I seriously don’t even know where to start with this blog post. So much has happened in our lives over the last year. I have barely blogged at all and I hate that. I so enjoy blogging and writing and wish so badly I had more time for it. But such is the season of life we are in. Toddlers are a full time job and I have two more jobs on top of that. I wouldn’t trade a thing about our life and I spend as much time as possible in a place of gratitude for it…but I’m tired…alot. Ha. And alot of days I have to really focus on staying present and taking it all in. But I do. Because these days are going so fast. At least once a day I remind myself to let go of things that don’t matter and focus on really taking in my child and cherishing little things with him. I could do a better job of having that same focus on Eric and our marriage though. We don’t get near enough time for us these days. We try..but it’s hard. I keep reminding myself, and Eric, that in a few short years Ritter will want nothing to do with us, he’ll think we are stupid and old, and he’ll spend as much time as possible holed up in his room. We need to really embrace these moments where all he wants is us and thinks we are the two coolest people on the planet!
This year brought alot of challenges for me, both personally and professionally. I was challenged in ways I have not been before. I did alot of soul searching and thinking and processing. I have reminded myself on numerous occasions that struggles are necessary and that they help us grow. They help us learn more about ourselves and open us up to better understand others. When faced with struggles this year I reminded myself that they were vital to my personal growth. As hard as they were in the moment, I did my best to push the fear aside and do the necessary problem solving. Sometimes that didn’t come until after a good cry or panic attack, but I eventually got there.
Nothing remains the same. Nothing ever has and nothing ever will. People change. Relationship dynamics change. Career paths change. And, unfortunately, the tides of change also change. Progress happens in fits and starts. Personally I believe that God challenges us when we need it. When the shaking up becomes necessary. When we aren’t paying attention in the way that we should. I have watched that happen for myself and for others in my personal and professional life alot over the last year. Insight and reflection are vital to remaining present and mindful in our lives. And I believe that we get in ruts of simply reacting to life rather than reflecting about it. I work REAL hard at this and do a good job in many areas of my life…but in some I need work. We all need work. That’s what makes this messy life so great.
I’ve hurt alot this year…in ways I didn’t see coming. I was thrown through a loop you could say…on many fronts…and I’m better because of it. I’m not someone who is easily hurt or rattled. I used to be…a long time ago..but these days I’m pretty steady and stable. And through this hurt I saw that growth in myself. I had to say “this hurts, this sucks, but there is meaning in it. Don’t have a pity party. Do the work. You know you can handle anything.” I won’t go into details because it’s not necessary, but the result is what matters. The result is still working itself out and has many facets to it. I’ve been through alot of shit in my life and I have always been able to look back – even if it’s years later – and see EXACTLY why I had to go through things. Each specific struggle taught me something and helped me grow.
On a side note let me say that things are really good with me professionally. My practice is doing well and I’m happy where I am. Most of you know the challenges I am referring to. The lesson in it all is that I need to follow my gut when it comes to MY business and trust myself more. I know what I’m doing and I don’t need to doubt myself. The more I have listened to my gut and done things my way, the more success I’ve had. (Shout out to Eric Goss here! My soul mate when it comes to this issue! I love you so much.) I don’t know where that is going to lead me in the future. For now I’m where I am…but I have some goals and dreams…they don’t look like I thought they would years ago. But what I have learned is this…we have to manage our expectations. Constantly. Our expectations of others. Of ourselves. Of the world around us. Everything.
We walk this very fine line in life. We are social beings. We need others. We are happier and more fulfilled when we connect with and share our lives with others. The greatest dysfunction I see in people comes as a result of being isolated. People need people. Period. But we also need to know that we are completely OK the way we are and that, when it comes down to it, we can rely solely on ourselves. Right? I mean, I don’t ever ever ever EVER want to do life without Eric Craig. But when it comes down to it I know that I could. That I am okay and don’t NEED him. So it’s this fine line we walk between needing people and needing to know that we don’t. Does that make sense? We need to know that sometimes the world is going to fall apart around us and that no one can fix things for us…that we have to sit in our sadness or whatever mess life has handed us and KNOW that we will get through it. KNOW that we can handle it…that we are innately equipped with everything we need to handle anything life throws at us. And KNOW that the result is ultimately going to be okay. I did alot of this recently. Alot of sitting in mess. Breathing. And knowing I was okay.
