Out of the Ashes: A Budding Romance

I wrote this probably about 1-2 months ago and saved it as a draft because it was just so personal. However, without fail, the blog posts that I am most anxious about posting because they are so personal, are the exact ones that I receive the most feedback on as being the ones who help people the most. So, in the spirit of my new vow to serve others in order to better serve myself, here goes nothin'!.....

Today was beautiful and I had a precious few hours with nowhere to be and no one who needed me. So I went to a local park and ran as hard as I could. I used to spend so much time at this park but when I arrived today, I realized it had been over a year since the last time I had been there. It's funny how places can hold emotions. This park held a lot of my emotions....

This is not the typical love story.

To fully understand how this romance started, we have to go back a few years to when I found out I was pregnant in late 2007. I was not planning nor was I prepared for a pregnancy. In fact, at 30 years old, I had pretty much decided that I didn't want to be a mom.

Part of the reason, quite honestly, is because I'm not, and have never been, much of a "kid person". Another huge reason was because my marriage of 10+ years was, and had always been, rocky. However, there I sat in the bathroom floor at work staring at a pregnancy test in disbelief.

Fast forward to September 2009, my son had just turned one. One rainy day after work I stopped at the park to sit for a few minutes because I didn't want to go home just yet. My marriage of almost 12 years, that had always been rocky, had eroded away to an empty shell of a marriage. The differences and incompatibilities that had worn heavy on us for years, had now broken us to pieces. We barely spoke anymore. When we did, it was often harsh and unloving.

I want to take a moment to clarify something. Two people who are incompatible are just that, not compatible. This doesn't necessarily make either person bad. That was definitely the case here. We weren't bad, we were just bad for each other. There isn't always a villain and a victim in every story. Perhaps, if anything, we were both villains and we were both victims.

So on that rainy day in September 2009, I sat at the park and cried. I cried over the life I was living. It brings me great shame to feel this, much less say it, but I didn't feel about my husband or my son, the way I knew I was supposed to feel about them. I knew I had to change my life or I would suffocate and choke to death on the sadness and emptiness I felt.

A few days later, just 3 months before my 12th anniversary, I left my husband. And I left him in possibly one of the worst ways, over the phone. I was almost numb when I told him, feeling so little. Anyone who knows me would've known something was wrong with me for me to feel so little. Although I might not have been able to remain in a marriage with this man, he had been my family for 12 years and I loved him. One of the reasons I had stayed so long was because the thought of hurting him broke my heart to even think about. In fact, years earlier I had tried to leave and the way he cried hurt me to my soul. So much that I went back to him and vowed never to leave again because I never wanted to cause him that kind of pain again.

But here I was, ending our marriage...on the phone....virtually emotionless.

After I left, it didn't take long for the reality of my situation to really set in. Here I was, a 32 year old single mother of a 1 year old boy. The responsibility felt like a crushing weight on top of me. I actually remember saying to my mother once, "I wish I could just be his aunt or something and enjoy playing with him but not have to be the one to raise him."

It would be great if this is part in the story where I pull myself up by the bootstraps and make a wonderful life for myself and my son but instead....I started desperately looking for a boyfriend. After years of being in a mutually discontent marriage, I wanted passion and romance. Turns out when you're a 240 pound, 32 year old single mother of a 1 year old boy and you're depressed and desperate, decent guys aren't really interested. Hmm, whodathunkit?!

So this very park saw me with a couple duds along the way. Without a doubt, the most dramatic was my high school sweetheart who had came sniffing around from time to time throughout the years but who I always had the good sense to turn down. I gave him the green light and he came rushing from another state to be with me and we reunited at that very park. Romantic right? Hardly...

Turns out he wasn't there to sweep me off my feet and rescue me from my scary new life, but rather had taken a little "break" from his wife to hook up with his ex-girlfriend. I was absolutely devastated when he just never showed back up one day and I only knew he was gone and that his broken marriage hadn't been broken at all when his wife called to tell me he was back home and that I should go get tested for STD's. Those were a few of the scariest weeks of my life but, crisis averted, I came back with a clean bill of health.

Now, you're probably thinking surely THIS is where my eyes were opened to my poor decisions and I pulled myself by the bootstraps and made a better life for myself and my son. Well, you would be wrong again....

Before this happened, every day was already a sad struggle. I had to constantly push back sadness and an unending desire to lay down and go to sleep. But, when he did this to me, I snapped. I honestly turned into a crazy person. I went from barely sleeping to basically never sleeping. I sent him constant texts, emails and Facebook messages. I smeared his name on every website I could find. Yes, he screwed me over but, no, this is not generally me regardless of what someone has done to me. I was so filled with hate and misery and I had finally found the perfect person to direct it at...my cheating, lying ex-boyfriend.

This would be around the time that I finally, at the urging of many, and increasing thoughts of suicide, decided to go see a doctor. It turns out that I had a very severe case of postpartum depression.

