Seeking Peace

This year’s word is supposed to be intentional. 

in·ten·tion·al
/inˈten(t)SH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
done on purpose; deliberate.

Today I started pondering why?

I think it is because I have been operating on Auto-Pilot since Birmingham. Seriously.

As I do a little more work on myself, I realize that my 30s did a number on me. I really believe I was traumatized from losing the job. It felt like the ultimate in failure. Through no fault of my own, I found myself scratching and clawing to pull myself out of that dark hole I found myself in for 9 months. And then the downward spiral with my marriage, moving home to live with my parents…

It was all too much. I was so lost. So sad. I just kept going. Because that is what I do. I endure, I press forward, and I reinvent.

Here we are, 9 years later, and I think my muscles are trying to unwind from all of the tension from having to hold myself together. I had to push to get my life back on track.

Now, when anyone threatens to take that control away from me, I feel angry. Really, really angry.

I realize that now.

Auto-pilot is my coping mechanism. I think my subconscious is afraid to pull back the curtain and feel again.

It feels too dangerous.

I haven’t formed any meaningful relationships in years. I haven’t really tried anything new. I take that back, I do… but they are always far enough away to keep it safe.

While deep-diving into my soul, I’m learned there is a big hole left there, a hole where things that were so important, so valuable, were ripped away.

I covered the hole with a blanket, warm & safe. I started to fill the hole in and as I realized I would have to feel again, I stopped and just covered it up. I ran on auto-pilot.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

2020 is intentional.

What do I hope to gain from all of this intentionality? Deeper relationships, new experiences, and peace. Above all – Peace.

What’s in a Decade

You guys – It is the end of a decade.

Seriously.

As I was making my 2019 Year In Review slide show of my life, I began to think of all of the slide shows I have made over the years. Specifically, this decade.

Hoboy.

Want to travel down memory lane with me…. Have mercy.

That was 2009. I lived a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIFE. I lived in Birmingham, traveled quite a bit, and was married to the Egyptian.

Let’s keep going….

Still in Birmingham…. Let’s keep going…

Now we have moved into some challenging territory. Shaky marriage… about to be let go from my job… getting ready to rebuild my life back in Georgia…

Then I moved….

Then the rebuild came:

And FINALLY…. the tides began to turn…

To HANDS DOWN the BEST Summer of my adult life…

To a whole new world!

To many wonderful adventures:

To a challenging year health wise, but still good stuff!

To 2019 – One decade later!

Amazing how I have change – both physically, spiritually and emotionally! I have been married and divorce to being remarried. I have moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Macon, Georgia to Preston, Georgia to Plains, Georgia. I have worked for the American Heart Association, Tubman Museum, Cannonball House, and City of Americus. I wrote over 32 articles and was published in Birmingham Magazine, B Metro Magazine, Macon Magazine, and the 11th Hour. I join a handful of boards, helped create a Day Surgery program for the working poor, and even won the Georgia Commissioner’s award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism. I’ve become a step mom and Glamma. I’ve made more new friends than I can count.

Life really is sweet… bitter sweet sometimes, but always a treat!

Even Wonder Woman Has A Breaking Point

I’m super resilient. Like… really, really resilient.

Life has thrown me sh*t balls over the years and somehow I keep kicking. I get knocked down, only to rise from the ashes. Over and over and over again.

I don’t think I am resilient because it is some innate talent or gift. I really don’t think I ever had the choice to be anything but. What else am I going to do? Crumble? Who the hell would pick up the pieces?

Sure, I have a supportive husband and a handful of awesome friends, but they have their own sh*t to deal with. Of course, my family is there – but they are beyond stretched thin. I have no choice but to take care of me.

Well… I have not been doing the best job of that lately and it surprises me more than anyone else. When times get hard, and they get hard for everyone at some point, I may wallow in self pity for a day or two, but after a good cry in a super hot bath tub and a long prayer to God, I am able to pull it together. Not this time. Or at least not since the summer.

Things were getting progressively negative around these parts. From the contention with Tim’s family, to being so far away from my own (especially as my Dad battled Prostate Cancer,) to  working in a job that often goes unnoticed or appreciated, to living in a community that seems (now that the honeymoon phase is over) to be so damn bitter, to just wanting so bad to connect and finding few to do that with.

UGH.

I’m tired just typing all of that.

And it goes on and on and on…

I tore my MCL which has put a HUGE damper on my exercising. I’m now in Physical Therapy to correct the issue and man oh man… it is challenging. I had a broken tooth removed and I am recovering from that AND my Dad had a heart attack last week and is recovering at home with a stent. That alone is a lot of deal with.

Look, I get it – I am blessed beyond measure. Do NOT for one moment think I do not see that. I have accomplished my goals (professionally and personally,) I am “successful” in the simplest of terms. I have some really amazing people in my life (just NOT nearby,) and my family and I are in a good place. My husband is my very best friend and is super supportive (considering all of the mess we have to navigate with his family.) My house is adorable, my health is fairly good… yes, yes… I have a LOT.

I’m just in an emotional rut. And this is foreign territory.

I have always been of the mindset that if you can plan something, set some type of goal, that having that “something” to look forward to could change your chemistry. I find that I am in a much happier place when I focus my energy on new endeavors. With the holidays just around the corner, there are a lot of opportunities to do just that! Especially when you work in a field like I do. I haven’t organized my holiday calendar yet, but I am pretty sure I have close to 17 events to attend. That is not a bad thing, since I LOVE this time of year.

Which brings me to the season. THANK GOD (literally,) that there is a Christmas. The hopefulness of the season is a gentle reminder that there can be good in this wretched world and the promises God has made for us. I have to hold onto those truths in order to navigate this funk I have been swimming in.

Luckily, I am taking the week of Thanksgiving off from work. Besides physical therapy and a dental appointment to refill a filling and get my teeth cleaned, I am good to do whatever I want. I plan to schedule some time in Warner Robins to float (sensory deprivation) and perhaps a massage. I want to sort of reset my battery and… pull my sh*t together.

I just need a minute to get it together.

My brain is scattered and I can’t focus. Life is just flying by at warp speed and I am standing there in a daze

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or fake laughing to make you think all is okay.

And it is actually okay. I’m just not feeling it.

I’ve got some work to do on me and I hope wrapping this decade up will be the end of these insane transitions.