There was a great deal of shifting in my support system over this past year. My professional support system changed as well as my personal one. I drew closer to my mother in many ways (and remain thankful that that relationship is ever changing, growing and evolving and always will be). I also experienced hardships in some friendships and strengthening in others. I discovered that some people just know you…and see you..in a different way than others. And I’m really grateful for the people in my life that SEE me and get me. I have also come to understand that not all relationships operate on the same level and that’s okay. This is something I know, cognitively, and talk about alot in my work. But I’ve come to understand and appreciate this concept on a whole ‘nother level this year.
The issue of a “support system” is one that has been heavily on my mind and heart also as it relates to my child and my family. I have alot of friends who consider their siblings or members of their family to be their closest supports. I don’t have that. The people that I tend to be the closest to are not people I’m related to. I have longed for a close family as long as I can remember but it just has never been a reality for me. My mom’s family are not the “let’s share our feelings and help each other solve problems” kinds of people. I love them dearly…but they aren’t. They don’t get together and pretty much only see each other on major holidays. It makes me so sad. What they ARE, however, is “suck it up and deal with it” kinds of people…and I see how I have alot of that in me and I’m grateful for that aspect of my personality. But we aren’t necessarily close and we don’t talk alot. I wish it was different.
My family on my dad’s side are definitely people that I can share feelings with and ask for advice…but they live far away. And while I can call them and communicate with them about anything, any time…it makes me sad that they aren’t here and involved on a daily basis. No one can help it..it’s just the way it is. We all wish it were different.
So at the ripe old age of (almost) 37 I’ve come to understand that my support system is a little different. That being an only child means it’s made of up mostly friends. It also means that some of the people I’m the closest to are really far from me. Which means we spend alot of time on FaceTime…Hi Joey and Ardith! But I’ve also learned that as you enter different phases of life things change in your relationships with friends. Some are able to shift with you and some are not. Some understand “toddler life” as I like to call it, and some do not. Some work hard at staying in touch when life gets busy and others do not. I know, KNOW, know that this doesn’t mean that some people care more than others. I know that some people are just better at staying in touch and staying connected than others. And it doesn’t change how I feel about these people. But what I’ve learned is that some people just simply grow with you into different phases of life and some don’t. It’s no one’s fault. It just is.
But I think having experienced alot of struggle this year I’ve come to appreciate the concept of family alot more. Not in the biological sense. But in the sense of “regardless of who we are, or what we believe, or how we live our lives, we are always going to be in each other’s lives…and it’s just not an option.” And I’ve discovered I have more of those people than I realized. And sometimes they don’t like me…and sometimes I don’t like them…but we remain connected. That’s “family” right? I am also newly challenged to see my real family differently. I use the term “real” loosely here as my family is a mixed bag of real and step and half and everything in between. Ha. But I have spent alot of years wishing we all were closer and allowing alot of things to stand in the way of that. But when your stepdad (who has raised you for over 20 years) is diagnosed with cancer, and your uncle dies of a heart attack 2 days later, and your best friend’s mother passes away a few days after that, you have a newfound appreciation for “family.” And maybe it’s time for me to stop being sad about everyone else not “caring” in the way that I think they should…and instead start seeing people for who they are. Flawed. Busy. Stressed. And maybe not quite as comfortable as I am with picking up the phone and saying “hey, how are you, I miss you.” Maybe that’s what I can do. Maybe it’s up to me to reach out and make people a little uncomfortable. Maybe I need to just say…”hey we are family, let’s talk more!” I need to get off my pity party about being an only child in a small, disconnected family and just do my best to connect where I can.
This damn house
Oh this house. This beautiful flawed house. I swear she raised me up a little. Not in the “lifting” sense but in the “make you grow up” sense. Ha. I was so so SO challenged on so many levels with the building of this house. Time management. Anger management. Stress management. Focus on what matters management. Ha. Letting go. Picking my battles. I don’t know if my memory or capacity to remember has ever been challenged in the way it was with this house. The details. The things I simply had to remember because no one else would. The things I had to stay on top of. The things I had to obsess about. The things…oh y’all. All the things. Ha.
She’s not perfect. But she’s strong. And through building her I learned alot…about myself, my marriage, and others. She showed me that I can handle even more than I thought I could. She showed me yet again that LISTENING TO MY GUT IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT THING TO DO! She taught me to speak up even when I’m afraid of looking like a bitch. I want you to understand that this whole process, for me, was about SO MUCH MORE than building a house. Yes I’m an emotional person. Yes I tend to connect alot of deep personal meaning to things that other people just see as ..things. But this house…y’all…it’s a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember. And it’s representative of so many things for me. Of growing up. Of commitment. Of stability. And when you pour so much money and time and commitment into something and things go wrong or things don’t turn out the way you envisioned, you can very easily lose your grip. Y’all feel me? So this house taught me to walk that line of digging in where it was absolutely necessary but also giving grace and having patience with myself and others when I needed to let go. Through it though I met some good people that are very good at what they do. And watching people in their element, living their purpose, is a beautiful thing. I also connected personally with every craftsman, painter, plumber, electrician and HVAC guy that worked on this house. I learned about who they are. I met their family members. I came to appreciate them as people. And THAT makes this house that much more special.
