that you will find yourself and you will like yourself and you will live.