This explained so much, it explained why I never connected with my son the way I should, why I felt numb when I left my husband, why I felt this desperate, desperate urge to have a man in my life, why I ever got back with a boyfriend who, in high school, slept with quite a few of my friends and ended up in prison for numerous reasons and why I felt an unending need to spew hate at him. I was NOT this person and finally I understood why I was behaving the way I was.

However, understanding why I was the way I was did nothing to fix the problem. That's what medication is for, right? Wrong, the medication was horrible and expensive and I got off of it fairly quickly.

Now surely THIS is the part where I get my shit together and start living a better life....no such luck. It was a long zig zagging road where I made more poor decisions including a 2 year relationship with a guy who rejected, belittled and cheated on me.

But this IS the time that I started to educate myself on better and more natural ways to cure my postpartum. I changed my diet, started exercising on a regular basis and getting a good night's sleep. This didn't happen all at once, mind you, but as time went on and I began to see how much these things could positively affect me, the more I did them and the better I got.

Along the way, my local park saw my son and me there quite often. I would push him around the track in a stroller, every step miserable and slow. As he became older, I would bring him to play on the playground but I wasn't truly ever "there" with him. I was either inside my own head or checking my phone constantly to see if my NEW cheating boyfriend had responded to me yet. Or I was scanning the playground to see if there were any cute, single dads around that could save me from my life of sadness and fear.

Somewhere along the way, I can't exactly pinpoint where, I fell in love with my son. Deeply in love. I began to look into those big blue eyes and actually SEE him, perhaps for the first time since he was born. As he took those first steps, drew a picture of his first monster and toddled off to his first day of daycare, I fell deeper and deeper in love. Now, at almost 5, he has captured my heart so completely. I am saddened and ashamed for the time so early on when I was on autopilot, always loving him, always doing the mechanical things I should do to make sure he was fed, bathed, etc. but never really loving him the way he deserved to be loved.

Now he is a little man full of character and his soul touches me in ways I can not describe. My heart is swelled with love to think about it. His name is Phoenix. And I realized today just how fitting a name it is. Because, he has grabbed hold of my heart and dragged me up from out of the ashes and into the light. I think, if not for him, I may have slipped away completely but having this little helpless person before me who required, no demanded, my attention, forced me to stay in this world at least a little.

But this isn't the end of the love story. My son has captured the biggest part of my heart but there is another love I have found along the way. My love for myself. I love my imperfect, sometimes crazy, selfish, angry, unbalanced, scarred and beautifully flawed sacred self. I love myself enough to know that I can publicly share my most shameful parts, as I just have, and that I am STILL enough.

And because I finally, somewhere along the way, got my priorities straight and gave my heart to the right people (that being, Phoenix and ME) I stopped running toward men who were toxic for me. I still always wanted the love, romance and passion that I felt I was missing for so long but I stopped being willing to find it anywhere and to settle for it in small, inconsistent doses. I held out and was rewarded finely. Now I have someone who is just as imperfectly perfect as I am and he does much more than fill that empty spot. He is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader....my soul mate. But if he leaves me tomorrow, although I would be heartbroken, I will STILL be enough and I will still find joy in life.

After my run today, I walked slowly for a while and looked around this park that had seen so much of the most tragic part of my life. I remember how heavy my body, and my heart, always felt when I was there in the past. How perfect that I was there today. In the Springtime, a time of new beginnings, in my new, fit body with my sound and happy mind, having just taken my son to his kindergarten assessment this morning. The Dogwoods were in bloom, the sun was shining and my heart was full. I cried tears of happiness and relief that I had survived the darkest hours in my life. Then I ran a little more...just because I could.

Shut Up Liar!!

How do you love yourself if you....well, don't love yourself? This was the question I struggled with for years. "You just have to love yourself enough to do it." Okay, that's not helpful. So let me break it down for you. FAKE IT! Just tell yourself "I love you" even if you feel stupid and don't believe it.
I always felt undeserving of anything good. I punished my body with bad food and no exercise... when I was stressed out. I punished my heart with relationships that didn't add to my wellbeing.
Once I decided I was going to fake it, and I started using positive self-talk, everything started to change.
Did I suddenly feel deserving? No way. In fact, I can't pinpoint exactly when the change occured. However, I woke up this morning feeling completely deserving of the body I have worked so hard for, the amazing man that loves me and makes my head spin, and the job that makes me excited to wake up and get ready for each day. I always thought that if/when I ever got to this point in my life that I would still feel like I was faking it. But I don't. I feel 100% deserving and comfortable (yet still unbelievely humbled and grateful) of everything I have worked so hard to achieve.
The negative self-talk still creeps into my head on a daily basis. But, likewise, another louder, more insistent voice has now been trained to speak up right behind it and declare "SHUT UP LIAR!"
If you don't believe you deserve something. You're right. If you DO believe you deserve something....YOU'RE RIGHT!! Start today. Argue with that little nasty voice in your head. Post notes around your house that say "I love you". "You deserve to be happy". On your fridge post "You deserve to be nourished with healthy food because I love you and you're worth it."