One Year

I didn’t know my marriage was over until it was over.

It was falling apart for years, but I just kept trying to pick up all the pieces and glue them back together. In the end I’m not even sure who left whom.  It was long, messy, and painful.  The only thing harder than feeling your heart shatter is to watch the heart of someone you love doing the same thing.

I loved him right up until the bitter end. I still love him, as the father of my children and someone with whom I’ve shared so much of my life.  But it wasn’t a healthy situation for anyone involved.  I did not go down without a fight – I fought so hard for so long.  I was consumed by the fight to keep us together.  Letting go was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

I let go of my marriage; I let go of everything I knew. I let go of my home, of my family, of my identity.  I was drowning and when I finally found shore, I didn’t know where I was.  For so long my identity was tied to others: I was Ryan’s girlfriend, Ryan’s wife, Isabel’s mom, Abby’s mom… I had no idea who I was without any of these things.

My first few months on my own were a struggle. I was living completely on my own for the first time in my life.  When my children were with their dad, I felt so lost.  I felt empty and alone, with no idea of what to do to fill my time.  I had an anxiety attack every night my children spent away from me.  My youngest had a lot of medical issues at birth, and even at a year and a half I was still checking on her multiple times a night just to make sure she was breathing.  But if she wasn’t with me, how would I know if she was alive? I tried to fill my time with distractions, which if you’ve read my blog was maybe not the healthiest way to survive.

But I did survive.

And now, I feel more myself than I ever have.  This year has truly been a year of healing, of self-discovery, and of self-love.  Yes, I am Isabel’s mother.  I am Abigail’s mother.  I am Ryan’s ex-wife.  But I’m also Bri.  I love to write, and read, and play guitar, and sing at the top of my lungs.  I love to go for long walks until I get lost.  I love to spend time with my friends, the same friends I spent years being told didn’t like me.  Guess what? They do like me.  And I’m starting to like me too.

As I grow more comfortable with myself, I am becoming more comfortable being alone. If my kids are gone for the night, I don’t need to seek company.  I’m enjoying my own company.  I’m doing things that are solely for me.  I’m taking improv classes.  It won’t help me become a better mother; it won’t help me become a better assistant.  But it’s fun and I’m enjoying myself and you know what? THAT is helping me become a better mother.

I am so happy right now. Really, truly happy.  A happiness that is not dependent on another.  I’m not happy because someone called me pretty or because Isabel had a good week at school.  I’m happy because I like my life.  I am proud of myself for getting out of a bad situation.  I am proud of myself for setting a positive example for my two young girls.  I am proud of myself for knowing my worth and refusing to settle for less.

This past year has been one of the hardest of my life. I started this year as a timid caterpillar, convinced that I would never become anything more.  But I’ve emerged on the other side of this chrysalis of change, and I’m a fucking butterfly.

 

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6 Years

It’s been six years since my dad died.

I always think about my dad a lot, but even more so lately. I wonder what he would think of my life now. Would he be proud of me? Would he be disappointed?

He has two beautiful granddaughters that he never got to meet. I bought and sold a home. I ran a successful business and now I have a completely different career that I love. I have a couple more tattoos and half a dozen more piercings. I hope that he would be proud of these things. Maybe not the tattoos.

Conversely, I remained in a marriage that was not happy. It wasn’t happy when my dad was alive, and it got worse in the years after he died. I know my dad supported me in any decision that I made, but I know that he wanted better for me than what my relationship had become. I know that he hoped that I would leave my marriage, even though he never came right out and said it (to me, anyway). I have left it, though. I took five extra years but I did it. I hope that he would be proud of me for that.

My dad and my (now ex) husband got along great at first. My dad gave us money for our wedding; he paid for our wedding bands; and he arranged and paid for the cottage we stayed in for our honeymoon. My dad and stepmom bought a brand new house and had the builders create an amazing basement apartment so that we could move to Guelph to be closer to him. My dad was my first client for my business. He bent over backwards for us.

My ex was completely ungrateful for all of this. When we moved to Guelph he treated it as a vacation and lay on the couch for months doing nothing. Part of our agreement was that we split the household chores for the common areas. Instead, my ex would leave pop cans around and leave messes in the kitchen for others to clean up. And by others, I mean me. He got mad at me for small things and he didn’t care if my dad, my stepmother, or my little brother saw it.

