The Grief, The Growth

For the past few months I have been contemplating a lot of the transitions and changes I experienced throughout the past year. This is the first time I’ve been able to write about it and it only touches the surface of all that I lived and learned.

I experienced a significant amount of loss on an emotional and personal level in 2016. The emotion surrounding that has often bubbled to the surface. At times I have found myself in tears as I continue to process the grief and move into the growth sometimes the tears still come. I want to fight the feelings, to ignore them, to have them not exist but one of the things I learned best this past year is to allow myself to feel – feel it all, good, bad and ugly. Don’t pretend it’s not there. The only way to deal with it is to actually deal with it.

I thought I had given up on fairy tale endings long ago. I thought that I had come to terms with the fact that life and love are far more complex than the stories that we read and the dreams that we dream. Last Summer though, for what feels like a moment now, I thought that fairy tales might be true after all. I was giddy with it. I was head over heels, all in, and I let go of all my inhibitions. I am not usually one to let go and just give in but this time I did. I don’t let go easily but when I do I am someone who loves with all their being, I don’t hold back love, I’ve never been able to.

My heart had been broken very recently so it seemed a little crazy to open up to someone new. Maybe it was crazy but I was willing to take the chance because I wanted to believe in something more and to this day I do not regret taking that chance. I wanted crazy, head over heels, love more than anything in the world. Even now, months later, my throat closes up with the sadness and it feels like a million little splinters to my heart. The healing is beginning though – I am finally able to find the energy and the words to write again. I haven’t been able to write a single post since last year. My heart was far too heavy with the weight of all the sadness I experienced in such a short time span. My mind was filled with the confusion and conflict I was feeling and it drowned out my creativity for a long time.

There were so many magical moments, so many seeming coincidences that led my heart to believe and to hope again in this new relationship. My heart was still a bit fragile from the pain of my past relationship but I was committed to living from a place of courage and vulnerability. “He’s charming until he’s not,” one of his friends jokingly said and I laughed not quite realizing how true this statement was. I wanted to believe, I wanted to love, so I did. The connection was intense and sudden; at times it was overwhelmingly beautiful yet other times it was painful and confusing.  I began to question myself, to feel as if there was something about me that was either too much or not enough. I reminded myself that love is never easy and continued to try to understand, to love, and to be myself even when it was painful. 

At the time, I needed a place to rest, a place where I felt at ease and cared for. There were moments of love and care; little notes, flowers, poems, dinner, coffee dates, and day trips … Those are the moments I cherish still, the moments that make me feel as if it was worth it even though it didn’t end the way I had hoped at the time.

But months later I still wrestle with the unanswered questions, I wonder why it all ended almost as quickly as it began and with such finality. Why my truth was never accepted as truth. I wonder why I was critiqued and criticized, questioned and doubted, isolated and shut out. I wonder why I felt that every move I made was under a microscope and why towards the end I began to feel scared – scared that I would end up again in a relationship that would try to tone me down, change me, control me, and require me to paint on a smile when I was dying on the inside. I let go in the end, just in a different way, I let go of the fairy tale because it wasn’t true.

I stood my ground for myself even though it felt like my last dream was dying and the tiny flicker of hope the relationship had provided was being extinguished. I stood my ground because I had fought too hard to become myself, to be free, to remove myself from toxic relationships, and to be fully alive. I stood my ground because my daughter deserves to have a mother who knows who she is and walks in it with confidence despite what others might say or do. I stood my ground because I am enough as I am. I stood my ground because growth is the most important piece of all that I am becoming and I refuse to go back. I stood my ground because I will not dumb myself down, quiet my voice, or change who I am to make someone else comfortable. I stood my ground because although the fairy tale has died, I believe in love, a love that is tough as nails and all encompassing. A love that embraces me as I am while it allows me to become all that I am meant to be – a love that holds me secure and gives me wings.

 

 

 

As My Girl Enters 1st Grade

Miss M starts first grade tomorrow and as she goes into another school I am sitting here thinking about the power of voice, the power of owning your story and knowing that what you have to say is of value. My hope for her this year and every year ahead is that she will know the power of her own voice, that she will own who she is and stand confidently in herself. That she will be confident but kind. That she will say what she needs to say and stand up for those who need her to be their voice.

Too often as women and girls, we are told to tone it down and to be “lady like,” which typically implies quiet and small. While I want my daughter to have class and to be polite, I refuse to ask her to fit into the stereotypical mold of “being a lady.” She has too much insight and love to offer the world to just sit back quietly.

