Tag Archives: living out loud

I’m Part of the Problem

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Social media certainly has its positives but it also has its gross distortions of reality.  Article after article has been written about the decreased happiness levels of those who use Facebook on a regular basis.  Studies claim that this may be due to the comparisons we make to the fictional personas of our online “friends”. It’s hard not to feel blue when one is inundated with pics of tropical vacations, stories of perfect, high-achieving children and spouses, love stories, modelesque selfies, posts about promotions, fast race times, pics of new houses, cars, gourmet homemade dinners, etc etc etc.  All of these posts true but not fully true.  Smoke and mirrors.  Facebook becomes a place of glorified and amplified brags. We begin to put others up on pedestals of perfection while drowning ourselves in an envious reduction of “everyone’s life is better than mine” mentality.

I’m a FB user, so you see, the problem is, I’m part of the problem.  To continue in this journey of Living Out Loud, I’d like to be honest here and present the full truth vs the pedestal truth my FB posts may have led you to believe.

IMG_2318I have been getting my hair colored for as long as I can remember and have always had the funds to do so.  The last two years, I have not had the funds to do so yet continued to color my hair.  When I posted this pic, I loved the way my hair looked so much that I was literally denying the facts that my budget does not allow for this.  I just wanted to feel pretty.  It took two years but I have finally accepted that this was the last time for a long time my hair would look that great.  I am now currently growing out my gray and accepting my reality that I cannot keep up with my FB envy of hair, pedicures, manicures, lashes and all the other beautification pics I see on FB.  My reality is gray, unpainted, and all natural. And that’s okay.

10449970_10152112336166493_337380212490761156_nThe truth behind this picture (left) and others from this day is that my family was judged harshly throughout our visit.  We were visiting family that criticized my parenting because my son has long hair and talked to me about how I’m not raising “real” men of god.  I was not only judged for the looks and behaviors of my sons but I was also judged on my tattoos and my choice of clothing.  When I asked for water, I was told I could not go in the house but rather that I could fill my water bottles with the yard hose. Yeah, not quite as happy-go-lucky as the pictures make that visit out to be.

When I posted motorcycle & meditation pics from Tucson in March, the t2014-03-14 10.39.48ruth is, that I was in Tucson trying to find any way to manage dealing with my broken heart.  It was my 17 year wedding anniversary and Adam and I had just separated two weeks prior.  I spent my wedding anniversary hiking Sabino Canyon alone and seeing a therapist.  Hardly romantic.

While Adam and I were coaching little league baseball together, every person believed that we were a happy, unified family. We were selling a lie.  The truth was that I would cry before baseball practice and after.  I longed for those two hours when I would have some connection with Adam. The truth was that I was madly in love with the man on the baseball field but our relationship had become toxic.  Games usually ended with us arriving together but leaving to our separate homes.

IMG_2205When I posted pics of Adam and I taking a motorcycle trip to Smith Rock in May, the truth is that this was a trip to burn, bury, and bathe our old relationship so we could move forward.  We burned our marriage license and goodbye letters we wrote to our 20 years together.  We buried our wedding pictures with other mementos from our wedding day.  And we bathed each other in tears and rivers.  While it was one step in our reconciliation, I was still neck deep in torment and pain.

10608297_10152200302131493_8594048053955087003_oI received a lot of praise for how “thin and wonderful” I looked in some of my summer pictures and the truth is I was as thin as I’ve been since my early 20s.  And the deeper truth is that I became that thin, not because I was healthy, but because I was unhealthy.  I was not able to stomach much food, I was vomiting, I was running miles on an empty stomach, and I was experiencing deep levels of heart break.  I was literally starving emotionally and physically. Because of the praise, when I gained 10 of those pounds back, I became extremely tempted to stop eating again for fear of being “fat” or unattractive.  Now I see those 10 pounds as 10 pounds of happiness.   I am only that thin when I am in pain.

I hid my separation from all of you for multiple reasons.  One, it was not only my story to tell and I did not have Adam’s permission to share.  Two, I needed to process the changes on my own.  I knew whatever decisions I made needed to be mine and mine alone.  I am the only one who needs to live with the choices I make.  Three, I knew there would be judgement and I had zero room for judgement.