Until next time…

 

Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch

I married a Methodist this time. Not a Muslim or a Baptist or even a Jew. A Methodist.

You would think this would make us fairly equally yoked. (Christian termed for basically sharing the same beliefs.) We are both Christian and both of our church services have an order to activities.

You knew I was Catholic, right?

When I moved down here, I thought for certain I would find a Catholic church to get involved in and all would be well. Tim didn’t seem too concerned, until he actually attended mass with me. Once we exited the sanctuary he said, “What just happened?”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

For a South Georgia Methodist, his little head was blown. He said, “There was a lot of up and down. Why can’t I take communion? What’s the deal with the incense? I’m so confused.” And so it went…

To be a good sport I went with him and his mom to her church in the tiny town of Preston. There were probably 20 people in the congregation, none overly friendly. (I thought small Protestant churches were supposed to be friendly?) It was Easter Sunday and their Pastor (a woman,) gave the sermon. She stumbled, she mumbled, and I felt there was something lacking. No problem – small church, new pastor, a nice training ground.

I didn’t feel a spiritual connection.

Then I decided to try out the local Catholic church in Americus. Smallish congregation, very diverse, so much so that I am pretty sure that day I was one of the few English speaking gathered, and a really interesting priest. Then the music started. It sounded like a folk concert and probably the single, worst choir I have ever experienced. God bless ’em. Probably not my cup of tea.

At this point, I’m starting to get worried. Would I find my way? We visited an Episcopalian church in Americus. Beautiful building, decent service, semi-friendly people… but it was Episcopalian. As a Catholic, I just couldn’t. I kept thinking back to King Henry the VIII and all of the ruckus he caused with the church.. blah, blah, blah. (Yeah.. I can be so petty sometimes.) 😉

We attended yet another Episcopalian church, this time in Albany. Really nice people, decent service, but lord have mercy – They were hard selling us. You could smell the desperation to have a youngish couple join. Yeah, we never went back.

After we got into our new house in Plains, about one week later we got a request for our first visitor. (I didn’t even have my paintings up on the wall yet.) That visitor was a certain Super Power.

No seriously.

A Nobel laureate also.

Former President Jimmy Carter came over. (He lives 3 houses down.)

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I thought this was a “welcome to the neighborhood” meet & greet, and it sort of was. But it was a little more than that, he wanted to personally invite us to his church. Sure thing, I’ll give it a go. But I warned him, “Mr President, I want you to know I am Catholic.”

“Nicole, denominations don’t really matter. It is about our love for God.”

His church is a Baptist church. And if you know my past experience with Baptist churches, you will know they were never very positive. Very anti-Catholic. But he assured me his church was different. I thought, “Well, if this guy can make peace in the middle east, then surely it can’t be that bad.”

So we went.

And I really, really liked it. Outside of the several layers of Secret Service security you have to go through (which I have since learned is common around here. Most of us even know the SS by name.) Then we were given assigned seats. Yep. Guess which aisle they put us on? HIS and Rosalyn’s. Very cool, BUT… everyone visiting kept staring at our pew. And of course, us, probably wondering who in the world we were.

Guys… I have a little thing called Panic Disorder. I sometimes get super anxious and begin to have a panic attack. Guess what happened? Yep. Mind you, you would never know, I just coughed a little more than usual (trying to get a deep breath.) Even with all of this attention and my need to feel invisible when I am not in a comfortable space, I persevered and we did return. A few times. I was even considering joining, but in my typical commitment-phobe self and the fact that I felt like I did not want to officially leave the Catholic Church, I bowed out.

It was very public. *sigh*

Imagine this: We are standing in a circle holding hands at the night time service. Maybe 30 people, the Carters being 2 of those people. Suddenly, the preacher asks if anyone would like to join the church, to speak now. I was just smiling and watching and suddenly….

JC: Nicole?

Me: Yes sir?

JC: Well?

Me: Um… we really like it here. But.. um.. we are just visiting.

I look at Tim panicking. 

JC: We would really like you to join.

Me: That’s really sweet of you guys. Thank you, but not at this time.

Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I freaking told one of the most powerful men in the world NO. I felt like such a putz.

I felt that strongly about it.

Needless to say, I did not return. I felt too humiliated.

So we visited the Methodist Church in Plains.

And we really, really loved it.

I made friends there and there was plenty to get involved with. The pastor is very intelligent (I think he would make an excellent priest,) and his wife, as it turns out, is now one of my friends down here. So when I tell you the rest of this story, you will understand why the decision I made was a hard one.

We went for probably 8 months. Fairly often, even started going to Sunday School.

But something was missing.

I also found myself pleading with Tim to wake up and go to church on Sunday. His kids were totally not in favor of going.

Then I joined a bible study and my hope was I would find fulfillment and bond with the other parishioners. What it did was make me question what I really needed in my life. I started reading the Bible again and remembering all of the things I had sort of forgotten. This was a good thing.

Then we took a hiatus.

But I was missing something. With all of the issues going on with his family and me being away from my own, I needed that spiritual connection. So I bit the bullet and tried one. more. church.

St. Teresa’s in Albany.

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I loved it. It is definitely not home (home being St. Joseph’s in Macon or Prince of Peace in Birmingham,) but there was something about the space. I felt God’s presence. I fell into a familiar rhythm.

I had a long talk with Tim about church. As it turns out, I was making all of these compromises for him and the girls and really, it wasn’t as important to them.

But it was for me.

I decided on a church. Finally. Back to the old ways – my way. Back to what fulfills me. With Tim by my side (and sometimes the girls,) I will get what I need.

I think at the end of the day, I need to remember that it is not necessary for me to compromise what I believe and need in life. 3 1/2 years living down here and it took us this long to figure it out.

But we did. And that is what is important.

*for those of you not understanding the title, it is the old saying for how to make the sign of the cross. Forehead, abs, side to side. (Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch.) 

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There never was space Part 2

Baby Mama Drama.

 

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Sound familiar? Yep, apparently none of us are immune to it, even when you have zero jealously on your part.

I could understand if I felt insecure about my relationship with my husband, or if I felt like I was somehow not as pulled together as the ex, but folks… that is not the case.

Let’s travel back in time, shall we?

