Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Greatest of All Blessings

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mary-engelbreit-never-give-up

I don’t have a lot of “close” friends in my life. Best friends. I’ve always been the outgoing, social one. The person that will talk to just about anyone and will inevitably make people laugh. But beneath that social butterfly of a persona is a very lonely individual. I don’t really have a lot of people I can call up at any given time. I don’t really have a long list of girlfriends that I’ll have to choose from to be a potential bridesmaid one day if I ever get married. I don’t have texts and phone calls making me burn the midnight oil trying to keep in contact with everyone. And for the most part, that’s ok. I can be a loner at times and keep to myself. It’s easier because it’s less for me to keep track of (with my every forgetful mind). But then there are days that the loneliness screams out, only to hear a faint echo bouncing back to me. There’s days when I just can’t stand the silence.

When I left my comfort zone for the unknown, I knew it was going to be tough for this introverted extrovert. I knew that my safety net was going to be literally thousands of miles away. But I did it. Would I change it? Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t. There are positive things that have been a result of my leap, and for those I wouldn’t change a thing. But being away from those that my soul finds the most rest and peace in has its struggles. But for those dear ones that ARE in my life, near or far, the best friends I can’t imagine my life without, I am thankful. I am thankful for the listening ear (or the reading eyes since it’s usually a text). I am thankful for the advice, even if I don’t always follow it 🙂 I am thankful for the few that God has placed in my life that I can’t imagine not having in my life. There may be times we don’t talk. There may be times we don’t agree. But if we agreed on everything, it sure would be a boring friendship!

Deep, impactful friendships are what I need. I don’t have time for the wishy-washy friendships that only seek to serve themselves. “Friendships” that are come and go and surface level. Ones that serve their purpose for a moment, and when the moment has passed, so has the friendship. I don’t need people in my life that aren’t in it for the long haul. I don’t have time for people who only need me when it’s convenient for them. When there’s no one else. When the last resort is me. I don’t expect to be the only friend in anyone’s life, that would be nonsense. But I do expect an effort. To get to know me and know my crazy quirks and my unsightly baggage, and my monstrous pitfalls. But still is there despite all the setbacks. I don’t need the commonly referred to “fair weather friends.” At this point in my life, I don’t have time for that.

So, if you want to be in my life, be there. Make an effort, and I know I will in turn do the same. I’m not going to be part of a friendship of convenience. Not to sound harsh, but I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with that. I’m busy. I go non-stop. I rarely have a moment to just sit and rest and be still. I’ll always make time for those closest to me. If you can’t do the same for me, then I don’t want to be a part of that. I saw this quote that is so fitting. It says, “True friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient. It’s about being there when it’s not.” It seems like nothing is ever convenient these days. I wish! But for those that make the time and help you out or are there for you, even when it’s not the most convenient for THEM, that’s a friend worth having in your life. And I’m thankful for the few that I have.

I don’t need a huge number. I don’t need a list a mile alone. I don’t need hundreds of Facebook “friends” to tell me that I have an enriched life. None of those numbers and accolades mean anything. It’s the support system that lifts me up when I’m at my lowest. It’s the perfectly timed jokes that make me laugh when I didn’t think I could smile. It’s the strong shoulder to lean on when the tears won’t stop flowing. Those things. That only takes one to be that person. And I am blessed to have even a small handful of people who can be there for me like that. And I hope, that in turn, I can be that way for others.

Remember this….The greatest gift is not found in the stores. But in the heart of true friends.

Today I’m thankful for the gifts of friendship I have in my life.

Now Serving, #78……

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More and more these days, I’m finding that I’m constantly pushing myself to the back of the line. I’m giving up my spot in line, so that someone else can benefit for the umpteenth time. Maybe it’s because I’m such a generous person and love to see everyone else succeed while I flounder back and forth, just trying to catch my breath. <Insert HEAVY sarcasm!> But while I’m sure that statement sounds absurd to many people, it’s partially true.

I think this goes back a long way. I’m inching closer to 40, and I can look back to my elementary school days and see this pattern starting to take shape, so yes, it goes back a ways.

I always struggled to fit in. I was (and if I’m honest, still am) a little different than everyone around me it seemed. Part of this I blame on my mother. If you saw some of the things she dressed me in, you’d understand! Mismatched clothes, shoes that had different color laces, and the Dorothy Hamill bob haircut….I digress. I’m only partially kidding. My mother was also a single mother, and I know that she did the best that she could. In all honesty, I’m seeing myself mimick my mother in her selfless, giving of herself.

But honestly, as I look back at much of my childhood, I was always awkward, socially and otherwise. I was always the girl that was bigger than everyone else. I remember vividly looking at my 2nd grade glass picture and I remember that I was only a LITTLE bit bigger than the other kids in the class. These days, some would have considered me skinny back then. But, as we all know, kids are cruel, and they’ll hone in on your insecurities and capitalize on them. So starting in 2nd grade, that’s when I can see the demise of my innocence.

As I grew up, I struggled, almost on a daily basis. Struggled to see that I was a good person. Struggled to acknowledge that I am a great friend. Struggled to fathom that I could even potentially be somewhat attractive. To this day, these are still constant struggles. I always wanted people to like me…I thrived on the acceptance. So in that instance, I would do whatever it would take to be accepted. So began the cycle of putting myself last and elevating the needs of others on a continual basis.

Part of this stemmed from a very strict religious upbringing where it was frowned upon for women to put themselves ahead of others. Women were the “helpmeet” for others. They were to put everyone else first. We always talked about this acronym: JOY which meant, Jesus, Others, Yourself. That was ingrained in us from as far back as I can remember. Which, for the most part, is not a bad way to think about life. But if you are constantly putting yourself last, you run out of steam to pick yourself up and function at times.