I have posted on FB that I haven’t finished my children’s book because I was waiting to change my name and obtain my CVT license so that my book would be more respected if it is authored by a professional in the field.  While that may be partially true, the real truth is that I’m scared to death that the book will be laughed at and a waste of my time and the illustrator’s time. I now have my CVT license and an illustrator I want to use, so there’s no more excuses.  I’m finally willing to take the risk of failure.

10622945_10152218221426493_6321856964184099964_nWhen I posted pics from a brilliant, summer day, it looked like all fun and games.  Joy and happiness.  But the truth is, it was a day that both broke me to a new low and, at the same time, allowed me stand a lot taller.  On this day, I found my truth.  I stood up for myself.  On this day, I also decided that I no longer wanted to try and reconcile my marriage.  I knew I was finished with the way things were.  I’ll write more about this in another post.

When I posted about my home finally selling, I was celebrating a lot more than just a home sale.  What I have not admitted to many of you (and to myself) is that our family has had real financial hardships.  Since the whole CFA thing (which I’m finally ready to live out loud about too), we have not had positive cash flow in over 2 years.  Our ENTIRE retirement is drained.  This is the first month in 2 years that we have made enough money to cover our basic costs.  Just two months ago, we were in a position of deciding if we were going to move the six of us in to our RV or in to my mom’s garage.  I have not wanted to admit that we’ve gone from our dream home on 3 acres with a dream job to applying for food stamps, accepting free handouts, exchanging clothes, and having to turn down fun events because of budget constraints.  It’s been a challenging, humbling two years and I’ve been embarrassed to admit the whole truth.  I am no longer hiding.

IMG_2177When I post happy pictures of my family, the chances are that one or more of my boys just had a huge mental breakdown prior to the picture.  For example in the picture to the left, I had to introduce a swearing bubble because the family was full of negative energy and we needed an ice breaker.  My boys are far from perfect.  My parenting far from perfect.  Our family FAR from perfect.  But when I scroll through my FB posts, we sure look perfect.  We look like we are always having fun and out having adventures (which we ARE having lots of fun and adventure…I mean, life is pretty damn good) but nobody on FB (me included) is posting tantrum pictures, pics of their thieving child returning a stolen stone to the World Affairs Council, soundbites of their child screaming “I fucking hate you, Mom” when they are about to have their finger pricked in the Dr’s office, or pics of the cereal the boys’ are eating for the 4th meal in a row.

I’ve posted pics of my sister’s baby shower that fail to show that I was really missing one of my other sisters because there’s a riff in the family.  I’ve only posted my best workout times and not my slower runs.  I’ve deleted plenty of pictures saving only the “best” for FB.  I never said anything about being separated or my dating life or Adam’s during that separation.  And because I never shared with you my separation from Adam, you wouldn’t know that we recently decided to recommit to our marriage and I am once again madly in love with my best friend.  Because I sometimes live in fear, I don’t post anything specific about the journey we are currently taking with the CFA incident. You wouldn’t know that I still struggle with rage when people tell me that I am lost or need god, that they feel sorry for my kids.  You wouldn’t know that I like my new job but incessantly think about the ways I’m failing and could be better.

So you see, I, too, have painted a picture of perfection that is so far from the truth that you may have put me on a pedestal. You may have thought things about me that are not true because I presented you with a half truth.  I am tired of contributing to the perfection myth.  I am not perfect.  You are not perfect.  Your life is not better than mine and mine is not better than yours. I am hoping that by Living Out Loud, we’ll start to see we’re in good company no matter where we are in life.

What half truths are you selling on social media? What pedestals have you built?  Care to tell the full truth and step on down? It’s liberating down here.  Join me!

I Choose to LOL (Live Out Loud)

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imagesAbout a month ago, I was in a real slump.  I was feeling inferior to other people (particularly women).  I was feeling insecure and questioning my worth as a human being.  I was feeling ugly and negatively judging my body.  I was feeling self conscious in my old mini-van and it’s lack of cool.   I was resenting my role as a mom.  The boys, they too, had stolen my cool factor.  I was doubting my ability to go back in to the work force and contribute quality work that others would value.  I began to become dissatisfied with the size of my home, the style of my clothes, the color of my hair, the small number in my bank account.  I was comparing, judging, and sitting in the ugliness of the stories my mind was creating and buying. The lies began their sneaky little job of creating this web of madness within me.