When I first came on the scene, everything was hunky-dory with the future in-laws, as well as with (and again, I hate this term,) the Baby Mama. (Babies include: two biological children, 1 ex-step daughter, and a glam daughter aka grand (non bio.)) In the beginning, she was a little smothering and showed up at the big events. At that time, I was simply being nice and trying to have somewhat of a relationship with her. I thought, “Why not?! It doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Maybe she will like me and I will prove that I am the worthy candidate as a bonus mom.”

Oh how little did I understand.

In classic ENFP style, I go in all smiles and hugs. Positive comments via social media and happy small talk in person. What I didn’t realize was the snake that was just beneath the surface. My husband had warned me that she did not play nice with his second wife and unfortunately, his second wife had snakes in her head. (Southern term for being a little nuts.) Mix the two together and you end up with an explosive situation. That was short-lived and everything since had gotten back to normal.

What I didn’t realize is normal meant the ex was embedded with the family. When I say embedded, I mean she is at most family functions, chats on the phone with all of them frequently, and was still receiving financial support from his mom.

*sigh*

But I let it go. No family is perfect and lord knows, I am not one to judge. I tried to tell myself, “Maybe this is normal. Maybe this is how it is.

You see, I never had kids. Most of my friends did not have children – we chose careers instead. I had heard a few dramatic tales, but for the most part, if one of my friends had a kid, they had one early and the father was not really all that involved, so there was very little of this drama. Of course, I saw things on television and in movies, but never expected it to happen to me.

Well… it did.

Reason #2 I have a private FB page and I am isolating myself lately:The Ex aka Baby Mama Drama. 

I could very easily share with you, dear reader, all of the nasty tid-bits about her. It’s fairly common knowledge about her extra-marital affairs and other dalliances, but that should not matter. That would be character assignation and I am not trying to say she shouldn’t be in her children’s life. (Though…. ) What I want to share is this loyalty thing with the family that I do not understand.

First of all, my MIL still has a relationship with the ex, which totally makes sense. Sometimes the kids need to be shuffled here and there (but let’s remember, they are now 25, 18, and 17 and all have cars.) There is a little less of this needed, but for whatever reason, they still communicate. When you speak with the MIL, she typically trashes the ex. At first, I thought that we all felt the same, but were faking things for the sake of the kids. We all agreed that she had loose morals and was not exactly the role model young girls needed. Everyone in the family did this, so… I thought we were in the clear.

THEN things started to shift when the ex’s oldest daughter (non-bio kid,) moved in with my MIL. She brought with her a baby and her husband. Mind you, both have full-time jobs, but they felt they could save money by living with my MIL. (And save money they do! She foots the bill for most things.)

This shifted the power a little. Now the ex has a reason to visit more often, her daughter and grand daughter live under the same roof as my MIL. Sticky sitch if you get my drift. 

Slowly but surely, as the bio mom/ex starts sifting through partners (oh there are many swinging d*cks coming to the family dinner table. But again… I’m trying not to be petty…)

While this is happening and her life unravels before our eyes, my sweet guy and I are going strong. We got married, built the house, and I continued to succeed at work. We created a stable home life for the girls and followed all of the rules. Not that it mattered.

The ex kept showing up at Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas morning… and of course we have to share birthdays (or do we?!) She and her flavor of the month would even head to the beach house (alone,) for romantic weekends. Personally, I thought this was the most disrespectful thing his mother could have allowed. There are other bits that involve others, but really, what is the point writing it out? It is what it is.

And folks… it is never going to change. 

Recently, there was an opportunity for our family to attend an event at Robins Air Force Base. I was super excited because it is something my family did often while growing up. My dad is an Air Force vet and his love of the Thunderbirds and all things Air Force is something I really admired growing up. My dad has been battling Prostate Cancer and I wanted to meet up with him and we enjoy this – create a lasting memory for ourselves. I asked Tim if we could bring the girls with us. I wanted to share something with them, something that would bond them with my family. A bonding that has been MIL blocked since Tim & I got together. They have never in the five years we have been together been to their home. Of course, the youngest chose to hang out with her cousin and not go with us and the oldest chose to hang with us. I figured this would be how it would end up. It was the 18-year-old’s birthday and we had a blast, but due to a series of unfortunate events, we missed the wrong shuttle to our parking space, then ended up going the wrong way back home – back home to get to her birthday party the ex was putting together at a restaurant. Needless to say, everyone was mad at us for causing an hour or so delay. I tried to be the bigger person and apologize for the stuff happening and the ex basically tried to put me in my place.

Now folks… I am very confrontational and it took everything I had not to rip her a new one. Little did I know, the whole fam was backing her and speaking negatively about us at the restaurant while we were not there.

I was done. Five years of putting up with this mess and I was D-O-N-E. Post debacle, I learned so many things about this family’s dynamics. I learned that they often speak ill of me and find me to be “snobby” or act as if I am better than them. They said other things about me, however, I am not aware of the specifics… and maybe that is best. (I know this because the kids told us.)

The principle of the matter with this situation is the fact that they sided with the ex (and you guys KNOW she was just WAITING for me to slip up and react,) and left Tim and I standing there with egg on our face.

Obviously there is so much more to this… and there are tons of holes, but let’s just say I’ll keep some of that to myself. The best thing that came out of this is: I now know where I stand with the MIL and the non-bio daughter and ex. They are thick as thieves and do not have my best interest at heart. They have never desired a healthy relationship with me, and based on their personalities, would rather swim and play with drama.

That is not my style. 

I cut the toxic out.

But remember, I still have to co-parent with this witch. So how do I do it and not claw her eyes out?

I found an article on Paired Life titled: Baby Mama Drama & Dealing With Your Man, His Ex, & Their Child

Some of the advise they gave is pretty good. I don’t know if you are going through some of this or if you know of someone else that is. But here is a little insight in what we are up against:

The article goes on to say-

  • Oftentimes the baby mama has no boundaries. She does this on purpose, to make you uncomfortable. (Check!)
  • She is nosy. She may even get way too personal with her questions and start asking you things that make you feel uncomfortable. (All. The. Time.)
  • She says negative things about you to others: Instead of talking to you directly, she goes behind your back and tries to turn others against you. She focuses on negative things or just makes things up to make you look bad in front of her children. (Double check.)
  • She gets too close & too personal with your man. Which this one does – she constantly tries to stay in contact with him. (Poor Tim, he roles his eyes and refuses to play into it, but boy oh boy does she push. )
  • She always brings up the past: When you are around her, she always talks about her time with your man. She does this out of jealousy and to make you feel insecure about your relationship with her ex. (In my case, she does it with the family and me around. Constantly proving how tight they were.)
  • She blames you for her problems. (Yep!)

