Tuesday, January 8, 2019

2019 : Surrender

It's been a few months, y'all.

So first of all---hi. I've missed you. 

It is already the 8th of January and although I picked my word a few days ago, I've been enjoying my time with my three babies and all of our holiday crazy.

So here I am, ready to write an update for you that includes my 2019 word.

2018 was the year. It is the best year we've had since divorce.

It wasn't an easy year. But it was our best one to date. 

In 2018, here are some things our family accomplished: 

  • Andersen performed as a meerkat in a production of The Lion King and was absolutely adorable. 
  • I fractured my toe/foot teaching dance, literally just by being kicked by a 10 year old. Darn dancers and their strong legs. ;) 
  • Hayley landed her round-off, back-tuck like a freaking boss. 
  • I spent February to May in a classroom at Gilbert High School, observing and tutoring for over 20 hours. 
  • Leo. The brightest part of our year was getting a call on Easter Sunday, asking if I'd take a 2 day old baby that was being discharged from the hospital in 20 minutes. That "yes" has changed our lives for the better. And nine months later, he is still changing my life daily. I never knew I could love another human as much as I love Hayley and Andersen but Leo is so equally loved and wanted. 
  • I took a 3 hour test that certified me to teach high school English and PASSED. 
  • Hayley attended her first Nationals in California with her dance team and they were amazing, coming away with many high titles. 
  • Andersen tried out and made the Drones hip hop team at Dance Republic and now says dance is his very favorite sport and that he wants to do it forever, just like his big sister. 
  • I interviewed at 5-6 high schools, being turned down each time but learning more and more about myself and how to interview each time. 
  • I spent October to December in three different classrooms at San Tan Charter HS, observing, tutoring, and teaching for over 55 hours. 
  • I was offered a job teaching high school English and through lots of prayer, I turned it down because it was not what was right for my family at this time. As hard as that was to try and make sense of why I would turn down a job I've worked toward, I've only felt peace since that moment. 
  • I got a daith piercing that has significantly helped my migraines. And after doing that, I went off of caffeine and have done really well with that! 
  • Leo has accomplished rolling, sitting up, laughing, learning to make various sounds, and getting super chubby and pretty tall for his age---cause he's just an overachiever like that. 
  • I finished my very last semester of school and decided to postpone my student teaching for a semester while I figure out some big decisions for my life. 
  • Hayley got glasses and looks absolutely adorable in them. 
  • I got to be a guest on a podcast with my friend, Emily, talking about my divorce and co-parenting and my life now. 
  • Hayley turned 10. 
  • Andersen turned 9. 
  • I turned 31. 
  • Leo stayed 0. 
  • Andersen lost two teeth. 
  • Leo got two teeth. 
  • Leo had his head shaved and got a Doc Band helmet that he will be wearing for the next 4 months. 
  • Both of the olders are flourishing and doing well in school. 
  • And although this will eventually be it's own post, we are hoping to adopt Leo sometime in 2019 and are praying that God can carry us through whatever plans He has for Leo's life. 

There is so much more, I'm sure. I could continue to tell you all of the amazing things my kids are doing and accomplishing. They truly inspire me to be a better person. 

I've been pondering on 2018 and my word for the year---forgiveness

I really feel like this was a year where God worked miracles in my heart that helped me to see so far beyond what I thought I was capable of seeing. 

I have spent this year mending friendships and letting go of ones that can't be mended. I've spent a significant amount of time working through any resentment still in my heart from my divorce and our difficult court trial last January. I've also worked through a lot of healing with my therapist to forgive myself. 

It is not over. I don't know if it ever will be. I am continuously on this scale of hating myself, loving myself, and forgiving myself for my life decisions. In fact, I feel as though I am still somewhere on that continuum with my ex-husband or others who have hurt me in my past. 

2018 was my year of miracles. I look back on the mostly-smooth co-parenting and the fact that I was able to raise a tiny newborn while working two jobs and going to school full time. It wouldn't have been possible without all of the miracles God placed in our lives. 

It wouldn't have been possible without all of you. 

As I thought about what I want 2019 to represent, the first thought that came to my mind is my need want for control in all aspects of my life. 

I struggle with OCD and anxiety daily.

I like control because if I can stay in control of a situation, my brain tells me that I won't get hurt.

It's not effective. I still get hurt. And my need for control usually just makes me sick with anxiety. It doesn't actually change the things that are happening.