I want her to be brave, to forge ahead even when she is scared and accomplish all the things she feels in her heart she is meant to do. I don’t want her to feel that she has to “fit in,” rather my desire is that she would find the courage and strength to bring others in instead. To bring those around her into a place of love and acceptance, as they are and for who they are.

“Kind people are brave people. Brave is not something you should wait to feel. Brave is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

When she was born, she came out yelling and she has been a force ever since. She continually challenges me. She is smart, she is tenacious and she is full of passion for life. She is also tenderhearted and kind. I hope that she will never lose these qualities. I pray that as her mom, I will be able to channel her in the right directions, encourage her, stand by her and never try to change who she is. My heart breaks and burst with pride at the same time as I watch her learn and grow.

So into a new school year we go, hand in hand.

Madi –

You are the joy of my heart, you are the greatest gift. May you always know the power you hold deep inside. May you continue to let your love and light shine brightly. May you always have courage and be kind.

I love you, xo

Mom

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Let There Be Spaces

New relationships are always challenging, but when you begin one in the midst of chaos and change it adds another level of pressure. It has been a little over two years since R. and I started dating. He has been through some of the worst moments of my life with me and most certainly has seen me at my lowest point. We struggled, we went back and forth, we still struggle to meld two lives together. Something that came naturally in my 20’s is a whole lot harder in my 30’s. I have different ideas, a different outlook on life in general, I am a lot more opinionated and I still struggle to develop healthy headspace.

I didn’t grow up with a good sense of healthy boundaries, especially when it came to expressing emotion. We were a hot headed, loud and large family. We yelled a lot. When I got married, at twenty one, I continued this pattern in my marriage; high emotion and yelling. I thought this was normal, it was my normal but it was not healthy. My ex husband and I are both intense and emotional people, we did not know how to express our feelings appropriately or work out conflict in a constructive way. In some ways, this led to the breakdown of our relationship.

I am not saying that emotion is wrong or that you should stifle what you feel. I am a firm believer in being in touch with your emotions and your feelings. However, there’s a certain level of self control and self awareness that needs to exist so that your emotions do not control you or alienate others. As someone who also deals with anxiety, this is very difficult for me both in a relationship and as a parent. Some days I am able to internally cope and regulate, other days I miss the mark completely and end up hurting those closest to me.

One of the things that I have come to appreciate about R. is his ability to call me out on my crap. Obviously, I don’t appreciate it immediately but over time I have come to see the benefit of his insight and ability to stay calm more often than not. He has helped me to realize that plowing ahead full force with all my emotion and feeling is not healthy and in fact creates a disconnect with the people I love most. This was insight and understanding that I had never received before. I had never experienced life in any other way. My parent’s relationship was fraught with tension and emotion, my childhood and teenage years were full of high emotion and intensity, and my marriage followed the same pattern.

So here I am, in my 30’s trying to reconstruct my life and change the destructive patterns I have created in my life. I would love to say that I have figured this all out and that I am on my way. However, I am really at the beginning stages of mental reconstruction and self awareness. I have been presented with the challenge to change. I have said quite often that I believe change is a choice and I guess now would be the time for me to take those words to heart in a new way.

A few years ago, I participated the My One Word project. According to their website, “It’s okay to want to be a better you—the question is, how? My One Word replaces broken promises with a vision for real change. When you choose a single word, you have a single focus. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past … This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.” So although I am a little late to the party, I have decided that my word this year will be “Space.”

I need to develop a healthier head space, I need to make time for my own space in life, and I need to give those around me the space they need. In doing so, I believe that I will begin to develop better strategies for coping with my own emotions and also minimize my anxiety.

When it comes to relationships, I am all about togetherness but I am finally realizing that for a relationship to grow and to remain healthy, there must be “spaces in your togetherness.” You can not be your best self if you do not take the time and space to develop your best self. So this is my challenge and goal for the year.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Lessons in Brokenness and Beauty

These past two years have brought a lot of changes, a lot of emotional ups and downs, mental and emotional challenges that sometimes seemed insurmountable. Here on the other side now though, I have come to deeper understanding of what it means to live alive, to live without limits, and I have found that there is such beauty, strength, and peace here on the other side. There’s no such things as a “waste of time,” rather every moment becomes a part of you, a part of your story, your journey. If you allow it to, it will give you new depth, soften your hard edges, allow you to see what truly matters, and fill your heart with gratitude – All things work as they should.