Once I realized that this funk was turning ugly and affecting the way I was viewing the world and treating the people around me, I decided I needed to take a hard look at what had changed to cause such unhappiness.  Adam had been out of town during this period of downward spiraling and I had engaged in a lot of, what I believed to be, harmless fun.  I watched Bachelor in Paradise from beginning to end.  I watched the Kardashians.  I lazily browsed on Pinterest and Etsy while watching music videos.  And I was on social media much more frequently…even adding the FB app to my phone.  Media was actually affecting my view of the world.  My view of self.

And there it was, the answer was that simple. I am sensitive to what I view and can easily fall victim to the solicitous agenda of media. I know that not everybody will be as sensitive as I am to overt sexuality and portrayals of what women should be.  Some of us are more sensitive to violence or consumerism or the top ten lists of how to be perfect in some fashion of life from parenting, religion, or home organization. We are all comparing ourselves to a standard sold to us. We are always “failing” at something according to someone. Even if that someone lives inside an electronic box selling a non-existent one-size-fits-all-perfection-solution.  I bought in to the lies, sold to me by the people inside that box, that my 36-year-old female self was all washed up. If I don’t look like the Kardashians, sell sex like JLo, have the same perky body of the women competing for “love” on Bachelor in Paradise, if I’m not as perfect as all my “friends” on FB, and if I’m not buying or wearing the latest/greatest…well then I’m not worth anything. I’m not attractive. My husband won’t want me for much longer. I need to make changes. Run faster. Workout harder. Get a six pack. Make more money. Eat less. Dress sexier. I’m clearly inadequate. I need to be better. Lie after lie quickly building a foundation of self hatred. I wanted to hide my insecurities from all of you. From my friends, my family, my husband. I wanted to appear stronger and more secure than I was. And so I hid. I had been hiding other areas of my life and just added my insecurities and self hatred to the dark corner of other secrets.  The longer I hid, the more insecure I felt. I was now living a false truth. Another mark against my clearly flawed self.

Lucky for me (and those around me), I was quick to recognize that my thoughts were turning into an ugly infestation and I was able to reflect quietly enough to identify the culprit. That damn media had its grasp again. I immediately turned off the media inputs, reached out to my girlfriends and was open about how I was feeling and I soon found myself worthy again. As I rid my life of the noise shouting at me who I was, who I wasn’t, and who I should be, I found who I really am.   In the silence, I found that I am me. Perfect me. And you are you. Perfect you.

 

One way that I have found my center time and time again is to be vulnerable in sharing. I find great healing in sharing in this blog. I become connected to those around me when I let down my guard and show vulnerability in sharing my struggles. I find that others open up and share too. We build a safe community where we can be real and genuine no matter where we are in our journeys. I recognized in this time of disliking myself that I had stepped away from my purpose of living out loud. I had started to hide for fear of being judged. I had gone inward and become alone. I had lost some of my integrity. I needed a good kick start to getting back to a life of vulnerability and authenticity. I was given that good kick-in-the- ass a few weeks ago when I had the pleasure of attending an event in which Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, wa10174916_10152050667061493_5333993137919276168_ns speaking. In that forum, she spoke about Radical Honesty. Cheryl’s belief was the equivalent of my belief of living out loud. Here was a woman who was baring her life in a truly authentic way and I, along with so many others, connect with this type of vulnerability. I felt the pull and encouragement to come out of hiding and begin sharing again.

 

I’ve started by sharing my deep, dark, scary secrets with my best friend, my husband. He’s held such a safe space for me and encouraged me to share whatever my heart needs to share. With his encouragement, I am ready to restart the practice of Living Out Loud with Radical Honesty. I hope that you all will continue to hold a safe space for my sharing, for the sharing of others, and find your safe spaces for vulnerability too. Start by sharing one secret with someone you find trustworthy. Or even begin by writing down the scariest secret you can think of sharing and burn it or bury it. Just writing it down is one step toward healing and letting it go. Freedom from the lie that secret has sold you.  I think you’ll find the more you share the less scary it becomes. And you’ll start to love you a helluva a lot more. Others will gravitate toward you because your energy will be absolutely pure. And, before you know it, you’ll not only be your own safe place but a safe place for others to practice Radical Honesty.