So I'm going to try something in 2019 that I think I'm ready for.

Surrender.

I want to surrender the obsessive controlling that I try to do. This is actually something I've been working on for a while but I need it to be at the forefront this year.

As I pray for the adoption of my Leo boy, I want to surrender the feelings of control and worry that come with each court hearing and caseworker visit. Leo is my second experience with foster care but my first experience with adoption. I've known from the beginning that he was different. Even when they told me at a week old that he would only be with us for a few more days or when they changed their minds right before the last two court hearings and decided not to change the case plan to severance. We have a connection unlike anything I ever thought I could experience with a foster placement. And as this situation unfolds and we continue to love our little guy, it is SO hard not to want to control all of the things. But the truth is, I can't control it. DCS could take him tomorrow and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. But I want to stop prolonging my enjoyment of watching my baby boy grow up by being scared that I'm going to lose him. I want to surrender those fears to my Heavenly Father and just be Leo's mom right now, in this moment.

As a person who will forever be co-parenting with my children's dad and their step-mom, I want to surrender the need to control each situation that presents itself. Co-parenting is not easy. It is ever-changing as the kids get older and as our personal lives change. I've had two different babies in my home. Their dad got married. Our dynamics have changed many times. And I still feel threatened by his wife sometimes and her relationship with our kids. I hate that I do it but I do. I still get scared that somehow, they will like her more than they like me. I'm still completely overprotective and get frustrated with any little mistake I hear has happened at their other house. And that---THAT is why I need to work on surrendering to Heavenly Father's plan. Because his plan involves my children being loved by myself, their dad, AND their step-mom. And it is a beautiful thing that my children have so many people who love them and care about them. No matter what that looks like or how it is given, all three of us love these kids. And that is a positive thing.

Over the years, my faith has been so strong in believing that God was going to place a future spouse in my life. It is something that is on my mind often. Being single is not easy and I often feel like I'm drowning, trying to keep up on paying bills and making sure my children's needs are met and somehow finding a minute for myself. I'm emotional about this one---because it's the hardest one for me to surrender. Although I am never going to give up on the potential for a future spouse, I think it is time that I surrender the belief that it  will  happen. There have been so many times where I did not know how to make my paycheck stretch and would have the thought, "If only I had a spouse who could provide another income in our home, then we will be ok.". There have been so many times where I realize the kids have more than one thing happening at the same time and I think, "If only I had a spouse, then I wouldn't have to feel anxious about getting my kids places.". There have been so many times where I've wanted to make a decision that feels right or easy but I am not sure I can say yes to it---because how would I take that on without a spouse?

2019 has some huge decisions and changes in the air. Some of those decisions, I can guarantee I will be judged for, solely based on the fact that I am single.

I mean, it sure as hell doesn't make sense that I would turn down a job that would increase our income. And it doesn't make sense that I foster and will possibly adopt other children when we have such a crazy schedule.

I get it. I'd probably look at me like I was crazy too, if I were you. 

But what I wish more than anything is that people could look at my life and understand that I am trying my best and that my main priority is being a mom and raising my children. I'd do anything for my kids---which includes turning down a job that would greatly decrease the amount of time I'd be able to spend with them.

And maybe to some of you, foster children are not my children---maybe that's the part that makes the least sense---but I believe they are my children. In fact, I believe they are all of our children.

God has asked me to take on some huge responsibilities in my life, ones that feel right but seem daunting. I'm scared. But I am trying to surrender to His will---not mine or yours.


I made my castle tall
I built up every wall
This is my kingdom and it needs to fall
I want You and no one else
Empty me of myself
Until the only thing that's left is
More of You
Less of me
Make me who I'm meant to be
You're all I want all I need
You're everything
Take it all I surrender
Be my king
God I choose
More of You
Less of me
More of You
This life I hold so close
Oh, God I let it go
I refuse to gain the world and lose my soul
So take it all I abandon everything I am You can have it
The only thing I need is
More of You

All to you
I surrender
All to you my blessed Savior
I surrender all

Sunday, October 7, 2018

On My Worst Days

It started on Sunday. Or maybe before Sunday but that day felt significantly hard. 

The panic over not being able to provide for my children for 12 weeks while I am student teaching is setting in. It's right in front of me, only a few months away, and it is affecting my mental health.

Feeling like I'm asking for too much or relying on others makes me uncomfortable.