Here are some of the things that I have written and learned along this journey …

2013 

You let yourself be vulnerable

And now your scared
Let it go
Quiet your spinning mind
And just trust
If one door closes, it was meant too
Another one will open
Be Brave
Know your worth
Ignore those who don’t
You are worth so much more
You are beautiful


It was all I ever wanted until it wasn’t anymore
Decided to take a leap of faith or insanity, I’m not sure
The thrill intoxicating, went straight to my head
The fire that was burning, demanding to be fed
Reaching for the unknown
Standing on unsteady feet
There’s courage in this uncertainty
Cause freedom is never free
I will stand my ground
Face my demons down
Find the courage I’ve been lacking
Even if my heart is breaking

I’m falling apart at the seams

My heart just keeps taking these hits
And I wonder how long I can go
With a heart wide open
Ever hopeful, I keep pressing on
But it seems so misguided these days
And I am constantly fighting the pain
Of giving so much of myself
Just to find this emptiness
I believe in love
It’s the very essence of all I am
Yet here I am doubting myself
Doubting the value of what I give
Stretched to the point of no return
I keep landing on my face
I know there is beauty to be found
I just can’t see it right now
My vision is so clouded with doubt
Where do I go from here?

Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.
― Eckhart Tolle
2014

And she changed and she grew

Through the storms and the pain
She learned she was braver
Than she once knew
And she started to regain
Her place in this world
Finding a new life amidst the rubble
Of what was once her normal

“Sisu is a word that has no direct translation, but it refers to the idea of continuing to act even in the face of repeated failures and extreme odds. It is a way of living life by displaying perseverance even when you have reached the end of your mental and physical capacities”

2015

HAVE COURAGE & BE KIND

This is not a story of waste and loss, this is a story of something beautiful that you have done …

You gave that person your best and that’s all you can do.
The sacrifice makes it sacred. The cost makes it a holy act.
All the heartache becomes a sacred act of worship.
 — Rob Bell

Life is a balancing act of Fiercely holding on and gently letting go

Sometimes you just get broken and it sucks it really does. Moving forward feels like you’re struggling through deep mud, but above the sun is still shining and you hear the birds chirping and this keeps that tiny spark of hope inside of you alive. Your emotions are on roller coaster mode, anger, laughter, and tears keep arriving in a surprising succession. Your heart feels like the heaviest object you’ve ever carried. It doesn’t make sense and it probably never will but someday it won’t matter if it makes sense, it will just be. You know that giving up is just not an option so you force yourself to steady your aching heart and racing mind and keep pushing past all that appears to be waste, holding on to the lesson you’ve learned time and again, nothing is ever a waste.
There is always a purpose in the chaos.

Clinging tightly holds you back from the possibility of what could be   …

To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.
– Brene Brown

Keep your eyes forward and your heart grateful, happiness will follow, I promise.

Always extend your self in love and in friendship because when you need it the most, it will come right back around to you in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. People are worth your heart and your time, that’s the real purpose of life. Community & Connection, We Belong to Each other.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

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Love Shows Up

Tonight as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across the hashtag, “Love Shows Up.”

I began to think about these words … and of all the ways that showing up is worth it despite how much it may hurt and of the many people in my life in the past couple of years who have showed up when I needed them the most.

As I have gone through my divorce, the intensity of school/work/motherhood, and most recently the move I am making from my home as we prepare to put it on the market, never once have I been left hanging. Even in the moments that felt the darkest, love showed up.

There have been moments too where I have had to make the choice to show up, although the cost often felt greater than the reward. Heart breaking, gut wrenching, moments where I had to actively make the choice to not give in and give up but rather, to fight for what I believed in, to fight for love, to fight for my happiness.

Love doesn’t wait for the right answers, love actually doesn’t really wait for an answer at all, it simply shows up and says, “I am here, not matter what, no matter how rough this gets, you can kick and scream all you want but I am not leaving.” #loveshowsup

And sometimes showing up and loving looks a lot like weakness from the outside. In a world where we are taught to put ourselves first and fight for our rights, putting others first, extending grace, and loving anyway doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But at the end of the day, I can promise you this, you will never, ever, ever regret showing up – You will never regret love, no matter the cost.

Love will always come full circle. As we extend ourselves in love, we will find that love is extended to us as well. It may not come in the way we are looking for it or the way we had hoped it would, but if we open ourselves up, allow ourselves to be broken, love will find a way to bring healing and hope to us again.