All of these things hit home. But what can you do about it?

They recommend a few basics:

  • Be respectful (even when it is easier to slide down to her level)
  • Understand your role. I am not responsible for the children in the same way that he and the other woman are. I must understand my role to play in all of this and respect the boundaries established by the baby mama. Don’t try to be a second mother to the child. Instead, just try to build a solid relationship with the kid. (Which I believe I am good with and have tried to do.) Who knows what it looks like to outsiders.
  • Finally, they recommend making your feelings clear. Which I have. Agreed upon boundaries have been set (With Tim & I when it comes to her.)

Basically, I won’t be at something she is going to be at, because she does not have my best interest at heart. I will go to graduations and other big things, but we do not have to sit with her (like we have in the past.) We will not attend holidays that she will be attending at his mother’s house. We will not allow the petty drama into our home. Her name is off limits when the kids are around. We will just do us and remember that we really only have 1 & 1/2 more years to get through. Child support will be over in June 2021 and the kids will be off and enjoying life.

As for the the MIL’s house and the ex-step living there… well, that’s another piece of the puzzle. I will continue to set healthy boundaries and not get caught up in their gossip, drama, and petty conclusions.

Man oh man has this transition been a tough one down here. At the end of the day, I have a difficult and strained relationship with the MIL, a non-trusting relationship with the ex-step kid, and a hands off relationship with the baby mama. As for the rest of the his family, we are all “fine.” Neutral. No bad blood, but no real bonds yet. Five years in.

Thank goodness my guy is super supportive and a good man!

Until next time…

There was never space PART 1

It is never easy coming into a new family. I don’t care how fantastic your in-laws are, the initial acceptance is always a little tricky. It is one of the few times in your life when you will question everything from the way you were brought up to every single stupid decision you have made over the past ten years. Ugh…

Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

For the most part, I’ve always gotten along with in-laws or my boyfriend-at-the-time’s family. Sure, there were quirky characters scattered here and there on the relationship road, but at the end of the day, I had very few scrapes and bruises.

I recently came across an article in Psychology Today that has really made a difference for me in dealing with my current situation. This situation is one that is causing a tremendous amount of anxiety and frustration for me, my husband, and the kids. It has to do with the in-laws. (Not all of them, mind you.)

The article is titled: Parents-In-Law Don’t Want to Play Nice? How to deal with your in-laws’ objections. It explains how to set healthy boundaries and to be perfectly honest with you, it sort of validated what I thought we should be doing. The question is… is it too late?

They recommend that you do not budge one inch when it comes to the decisions you make. In our situation, my husband and I are treated like children unable to make decisions for ourselves, and I assure you, I have been living my life just fine for 42 years prior to meeting his family. I find when people try to control behaviors and alliances, it is a sign of insecurity and a need to be in control – to keep you in check.

The next thing they recommend is to remember that we are the authority of our family. This I have no problem making happen, however, my husband is typically more of “go along to get along.” Our kids tend to spend more time with my in-laws and less time doing family activities with us. It is no wonder true bonding hasn’t taken place. We are put in a situation where my husband does not want to “make waves” with his mother and the others, so he lets his kids do whatever they want with the other family members, sometimes with no regard to any plans we may have made.

Then they recommend putting the in-laws in their place. I almost started laughing when I read that. Here again, if you know me, I have no problem putting anyone in their place, but in this case, it would isolate my husband from his family and that is NOT what I want. That one is a little tricky. I suppose being consistently firm on tolerated behavior is the key here.

Then the article suggests that you re-evaluate your boundaries. This is something I did about two years ago. I went to therapy for anxiety and uncovered it was my living situation. My husband and I were living in the family cabin on the family farm. We spent many nights and afternoons with his extended family and to be perfectly honest, it was smothering. We changed our eating schedule and did more things just the two of us, versus all of us. Then we moved in the house we built and this was a nice 9 mile padding.

The next suggestion is to keep your distance. THIS I think is important for me. Let me explain why: The loyalty is not there. The loyalty is with the first wife (the baby mama.. which I hate that term and feel it is trashy, but it fits her.) They constantly look and compare us. I believe you get a green light on behavior if you pop out a few kids, which I did not. Therefore, every move I make is evaluated. Every facial expression is dissected, and every word I utter is twisted to fit their dysfunctional needs. The best thing I can do is simply keep a polite distance to keep the peace. Show up at the big things, put on my vest of protection, and smile.

The next tip is a good one: Only spend time with your MIL if your spouse is present. I think this goes without saying.

I never considered the next tip, and that is to only meet on neutral territory. According to the article, “This gives you more control over the situation, and can help to keep their behavior in check. Your in-laws aren’t able to call the shots as easily in public as they can when under their roof. You’re also less vulnerable in not being a guest in their home.”

And it goes on to say things like: Don’t accept help or loan items, don’t involve other family members (like the kids, his sister & partner, etc.,) to evaluate how your spouse is handling the situation (which is something we are working on,) and finally to remind each other how you feel about one another.

The last two is exactly where we are at. By setting these new boundaries, some feelings got hurt and a mirror was held up to all involved. We have an ex-step daughter (who sees Tim as her father,) constantly stirring up drama via social media and gossip. He called her out on some of this and as expected, she reacted poorly. It made him feel terrible and he has spent many weeks since feeling bad, but also realizing he needed to put a stop to it. And finally, we are trying to remind each other that in the coming decade or two, it will just be us and to remember why we chose each other to grow old together and not let the behavior of others taint something so beautiful.

It is tough folks – dealing with people who may or may not have the skills or self awareness to make changes or see what is actually happening. It is also easy for people with very little outside activity in their life to want to spread gossip. Sticky situation all around.

At the end of the day, I wanted nothing more than to have a happy, healthy relationship with his family. I was hoping that when I left my family, friends, and safety net that I would be welcomed with open arms into a new family. They are so tight knit, I thought how beautiful this new situation would be. Yes, they are generous (financially,) because they can be, but there are emotional strings attached. No, I am not always included in plans and when I am there, it is as if I am just another guest. When I try to share my life by inviting them over or inviting them to see some things important to me, they have reasons or excuses not to participate. *Sigh*

So you see….  something has got to give.

More to come….

