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, life lessons, Uncategorized

No matter what.

YesIMG_5163terday, I arrived at pick-up for my daughter’s school and her teacher told me that she needed to speak to me. She informed me that Bella got a warning for spitting on one of her classmates. The teacher asked her why she would do such a thing and Bella told her that the student sat in her friend’s spot. As a result of her actions, Bella got a warning card. The first and only one of the year in her class. As someone who was bullied, I refuse to raise a bully. I was so embarrassed.

Once we were alone, I told her how embarrassed I was and disappointed in her behavior. I asked her for an explanation and she told me she didn’t want the other student sitting beside her because she wanted her friend there. The student wouldn’t move, so she spit on them. I explained that spitting was always unacceptable. Also, if someone she didn’t know sat beside her, a good alternative to spitting would be to say, “Hi! What is your name?” I also informed her that she would lose TV privileges every time the teacher needed to speak to me about her behavior, but she would get a sticker for all the days she did the right thing.

This morning on the way to school, I asked Bella what she would do if someone sat beside her who she didn’t know. She said, “I will say, ‘Hello. What is your name.” I screamed “Yes!!” and threw my arm over the seat to give her a high five. There were a few seconds of silence and then Bella asked, “Mommy, if I forget and mess up again, will you still love me?”  My heart dropped and I immediately looked back at her and said, “Absolutely! I will always, always love you, no matter what! You could make mistakes all day everyday and i will STILL love you. Do not forget that. Ever!”

“Ok, mommy. I’ll always love you too.”

“And you know what, Belles?”

“What?”

“We are both going to make a lot of mistakes. We will both hurt each other’s feelings and make each other mad. But, you know what?”

“What, mommy?”

“As long as we keep loving each other no matter what, we will be OK.”

Then I looked back again and she looked out the window and her whole face smiled. And that is when I realized that my primary job as a mother is to always remind my daughter that I love her exactly as she is and regardless of her behavior. I heard once that children need to hear the words “I love you” at least 4 times a day to be emotionally stable. I think I’ll up that to 6 or 10 just in case. This kid. This kid is my entire heart and I want this in writing so I never forget to live my life in a way that she will always know that. I think you start losing your child the moment they doubt that you still love them. So, love them constantly.

 

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“There are things in this life I,

Would rather not sacrifice 

You girl I cannot live without

And you know there’s no doubt that

All I mind’s losing you”

~John Butler Trio

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run

get up.

Four and a half years ago I ran my fourth half marathon. Two days later I found out that I was pregnant. I was a runner first and foremost. It had become the most important part of my life and I had fallen in love with every race and practice run. Running was the first img_2820thing I thought about when I woke up and it is what I planned on doing as I fell asleep each night. I had run two full marathons, four half marathons, a ten-miler, and countless 5Ks all in the span of about 4 years.

After I had my daughter, I got back to running pretty quickly and even got my body back. I began dreaming of the two of us running together across that first finish line. Then, shortly after her first birthday, things started falling apart. Life changed drastically for both of us and the running me seemed to disappear. The fun loving careless me disappeared too. The fearless me disappeared. The anxious and depressed me took over. My career and my daughter were both wonderful, but other things got out of my control and I just shut down. I shut down completely. My body, mind, and spirit all took a hit. Until a few weeks ago, I was pretty sure I would never fully recover.

Then, we lost a close family friend. This was a man who has been a mentor and pastor when I was in college and who had been an inspiration to my entire family. At his funeral I thought about the fact that there would never be anyone who could replace this man. He had a way of reaching you at your lowest and showing you how to rise up. Through stories told at the funeral, I was reminded that we all fall down at some point. If we are human, it is inevitable. The important thing is getting back up. This pastor was gifted at meeting people at that point and helping them get back up to finish the race. I wished I could talk to him one more time because I knew he would know what to say to help me to get back up. I fell down two years ago and I have been down too long.

When you are a solo parent of a toddler and you work full time, finding time to run, or work out at all, is nearly impossible. Finding “me time” in general is almost unheard of. When people tell me to take time for myself, I scoff. The other thing that is impossible, however, is being a solo parent and not asking for help. Trying to do everything yourself is a great way to completely burn out. Over the last few months, I have been slowly asking people for help. Family and friends have stepped in and fed my daughter, watched her for a few hours, taken her to school, and invited her for play dates.img_2818

Today was one of those days. My daughter was invited to a play date for the morning with the understanding that I leave her there. So, I laced up my running shoes, drove to my beloved Kelly Drive and walked 4 miles as fast as a snail!! It was sunny and beautiful and freezing cold and it felt amazing. Every biker, runner, walker, and Canadian goose passed me on the trail and I did not care one bit. I listened to the playlist I made for that half marathon four years ago and I remembered the me I used to be. Since I tried my first  bootcamp spinning class two days ago, my legs were solid blocks of painful cement that buckled at every incline, but it didn’t even matter. My body, mind, and spirit were up and moving together for the first time in years.
So, after months of not writing, here I am again. It is not to boast or gain pity. I am here for accountability. I am a writer and I am a runner. If I am truly going to “get up,” I must img_2821do both. This post is about as good as my sloth-like morning stroll, but it still feels great because I am not lying in a heap on the floor under my computer. I’m sitting in the chair and I’m ready to write again.

 

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