As a former daddy’s girl, my dad always saw me as 12 years old. It didn’t matter that I was grown and married, he saw his 12 year old girl being treated poorly. Tension ensued. A lot of stuff happened that I don’t want to get into, but it ended in my dad asking my ex to leave.

I was completely torn, but I remained loyal to my husband. We found a house to rent and we moved out. This is when my husband completely shut down and things got really, really bad for us. We had our ups and downs after that, but it was never “good” again. My ex’s favourite thing to say about my father was that he wished he would get cancer and die.

We moved out in December of 2010. My dad died (of cancer) in May of 2012.

In the last six-ish months of my dad’s life we got closer again, but it was never like it was before. We never had the same relationship. I was never daddy’s little girl again. Our relationship was forever altered and I never got the chance to fully repair it.

Three days before my dad died he called me. In the six years that have passed since his death, I have never told anyone about the conversation we had.

My dad and my stepmom didn’t know that the cancer was going to win. They remained hopeful and even as my dad got sicker and sicker; skinnier and skinnier; weaker and weaker, they chalked it up to a bad chemo round.

Three days before he died, they saw his oncologist who told them that the cancer was terminal and that my dad had three months to live.

My dad called me from the oncologist’s office. I could barely hear him over the phone. The chemo had made him really weak and his voice was barely audible even in person. I could tell he had been crying, which made it so much harder to hear him.

He told me that he was going to die. He told me that he had three months left to live. And he told me…and I have kept this to myself for six long years…he said, “I’m really going to miss you, Breezy.” That’s what broke me. I lost it. I got off the phone with him and just melted down. I had missed out on a year and a half of my dad’s life and it turns out that it was the last year and a half he had.

My husband was on nights that week. I went upstairs and crawled into bed with him. I curled myself around him. He woke up and saw that I was sobbing. He asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t answer. After a few attempts, I told him that my dad was dying and that he only had a few months left.

My husband. Rolled his eyes. Rolled over. And went back to sleep.

When my dad died I was a mess for about a month. I imploded. I drank constantly. I acted recklessly and sought out bad situations. I have one night where I can’t remember anything that I did, and I’m pretty sure I want to leave it that way. I’ve never felt that dark before.

And my husband? Did nothing. Didn’t hug me. Didn’t kiss me. Didn’t even go to the funeral. I had three friends come up to stay with me for the weekend of the funeral (including HIS best friend), because they cared more about me than my husband. They were there for me. They let me cry on their shoulders. They slept in my bed with me. They helped me fill out insurance forms and made sure I could walk up the steps in the funeral home.

Not the person with whom I promised to spend my entire life. To take care of no matter what. That person was nowhere to be found. That person insisted that I not talk about my father. That I not have pictures or mementos of him in our home.

The last six years have been hard. This past year in particular started out really, really hard…but I’ve really found myself. I’m happy. I like where I am and who I’ve become. And I really hope that wherever my dad is, even if it’s just in my head, he’s proud of me.

Be someone who makes hearts happy.

Yesterday my daughter said to me, “Mommy…I love you because your heart makes people happy.”

This was completely unprovoked.  We were snuggling on the couch close to bedtime.  Isabel was eating a snack.  I kissed her cheek and she wiped it off.  She kissed my cheek so I wiped it off too! She laughed and said, “We should wipe our kisses together!” She kissed my cheek again, and I kissed hers.  And then we rubbed our cheeks together like a couple of weirdos.

We both laughed and then she told me that she loves me…because my heart makes people happy.

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that this is the most wonderful thing that anyone has ever said to me.  Not only is it an amazing compliment, but it’s reaffirming.  In my daily life I really do try to make other people happy.  Every person that I encounter in a day, I try to make smile.  I try to have a positive impact on every person in my life.

But the biggest reason that I loved this compliment from Isabel is that it reflects so much on HER.  It shows empathy, compassion, kindness, and love.  She loves me and she wanted me to know.  I make her happy and she wanted me to know.  She sees how I treat other people and she wanted me to know.

Maybe there’s hope for her after all!

I rag on her a lot.  Not to her face, obviously.  That would be bad parenting.  But behind her back…man, can I trash that kid.