 

Seeking Peace

Has it really been July since I last wrote anything?

Apparently, it has. Sorry about that.

Sorry about not writing as much or writing about real things like I used to.

Sorry about all of it.

Come to think of it… who I am really apologizing to? I suppose… myself. I’ve sort of let myself down in this department and I truly wanted to be more consistent. Blogging used to be my therapy and was a wonderful way to put things in perspective. I have let that go because…

Life. Responsibilities. Fear of looking vulnerable. Fear of people judging. Blah.. blah.. blah.

But blogging/writing… it is so much a part of who I am. It’s sad that I put it up on a shelf.

If you have followed me since Destination Unknown 1.0, you know I used to write daily about EVERYTHING. When I say everything, I mean – everything. I lived in a much bigger city and had a sense of anonymity. When I moved back home, I remember sitting in a interview for a museum job and the director telling me that he Googled me and read my blog. I sat there with eyes wide open. I had written about my abusive relationship with my ex-husband and so much more. He let me know that because of  my writing, he actually wanted to hire me. However, he knew that the town would get nosy and it was best to probably hide or delete the posts. So I deleted them.

I needed a job. It was post recession and I was trying to climb back out of being let go from a job in Birmingham and needed a way to house and feed myself (outside of my parent’s charity.)

I deleted the good stuff. The heart wrenching stuff. The stuff that made my blog relate-able to thousands of women. (I’m not exaggerating. The amount of emails I received from women all over the world was amazing.) I shut it down. I canceled the reality show.

Then I attempted a softer version with this blog. And yes, I keep it semi-real from time to time. You will find more of what I am doing and less of what I am feeling. The jobs turned into awesome experiences, and the bad relationship turned into a healthy relationship, and I hate to admit it, but chaos and drama makes for some awfully yummy prose.

Here is the catch… a lot of that crap still exists (on a much smaller level,) but I have been trapped in the responsibilities/job/small-town/government life privacy trap.

*sigh*

Here is the thing – I NEED to write more. I keep so much more inside due to my age, my position, my location, etc. I have not developed a true tribe outside of work. I pretty much go to work, go home, cook dinner, go to the gym, then go to sleep. Only to get up and do it again – OR attend some event in an official capacity. It looks like a LOT of fun, and it is sometimes a lot of fun, and often if I describe it as fun, it means I probably (actually) did have fun. But it has NOT been easy.

I promised to share what it is like to move to a place where you know no one.

I also promised to share what it is like to live in South Georgia, become a step parent, and to navigate government life. (to a lesser extent/work-wise.)

I’ve decided to hold myself accountable and share those experiences with you.

Attempt: Daily. If I get at least 3 a week, I’m doing great. I won’t always post these on the Destination Unknown FB page. But you can subscribe. Most will make it there, others will just be here. (Unless you are a really, truly close friend and are on my private FB page – that page will see it all.)

Is it worth your time? It just might be!

I will be tackling:

  1. Moving to a small town and what that looks like for a girl that would thrive in a larger metropolitan area.
  2. Marrying someone with teenage daughters, when I never expected (or honestly wanted) kids.
  3. Building a house and what that means when you don’t entertain anymore.
  4. Navigating a super toxic in-law situation/ex-wife situation. DUDE… if you only knew.
  5. Building a relationship with an incredible man. Legitimately incredible and what I have learned this time around.
  6. Working in not just a small town, but sharing that space with a super power. Seriously!
  7. Wanting to be an agent of change, yet surrounded by people who are comfortable with the status quo.

    There is much more. A lot of good to. I promise there is good.

    The truth is, I’m in that not-so-good space right now. Somethings have transpired that were completely out of my control and really have very little to do with me, but it is affecting me. I have a tremendous amount of anxiety right now and have taken steps to set healthy boundaries. As for family: My family is good. Dad is sick, like (really) sick, but otherwise, my relationship with them is fine. My niece is kicking butt at life and I am watching it from a far. I call my friends back home from time to time to have a safe space to talk. Tim is wonderful and I am having to support him as he sets healthy boundaries with family members that have used guilt and co-dependence as a way to control behaviors. Our home is lovely and we are finally moving into the re-decorate stage. As for work, my numbers are awesome (but the support is lacking.) But folks, that’s just the surface stuff.

Nothing is perfect, right?

Here is a sneak peek at a few highlights since July to catch you up:

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Made time to hang out with people I really, truly adore. It is a tiny tribe, and we don’t hang nearly enough… but it does happen.
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One thing I love about living down here is the farm life. I got to see cows! We even played music for them!
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Cotton took ballet and I did get to pick her up once from class. Totally made my day! Full circle and all.
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I have been going to the gym regularly for about 4 months now. Very proud of this. Got a bazillion miles to go on this one, but I am attempting to be more active.
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I did attend the wine festival with my friend & co-worker, Haley. We had a nice girls’ day.
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Salvatore is still in love with me and I remain his very best friend.
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Tim and I have found a beautiful spot in our yard to catch the sunset over the farmland. It is our special spot and we sort of use the sun and wine and conversation to heal from harsh weeks.
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Still indulging in the good life.

I did attend the Georgia Governor’s Conference in LaGrange. Was so good to see my tourism besties, but totally sucked being in LaGrange. I’m willing to give the town one more shot, but um…

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Still indulging in Fall’s goodness.

Tim, Alex and I made it to a childhood delight – the Robins Air Force Base Air Show. Loved it… caused some issues later.. that’s a WHOLE other blog post. 🙂

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You know I love a good excuse for a theme party.

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Don’t worry, all will be well. All IS well. Just re-shifting and trying to figure things out.

But that’s life, right?

Times Keeps on Slipping

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Where did the past two months go?

And how did I allow myself to get roped into so many activities?

The truth is- I decided to live intentionally. I said No to the things I did not want to do and yes to things I did want to do.

Apparently I wanted to do a lot. 2019 has been better for it! I got so busy living life that I just quit worrying about keeping old friends up-to-date on my current goings-on and decided that if new friends wanted to know what was happening, they would need to make an effort. That’s right, dear readers. I, Nicole Kirksey, decided to stop being the one that tried to make relationships work. It took 46 years, but I am living my best life free of any entanglements that might not have my best interests at heart.

How ’bout dem apples?