And on Monday morning, I said goodbye to my children for the week and immediately drove to a job interview.

Knocked. It. Out. Of. The. Park. 

I left feeling on top of the world. Maybe my circumstances would change. Maybe I wouldn't have to student teach. Maybe God had placed that job interview in my path at the exact time when I was needing it most.


And then the rejection email came on Wednesday. On the day when I realized my baby boy was getting sick and vomited all over me at dance.

I felt completely kicked when I was already down. 

And then on Thursday, I felt more rejection after a difficult conversation with someone I had put a lot of faith and trust in. More shame for feeling like I'm not providing enough for my babies. More anxiety as I felt more being put on my already-full plate.

It didn't fully hit me that night. I was sad. I was anxious. I felt completely stupid. But it wasn't until Friday when Leo was still sick and I had to leave work early to get him that I started to lose it.

Like fully lose it. 

"Sobbing to one of my best friend's on a Marco Polo" losing it. 

And all of this in the parking lot of dance before I walked in to teach.

I've lost it a few more times between yesterday and today. Each time, it is when I'm alone and feeling the depth of everything being placed in my path.

There is a lot going on right now. And I feel like I am just treading water in the middle of the ocean, waiting to see if I'm going to make it or if my legs are going to give out.

And why am I writing this down? Why, if you are a close friend, have I not told you personally? 

It's probably because when I speak these things out loud, I cry. And what I'm trying to do is continue to tread that water and not completely drown. Crying takes energy and makes me feel weak. And I'm hanging on by a thread over here.

Somehow, I'm still passing all of my classes. Somehow, I'm still working two jobs. Somehow, I'm still raising three children.

But it doesn't feel as amazing this week as it normally does. 

More than one circumstance from this week has made it feel less amazing. My brain has decided that I'm not getting by because I'm strong---I'm getting by because everyone else is making it possible. It has nothing to do with me.

My heart knows that isn't true. 

But the inner struggle between my heart and my brain has left me feeling exhausted and confused. I'm having a hard time believing that somehow, I've made this all happen for us. I'm feeling like a fraud---like the only reason I'm passing my classes is because I half-ass every assignment and they must feel sorry and give me points for effort. Or like the only reason I am providing for my children is because everyone around me helps out and feels sorry that I'm a single mom and I have NO idea what providing for a family 'in the real world' looks like. Or like the only reason I am able to raise Leo is because the government financially assists his life and not because I'm actually a good mom or that my love is what is helping him to thrive.

These are the real struggles. The un-sugarcoated mess that has been swirling around in my brain and tells me I'll never be good enough to actually be successful. These are the fears I currently have that tell me I'm not successful, that I should have this all figured out after five years of divorce and that I rely too much on the fact that I'm a single mom.

The phrase "single mom" just feels like some nasty crutch that I've apparently used for way too long. 

I don't always leave the darkness here---the reality of how I feel on my worst days or the struggle I have with feeling like I'm good enough to succeed at anything.

I have been rejected before and although I feel like that should prepare me better for more rejection, it just seems to have me feeling worse.

I am not going to happily end this blog post. I already know that once my babies are back tomorrow, I'll feel immersed in the joys of raising them. But this week was awful. It broke me down. I felt worthless and ashamed and childish.


And there is no sugarcoating those feelings. They just are. 










PS: It is really hard for me to just leave this here as is. I so badly want to wrap it up with a positive message. I don't like when people are worried about me. That isn't the point of this. And in fact, I don't need the worries because this isn't the first or last time I will feel this way. But it needs to be written and intertwined with my blog posts about how everything wraps up perfectly in a pretty little bow. Because life does not always wrap up in a pretty little bow! 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Anxiety Update

Months ago, I wrote THIS post about my anxiety disorder and how it affects my life. I stumbled upon it today while looking for something else I had written and it just seemed to hit me that my anxiety has been quieter lately.

Without medication.

It's a personal story as to how and why I went off of my anxiety medication but that was over two months ago and realizing that my anxiety has been a little more distant in the past few weeks has me feeling a lot of positive-emotional feelings.

You see, I'm not an advocate for medication and I'm not an advocate for a more natural approach to dealing with anxiety.

I'm an advocate for doing what feels right for YOU.

That advice alone, because it kind of isn't even advice, is the only kind of advice I would give you if you asked me whether you should take medication or use essential oils or drink coffee or see an energy healer to aide your anxiety.

