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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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

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.

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.