Being Strong

There is a vulnerability that comes with being strong; it stems from an expectation (likely of ourselves) that we don’t need anyone’s help. That we can walk away from everyone and anyone at any time without consequence. Yes, we can make a choice to change our lives, but its never easy. Change is wrought with emotions and often we carry that burden alone.

In my life, I suspect there will never be a harder decision to make than the day I told my ex-husband that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I couldn’t be his wife, that I simply couldn’t be this person that I was ‘supposed’ to be anymore. And with love and support from the people in my life, I stood tall and I stood strong as I walked away from everything I had known and took a chance on me.

After that, life should be easy.

But its never that simple. Being confident, being strong and being me feels so good, but there will always be casualties of change. People, places and things in my life may shift but I’m learning to let those things go, because being strong doesn’t mean that I need to have everything figured out.

Being strong means staying true to my heart, to my values and to my soul.
Being strong means knowing my own priorities and not being led astray.
Being strong means being brave enough to dream and a willingness to sacrifice to get there.
Being strong means knowing when I can’t do it alone and asking for help.
But most of all, being strong means knowing when to let go.

Presence

I’ve come to realize that one of the the greatest gifts we have to share is our presence, our undivided attention and the vulnerability of exposing and sharing our true selves. This seemingly simple offering can not be quantified by money or material expectations because its reach far surpasses anything  physically tangible; the connecting of souls is visceral.

However, I’ve also discovered that although I’ve been sharing myself with others my entire life, I’d neglected to take the time to truly connect with me. I gave so much away, never pausing to realize that the person I needed to love and nourish was me. In 2016 I put a lot of energy into reflecting who I wanted to be; I don’t have all of the answers but being consciously present has helped me discover so many amazing things about living a life that brings me joy and happiness.

I am a unique, quirky and nerdy woman who stands proud and refuses to apologize for loving words, the pursuit of knowledge, creating lists and breathing in nature wholeheartedly. I am a woman who feels deeply, who empathizes, cares and tends to others, but no longer at the expense of myself. I pay attention and trust in my feelings, my experience and my journey. I love deeply, but I’ve learned how important it is to love myself first.

I am a mother and my children are a piece of me always. I trust in the messages and lessons my heart wants to share with my boys and I strive to parent from a place of love, honesty and trust. I have two hopes for my boys, the first is for them to always feel safe to talk to me about their dreams, their fears and everything in between and second, I want only  for them to grow up and be their most authentic and happy selves.

I believe in honesty, loyalty, empathy and authenticity. I believe that true strength emerges when we are brave and step forward in the face of fear. For years I was afraid to admit I was unhappy; to admit that my feelings mattered, that I mattered. I was afraid to walk away from a marriage and a life that brought me no joy.

I am no longer that woman, after stagnating for years, I am evolving each and every day; discovering, appreciating and respecting the opportunity to meet the woman I was once so scared to become.

I am.

I heard something recently that makes me believe my ex-girlfriend is still hurting; I never wanted to hurt her. Truth be told, I’m softhearted and never want to hurt anyone, but it seems to happen. She’s no longer entitled to have an opinion on my life or my choices, nor do I have any obligation to explain them to her, but I can imagine her questions just the same, because I know the questions I ask myself.

Am I ready…
Am I strong enough…
Am I true enough…
Am I ME enough…
To love somebody else?

When I was in the 9th grade, we had to do a project; we had to pretend we had just graduated and plan out the next five years of our lives using advertisements and newspapers clippings. My partner and I had to find jobs, a place to live and create a monthly budget in order to survive. When I told my mom there would be no marriage or kids in my ‘future’ she looked me squarely in the eyes and told me, ‘if you wait until your ‘ready’ you’ll spend your entire life waiting and you’ll never do anything’.

She wanted me to know, that sometimes you have to take a chance and follow your heart. I don’t know what the future holds and I don’t know what challenges life has in store for me, but I know, without hesitation, that my life right now feels right.

I haven’t forgotten that there are things I need to do alone and things I need to do for myself; that lesson has been challenging for me, but I’m certain now, that I will not buckle.

And I’m certain that the love in my heart is something that can’t and won’t be ignored; that nothing and nobody in my life has ever felt so right, made me feel so free to soar and yet so safe to fall.

And so, when I ask myself, am I ready to love somebody else, the answer is clear.

I AM.

Don’t Look Back

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As I ponder who I want to be, I find myself reading, breathing and reliving the posts I’ve written over the past year. Some of them are so raw, fresh with pain and confusion, while others show hints of my growth, confidence and strength.

I am conscious that looking backwards may cause me to trip and stumble as I make my way forward; I know the past cannot be changed, and I’m not one to dwell on what could have been or what I should have done. However, for me, evaluating where I’ve been seems an important step if I want to understand where it is that I’m going.

After years of feeling I needed to be more and do more, I met someone who told me I was enough, that I was strong and capable and perfect just as I was. Someone who showed me what it meant to be cared for, to be supported and what it felt like to accept all that she offered.  And it was amazing, for a time.

I see now, that just as I lost myself in caring for him, I began to lose myself in letting her care for me.

So easily, I slipped into a new reality, embroiled with old habits, where I could just be. But now is not the time for me to be, it is the time for me to become, to grow, to change.

As the fog lifts, I’m beginning to see; in order to shine, I cannot stoke another’s flame, nor can I be fueled by another. I must stand strong, proud and independent.

If I’m lucky, one day I may find someone who shines just as bright and side by side we will light up our world together. But that potential partnership is a nice to have, not a need to have; until then, I shall continue striving to shine brightly and light my own way.

It is Time.

I never disappeared inside of you. I was just temporarily letting your light be brighter than mine. I dimmed my flame so another wouldn’t feel less. I fed your light with my own, and then I let it engulf me.