The things that have worked for me in the past 6 years of dealing with the worst parts of my anxiety disorder have changed throughout time. Sometimes, medication helps the most. Sometimes, it aggravates what my body is feeling.

I've learned that it doesn't have to make sense to anyone else for it to be the right thing for me.

I'm still an anxious person. I still hate when my kids are not with me. I still think about the day when/if I'll have to say goodbye to my precious Leo boy and feel a sense of panic.

But I have been handling those ups and downs so much better lately. 

And maybe I'm on here writing just to say how thankful I am for these times in my life where I'm handling everything pretty well.

Because I can't really think of another reason why any of you would need an update on the current medications I'm taking. ;)

I'm just grateful that life has been so beautiful lately. Co-parenting has been effortless. Teaching dance has been a huge highlight. Raising my three babies has been so rewarding.

It's just all going right, right now. And I'm so thankful for that.

Monday, September 10, 2018

How Do I Do It?

This past weekend, my brother finished his two-year church service mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's my hero, that kid. The obstacles he has faced in his life have been challenging but have not kept him from his goals and I think that's what I love about him the most.

He is a great example to me of doing hard things. 

On Sunday evening, my family threw an open house for him so that people who have been a part of his journey could celebrate his accomplishment. This was something I was selfishly looking forward to because I knew I would get to see many people from my childhood years, people who had helped shape me into the person that I am today.

Throughout the night, there seemed to be a theme among people that hadn't seen me in years and asked me whose baby I was holding.



"Mine!", I would reply, before explaining how Leo came to be in our family. And as soon as I would finish, the question was always the same. "How do you do it?"  

It's a fair question, although being treated like Super Woman when you often feel like Hot Mess Woman is a little uncomfortable for me.

But I wanted to address that question in blog form because it's usually pretty hard to articulate when I'm asked face-to-face.

How do I do it? 

How do I raise two biological children while also raising the sweetest little baby boy through foster care? How do I work 30+ hours at a pediatric doctors office while my kids are in school and promptly go work another 14+ hours working at the dance studio every week? How do I manage to be in school full time, this semester taking 6 classes total online?



How do I do it? 

I take it one day at a time and my Google calendar is my lifesaver. My ex-husband's wife was actually the one who suggested a Google calendar because I could update it and it would be shared with the two of them. Genius! I now have three calendars on there---a calendar for the kids that is shared with their dad, a calendar for Leo, and my own personal calendar. Everything is color coded and includes every little thing you could imagine, including which days the kids are with which parent and everyone's personal (and crazy) dance schedules.

My calendar is pulled up on my computer and my phone at all times and I check it multiple times a week to make sure I'm staying on track with everything that we are doing.

How do I do it? 

I go to therapy. 

I remember a few weeks ago when my therapist asked me, "Suzanne, what do you do for self care?". I couldn't really muster up an answer because I was feeling especially defeated that day. But when I got home, I realized that therapy IS my self care. I know it won't be forever and quite honestly, I find myself not relying on it as much these days but back in January, when I was suffering from PTSD regarding the nine month trial that had happened most of 2017 and I had to imagine what life would be like if there was a huge custody change for my children, I needed her as much as I needed air or water or food. I relied on therapy because my beautiful life---the life where I fought for what was best for my children and ultimately was given what was best for them---just seemed so uneasy most of the time.

How thankful I am to no longer be in that same place that I was back in January of this year.

How do I do it? 

I rely on God. 

Yes, I should've put this one first because it is definitely at the top of that list. But I don't feel like moving it so you're just going to have to trust that it is the most important one to me.

I like to say that I rely on God but often times, God just shows up even when I think I can do this without extra prayers or asking for guidance (because I'm kinda stubborn). God is a huge part of my life and I have a gift of feeling close to Him even when I'm busy and life seems to take precedence. I recognize the many moments where God has led me to where I need to be. In fact, take Leo for example---I know Leo is supposed to be in our family. I knew I was called to foster care without knowing why. Leo is my why. Yaya was my why. God knew He needed me to protect these babies at these specific times, even though my life did not seem to be in the perfect "foster parent" position. But I'd argue that is ANYONE'S life in the perfect position to become a foster parent? It's messy and all the training in the world cannot fully prepare you for the experience that is foster parenting.

How do I do it? 

I let things go. 