For one, I have recommitted my life to seek spiritual matters on my terms. Yes, this means I have been attending a church. Not particularly my denomination, but it is nearby and I really, really like the congregation. I’ve missed a few Sundays recently due to travel, but for the most part, there is a definite improvement in this area. I like it. It feels right with my soul.

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District 2 Town Hall Meeting at Union Tabernacle Baptist Church

But I have also been very busy with work. In the past three weeks I have completed at least three speaking engagements. One: At the State of Georgia’s Regional Visitor Information Center Conference in Jekyll Island.

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Me! Talking about how to create the visitor experience. Jekyll Island Club.

I also got the chance to speak to the Presidential Pathways Travel Association about how to use strategic marketing to promote your destination or attraction. And just last night I spoke at the District 2 Town Hall meeting at a local church. Not too shabby for a kid who actually enjoys public speaking. (Though I have to admit, no matter how many times I do it, I get super nervous right before!)

At home, we have been busy landscaping our yard. We finally settled on gardenias, knock-out roses, and azaleas – all white flowers for the front yard. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labor.

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Karen-Ann, 16

I’m also proud to announce that Karen-Ann attended her very first prom! Isn’t her dress just beautiful?!

But wait… let me back up a minute. The last time we chatted I had just gotten back from my 46th birthday weekend in Atlanta. Well….. our 2nd Anniversary trip was the VERY. NEXT. WEEKEND. Yes, Tim and I have celebrated two years of marriage (with very few bruises.) And guess where we ended up? In my favorite town in Georgia – Savannah.

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First stop: The Paris Market!

We drove the 3 1/2 (maybe 4 hours) to Savannah, Georgia. We made a beeline for City Market and decided to wander down Broughton Street. It was sort of fitting that we kicked things off with a little Parisian Flair (since our Honeymoon was in Paris. Oh yes, it was! Want to read about that magical experience? Click HERE.) I sniffed and swooned over all of the beautiful items at the Paris Market. My main source of satisfaction came from a delicious assortment of macrons.

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Macrons. Delish!

If you will remember, I was in macron heaven in Paris… well technically Versaille, and I discovered the mothership- Ladurée. The one I am about to devour above was a rose flavored pastry. Sweet baby Jesus… it is worth the trip.

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Best. Lunch. Ever – Bernie’s Oyster House, Savannah, GA

We left Broughton Street and headed over to River Street to look for something a little more filling. It was about two in the afternoon and I could very easily eaten my arm. I went to my tried and true spot – Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street. Oh the stories I could tell, about 22 years of stories. But for now, I will tell you about the fantastic stuffed shrimp and great conversation with my awesome hubby.

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I may have snagged half of Tim’s peel n eat shrimp…

After lunch, we were in top spirits and Tim had one request – to visit Savannah Sweets. Well of course, I had to oblige him… and well…

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I may have bought the store. In turn, I have probably gained 10 pounds and 5 cavities.

I just noticed something on the ground. Look to the left of my purse. That, my friends, is a dangerous frozen concoction from Wet Willies.

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To say we were a little buzzed would be an understatement.

Okay, maybe my over spending in a candy shop had something to do with my lack of inhibitions…. or… anyway.

We left our little adventure and drove to meet two really wonderful friends of mine that happen to reside in Savannah: JJ & PC!

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We just love JJ & PC!

We enjoyed viewing their new home and catching up on the world. Around 7 that night we invited them to join us for our anniversary dinner. I mean, why not? It was PC’s birthday just the night before and honestly, isn’t celebrating so much more fun with friends? So we headed to Circa 1875.

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We found a French dining establishment in Savannah!

I opted for for the Steak Frites and a champagne cocktail. We dined like the bourgeoisie that we were pretending to be and had a marvelous time!

The next morning we went with JJ & PC to church then decided to find this little coffee shop I had heard so much about.

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This coffee shop stole my heart!

We found Bitty & Beaus.

It is so much more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee – it’s an experience. While the shop is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the customers really come in for the unique customer service experience. It made such an impression on me and I think it would for you also. Here is a little more about their mission:

Next time you find yourself in Savannah, do yourself a favor and check these guys out. #NotBroken

 

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GREAT Sunday buffet!

We were very lucky to have acquired a $50 gift certificate to the Pirate’s House. The Pirate’s House does history and good cooking right! Yes, it is a bit touristy, but YES it was worth it. Situated a block from the Savannah River, this former inn became a rendezvous for pirates and visiting sailors from the Seven Seas. The building remained intact through the centuries, but lost its spark & had fallen into disuse after World War II. Finally, it was saved and now it is one of Savannah’s most famous landmarks and restaurants.

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Churchill’s Pub

After lunch we checked into our hotel and took a nap, only to head back out to wander City Market and finally head for a cocktail. We stopped by Churchill’s Pub on Bay Street and proceeded to indulge our fancy at the rooftop bar!

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Rosé all day.

We had a wonderful time sipping wine and beer and chatting about life in general. This was exactly what my soul needed.  After our cocktails we headed to Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub .

KB’s is my FAVORITE place to visit in Savannah. It has authentic Irish music every single night! Here we were on a Sunday night, having cocktails and fun. Gosh I miss living in a larger, more metropolitan city.

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Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

After drinks and dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest before our drive home.

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In one of the many park in Savannah

To say we needed to relax and unwind and not worry about family and children would be an understatement. We needed this. We needed this so very badly. Because when we got back to town, the whole world flipped upside down.

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Dad & I at the Spring Festival at Wolf Creek Plantation

For one, my dad’s diagnosis ended up being a little more complicated than we expected AND on top of the cancer, he now needs open heart surgery. In. The. Same. Year. Talk about a lot for one human to handle. He basically needed to clear his head and came down to spend the week with us. I’m glad he did and I am glad I was able to be a safe haven when in need. Keep him in your prayers. He’s my dad, and I’ve only got one. Our parents age and we all will have to deal with this… but…

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Happy Easter from the Thurston’s

And we celebrated Easter together as a family.

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Autumn turned 13!

Which just happened to be Autumn’s 13th birthday. Geez, Louise. She is a sassy 13 year old. I mean SASSY. Blue hair, alternative lifestyle… like… who is this kid? Where did my little Autumn go?

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But you know what? I love her. And I am proud that she is attempting to live her best life ever. She is smart, she is funny, she is kind, and she is a good kid. What more could you ask for?

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My great-aunt Sarah! 90 years old!

Tim and I took some time to visit with my mom’s side of the family. My great-aunt Sarah turned 90 years old! It was great to see her and the rest of our family.