Now, I’m not saying that putting others first is a bad thing. Not at all. In fact, I encourage that mindset with my children on several occasions. My boys are 8 (almost 9) and 6. They are selfish people. I’m not shy about saying that. I think that all kids this age are selfish to an extent. As a mom, I encourage them to think of others. I implore with them to not fight over who is first all the time. I try to teach them that you don’t always have to “win” and that there’s no shame in helping others. In fact, I’m starting to look at opportunities where we, as a family, can put that mindset into a tangible action, whether it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen, or participating in a toy drive, or giving out care packages to homeless people. I’m trying to teach them to look for the opportunities to help others and live a more selfless life.

BUT, in the same notion, I don’t want them to feel burnt out and constantly giving of themselves that they feel like they are suffering. That’s a very fine line to follow, especially when I feel like a hypocrite for doing just that myself! I honestly don’t remember the last time that I did something JUST for myself. I’m wracking my brain to think of a time where I wasn’t putting everyone else’s needs before my own. And that’s not a bad thing necessarily. It’s just draining and exhausting.

I’m sure you have ALL seen this meme, whether it’s floating around on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (which I still have YET to sign up for!):

Empty-Cup_-Take-Care-of-Yourself

And yes, it’s quite kitschy, but it’s so true! I fail at this, often. And what I’ve figured out about this is devastating. There really was no “lightbulb moment” where I sat there and pondered this and said “Eureka”!! No, this is something I’ve known for a long time, but have failed to implement in my life on a consistent basis.

I feel like I’ve failed my children so often by not being able to do everything for them that I want to, or even that their father can give them. I know I shouldn’t compare, but it’s hard not to. I don’t make a lot of money, and as single mom, it’s a month to month struggle sometimes. I don’t want my children to struggle because of me, or despite me. I want to afford them all that life has to offer them, and in doing so, I’ve found that I’m in a sense, failing myself more.

For example, this past Christmas was difficult financially. I had surgery a month before Christmas and was out of work for 6 weeks with minimal disability pay. I don’t have a huge savings account, so that couldn’t offset it too much. I wanted to be able to give my boys a great Christmas, but just couldn’t afford it. So what does this mother do? I took the money I was given for Christmas and the gift cards that were given to me, and I in turn used them to buy my children gifts. I used the gift cards to buy groceries for my boys. I’ve had a spa gift card for almost 2 years now. I’ve yet to use it because I haven’t made the time for myself. I’ve often thought about gifting it to someone else. But again, that’s all on me.

Because of our crazy life schedules during the school year, family meals were a rarity. I’d get off work in time to pick up my boys from their dad, rush home, take the dog out, make food for my picky children (who tend to just want to eat grilled cheese and quesadillas), help with homework, get the boys showered and ready for bed, get clothes set for the next day, pack lunches, and get my boys to bed. Eventually, I would sit down to eat, but usually not until everyone else was taken care of. After my kids were asleep and taken care of, THEN I would eat or finally sit down for the first time in hours, usually to a cold meal or something just thrown together.

That’s not fair to me or my children. They need a mom who is refreshed, who is alert and enthusiastic. Not someone who is always run, run, run to get everything done. Not someone who is constantly feeling like a maid or butler or short order cook. They need a mom who is PRESENT. I’ve failed my children in this time and time again. If I can’t take care of myself, how in the world can I be expected to take care of others? There’s definitely a flaw in my reasoning that I’ve been holding on to!

It’s NOT selfish to take time for myself and get a pedicure (when I can afford it).
It’s NOT selfish to make sure my children learn to do things for themselves so I don’t have to do everything.
It’s NOT selfish to say “no” sometimes to all the requests that are hurled your direction from family, school, church, etc.
It’s NOT selfish to take a “day off” from household chores (THIS is my biggest struggle).

As a mom who co-parents, I have shared 50/50 custody with my boys’ father. This means that I have some weekends “off.” There are times when I won’t have my children for a few days while they are with their dad. But what does this mom do on those off days? Clean up toys that the boys didn’t clean up before they left. Clean the house, dust, mop, vacuum, do laundry, clean closets, cook, etc. I am in a constant power struggle with myself. I feel like I HAVE to be doing something at all times so that others aren’t disappointed in me. This all goes back to feeling like I don’t fit in and I need to do anything to be accepted. But in all reality, a Netflix and chill day is sometimes all that I need to be “refreshed” and ready to tackle the next day, whatever may come of it.

People aren’t going to reject me if my house is messy or dusty. People aren’t going to look down on me if I don’t put the laundry away for a day. People are not going to judge me if I have some wayward Super Hero Mashers in my living room. I have kids, young kids, and my house proves that. I don’t live in a museum, and honestly, never will. But I have to let myself relax and take some time off. The laundry will be there tomorrow. The dust isn’t going to get outrageously out of hand in one day. It’s ok if my kids have a pop tart for breakfast and not a gourmet pancake and bacon meal.

What it really boils down to is that I’m too hard on myself, and instead of letting myself relax and just “be”, I’m constantly on the go, giving all of myself to others so that I can feel validated. But in turn, when I do that, my children suffer. And that is SO counterproductive. I don’t want my boys to “follow my example” and feel like they always need to put themselves last just to fit in. I want them to know that their needs are important as well. I don’t want them to feel so downtrodden and their own feelings pushed aside. Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow and sometimes comes with a side of guilt.

But more importantly, I want them to learn that they need to be their best selves in order to give their best selves to others. And this mommy needs to learn that it’s ok to take a break and take some much needed “me” time. The guilt associated with it can be harsh, and sometimes overwhelming, but there is going to be a learning curve to this new mindset. A mindset that has taken over 30 years to accomplish.

Now Serving………..

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