I do the things I need to and the things that I want to do and I give myself permission to let other stuff go. When a friend wants to hang out and I literally write back, "Sure! I am available two Thursdays from now.", that is not me being a jerk or not wanting to see my friends. If I can make it happen, I try to. But my kids come first. And my work comes second. And school comes third. The rest of the things may or may not happen.
And that's ok! 
I have realized this past year that I get to choose what to put in my life and that I don't need to feel guilty about the things that take a backseat to what I believe is most important.

How do I do it? 

My tribe supports me. 

I wouldn't be able to do this life thing without my family or friends. They willingly take my kids on Saturday mornings while I teach. They listen. And that might be the biggest support. I have a few friends who I talk to almost daily about the ups and downs and everything in between. They listen and offer guidance but often times, they just remind me to look at the bigger picture. Because living in the chaos that we are right now needs to be embraced. I cannot change the fact that I'm single. And I refuse to put my goals and dreams on hold because I'm single. So I'm going to have to embrace the chaos that is my life right now.

How do I do it? 

Sometimes, I don't. 

I drop the ball at least once a day. Just this morning, I was SO proud of myself because we got out the door on time! As I drove up to the kids' school, I looked over at my front seat and defeatedly asked the kids, "Did anyone grab Leo's bottles for daycare?". I already knew the answer before they could reply. I hadn't asked anyone to grab them so why would they have grabbed them?

Tears began to stream down my face, realizing all of my hard work from the morning wasn't going to do me any good. I was still going to be late for work.

Defeated was the only word I could think to describe it, really. And this is not just a one time thing. I try to stay on top of everything but it's inevitable that something falls through the cracks.

Usually, it is that my house is a disaster and the dishes have started to smell. Or that the kids haven't finished their homework and gotten it signed. Or that Leo's gorgeous biracial hair has not been combed. Or that I haven't cooked a meal in over a week. Or that my homework is past due.

It's always something. There is always some area of my life where I can pinpoint failure. And if I let that eat at me, I am bound to sink into a pit of despair where I wonder HOW I'm EVER going to be successful at this life thing?

Because as you heard, forgetting bottles at home brought me to tears today...

So how do I do it? 

I just do it. I try to stay as organized as possible and I try not to beat myself up when some days just blow up in my face. I try to embrace the days we don't have a long list of things happening and I also try to embrace the days we leave our house at 7:00am and don't get home until 10:00pm (those days really do exist).

I am not Super Woman. I do not have super powers. All of these things I do, you would probably do if this were your life.

I am learning to respond with "thank you's" instead of deflecting my accomplishments. Because the truth is, even on the days where I fail at some things, I'm still doing pretty great. There are still a lot of things I'm doing right. So when someone tells me I am doing amazing things, I don't roll my eyes or say, "You should see my house right now.", I am learning to agree and thank them for noticing.

Because this Hot Mess Woman has got a lot of things going right and those things really should be acknowledged.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Halfway Point

I try really hard to take my New Year goals seriously.

Keyword = try. 

I was sitting here and thinking back to January and I realized I couldn't even remember what my word for this year is. So that shows you just how well my goals are going, huh?

Of course, I easily figured it out by looking at January's post. But still---I obviously haven't been focused on it enough if I was able to forget the word altogether!

The word I had picked was forgiveness. And since it is now September (technically past the halfway point...), I knew I wanted to assess the goals I had made and re-center myself.

Because lately, I've been feeling out of whack---like I'm just running from place to place with no sense of purpose.

I go to therapy and half of the time, my thoughts just ramble because my brain feels like scrambled eggs.
So I guess those videos in elementary school about drugs turning your brain into scrambled eggs didn't contain the full truth. . They should've added that motherhood/divorce/fostering/college/career/ADULTHOOD IN GENERAL could also scramble your brain.
Moral of the story? We need to be teaching young children to go live on the beach with ZERO responsibilities so their brains stay healthy forever.
Of course, I'm mostly kidding. And although I've never tried to test out the difference, I am sure my brain is less scrambled now than it would be if I were doing cocaine. At least I sure hope so!


Nevertheless, I feel like I'm just here. I'm not really gaining much or losing much. I'm just here. I'm not growing mentally or spiritually. I'm just here.

Am I working to forgive myself and others? Kind of. Which is better than not at all but not as great as YES!

I've let go of so much past hurt. I've done a really great job of moving forward. I have forgiven myself for things I never thought I'd be able to move past.

I have accepted that only hindsight is 20/20. I might hate that but I've accepted it.

