belonging, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, loss, parenting, shame, Uncategorized

shame and belonging

Lately I have been feeling so unsettled. I walk around my house and it doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t feel like it fits. It feels like I am in someone else’s house. I used to come home and feel so good here, but I lost that feeling a couple of months ago and I haven’t been able to get it back. Every room feels off somehow. I look at my body and I feel like it is not mine. I feel like I am in the wrong skin. I don’t recognize the medical issues I am dealing with as my own. It’s as if they belong to someone else entirely. I drive or walk around my city and I feel like a visitor. I feel like I don’t belong here. I’m grasping at things from my past thinking if I could get them back, make different decisions, or get another chance to replay the last year of my life, but do it differently, I would feel ok again. We can’t do that though, can we? We can’t undo our decisions and we rarely get second chances. The last six months play over and over in my head  like Groundhog Day on repeat. As torturous as that seems, I have never been one who can leave a puzzle unfinished. So, if the puzzle is my life, I will replay every conversation and moment in hopes that I will find the solution or the missing piece.

Belonging is something that I have struggled with for most of my life. I moved to different towns and states several times in my childhood and beyond. I always felt like the outsider looking in. I would find things I liked in each house, friends I connected with, and value in each experience. Still, I never quite felt like I truly belonged or that I was truly home. That was always something I thought would come sometime in the future or was simply something that existed somewhere else.

The thing that is different now is that for the first time in a long time I love who I am and all I have been through and done to get to this very uncomfortable place. Until recently, I was ashamed of being a single mother. This meant being ashamed of who I was from the moment I woke up in the morning and looked into my daughter’s smiling eyes. The shame began at sunrise and continued through the two or more glasses of wine I used to drink every night. I was ashamed that my house was small, cluttered, and filled completely with secondhand mismatched furniture because that is all I could afford and that my car was old and beat up. I was ashamed every time I picked up the phone and asked for another loan from my mom to cover another cost so I could stay afloat. I was ashamed that at 41, I had a job that paid me less than the average undergrad makes right out of college, even though the work of that job made me happy and gave me the time I need to be a mom. I was ashamed that I had reached midlife without ever having a healthy or successful relationship with a man.

The thing about shame is that it imprisons you. You cannot move forward and you cannot open yourself up to other people or experiences. It causes you to live in the deceptive state of never being good enough for anyone or anything. It is not being embarrassed about something you did. It is literally thinking that407268_10150449280357005_1610035080_n who you are is wrong. Once shame takes over your life, it becomes your belonging. You can never fully belong to anything or anyone else, because you belong only to your shame. There is a twisted comfort in all of it as it becomes your self imposed identity. You never give yourself fully in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, because you already have one foot out the door ready to run in the other direction.

With the help of a professional, I recently did work on this shame to overcome it. I don’t feel the way I did before. I now recognize that I am managing a house on my own, raising a child on my own, directing a whole department at my job, all while training for a half marathon. None of these are easy tasks and there is no shame in them. Have I made poor decisions in relationships and in finances, and other areas of my life? Yes! We all have. We have all, at least once, royally fucked up. That is what it means to be human and that is where the real growth happens. It does not in any way make us less than anyone else nor does it make us any less worthy of receiving love.

So, in this place of discomfort and this feeling of unease, there is an excitement. Perhaps it is this post-shame world where I truly belong. It feels wrong and strange and it feels like I am an observer in someone else’s world. The pull to go back to where things were comfortable is strong, but there is no growth there. The push to be present and take it all in is scary and the unknown makes my skin crawl, but that is the place we often find ourselves before something truly great begins.

True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable and learn how to be present with people — without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.– Brené Brown

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death, faith, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Losing Dad, loss, parenting, religion, Uncategorized

dear dad.

I wrote this letter today, on the eve of the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m sharing it because it made me feel better and maybe it will help other people who have lost someone close.

Dear Dad,

It’s been seven years since we said goodbye to you. Seven years since we sat around your bed and told you it was ok to go and that we would be ok. I remember that day in the car after your doctor’s appointment a couple months before you passed  when you told me you were ready to go, but you were worried that we weren’t ready. You were probably right. I can only speak for myself, but I think we have all been managing as best we can, just with an ache in our chest that won’t seem to go away. I’d give absolutely anything to get you back or to just chat for a few hours. Even though we knew you were leaving us, there were so many things I forgot to say. There were so many questions I forgot to ask.

I’ve struggled with that question of why good people like you have to die so early when some really crappy people get to live so long. It’s a hard question and it’s left me with a pretty cynical and unfair perspective of the world. It’s left me with a lot of anger towards God. Maybe those people are still around because they need more time to figure out howsleeping to get things right. Who knows? You told me once that God is ok with us being mad at him because it means we are still engaged with him in some way(that probably isn’t verbatim, but that’s how I understood what you said). God and I haven’t been right since you left, but I’m still trying.

I heard Anne Lamott speak a couple years ago and she said when cancer takes someone from you, it’s like an atomic bomb goes off in your life. She couldn’t be more right. For me, it meant running a lot, then hours of yoga, then so much alcohol that I started to think it was ok to put vodka in my coffee in the morning. I would say I should have stuck to the running and yoga, but the drinking led me to get pregnant unexpectedly and though that was pretty scary at first, becoming a mother has forced me to grow in ways I never thought possible. I became a mother at 35. Talk about an atomic bomb! The nurses actually said I was of “advanced maternal age” and whispered it every time they said it like I had leprosy or something.