-I will not lose myself this time

Every time I read that quote, and I’ve read it many times, I am overcome with a single word.

Yes.

For the better part of 14 years, that was my reality, my everyday. And just one year ago, I stepped away from his flame so that I could feed my own. I finally knew that it was my time to shine.

I’m inspired by the words on the page, knowing that not only has the writer walked a path similar to mine, but more importantly she has managed to come out the other side, stronger and more confident in who she is.

Today, I’m in the tunnel; I know, that I will no longer tolerate anyone who cannot allow me the freedom to be my  uncensored, authentic self. I know, that I will not be rushed, by anyone, to reach my as yet to be determined destination.

But I want, what she has.

I want that certainty that I will not buckle; that I have the strength, the willpower and the self awareness to notice when the path starts looking worn and familiar and most of all the certainty that I will blaze a new trail each and every time that I must. I need to believe that I will do whatever is necessary  to ensure that I am the light of my own life.

It is my time to shine bright.
It is my time to stand for what I believe in.
It is time to set myself free.

I am ready to find her, finally.

I’m jealous of the people who came out early in life, who knew, with certainty that they were gay. I have no doubt that they struggled in ways I’ll never know, but to hear the song their heart was singing and to stand proud and claim it, how can you not be envious?

I am a 35 year old, soon to be divorced, quite likely gay, mother to two boys.

Even now, I lack the clarity of self, that others had early in their youth about who I truly am. In my life, I’ve both learned and forgotten many things, but mostly I seem to have lost myself along the way and now, finally, I am ready to find her.

But no matter how many articles I read, there is no road map to my self discovery and no shortcut to finding my future self. Because, quite simply I am an individual and each journey is unique.

So, each day I wake, fumbling my way through the day trying to find meaning in my journey as I rediscover the girl I once was, the woman I’ve become and most importantly the woman I want to be. The struggle is real and some days the success feels so sweet and other days I’m happy to make it through the day.

These mini mantras help guide and remind me stay the course through all the days.

Feel the Feelings. 
The majority of my adult life, and probably much of my youth, was spent enjoying the good feelings and ignoring the less desirable. I re-directed my energy into other people or activities to avoid feeling things that might require real reflection and change. I’ve come to realize that was an incredibly ineffective way to live my life.

These days, I’m trying to live at a slower, more deliberate pace that allows me the opportunity to feel the feelings and honestly, its overwhelming. I’ve felt more sadness and melancholy in recent months then I have in years; but I know that in allowing it, sitting in it and truly feeling it, I will one day be able to stop metaphorically running away from it.

What’s in it For Me?
One of my biggest pitfalls is that I care too much for others. Your happiness, is my happiness, or so I thought. In reality, I simply stopped caring about my own happiness and instead learned to prioritize everyone else without a second thought for my own personal well being, wants or desires. Where others are learning to give of themselves, I instead am learning to ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’ Is there a genuine personal benefit to my actions, or am I simply trying to appease?

Although in life there must be balance, my experience is skewed so far towards caring for others that for now, I need to make it all about me; my wants, my desires and my life.

Shine Brightly.
Two words that strongly resonate for me; I don’t want to be the candle struggling to stay lit, I want to be the bonfire in the night and the sunshine on a cloudless day. These two words remind me, everyday, to embrace all aspects of myself, to be confident in who I am,  what I believe and who I choose to love. My heart deserves to sing and my soul deserves to shine each and every day that I am alive.

I can’t help but wonder when I’ll be ready to meet the gorgeous soul I know I’m supposed to be. But growth and change come with time and will not be rushed to meet anyone’s agenda. Today, I focus on my mini mantras and living my life as honestly and authentically as I can; in time I’m certain I will find the clarity I seek.

Sometimes, believing is seeing.

accept-yiIn life, there are the truths about ourselves that we accept and know to be true and there are others that we choose to deny, fail to acknowledge or perhaps never bothered to notice. To truly accept myself for who I am, its essential that I remove the blinders, and choose to both embrace and accept the hard truths.

I know no other way, except to work hard, to strive for more and to put in the effort that is required to get there. On the flip side, I’m learning this particular trait is driven not just by a desire to succeed (as I’ve always believed) but also by a fear of failure.

Day to day, I recognize that failure is part of growth, but when it was suggested to me that perhaps I stayed in a marriage for years past its natural expiry, because I didn’t like failing, I was almost offended at the thought. But now, a year later I can accept, with an open heart, that maybe a fear of failure played a role in my previous decision to stay.

I am driven; when I want something, there’s no stopping me, and I wanted that marriage to work. But one person, can’t make a partnership successful and I did ultimately have to admit defeat.

I’ve also had to admit this year, that I need help; strong as I may be, I am  human and accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness. I am fortunate to have people in my life that lift me up, celebrate and encourage me and every single day I am thankful they have chosen me.

Given my affinity for pleasing others it s a struggle at times to distinguish between support and validation; to remember that no one else’s interpretation or opinion of me is more important than my own. Nice as it is when my friends build me up, their opinion is simply that and must not be used as a yardstick to measure my success.

A relatively new friend, a lifelong lesbian, told me today ‘it’s all about the body language…you have lesbian written all over you’ and I can’t stop reading it. I’ve always felt I had an assumed straightness and the thought that the opposite is even a consideration has given me a multitude of smiles today.

Not because I need a label (I don’t and I’m not claiming one now) but because it gives me some hope that what I’m finally beginning to admit to myself is also being projected into the way I present myself and as a result what others see in me.

At first I was unsure if this was an example of validation or a friend building me up, but as the words unfolded in front of me, I’ve realized the latter is true. An acknowledgement of what she sees in me is not influencing the way I see myself, quite the opposite; she is simply seeing what I am finally accepting and believing in myself.