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Generations

It is so strange seeing everyone. I rarely get to see them in person, which in and of itself is weird to me. We were all, or at least in my child’s mind, we were all so close when my Granny (my great-grandmother) was alive. I saw them so much more often and felt a sense of community and family. Now, not so much. It is a shame. I have always tried to keep a relationship, to the best of my ability, with cousins and aunts and uncles on both sides of my family. Can’t say I’ve been the most successful at it, but I have tried. It’s all any of us can do.

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What I do when I am home – alone. Which is a lot.

Sooo… back to that whole friend & family thing. Yeah… I haven’t been as successful as I would have liked. My family lives farther away. That’s mainly my fault, I’m the one who happened to move. My in-laws include me, but it is sometimes hard to make new connections when there is someone else constantly standing in the place of where I technically should be. (The ex.) She’s not going anywhere. Blah.

The relationships are all pre-established and the kids are the link that keeps everyone together. I had hoped to move here and kind of have this ready made safety net of friends (my sis-in-law and her partner are close to my age,) and even my oldest step-daughter is at least an adult. Though they are kind to me, I am not really a person they call upon to go places or do things or anything like that. And you know what – that’s okay. I accept it and can create my own tribe. Though that has sort of failed miserably.

I have met a lot of really nice people. Honestly. I have been invited to group gatherings, and as much as I appreciate that, it is hard to create those personal relationships when surrounded by 50 other people that are already close. Again…. their dance cards are full.

I guess I am going to have to one day bump into another newbie in town. Perhaps that person can be my coffee & shopping & travel buddy. Yep.

Moving on…

I have a few more stories to tell, but honestly, I’ve run out of steam. This will give me more to share in the coming days as I TRY to get back to blogging. I haven’t really felt like it… since I spend more time alone or with Tim, I’ve learn to become a little more private (about the big stuff.) Or at the very least, more carefully curated. I decided enough was enough. Back to authenticity… because honestly, is anyone really noticing?

(See what I did there? I buried the lead. 😉 )

Love to all… more later!

A Sense of Place

There has been a lot of talk lately about creating a “sense of place.” Maybe it is your community where people are coming together to install public art or create a business incubator. Maybe it is your church where the congregation is seeking to attract millennials with an in-house coffee shop and movie room or even your home, where you are trying to find a sacred spot in a corner to meditate. Whatever the case may be, the signals are clear – we are all in need of connection. We need to feel connected.

One of the many mindful practices I have incorporated in 2019 is devoting more time to connecting the dots for myself. I am attempting to treat my work space and my home space as a sacred spot to spark creativity and to energize. Even when it comes to groups I am choosing to devote my time to, I want to make sure that it resonates with my soul.

Sound corny? Probably.

But it is working.

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Just this past Tuesday I gathered together with 76 tourism stake holders in my community. My job was to create a retreat where we concentrated on team building and took time to network with leaders in our field. One of the speakers dealt specifically with Creative Placemaking. This workshop got participants thinking about ways to attract visitors and at the same time, create a sense of place for locals. Everything from installing public art or creative way-finding signs to re-purposing empty buildings and blighted neighborhoods.

At the end of the day… it got me thinking.

It made me think about my own life and how I could transform my personal space.

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Visit for more information: https://www.homeyou.com/why-poufs-are-awesome

It could be something as bohemian as a meditation corner. Or maybe even something like this:

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For more inspiration: https://www.hedonistit.com/pinspiration-cozy-decorated-reading-nooks-will-inspire-design-little-corner/

Or maybe a nice reading nook.

I think finding a space to decompress and recharge my battery is key. Afterall, I’m an ENFP. I may be an extroverted-intuitive-feeling-perceptive person, but I, too, need to find a place to leave that frantic energy and allow my brain to cultivate creative ideas to share.

I learned a few new ways to do just that at the retreat.

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We had a fantastic workshop on the DISC personality test. Here I am with my fellow extroverted people/people. We love to chat it up and are open to new ideas.

But then we answered a question that proves not all extroverts are alike. We were asked a simple question: If given a choice, would you rather finish a task or check in with people.

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Our large group of extroverts suddenly divided. Across from me (you see in the photo above,) were our task-oriented outgoing folks. I am more of a “check-in” with people extrovert. Which means, if I like you – I will help you. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The folks across from me are not only single-focused, they are vocal about it. Which means we could butt heads even harder than with the people on the other side of the room – the introverted/Task oriented or the introverted/people-people. The Introverted-doers typically avoid my personality type (to the best of their ability.) And the relationship-driven introverts are the people my personality type would call, “Some of the nicest people we have ever met.”

FASCINATING stuff. I’m learning even more about what makes me tick and others around me. It’s like a huge self-awareness bulb just went off and I feel like I can function better.

Boy… it only took 45 years and 11 months. 😉

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Overall, the day went really, really well and I felt like I had accomplished a huge step in building my department.

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In the very same week we had a First Friday event in downtown Americus. Here you see our local organic/small market sharing a mini workshop on making your own bath salt. It was such a treat to go in and have this happening, plus a wine tasting right next to this table. Across from that a Georgia Grown cheese and jam tasting. Talk about a sacred space! I loved walking around and checking out the new products, learning about some of the local dairies, and sampling items. If you ever get to come to Americus, make sure to check out Center Stage Market.

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And talk about the sacred – I got to address an old friend: the American Heart Association. Remember when I used to work for them in Birmingham? I traveled all around the Southeast spreading the importance of heart health. Well… Friday was National Wear Red Day and our staff decided to Go Red For Women. We had Phoebe Sumter (local hospital) provide blood pressure checks in our Visitor Center. Outside of the great community benefit, it was bitter-sweet for me, because it brought back those old feelings and my old life: living in Birmingham, married to someone else, a whole different set of friends and activities – it felt like a different Nicole. And each year I get to relive it…. even just for a day. It is not always comfortable…

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But the beauty is: it gets easier and easier. That whole life was 7 years ago, but feels like a lifetime. I’m assuming I’ll never really have positive closure, but the pain is not as extreme. Proof that time does heal all wonds.

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This weekend we got a glimpse into the future. Tim’s oldest, Alex, is a rising senior and is beginning to think about college. We started the first of what I assume will be many weekend trips to explore colleges and universities in Georgia. We started off 2 hours from Plains in Valdosta, Georgia at Valdosta State University.