*Before you judge me and call CAS and have my uterus ripped away from me, do you know Isabel? Do you? Have you spent extended periods of time with her? She is a wonderful, strong, smart little girl.  But yeah.  She can be a raging c…omplicated child.*

At home we talk about kindness a lot.  I give Isabel reminders to use kind words.  We talk about “filling buckets” by doing good things for other people.  We talk about the importance of words and compassion and consent.  It is so, so important for me that my girls grow up kind.  I love that Isabel is so fierce – no one will mess with her.  I know that she will not take shit from anyone when she’s older.  She is going to be an amazingly strong, confident woman.  And I know that one day I will be so grateful for that.  But today is not that day.

Today I want Isabel to learn that she can stand up for herself but still be kind.  She can protect her sister but still have compassion.  I want her to grow up and to have someone tell her that her heart makes people happy.  Her heart makes me happy every day.  I mean, sometimes her heart makes me want to stab myself in the eye, but mostly it makes me happy.

I can tell that she’s really “getting it” lately.  She has said some amazingly insightful things lately.  We were talking about blessings one day and she said, “I’m blessed with the most beautiful face in the world and it’s yours, Mommy.”  She could have said “I’m blessed with lots of toys!”, or “I’m blessed with this doll but I could really have more Shopkins.”  But she chose to express her love for me instead.

Walking home from school one afternoon, I told her that I am the luckiest mom in the whole world.  She said, “God made the perfect girls for you, didn’t he?”

So what’s the difference? What is so different lately that she’s all of a sudden GETTING IT? Don’t get me wrong, we still have eye-stabbing moments.  But we get past them quickly and go back to our love-fest.  So what is it?

I like myself.

This is a new thing.  I’ve had an epiphany.  If I met myself in the street, you know what? I’d like myself.  I would want to be my friend.  Up until very recently, I would have found myself annoying and needy and clingy.  Until recently, I didn’t understand why anyone was my friend.  I felt like my friends were only there because they were too nice to tell me to go fuck myself.  They were too nice to tell me that they didn’t actually want to be my friend.

But…my heart makes people happy.  My words make people laugh.  My actions make people smile.  And I like myself.

A lot of my difficulties with Isabel stem from the fact that I see so much of myself in her.  When she has a tantrum, I can remember exactly how that feels.  And I get frustrated with myself that I can’t control her behavior.  My frustration frustrates Isabel.  Which agitates me.  Which agitates her.  And it goes back and forth, feeding off of each other’s anxieties.

But you know what? I do see SO MUCH of myself in her.  But…that’s not a bad thing.  Look at me.  I’m smart.  I’m funny.  I’m kind.  I’m trying to be strong, even though I’ve been beaten down again and again.  These are traits that I WANT my daughters to have.  So why am I so upset when her behavior reflects my own? When I see myself in her, why am I getting mad? It’s because I’m getting mad at my OWN thoughts, my OWN feelings, my OWN behaviors.  I’m trying to stop her from being me.  But I’m starting to see that being me…isn’t such a bad thing.

I’m sorry, Isabel.  I’m sorry that I haven’t been the mom you deserve.  You ARE smart.  You ARE funny.  You ARE kind.  And I am so grateful every single day that you are my daughter.  You’re right, kid.  God DID make the perfect girls for me.

A very important list

I love lists.

I do. I write lists constantly.  It helps with my anxiety to see things on paper in front of me.  To-do lists are everywhere in my world.  Organization is beauty for me; it’s one of the reasons I love my job.

I also apparently love choosing the wrong guy. I am really good at it.  I find someone that seems so good for me, and then…they aren’t.  I need to break out of the patterns I have created for myself.  I need to be specific.  I need to be picky.

So, in true Brianne fashion, I have created a list of qualities that a potential partner must have. No settling.  Not anymore.  I’m too old to settle and I have two amazing little girls that don’t deserve to have someone in their life that isn’t going to be there long term, or isn’t going to be a positive role model.

There are some incredibly random items on this list, but trust me: they are all there for a specific reason. I am an open book – if any items need clarification or explanation, I’d love to provide it.