I named my daughter, your granddaughter, Isabella Grace. I read that the Hebrew meaning of the name is “God is perfection.” It’s such a perfect name for her. I chose her middle name because as she was growing inside me, I felt like she was God’s grace for everything I had ever done wrong in my life. We have frustrating moments from time to time, but no matter what, we tell each other “I love you” at least a dozen times a day. She tells me I am beautiful every morning and I think I’ve actually become more beautiful inside and out because of her. She brings out the very best of me.

We moved to Philadelphia and are living in the city now. She does really well with city living, but she loves the country and our visits to Central PA. You can tell it’s in her blood. She loves horses and animals in general. She especially likes to pretend she is one. This makes her come across as a little weird sometimes, but I absolutely love that about her. She doesn’t have a father in her life which is hard for me sometimes since I had such a good one, but she is surrounded by so many people who love her that she doesn’t seem to mind. She is an incredible artist and likes puns, so I know you would really like spending time with her. Sometimes she smiles or laughs and I feel like I’m looking right at you. Today was an emotionally rough day for me and I went to pick her up from her art school. I walked into the room and she was laughing and dancing to music and just fully enjoying every ounce of life without a care. Then, she saw me and ran across the room and gave me a huge hug. That made me think of you too. I wish you could meet her. I think you two would really like each other. I tell her stories about you all the time.

Aside from Isabella, my other big news is that I am finally working full time at a theatre. I’ve been there just over four years. It’s not always easy and the pay isn’t impressive, but I love the work. I think you might be able to relate. 🙂

The trees are changing here and it’s so beautiful. I remember that day just before you left when we drove through Cumberland County to see all the beautiful colors on the trees. I remember the brisk fall air and the feeling like life would go on and things would be ok. I hope the trees change where you are and that you are able to hike and fish and read all day. We sure do miss you here.

Love,

Rebekah

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, imagination, life lessons, parenting, Uncategorized

snow day.

My morning began with my daughter dancing on top of me at 7am to Jazmine Sullivan while wearing a princess dress. I looked out the window and honestly couldn’t understand why the school district decided to cancel today. There were some flurries, but the roads were just wet. One of the downsides to working from home is that a “snow day” just means you have to spend the day trying to get your work done while your 4-year old runs around the house like a crazy person and uses you as her personal jungle gym. Every time this happens, I end up getting irritated with my daughter and the two of us end up in a screaming battle.

From about 8-11, I tried my hardest to get as much work done as possible while the television entertained my daughter. I had her help me assemble gift bags for teachers to occupy her, but by lunch time, she was getting pretty restless. We ate lunch and I continued to try to get work done. She was literally climbing the walls by 2pm and I was wondering if day drinking was kosher in this situation. By this time, the storm was dumping snow on us at a rapid rate and it was clear that this was a justified snow day and I would have to shovel at some point. I closed my laptop, dressed us both in multiple layers, and said, “let’s go play in the snow!” Bella’s eyes glowed with excitement and we headed outside with toys, salt, and a shovel.

She  immediately started running up and down the sidewalk in the snow, eating snow off our neighbor’s motorcycle, and catching snow on her tongue. I began shoveling the heavy wet snow and commiserating with my neighbor. She looked over at Bella who was laughing and chasing snowflakes with her mouth. She looked at me and said, “You know, I can’t remember the last time I caught a snowflake on my tongue.” She put down her FullSizeRender (7)shovel, looked up at the sky, and opened her mouth. A snowflake landed on her tongue and she closed her eyes, smiled, and savored it like it was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. I stopped shoveling. I looked at my beautiful daughter running down our beautiful snow covered street. All I could hear was her laughter. I looked up to the sky and opened my mouth to catch a snowflake. A big fat wet snowflake hit my tongue and another went right in my eye, temporarily blinding me. I let out a teenage giggle and stood there, in the moment, and took in the taste, sound, and chilly air.

While my mind told me to go back inside and do more work, my heart decided that there was more fun to be had in the backyard. Bella and I finished up the shoveling, salted the sidewalk, and ran through the house to our little backyard oasis. We ate more snowflakes, built a very sad looking snowman, and laughed about the possibility that there might be yellow snow on our new snow friend’s back. Our dog barked in agreement(guilty little canine). Once the snow got so heavy that we could barely see each other, we decided to go back inside.

Inside, we assembled four puzzles, danced around the living room, played with our cat, and ate pizza and oranges. At dinner, Bella looked up at me and said, “I just love you so much.” And that was it. That is when I knew for sure that I made the right decisions today. Snow days have almost always been stressful. I always choose work over Bella and end up only getting annoyed with her. Today a switch went off in me that changed that. I put us first. I decided to live in the moment and to take in the blessing that a day together can be.

At bedtime I read her a couple books and sang the three songs we sing every night. She sat up and said, “Mommy, you left your phone downstairs!” I smiled and replied, “You know what? I don’t even care.”

Happy Snow Day! May we all have many more days like this to come.

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