But I feel like this year brought some unexpected changes and I didn't expect to react to them in the way that I have.

After our court trial, I was worried that my co-parenting relationship would be ruined with Hayley and Andersen's dad. Thankfully, that seems to be the opposite of what happened. I mean, it sure isn't all rainbows and butterflies but I truly thought that our relationship would need so much repair work because the last year was full of so much hurt.

That's a God thing. God did that for us. Somehow, it has been better and things have run pretty smoothly with only small snags here or there.

But that's pretty typical because it's co-parenting---and it sucks.

Leo came into our lives and I find myself moving between believing he will be here forever and panicking that DCS will call and tell me he is leaving tomorrow.
I'm not ready to open up about Leo's situation and what his future most likely holds yet but just know that I am equal parts mess and at peace. 

I stepped on the scale a few weeks ago and shouldn't have. Because two seconds before that, I was fine with the way I looked and felt and two seconds after that, I began struggling to love myself and have continued down that path in the weeks since. It. Has. Been. Hard. And that's sad to me because it hasn't impacted me that significantly in a long time.
As a disclaimer or FYI to that paragraph, I am still currently doing great and am fully still in eating disorder recovery. Just in case you're my mom and you were worried.

On any given day, I can go from wondering how I'm even managing to stay afloat to feeling like I am Super Woman in about 10 seconds flat.

I am not drowning but half the time, I feel like letting myself. 

I am not going to give up but half the time, I feel like that'd be easier. 

So as far as my goals for the year, I am really trying to push through and remember that FORGIVENESS word. I've sincerely thrown all of my other yearly goals out the window because I just want my main focus to be on digging into my past and realizing that it doesn't have to determine my future.

I still have faith that it's possible, mainly because I have seen it work in my own life. 

And so this is my halfway point (even though we are 3/4 of the way through the year) where I recommit to myself that I am going to continue focusing on forgiveness and moving forward with my life.

Thank you for coming and goodnight. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

F I V E

FIVE. 

That number sounds so large. 

I distinctly remember Hayley turning FIVE and wondering how I was gearing up to have a Kindergartner in just a few short months. How was she old enough for that? How was I old enough for that? 

She is now in the FIFTH grade.  

And here I am, kind of kicking ass and kind of failing at this single mom thing. 

FIVE. 

My WHAM basketball jersey number all of the years I played basketball as a child, thanks to my ASU basketball idols, Eddie House and Ike Diogu. 

FIVE. 

The number of children I planned on having. Before the days where I realized you can't necessarily plan those things. 

FIVE. 

The number of years it has been since my husband left me---my d-day, if you will.

In that time, Hayley has doubled in age and Andersen is close to tripling his age. They were 5 and 3 when their dad left.

And today, that feels a bit crippling to me. It feels like, in some way, I have failed them by allowing them to grow up for the majority of their childhoods without a father figure living in our same home.

I know that isn't true. I know that I've done everything BUT fail them these past five years. I know they will someday recognize how much work I've put into keeping their lives as normal as possible.

Today is a day that I don't mind sinking a little lower than normal. It is a day I allow myself to feel the negativity.

Because five years ago today, in the early morning, I kissed my husband goodbye and sent him off to work, not knowing that that would be the last time he would tell me he loved me and have me believe it.

Five years ago, I spoke pretty directly with my Heavenly Father, as He told me to recognize how beautiful my life was---not knowing that He was preparing me for an utterly devastating heartbreak hours later.

And then five years ago, I heard the words, "I don't love you anymore." over the phone and I knew it was already over. I knew, deep down, that he was never coming back. I knew I needed to prepare to become a single mother.

I just knew.

The words "I think we need a separation" were no different than if he had said, "I filed for divorce" because my gut told me he wasn't coming home.

It's been five years since my world completely shifted. And when it did, I became a completely new person.

If you were to ask me now whether I'd choose to go back and do things differently, I'd tell you no. I wouldn't. Because I know that my marriage was supposed to happen. And I know that my divorce does not negate how right my marriage was. 

In turn, I don't know if I feel right about saying that my divorce was part of the plan---I don't know if it was---but I do know that Heavenly Father has a specific plan for me post-divorce.

I know that plan includes continuing my education and devoting the majority of my time to my children. I know that plan includes so many deep friendships and taking in children who may live in my home for a month or may be here forever. I know that plan includes happiness and sadness and anxiety and more knowledge than I ever could've asked for.