There’s a certain sober, honest way that you see the world, you know what it can do to you …You’ve seen the kind of pain that life can bring. And it is easy to let it crush you, it is easy to let it take away every reason to get up in the morning. But the real art of life is to see all that, to feel it. Not to stuff it, not to avoid it, or to numb yourself … You let yourself feel it all and then you make room for it so that you now contain the summation of all your experiences. You make room within yourself for the immensities of the Universe. And when you do that … you will transcend that experience and include it. You will not leave it behind, it will be a part of you, an integrated part of you. You will not be longing to go back to how things were because you have gone through it to the other side. – Rob Bell

There is a love that never fails,
There is a healing that always prevails … #loveshowsup

xo

Leah

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Many thanks to A Diary of a Mom, who I very recently starting following on Facebook. I have been continually inspired over the past couple of weeks by the raw, real, and beautiful words that Jess posts. Thank you for your inspiration this evening.

I Adore You

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Sometimes these days seem

Too hard

The changes tossing us back and forth

Like a ship on a turbulent sea

Moments fly by far too quickly

Breaking my heart

I long for days past, sweet memories

When the world was just you and me

The tide has changed for us and yet …

Love remains even when we’re apart

I ADORE You

I LOVE You

You are my world

The song in my heart

The reason I keep on

We are STRONGER than this

We are BRAVER than this

We

Will

Be

Ok

We will find a new way …

Love you darling girl,

Xo

Mama

Reckless Heart

I will not stop giving my heart away

Recklessly

I will not stop loving with everything

I have

I will embrace this gut wrenching pain

I will take it and run with it

I will breath it in as fuel

To power my journey

It is the force that pushes me forward

Outside of myself

Into places I never thought I could go

It’s terrifying

The plunge that my heart continues to take

But it gives me life at its fullest

It spills over and washes my world

In full color

It allows me to see life

In all its bittersweet glory

And I’ll come to last leg of this journey

Knowing that I never gave just a little

There was no half way

And the reward will be in knowing

That there is no regret in love

Only brokenness made beautiful in the end

Falling Down Girl

A couple of weeks ago, Madi and I were in the yard and she was running around in her own imaginary world as she likes to do. When out of her mouth came this phrase, “The power of falling down! It happens to everyone.” I was struck by the power of the statement itself and her ability to put such a deep concept into words. In some ways it was a proud Mama moment as I realized that all the times I have told her, “Its ok, mistakes happen, let’s try again…” has now become a part of her subconscious. What amazing strength we would all have if we were able to approach life like this on a consistent basis!

There is power in falling down – it means you were trying to do something bigger than you’ve ever done before. Even though you didn’t make it all the way, you were still brave for trying. You put yourself out there, you were “actually in the arena.”

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while DARING GREATLY.” – T. Roosevelt

As she continued to play, she started to chant to herself, “I’m the falling down girl, I’m the falling down girl.” Again, I was struck by the depth of this statement and her proud ownership of this title. Too often, we shy away from the raw and the real, we want to appear as if we have it all together and that everything is perfect. In reality, there is nothing perfect and put together about life, its one big, crazy, chaotic, beautiful mess and we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall. ― Nelson Mandela

So in our house, we’ll proudly say, we’re the falling down girls,  but we’re going to keep getting up over and over again!

So fall hard, fall with abandon, fall wildly, fall gracefully, fall however you will … but whatever you do, don’t be afraid to fall.

xo
Leah

Stick With Love

Above all else, I have decided to “stick with love.” This is not always the easy choice, in fact it requires me to go beyond myself and my needs, to extend grace, compassion, and mercy to others whether or not they deserve it. But I have found that I am unable to live any other way. I was made for love, I was made to love.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. –

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I used to think that it would be better if I could learn how to hate, if I could just find a way to toughen up and give people what they “deserve.” No matter how hard I have tried to “toughen up,” I have never ever been able to. What I have found though, is an assurance and a peace that softens the blows that life likes to throw my way from time to time.

I am assured of this … Everything, every good, bad, great, terrible, frustrating, exhilarating, experience has a purpose and a reason. Most often, I will not understand or be able to accept the reason when I am dealing with pain or lost in confusion. However, I have learned to dig deep and hold on because at the end of my life, I want to look back and know without a doubt, that I lived a life of love. That will be enough, that will be more than enough to fill in the cracks and crevices of a heart well spent and a life well lived.

Love is not warm and fuzzy or sweet and sticky. Real love is tough as nails.

It’s having your heart ripped out, putting it back together and the next day,

Offering it back to the same world that just tore it up.

It’s running toward pain and grief and brokenness instead of away from it.

It’s turning the other cheek ‘til you get whiplash.

It’s resisting the overwhelming desire to quit, to save yourself for yourself.  

Glennon Doyle Melton  

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A life without love is really no life after all … I choose to embrace the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, the beauty and the brokenness and Live Alive.

xo

Leah