The school put on quite a show! Their marketing efforts to attract students was very aggressive. Tim said they sent a text, just about every day, reminding us about the big Open House day coming up. This went on for several weeks. Even after the trip, they sent a survey with three options:

  1. Yes, your search is over.
  2. Maybe, VSU is in the running.
  3. No, VSU is not for us.

Poor Alex, she didn’t know what to think. We were afraid to respond, because we knew the hard-core text/sell would come after that. Not sure if it was a good method or a turn-off.

Needless to say, she enjoyed the visit. They put on a very exciting pep rally and allowed you to explore the different degree options.

In a way, this whole visit reminded me that Tim is about to enter a new phase in life and I need to help him create a sacred/safe space – An Empty Nest. I can feel his apprehension. I can feel his anxiety. However, the inevitable is coming. I need to make sure our nest is comfortable and designed with a new life in mind.

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I think all of this pending change had Tim seeking something familiar. We headed out to the farm, and specifically the cabin. We took Cotton with us and I think I counted at least 4 times with him saying, “I sure do miss it here.” I felt like this was a sign and I realized I might need to step up my game as a supportive partner. Life is changing fast, and my introverted-task oriented guy is not a fan of change. Maybe… this is where I come in.

Maybe God puts us with people – in situations – in environments where we are the one that shines and where we might act as the anchor. Maybe my ability to travel the winding road with ease is just the security my big strong man needs in his life during this next phase.

As we sat in church on Sunday, I looked over at him and his youngest daughter and realized how precious this time we have left with his kids is. I also realized that life can turn on a dime. I know… I’ve lived enough and changed enough for 3 life times.

If the universe is constantly sending us signals and God is directing our paths, I think this past week was loaded with previews of what is to come. It is up to me to trust the path, create sacred space, and slow down just enough to savor what is now.

Until next time….

Transitional Transitions: How do you transition?

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So, I think it is time I break up – break up with my past, what could have been, and what is no longer.

Does that make sense?

I’m transitioning – AGAIN. Don’t worry, nothing is wrong – quite the contrary, everything is exactly as it should be.

Let’s see if I can explain:

Birthdays always make me a little reminiscent of days gone by. I often look back at my friends, my work, my hobbies – whatever – and find myself wistfully comparing my old life to my new life. I feel sad that  so & so does not call as much or visit as much as they used to. I over glamorize a past job that I had, or maybe even the absolute freedom to do as I wanted when I was a single girl. Ugh.

Guys… the truth is – the honeymoon period of moving down here is over. Nothing more, nothing less.

The expectations have shattered (as they always do,) and now I am left with reality. What was once quaint and adorable and friendly feels more constricting, less friendly, and limited. (But it is not.)

Perceptions, my friends. Perceptions.

This is that point in every move where I take a good, long look at the issue and then say… “Oh… wait a minute. I’m officially settling into my new role.” Yes, my friends, the dust has settled.

What do I see? Newer, but a limited amount of possibilities. I am clear on how things work around here, be it with work or family. I understand my limitations and I am comfortable with navigating the rougher waters. I’m setting boundaries, where once I simply left the door wide open – hoping to see how things would pan out. And thank God I am that way, or I would have never made some of the connections that I have been fortunate enough to make. But at the same time, I need to sweep out of my life what I never should have allowed in: toxic people, judgmental people, and negative people. (Again, don’t worry.. I never actually let them burrow, but they did come in for a visit.)

I had a lot of little things to work through in 2017: married life, becoming a mother, a new job, AND building of our home. (Which we are still getting settled into.) We just celebrated one year of marriage, and while on our trip, we counted our blessings, our lessons, and made numerous realizations….. and it was GOOD stuff. I am so ridiculously lucky.

With that being said… here we are. Gone long enough from my hometown to where I rarely hear from any of those people by phone, in person, online or otherwise. I have sort of just… fallen off the radar. Which often make you wonder why I even kept the connection in the first place, but then I relax and realize some folks are simply for a season. The others are there, but it appears I will have to do the scheduling (and honestly, evaluating whether those relationships are worth investing my effort into anymore.)

I’ve been gone waaaay too long from Birmingham to really know what is going on over there, and honestly, that situation was different, it wasn’t my hometown. Then I find myself in the new space- delicate, new relationships budding up everyday. It’s like I plant a seed – and sometimes the flower blooms, and other times it just fades away. It’s fascinating to witness!

Embracing these transitions has always been a specialty of mine. I am the queen of re-invention and like the phoenix – I rise. 😉

However, there is something about this transition. It’s because this is the final move. THIS will be home. (Unless life decides to uproot me yet again. And if anybody knows whether or not that is possible, I most certainly do.

To help me get a better handle on what is going on, I did a little research and even read old blog posts on my old blogspot journal that highlighted the other major shifts in my life. I think the biggest difference was the fact that this time, I transitioned by choice and in the past, it was because something hardcore had happened in my life.

One common theme kept recurring were the following:

  • I need to expect to feel anxiety & a little depressed. According to an article I read in Psychology Today: “Whenever we move forward we leave something behind, and this creates a psychological state of grief, however small.” In other words – We are out of our comfort zone; our imaginations run wild; and we worry about an unknown future.
  • I need to realize that this is a new chapter in my life. While I need to acknowledge the loss of what life used to be like, I do not need to get stuck in the past. Acknowledging that a door is closed is psychologically healthy; spending your time staring at it is not.
  • I need to think positive. According to that same article in Psychology Today, during times of transition, when everything seems to be in flux, when my old patterns have collapsed, I may feel unsteady but are also most malleable to change. Apparently now is the time to explore, brainstorm, consider the make-over before my life begins to naturally solidify into new patterns.
  • It’s good I hit the ground running. I gave myself very little transitioning time. I basically jumped right in. I didn’t have time to over think, to over plan. Things have happened more organically, and I think in the end, that is a good thing.
  • I also read that I need to get support. And about a year and a half in, I decided to chat with a therapist for a couple of sessions to sort out any anxiety and home sickness I was feeling.
  • And finally, set realistic timelines & expectations. Which is why I wrote this post today.

I needed to work out what was going through my head since the big 4-5 hit. Creating a sense of place and finding my tribe are high ticket priorities when it comes to my happiness. I’ve been impatient with the process, and now it is time for me to relax, reevaluate, and make this my home.