The thing is, my divorce taught me a lot of stuff. 

Some of it bad---people really CAN leave deep scars by making crappy decisions.

Some of it good---you really CAN do anything you set your mind to.

In the past five years, I've wondered what life would look like now if I were still married and sadly, I can't see the same happiness I currently have. I can't picture a life with Leo in it or Hayley dancing like she does or Andersen getting the help he needs in school.

My divorce pushed me to do hard things that were the right thing. In fact, it still pushes me.

I am more patient and empathetic with the people around me and have become much more sensitive. I am not afraid to speak up about things that are wrong including pornography or abuse or being honest with the people you love. I am also not afraid to talk about my own struggles that include an eating disorder and anxiety.

I live a pretty authentic life. 

Or at least I try to. 

I try to give my anxiety it's place because heaven knows it ain't going anywhere! So I may as well embrace that it is a part of me. And my OCD and ADHD? Might as well give them their space here as well because why not?!!

Five years ago, I was living a very unhealthy life as I obsessed over my food intake and exercising. I gave my ex-husband's decision control over me because if he left me, chances were it had something to do with my imperfect body. 

And in those darkest moments of my eating disorder, I learned so much about myself as I begged for Heavenly Father to just loosen the grips my addiction had over me. I learned that I want to live a life I love, not a life the world tells me I need to be living.

I will probably never be a size 4 again. I am more overweight now than I was five years ago. And although sometimes that is still hard, the majority of my days are spent realizing how beautiful and amazing I am AS IS. Not beautiful IF I lost 50 pounds. Not beautiful IF I had less pimples or if my eyelashes were just a tad fuller. Not beautiful IF I could figure out a way to get rid of the stretch marks and the larger stomach that have accompanied my two pregnancies.

Beautiful. 
Amazing. 

As is. 

I wouldn't change the events that transpired five years ago, even if I could. Because I never would've become who I am without those hardest moments. I never would've taken as many leaps of faith.

I never would've learned just how brave and resilient I can be. 

The events from five years ago have not only shaped me but have helped me as I've walked through other dark times in my life.

I really CAN do hard things. I really, truly can.

The moments of despair and trauma I experienced five years ago have left lasting effects that I still deal with today. I am afraid of loss most of the time.

It doesn't matter how amazing things seem to be going. I can convince myself that I am about to get fired from a job where I know I'm appreciated just because my brain sends broken warning signals that tell me I'm supposed to fear the world.

BUT---I don't let that stop me. I still do the things, despite knowing there is a potential for heartache involved.

I no longer put my life on hold just because I am afraid of new experiences. 

I still get scared---and then I face my fears by allowing new experiences anyway.

Five years. 

Wow. It feels somewhat painful that it has been a whole five years and yet, in so many ways, I am beaming that we are five years out. Because trust me, I'd rather be here than where I was on this day five years ago.

I am continuously healing and growing from those awful events that happened five years ago and all I can really say today is that I am extremely grateful to be living the life I am currently living.

Because---Hayley.
Because---Andersen.
Because---Leo.
And because I like this new authentic life way more than I ever could've imagined. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I Won A Contest