  • Tall (5’10 or above)
  • Well groomed
  • Smells good
  • Has post-secondary education
    • Doesn’t matter what type of PSE
    • Doesn’t matter if they graduated or with what degree/diploma/certificate
  • Has a stable job
  • Owns a car
  • Lives on his own (not with parents, roommate, etc.)
  • Owns at least one suit
  • Good grammar/spelling
  • Smart
  • Good sense of humour
    • Is funny
    • Thinks I’m funny
  • Can participate in witty banter
    • Sarcastic
    • Appreciates my sarcasm
  • Good relationship with parents, but not overbearing
  • First date must be an actual date
  • Friendly with wait staff, store clerks, etc.
  • If he has kids, must see them on a very regular basis
  • Likes at least one sport
  • Can recognize at least one Matthew Good song
  • Punctual
  • Swears, but not every other word
  • Doesn’t vape
  • Drinks but not every night, and not to excess
  • Does not speak negatively of any exes
  • Self-sufficient
  • Smiles in photos
  • No earrings
  • Treats me with respect
  • Trusts and is trustworthy
  • Not sexist/racist/homophobic/anything douchey

What if God was one of us?

I had a thought.  I often write as if I’m talking to someone.  I publish here the words I can’t say in person.  So what if I was to write a letter to God? What would it say? What would I be thankful for? In what areas of my life would I ask for help?

So this is what I’m going to be doing for the next few days.  I am going to think really hard about what I would say to God, or whatever is out there.  Maybe it’s just to the universe, or mother nature, or maybe (most likely) just nothingness.

But assuming there is some great powerful being out there…what would I say if given the chance?

What would YOU say?

While I spend the next few days thinking about it, I want you to think about it too.

It’s my fault for being happy for 30 seconds

When you’ve been a victim of abuse, you build a pretty strong wall to protect yourself.  You learn quickly that expressing emotion can get you punished, so you hold it in.  If you’re lucky enough to get out of the abusive situation, that wall stays there.

When you meet new people, the wall strengthens.  Or at least it does for me.  I could meet the nicest person in the world and it will go one of two ways:

Scenario 1: There is no way this person can be this nice.  It must be an act.  They’re going to charm me and disarm me.  I better run before I see their true colours.

Scenario 2: There is no way I deserve someone this nice.  I’m not worth it.  It’s only a matter of time before they realize that I’m not good enough for them and they leave.  I better run before they see my true colours.

 

Unfortunately, I succumbed to a new scenario.  One that I didn’t know existed, and instead of ending with me running it ended with some serious heartache.

Yep: I’m talking about you, Coffee.

The self-proclaimed “nice guy with asshole tendencies.”  I tried to keep my wall up and I did a good job at first.  You didn’t pry, which was so wonderful.  I felt safe with you, and special.  You kissed my forehead and you tucked my hair behind my ears.  You told me that you hoped that eventually I would let my guard down with you.

The first time I relaxed a little around you, you said how nice it was.  You would text me all day, telling me that you really liked me and if we hadn’t seen each other in awhile you would say you missed me.  I actually felt this going somewhere.  I’m an idiot, I guess.

Last weekend you invited me to stay with you.  This was a huge deal for me.  Since leaving my husband, I’ve been with people but I’ve rarely slept with them.  There are very few people with whom I have actually spent a night.  Of course my first reaction was to run.  Alert, alert, too nice.  Scenario 1.  Get the fuck out.

But you know what? I really fucking liked you.  With an exclamation point.  And I thought you liked me too.  So I agreed.  You sounded excited to have me stay over.  You bought mugs, and a kettle, and coffee.  You made me breakfast.  I was with you…maybe 20 hours? 22? I had such an amazing time with you.  I loved the way you made me feel.  I fucking opened up to you.

I guess that was my mistake.  I talked about my ex.  I talked about my dad.  I’m not going to lie: I verbal diarrhea-ed all over you.  It’s a lot to take and I get that.  My life is not perfect or wonderful; it’s been shattered and poorly glued back together.  But it’s my life and it’s part of me and I thought that you liked me.

When I left your house, I was happy.  I was fucking happy.  This should have set off warning bells, but it didn’t.  I went home and I talked to my friends about you and I smiled like an idiot and gushed like a teenager.

It wasn’t until the next evening that it came crashing down.  An innocent text to you asking if I would get to see you this week.  An innocent enough non-committal answer from you.  A jokey response from me, poorly disguising my disappointment.  A sinking feeling that the end had come.

It’s been a few days.  Communication has slowed right down to nothing.  I wish you would at least tell me that you don’t want to see me anymore.  I know it’s hard to hurt someone but saying nothing hurts a lot more.  It would take you twenty seconds to pick up your phone and say something like, “I’m sorry but I don’t see this going anywhere.”  Or, “I had fun but I think we should stop seeing other.”  Anything, really.  Just something to provide some sort of closure and to make yourself a little less of an asshole.

