Rule Number One: Trust No One

I talk a big talk.

I’ll tell you all about this wall I’ve built around myself. I’ll tell you about how I use humour as a defense mechanism, and how I don’t let people get past my armour.  But on the other side of this wall, I’m just a giant pile of mush.

Wow…that’s some really fantastic imagery there.

I am way too sensitive for my own good; I always have been. The second someone raises their voice towards me, I cry.  It doesn’t matter who it is: it could be a parent, a friend, a random customer from my retail days…they get mad, I cry.  I can’t control it.

I care way too much about what other people think. I want to be liked; we all do, to an extent.  I’ve tried to teach myself that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business, but it still hurts me so much when someone dislikes me.

And behind the wall I’ve built I have a giant, raw, fragile heart. If I decide that someone is worthy of getting to have a look behind the wall, I give them all of me.  This doesn’t just extend to romantic partners.  My closest friends have seen that once you’re in, you’re in: it’s a front row seat to all the emotions, whether you want them or not.

I am an extremely emotional person, I just try to hide it from most people. I try so hard to pretend that my skin is sandpaper, but really I’m just flesh.  I feel everything so much and it’s overwhelming.  There’s an Anna Nalick song… “But I think too much / I love like I’m dying / And I come and go like the moon, like the moon / My face shows when I’m lying.”  I let people’s words and actions hurt me way more than they should.  Someone at work with whom I’ve had little interaction has the power to send me to my bed with covers over my head, crying into my pillow.  A friend with whom I’ve shared no intimate, personal details of my life can say something cruel about me and I physically feel the pain of their words.  How is it that I let strangers have such control over my emotions, when I work so hard to have none at all?

What I’m struggling with currently is what to do when someone I’ve let in is the one to cause the hurt. I’d like to think that I’m fairly selective with who I allow on this side of the wall.  I mean I definitely make the wrong decisions at times and bring over people who don’t deserve to be here.  But what happens if someone I’ve chosen to love hurts me so much I can’t breathe? And further still…what if I still want them here with me on this side? How do I do that? Is it even possible?

Along with my big, bleeding, raw heart…I forgive. I forgive too quickly and too easily.  I’ll psychoanalyze myself here and say that it’s a result of being in an abusive relationship for 11 years.  You have to forgive easily, or it just makes the situation worse.  Once the conflict is over, the abuser wants to just continue on as if nothing happened.  And if you resist that, the conflict comes back and gets way, way worse.  So as the victim, you just suck it up and move on.  It was your fault anyway, right?

But this comes with a caveat: once that trust is broken and that pain is felt, I may forgive but I will distance myself. I will push my emotions away and push you away right with them.  I will build up my wall, stronger than before with steel reinforcements and barbed wire fencing.  I will cover myself in new skin, to try to protect myself from more hurt.

This time…I don’t want to do that. I feel like a fragile little bird.  I’ve been hurt but I want so badly to heal, and to heal with you.  I don’t want you on the other side: I want you beside me.  But the thought of opening back up to you…scares the shit out of me.  The more layers of skin I peel back, the easier it is to hurt me again…and the more painful it will be.

I guess I just need to time hang back here and lick my wounds. Proceed with caution.  I am surrounded by shattered glass and I just need to be careful for awhile.  Even if you think you’ve picked up all the pieces, there’s always a few shards left behind.

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Silver Linings of Divorce

I feel like one of my best traits is the ability to see the positive in any situation.  I don’t let things keep me down for long.  There’s always a way to make lemonade.  It may be terribly sour, but hey…some people like it that way.

Ending a marriage is a big deal.  It is a huge life change.  And a lot of it really freaking sucks.  You have to get over the fact that your entire life has changed.  Your thoughts about the future are now all wrong.  You’re not going to grow old with that person.  You’re not going to save up and buy that bigger house together.  You’re not going to embarrass your kids together on their first date.  It’s a lot to wrap your head around.

But just because it’s a big deal doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal.  Make some lemonade, my friends.  You can still grow old, just maybe with someone who doesn’t hog the covers.  You can still buy a bigger house, just maybe with someone who actually enjoys gardening.  You can still embarrass your kids, just maybe with a new duet partner.  Or hey, maybe you’ll do all that stuff on your own.  AND THAT’S OKAY TOO.

It’s time to stop thinking about the negatives of divorce.  We all know there’s a lot.  Let’s focus on the positive.  Here are ten awesome things that you may not have thought about before.  Ten awesome things about divorce.