 

So who’s with me? Who’s ready to LIVE OUT LOUD? Journey with me, Friends! Let’s change ourselves, our circles and our communities with a little bit of Radical Honesty!

 

 

 

 

Breakdowns for Breakthroughs

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In 2014 I’m continuing the trend of living out loud.  This is by far the most difficult topic I have ever written about and, yet, I feel it is of vital importance to continue down the road of being vulnerable and human.  This first month of January, I’m sharing with you a little slice of me.

I’m at a stage in life where marriages are separating all around me.  Failing due to infidelities, addictions, lack of connections, too much stress, unkindness, and simple growing aparts.

I’ve learned to never judge a person’s marriage.  To never judge why some stay in relationships that seem toxic and never judging why some leave.  I don’t judge people who choose to have open marriages, monogamish marriages, polyamorous marriages, sexless marriages, intimate marriages, surface marriages, or any other form of committed coupledom.  I think it takes great strength to travel any road of commitment no matter how that commitment is defined.

I’ve always prided myself on my marriage.  It’s one of the things I have done best in life.  It’s the relationship that I have put above all others.  I have believed that if I could keep my marriage happy then my boys would have a stable and happy life.  Something I always longed for as a child.  I have known that the odds were stacked against us.  We married too young, we have special needs children, we have multiples, we have lost our financial stability, we’ve experienced a large amount of moves this past year, we left our religion, etc etc.  Yes, the odds are not in our favor and never have been.  No matter, I’m cut out for challenges.  Adam is too.  I didn’t worry about my marriage because I knew we were made for each other.  I knew that we have always been passionate about one another and that we could laugh, even in the face of adversity.  We had always been there for the other and there would not be a trial large enough to tear down the bond we so solidly built.

And then…

New Year’s Eve 2013 I heard the words I never truly imagined would leave the lips of my husband.

I want a separation or divorce.  This relationship is not working for me.

As horrible as it is to admit, my entire world crumbled.  The immediate realization that I had done everything I could to love this man and keep my family together and still I was not enough.  The gut punch knowledge that I will at best see my boys part-time.  The fear of how I will support myself.  I have invested everything in to his career.  He can make money.  I cannot.  The raging jealousy that he will move on and I will have to deal with new women.  New lovers.  Eventually another mom to my boys.  The loneliness in knowing that my support system is thousands of miles away.  I will suffer alone.  The earth literally began to crumble and swallow me up.  A pain like no pain I’ve ever experienced took an instant hold.  Anger set in.   How could he do this to me?  To us?  It was almost worse that he was not leaving for another woman.  No, I simply was just not right for him anymore.  Pain.

But in all honesty, I had been working up the courage to talk with him about divorcing as well.  I had just texted a friend a few hours prior to this and told her that all I could think about was divorce and that I was tired of suffering.  A few weeks prior to that I had chatted with another friend about my fear of leaving but the desire to get out of this toxicity.  Adam had only said the words that I was too scared to say myself.  He was brave enough to take the steps to end his suffering.  I was not.

I don’t know where we took a misstep.  Where we lost our way.  Or if we even did. I know that once we left religion, our marriage was in the midst of being redefined and that negotiation was often tragic, volatile, and drenched in fear.  I know that life was brutal this past year and so much change and suffering occurred.   I know that I was fighting to keep my family together and kept hoping that Adam would come back to me once he surfaced from his pain.  Sadly, he didn’t.  He tried.  But Adam was a new person.  And I didn’t fit in his new identity.  Pain.

I didn’t come back the same either.  And Adam didn’t fit in my new identity either.  Pain.

I don’t want my marriage to end.  I can’t even begin to imagine sitting my boys down and telling them that mom and dad are no longer going to be living in the same house.  It will break their hearts and play a role in defining who they become and what baggage they will carry into adulthood. They will cry and blame themselves.  They will experience deep heartache and they too have suffered enough this year.  Now, once more, they will suffer at the hands of me and Adam.  Pain.