These have definitely been the most fun and most challenging months with Ritter so far. Having the speech and vocabulary development of a 5 or 6 year old at the age of 3 is a bit much sometimes. It’s amazing to just watch him and listen to the things he can talk about and explain…but he’s also incredibly strong willed and independent. And regardless of his language development, he still has the emotional regulation of a 3 year old. Which is very little. So the mood swings, tantrums, and intense reactions that come with “threenagers” are very much a part of our daily life. But the gentleness, kindness, and depth he shows make all of it worthwhile. He has become even more loving and affectionate these last few months. And even more aware of the feelings of others.
I am constantly challenged to stay connected in challenging moments with Ritter. When he’s whining and losing his shit because he wanted the red socks instead of the white ones I am challenging myself to remember that he’s 3…that life is hard when you don’t communicate and interpret the world around you the way your parents do. That life is hard when you have no control over most things and can’t do alot for yourself. That life is hard when it seems everyone is telling you what to do ALL the time. When you’re constantly needing to hurry, and be quiet, and calm down, and clean up. I am trying my best to slow down and see him, really really see him and listen to what he needs from me. Because even though he can’t always put it into words, he speaks loudly.
I don’t know why I saved this for the end. Ha. You all were getting excited that I wrote a blog about 2016 and didn’t include anything about the election right? Ha! But I won’t say alot about it. Just this: I have been a sideline participant in our political system for too long. I have really strong beliefs but I have felt that, overall, progress was being made and the tides were changing. For the most part I’ve felt really good about the last 8 years and haven’t been too involved beyond my voting and watching/reading the news when I can. That is all about to change. I know you all are brimming with excitement about my newfound passion for my political platform. Ha. But seriously. This isn’t about stomping my feet because I didn’t get my way. This is about recognizing that we’ve been doing things the wrong way…that us socially conscious liberals have rested on our laurels and not been active participants in our political system. We needed shaking up!!! Just like I said before. When we aren’t PAYING ATTENTION, life will wake us up. And here we are. Wide effing awake. WE have someone as our president-elect whom the majority of our voting public did not choose. Someone whom the majority of our voting public doesn’t feel good about leading our country. We all know it. So here I am, wide awake, feeling that this has happened because no one on either side has done a very good job of communicating who they really are and what they really believe to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. We aren’t so much divided as we are DISCONNECTED. So…I hope to have a better understanding of the other side. And I hope to help them have a better understanding of what we are all about too. I hope, as I move forward, to be more connected on every level – with my neighbors, my friends, my community, my political system.
Something hit me the other day. I was walking down the aisle at Publix here on Green Springs and I saw several things that represent this beautiful diverse city in which I live. I saw families and friends and neighbors talking and laughing and shopping together. This beautiful little cross section of this little blue dot of Alabama. And I thought about how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much diversity. Because it opens me up. It challenges my stereotypes, my judgments of others, my understanding of what it means to be a family, to be black, southern, rich, poor, successful, disabled, etc. I don’t think people have that everywhere. And I don’t know how to change that…but I want to. I want so badly for people to start seeing each other as people and nothing else. And if marching, and rallying, and writing congressmen, and making phone calls, and organizing meetings can help in any small way with that goal then that’s what I want to do.
So how did 2016 change me? It opened me up. It woke me up. As someone who works real hard at being present and connected, I learned that I can always do better, work harder, think deeper, listen closer….to myself and those around me. And I will. With my clients, my friends, my family, my neighbors, and my child.
I worked on this blog post for a few days. I started and stopped and wrote and deleted. I read it and thought…”what in the hell are you talking about?” Ha. It’s a bit rambling and inconclusive isn’t it? It’s existential and abstract. It’s not that tangible. But neither is life.
I think about 2016. How we all seem to have hated it and were so ready to see it die. We all joked about it and shared the memes right? But why was it so bad? Because we lost people? Because we got a bad diagnosis? Because we lost an election? Alot of good things happened this year. We all grew. We all became stronger. We were all challenged….to see ourselves and others in a different way. So..let’s keep it up. Let’s stay connected. Let’s keep challenging each other. Let’s hate 2017 just as much when it’s over too. Ha. Because it taught us something. Sometimes lessons are hard.