I was talking to my friend about ghosting yesterday.  When someone ghosts us we should know that they are the ones with the problem.  They are the ones who are too cowardly to send a simple text.  It really takes no time out of their day to be a decent human being.  But instead we blame ourselves.  We wonder what we did wrong.  We wonder if we aren’t pretty enough, or funny enough, or smart enough.  We wonder what part of us isn’t enough for them.

I hate this feeling.  I hate sitting on my couch crying.  I hate feeling bruised and broken and alone.  I hate that you made me feel like you were worth it.  I feel like I was a game to you.  I was closed off and it was a challenge.  You got in and therefore you won.  Game over.  I’m left in pieces behind you but you won.  Congratulations, I guess.  I’m not sure how many times I can glue myself back together, but I’ll try.

Late night revelation

I take Zoloft.  I’ve been on medication for ten years, but have just started Zoloft recently.  I’m still on an increasing dose, although where I am now seems pretty good most days.  I’m trying to determine if I like where I am right now or if I should continue the increase.

Some days I feel like the medication is not working very well.  It’s so difficult to describe, but I feel un-medicated.  I am used to having a medication that masks all of my emotions, rendering me robotic.   I switched medications because I wanted to try having a wider range of emotions: I was getting tired of having only numb and number.  Although I am coping better since starting this medication, I don’t have that overly medicated zombie-esque façade to which I become accustomed.  Quite often it would go through my mind that perhaps this medication was not working.

Today, I forgot to take my pill.  I have an alarm set on my phone that goes off at 8:00am during the week and 9:00am on weekends to remind me to take my pill.  Every morning I try to remember to take the pill before my alarm goes off; it’s some kind of game I play against myself.  Last night I was up late and today I had to start working an event at noon, so instead of setting myself an extra alarm to wake me, I decided to just use the pill reminder alarm.  I forgot to take my pill and there was no second alarm to remind me.

Halfway through my event today I realized that I had forgotten to take my medication.  I was working so I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it until tonight.  I made a mental note in my head and reminded myself that these pills didn’t seem to be doing much so it likely didn’t matter that I’d forgotten today’s dosage.  My day went on and I took the pill when I got home.

On an unrelated note, I’ve spent the day stressing over a personal situation.  I like someone, I think they like me back, I don’t know how much…I’m pretty much a teenager.  I’ve gone full “girl crazy” as I obsess over it.

And then I feel stupid for overthinking the situation.  I always do this: I overanalyze everything.  I tell myself over and over again that I need to stop stressing myself out.  At the same time, however, I tell myself that I’m probably right: he probably doesn’t like me.

I think, you are so stupid.  Why do I keep doing this? Why do I let myself get hurt? Why do I overthink and overanalyze and why do I care? Why can’t I just shut off and let no one in? Why did I think it was okay to let someone in?

I should just kill myself.

That’s when I stopped.  I completely froze.  I was walking from my bedroom to the living room and I stopped dead in my tracks.  A whoosh of breath took the word “whoa” out of my lungs and into the silent room.

I started talking to my brain as if it were two separate people: an intimidated nerd against the unapologetic bully.  I couldn’t let this bully speak to me like that.  I gave myself a pep talk.  It’s not okay to say those things.  I need to have respect for myself.  I am worthy of respect.  Why on Earth was I saying these things?

Ah.  Right.  The medication.

The medication IS working.  See what happens when I don’t take the medication? I become even more self-deprecating; suicidal, even.  Although maybe with the medication I am still somewhat crazy as evidenced by the fact that there seem to be two people in my brain.  Three, really, if you take into account this third party referee.

But it is really nice to see that the medication is working.  It is not masking my symptoms by creating a new mask.  It is allowing me to feel…I have a new range of emotions.  Some of them suck, but they’re there.  The medication allows me those emotions, but keeps away the really dark thoughts and feelings.  It’s like a dreamcatcher: it catches the bad thoughts and washes them away with the light.

So, I’m going to take some deep breaths.  I’m going to try to not freak out.  I am worth it.  Maybe you see that I’m worth it.  I hope that you see, but maybe you don’t.  And that would hurt, because I do feel.  I am human.  But I will heal and I will be okay.  You can bend me and you can bruise me but you can’t break me.

I can’t tell you the future.  You can’t tell me.  But I have today.  I know how I felt with you.  And if by some chance you don’t feel the same way, that’s okay.  I’m okay…or at least, I will be.