 From the writing contest I entered for Mother's Day: 
Hi. 
My name is Suzanne and although I am many things, warrior is certainly at the top of that list. 
I was a fairytale lover --- boy-obsessed from 1st grade until I graduated from high school. Fairytales taught me that I needed a man to take care of me and I believed from a young age that if I was loved by a man, I would have infinite worth.
I was married at the age of 19. And as we all do, I planned to spend the rest of my life building a future with my husband. I didn't expect it to be perfect but I expected it to always be our mess --- not his mess and my mess.
The thing is, my husband truly did love me. That part was not a lie. He was great at loving me when he wanted to. But he loved me conditionally. He loved me for certain parts of who I was and began to tear down the parts of me he didn’t like. I became a pawn in our marriage and learned that I was not the most important thing to him. But why? I couldn’t figure out what was more important.  I just knew things had shifted. He hardly ever wanted to be intimate with me and would stay up all night playing video games, claiming he had insomnia. I got used to marriage feeling mostly one-sided and found myself justifying the way he was treating me --- because at least he wasn’t physically abusing me. But I still wondered if the shift in our marriage was my fault.
I had given this man two beautiful children --- was it my body? Was I not sexy enough anymore?
For a girl who claimed to be strong and independent, I am surprised when I look back and realize how much I lost myself in my marriage. Then again, for a girl who claimed to be strong and independent, I had held the belief that my worth was dependent on a man for as long as I can remember.
Five years into my marriage, I was arguing with my husband one day when he told me he no longer believed in God and would not be attending church with us any longer. This shook me but I held my ground and poured myself into being a better wife and mother. I could fix this. I could mend this part of our world that felt bruised and broken. I felt our marriage falling apart but I wasn’t going to let it. I needed him and I felt he needed me too.
I found myself drowning while trying to save him. Often times, he came home from work angry and unresponsive and he would lock himself in our room or go outside to clean his guns or work on the car he was fixing up. The emotional abuse was weighing me down and I started to have panic attacks about seemingly normal things like what brand of food to buy. My husband would point my anxiety out and remind me how unstable I was and how I needed to continue therapy because I was causing hardships in our marriage. 
I thought it was me. I thought I was the reason things were falling apart. And so I tried to fix myself and allow him space by taking care of the kids with essentially no help. I didn't want to bother him. I didn't want to make things worse. I was sensitive to the fact that I was diagnosed with "mental health issues" and that it was ruining my marriage. 
And in the midst of me trying so hard to fix us, he abandoned our family in August of 2013, after seven years of marriage. Our children were only 5 and 4 years old and did not understand what was happening, so on top of being abandoned by my husband, I was left to tell my kids about the divorce by myself and deal with their heartache. And in turn, they knew I was their safe space and so they directed all of their anger toward me for months while begging me to bring their daddy back home. 
Throughout the 6 month process of separation and divorce, I found out that my husband was not the man he had claimed to be. I started to realize that I was not the only one struggling. He was addicted to pornography, among other things. I tried so hard to stay afloat throughout this time but I began to drown in the form of an eating disorder and severe anxiety. 
I felt so worthless. So used. So unloved. 
The trauma I experienced while learning about that betrayal is something I'm still healing from.
But I don't point that out to tell you how awful he is. Because the thing is, my ex-husband is not a monster. We don’t always get along and he certainly makes some poor choices when it comes to his treatment of myself and our children but he isn’t a monster. He is an addict that struggles with knowing how to treat the people he loves most. He pushes us away in fear of us rejecting him. Does that lessen my pain? No. But it helps me to understand that I was not the problem. I could not have been prettier, smarter, or more subservient. This battle wasn’t mine to win or lose. It was, and is, his battle to fight and he chose to fight it without me by his side.
I’ve endured a lot since my divorce 4 ½ years ago. I figured that the longer we were divorced, the easier things would get. And I guess, in some ways, that is true. But I still find that divorce affects myself and our children on a daily basis. I have endured some pretty awful fights, DCS reports, a difficult court trial, among the daily struggles that come when trying to co-parent with a person who has a hard time with communication. I struggle to help my children as they both deal with the trauma this has caused in their lives, resulting in general anxiety and separation anxiety. 
I was forced to find myself when my husband abandoned me. That event, although extremely traumatic for me, has shaped me into a person that I very much like. I did not curl up in a corner and die --- I fought for myself and my children. I graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree last summer. I am working two jobs to provide for my children. I got certified as a foster parent and was the mother of a sweet and sassy toddler for five months last year and last week, I was asked to take in a two-day-old baby boy and have been killin’ it in the motherhood department. My children are healthy and loved.
I still struggle with loneliness, especially when my kids go to their dad’s house but I know that my worth is not dependent on others. I will still live a beautiful life, even if I never remarry. I will continue to persevere when life slaps me in the face because I know for a fact that I can do hard things.
As the 5th anniversary of that traumatic August day creeps up on me, I wanted to share this letter I wrote a few months ago. I ended up winning that contest and was gifted a beautiful piece of jewelry that I wear often to remind myself how brave I am.

It's amazing to me how telling my story is healing, each and every time. This definitely doesn't contain it all and there are parts that will always be too personal but I am grateful that I can look back and remember the bad parts AND the good parts.

You guys, there was so much good. For years, the bad seemed to negate the good but I'm learning to validate those good times too.

They were real. They are real. 

It is still a rollercoaster. I think it always will be. But this is the hand I was dealt. This is a huge part of my journey. And telling my story is not to relive the past and open old wounds---it is a reminder of where I've been and where I am now.

I am grateful for the pain that has dissipated as the years have passed. 

And I am so incredibly grateful for the life I am currently living.