  1. You can set the thermostat to whatever you want.  Were you married to a furnace? Was your house always scarf and parka weather? Turn that AC off and open the windows, darling!
  2. You get to choose what’s for dinner.  Did your partner hate asparagus with every fibre of his or her being? Did you go years without freshly grown summer asparagus? Does reading that sentence make your mouth just water? Well, buck up, my love! It’s asparagus time.
  3. You don’t have to choose a side of the bed.  I spent over a decade sleeping on the right side of the bed.  When we split up I started sleeping on the left, out of defiance.  Then I went back to the right side, out of habit.  Then I slept in the middle for awhile.  Wanna know where I sleep now? Wherever the fuck I want.
  4. You can be as late as you want.  Don’t have the kids? Out for a drink with friends? Another friend shows up just as you’re about to leave? Stay! Catch up! Don’t worry about your spouse being upset that you’re late.  You have no one to text, nothing to explain.
  5. You can spend twelve straight hours watching Netflix.  Okay so you may not WANT to spend that much time watching Netflix, but you know what I mean.  You know what show I just watched in its entirety? Pretty Little Liars.  Why? I don’t know.  It popped up in my recommended shows.  I’d never seen it before.  I’d never had an ounce of interest in it before.  But I had nothing else to do.  So I watched it.  (I should say that I didn’t watch it in its entirety ALL AT ONCE.  It took awhile.)  But you don’t have to worry about someone saying, “The new episode of Game of Thrones is on!”, or “Give me the remote, the Superbowl is starting!” Nah, bro.  You watch what you want, judgment free.  Trust me.  It would need to be judgment free for me to watch seven hours of entitled rich white girls running from one party to the next.  Really though, how did they have that many parties to go to?
  6. Pick your own pet.  Are you a cat person? Was your spouse allergic to cats? That’s a good reason to be a dog family.  But now you’re on your own! Get a cat! Get five!
  7. Take up the entire closet.  Really.  It is such an amazing feeling.  I have his and hers closets in my bedroom.  They are now mine and mine closets.  Everything is sectioned so nicely.  It’s so well organized and planned out and beautiful.  Just thinking about my closet gives me warm fuzzies.
  8. Be your own interior designer.  I have a rug in my living room.  My ex-husband would have HATED it.  He’s seen it – I’m sure he does hate it.  I haven’t asked, because I don’t care.  When I was shopping for it, I sent a picture to a group of my friends.  Most of them were super polite and said, “Well it’s not my taste but…” But you know what? It’s my taste.  I bought it.  I love it.  I picked out my couch.  I picked out my coffee table.  The art on my walls? I picked it.  The fireplace in my living room? My decision.  Everything in my house is there because I want it there.  It is an amazing feeling.
  9. Splurge a little.  I’m not saying live beyond your means, because that’s something you shouldn’t do whether you’re in a relationship or not.  But once in awhile, treat yourself.  Buy a new dress.  Get your haircut at a fancy salon.  Go to a baseball game.  Buy a freaking chocolate bar.  Whatever.  Don’t ask permission, don’t ask forgiveness.  Recognize that you’re worth it.
  10. This is a lot of things in one, but mainly it’s just this: be autonomous.  Pee with the door open if you want.  Sing at the top of your lungs in the shower.  Drive with the windows down.  Eat ice cream out of the carton on the couch in your underwear.  Make your own decisions.  Live your own life.  You don’t have to answer to anyone.  Yes, sometimes it’s lonely.  But at the end of the day, it’s worth it.  Maybe you won’t grow old with the person you thought you would.  But the only person that you need to make yourself happy is YOU.

I am covered in skin / No one gets to come in

I had decided to stop dating.

I got to a point where I was happy to just be alone.  I was enjoying my own company and was perfectly content to stop looking for someone to “complete” me.  I felt pretty completed on my own, and that I didn’t need someone else to make me happy.  I finally felt comfortable spending a weekend alone when my kids were at their dad’s.  I didn’t need to fill that time with anything, whether it was having friends over or going on dates.  It felt nice to sit at home and read a book or watch a movie and knit.

So I made myself a very ambitious goal: to watch/re-watch all of the Marvel movies in order.  In true Bri fashion, I did my research.  I researched the order of release, and also the order the Internet deemed correct for watching.  I made myself a list, and I searched Netflix to find which ones were available there.  The first three were not available on Netflix, so I tried to find them elsewhere.

I posted on a Facebook group asking fellow mommies if they had any of the three movies that I could borrow for a weekend.  I said, “I’m looking for things to fill my nights now that I’ve completely given up on the idea of ever dating ever again ever.  EVER.”  One mom replied, “If you change your mind I have a really really great ex-brother-in-law.”  We started talking and she made this guy sound pretty fantastic, so I thought what the hell.  I wasn’t expecting anything but I figured it would make a good story if nothing else.

So I sent the guy a message saying, “So I posted on a mommies group looking for a couple movies to borrow, and instead I got offered you.”  And yeah.  Somehow it clicked.