So much pain that my body can no longer tolerate it.  My stomach begins to empty itself and will continue to do so for the next 24 hours.  I cannot digest the words separation, divorce, boys part-time, our marriage is not working. I cannot digest the idea of losing 20 years of a beautiful love.  I cannot digest this future.  Pain.

We spent most of NYE and in to New Year’s Day discussing strategies for best moving forward.  What’s best for the boys?  What’s best for us?  Where are we going to live?  How is this going to work?  What’s missing in our marriage?  What’s not working?  What is working?  Why are we giving up when there’s far more positive than negative?

Surprisingly, we land where neither of us expect to land.  We land on this idea that we can just start over with each other.  Begin again as new people.  People without history.  Clean slates.  I don’t know if this is possible but I’m willing to give just about anything a solid try.  Because I love Adam.  Because I love my family.  I am IN love with Adam.  I love my family of 6 and our nights all snuggled up watching a movie, dinners around the dining table, or the 6 of us crammed in our RV experiencing life.  I enjoy being here togetherAll of us.

So we agree.  Starting over makes the most sense for now.  There’s too much good.  The truth is, I don’t know Adam anymore.  And he does not know me.  I want to know him.  I want him to know me.  I have a feeling we’d really like each other.  Sadly, our judgements of each other have clouded our vision and amplified our triggered reactions.  We have lost sight of ourselves and our partner.

We are starting at square one (as much as that is possible).  Hi, my name is Amy and I’m a mom to four beautiful boys.  I love the outdoors.  I want to own a farm.  I love big and give my all.  I’m a vet tech and freelance writer.  I’m a skeptic.  I am an amateur marathon runner.  I love to travel.  I am a professional nap taker.  I like to receive gifts, love notes, and romance.  I love clothes, tattoos, and body jewelry.  I’m an iced tea junkie.  But most of all, I’m a mom and I want a partner.
You know, all that first date kind of getting to know each other.  That’s where we are starting.  No assumptions.  Instead an unlearning.  An awareness.  An awakening to what has been standing right beside us this entire time and we have missed because our box of relational negativity was maxed out.

Here we are a little over two weeks in to this experiment of starting over and I have to admit that I have a bit of hope.

Losing Adam was my worst fear and I did everything in my control to keep him from ever wanting to leave and all that controlling only drove him away.  Smothered him.  I learned that I cannot control anything other than myself.  Sometimes even that is beyond my capability.  I’ve learned that nothing can be promised for eternity.  I’ve learned that change is inevitable.  I can control nothing. Nothing.  I’ve been humbled and seen the errors of my ways.  I have not been the perfect wife I imagined myself to be.  I do have areas to work on.  One of those is letting go of control.  Control has gained me nothing and it’s time to let it go.  I’ve lost Adam once now and so it’s easier to free him.  I may not agree with all his choices or opinions and that’s completely okay.  I am now in the midst of drawing up my boundaries and deal breakers for this new relationship.  Something I was too scared to do before.  I’ve turned my focus from Adam to me.  He’s not here to meet my needs and it’s unfair to expect him to.  And vice versa.  I am not enough for him and that’s okay.
We are redefining our roles.  Resetting expectations.  Voicing our opinions instead of burying them.  Living with complete integrity.  We are building a home that is full of love and acceptance.  It’s a process.  A process that requires extensive amounts of grace and patience.  Both of which I’m willing to give.  To myself.  To Adam.  To the relationship.

Adam has been a gift to me and to my boys.  He has loved me and remained faithful to me for 20 years.  He has encouraged me to grow and to question.  He has challenged me in areas that I would have preferred to remain stagnant.  He has been my friend.  My confidant.  My lover.

He has been the best father my boys could ever ask for.  He is a dad above all other dads.  Truly.

Is he flawed?  Absolutely.  But not in a way that requires me to move on.

Things are not perfect.  They are at times overwhelmingly challenging but I believe this marriage and this family is worth the effort.

In this moment, I feel hopeful.  I don’t know if we’ll have a fairy tale ending.  But for the first time, I’m not worried about tomorrow.  I’ve let go of the past.  I’m living this moment.  And this moment is my happily ever after.