Now I find myself in a relationship with the most amazing person.  Someone who treats me the way that I want my daughters to be treated by their future partners.  Someone who will laugh with me, and cry with me, and sit in silence with me.  Someone I can’t help but open up to.  I have these walls but I’m finding that I don’t want them anymore; not around him.  I want to let him all the way in.

After our first date, I sent him the link to my blog.  He said he was curious and I figured, I have nothing to hide.  This is who I am, and this will tell you way more about myself than I will ever vocalize.  Here’s the link.  Read it, and then let me know if you still want to talk to me.  Maybe this was another form of self-sabotage, because I fully expected him to never speak to me again.

But instead, he would ask me questions about the blog posts.  He would tell me how they made him feel, or that he wanted to give me a hug.  He read the entire thing and he wanted to give me a hug.  I’m not ashamed of who I am.  I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done, or the choices I’ve made.  I know some of my choices have not been fabulous, but they’ve shaped me in some way or another.  But I still wrote him off completely as soon as I sent him the link.  In my mind, that was it.  Fucked it up again.  Classic Bri.

It didn’t work like that.  I am with someone who knows more about me than most people, in such a short period of time.  He likes me for who I am.  It feels incredible to feel confident in my own skin around him; like I don’t have to hide or pretend to be someone that I’m not.

At this point in my life, I feel that who I am isn’t going to change much.  I’ve come this far in life.  My views and opinions may change as I learn more about a subject or through the experiences I have, but overall I feel like I’m pretty done.  I am who I am.  I feel the same about a partner: there’s no such thing as a “fixer upper.”  It’s not my place to change someone else or fix them.  I want a relationship where I can feel perfectly happy being who I am in the company of someone who feels perfectly happy being who they are.

And right now, that’s what I’m feeling.  I am blissfully happy.  I have people I barely know commenting on how happy I seem.  I feel lighter.  I feel calmer.  I feel like me.  Like the real me.  Like the me that was lost for so long, buried under the labels of “Jeff’s daughter,” “Ashley’s sister,” “Ryan’s wife,” “Isabel/Abby’s mom.”

I wasn’t ready before.  I needed to let go of everything else, of the me I felt I had to be.  I’m so happy that I found you when I did, because I wasn’t ready before.  I’m ready now.  I’m ready and I am so wonderfully happy.

 

I am ready – I am ready – I am ready – I am fine

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.

 

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

I’m wearing the same grin

I’m not buying into this “new year, new me” thing.

It’s a lovely concept, but I’m the same person I was last week.  I’m not going to list a bunch of goals for myself; I’m not going to blather on about how I’m going to change myself for the better this year.  I won’t whine and complain about how poorly 2017 treated me.  The date on the calendar doesn’t mean a thing: you are still you and whatever happens to you happens.  That’s life, my friends.

That being said, I haven’t written in a little bit.  I didn’t write over Christmas because I was busy with my family.  I didn’t write anything around New Year’s because I didn’t want to add to the chaos of “new beginnings” posts.

So instead I will write about what I love in my life right now.

I have two amazing daughters.  They are strong and fierce.  At times they can be too strong and too fierce, but these will be wonderful qualities in the women they will become.  They make me smile and laugh every day, and I am in awe of how smart and confident they are.  They are enormous spirits in tiny bodies and they make me want to be a better person so that I can be the best possible example for them.

I love my house.  I rent: it is small and expensive.  I have a downstairs neighbour that I can hear at all hours of the night.  I can hear him sneeze and cough.  If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can hear him snoring from the floor beneath me.  But I find all of this comforting.  My small house is just the right size for my girls and me; and I am never truly alone listening to the murmur of the television below.

I have a great job.  I’m still new and I’m still learning.  But so far I am really enjoying it.  I like the people with whom I work, and I like the work that we do.  I look forward to going to work in the mornings, which I know is not how many people feel about their jobs.  Sometimes (often) I wonder how I got this job, as I’m not overly qualified for it, but I am so immensely grateful that I was given this opportunity.

I am surrounded by some of the best humans around.  My friends have been lifesavers this past year.  My kitchen is completely stocked with dishes, cookware, utensils, etc., because I have friends who just dropped stuff at my house.  I have friends who went through their kitchens, their basements, and their attics just to find me things they felt I could use in my new life.  I get texts and phone calls from people checking up on me.  I come home to packages on my porch.  I have invitations to dinners and I get knocks on my door just because.  I am loved and I am made to feel that way.

I don’t need to be a new me this year.  I am building the best possible version of myself.  There is a Matthew Good song called “Symbolistic White Walls” and there is a line that I have been repeating to myself lately.  “I’m wearing the same grin/I take it all on the chin.” I feel like this is the best possible motto for my life right now.  It has nothing to do with buying a new calendar or remembering to write a new date (which usually takes me until June to perfect).  It has everything to do with this continuing journey of self discovery on which I find myself.  It is never too late to become who you were meant to be.  And I’m working on it.