Saying no to the Status Quo

Status Quo by definition means “the current situation : the way things are now.”  In many areas of our day to day life “status quo” is comforting, familiar. It’s easy.

I believe this is especially true in marriage, and even more so for couples that have children and experienced first hand the changes that children bring to their lives.

After a new baby arrives there is a new status quo that couples often fall into. My husband and I certainly did.  It’s the status quo of “kids come first” and we quickly forget who we were as a couple before we became a family.

before and after

Add to this massive life change the twin pillars of sleep deprivation and financial stress – not to mention the fact that you are now responsible for the survival of another human being! – and it’s easy to fall into a routine where our needs as individuals become secondary.

Instead of Kelly I became Mummy. And the truth is I loved my new role. I picked up that motherhood mantle with both hands and freakin’ ran with it.  Ran so fast I kind of forgot that there was another adult living this life with me…the man now known as Daddy.

As we navigated through the first few months of parenthood it became hard for both of us to see the people we were in our relationship before we had kids. There were attempts at reclaiming the “couple” we were before we were a “family”. Trips and date nights and the like but everything was just a little different.

We both became comfortable with the ‘status quo’ and it almost led to disaster.

The problems in our marriage and our relationship are so clear to me now – with the advantage of 20-20 hindsight – but we were both blind to them at the time. And the problems we were aware often felt so overwhelming that it was much easier to pretend they weren’t there and carry on with life as if nothing were amiss.

As we found out – you can only avoid these problems for so long. Until they literally burst out of the box you are trying to shove them in and demand your attention.

The past 3 years have taught me a lot about how I got to this place in my life. In the process I have been forced to face a lot of not so great truths about myself. And while that has been a very difficult and sobering process it has also allowed me to find a side of myself I didn’t even know was there.  A strong, determined, creative self that was dying to get out.

Letting that side of me out has done so much good for me and – by extension – those around me. And it has also made me more determined to never settle for status quo again.

I made get a little comfy once in a while and let myself relax into some familiar patterns and roles but I now know that there is much more in my life than that.

And even if Mummy might be the most important title I will ever wear – I also know there is much more to me than just that.

saying no to status quo

 

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Reflecting on Valentine’s Day

Last night – lying in bed, about to turn out the light – I asked my husband “Do you remember where we were 20 years ago tonight?” 

I didn’t see the look of panic on his face but I’m sure it was there. As it is for any man when his wife starts a sentence with “Do you remember when…”

We had spent most of this Valentine’s Day apart – him working on a construction project and me handling kid duties – we had dinner as a family and got the kids into bed and then settled down to watch The Walking Dead.

So…not really a romantic evening. I wasn’t disappointed but it got me thinking about the past and what Valentine’s Day used to mean.

Because 20 years ago – on our first Valentine’s Day together – it was all about romance. We were 18 years old – oh my god! – and I was so excited that he was taking me out for a fancy dinner at the Sutton Place Hotel. (Hubby remembered by the way…phew.)

I got all dressed up, he got all dressed up, he brought me roses, he opened my car door, he held my hand as we walked into the fancy restaurant and were seated at our little corner table. It was so god damned high brow that I couldn’t quite believe we were even allowed to be there.

It was a great night. I loved every minute of it. I felt loved and happy and spoiled.

We celebrated in similar style – dinners out, roses, occasionally booking a night a swanky hotel – for many more years. And then – as they tend to do – our Valentine’s Day plans changed with the arrival of kids.

And when that happened I remember thinking that our love as a couple – and an “us” – didn’t need to be celebrated anymore. We were beyond that. Above it actually…as though with the arrival of our first born our love status was now elevated above those that were just “couples”.

I even wrote this post about the evolution of Valentine’s Day in 2013 that included this line: “Now before you feel sad for me and think the spark has gone out of my marriage…don’t worry it hasn’t. We just don’t need a specific day to say I Love You.”

Oh how wrong I was. Just a few months later I would be faced with that exact reality. That the love had gone out of my marriage and in actual fact we needed more than one specific day to say I Love You. We needed to say it just once and really mean it. Really feel it.

Luckily we made it through that dark time and are working our way back to love. And that experience has given me a new outlook on Valentine’s Day. While I still think there is a commercial aspect of the holiday that warrants disdain…the basic premise behind the day is an important one.

It is essentially all about celebrating love. And I know now that love not only should be celebrated but it should also never be taken for granted. Love should never be assumed in any relationship no matter how long you have been together.

Love might not take work but it takes nurturing and attention. And days like this provide a perfect opportunity for that to happen.

So next Valentine’s Day I think I just might be dropping some not so subtle hints that I like roses and getting dressed up. Sacrifices must be made…

Oh so true…

This quote came up in my Facebook feed a little while ago and when I read it I literally felt like I’d been punched in the chest. It hit home so hard.

At the time, I saved the link rather than hitting ‘like’ because I wasn’t quite ready to admit this was how I felt when my husband and I separated.

But it is how I felt…how I still feel actually as we continue to repair the damage and see if we can fall in love with each other again.

Nothing in certain in life and I do choose to remain hopeful…but my god…this feeling. Well that will be the hardest thing to forget.

Reflecting…

When I look back on 2014 it is with greatly mixed emotions. On paper this year was – very clearly – one of the worst of my life.

I nearly lost my marriage. I did lose my job. I spent 7 very long months as a part-time parent. And as a single woman for the first time since I was a teenager.

There were very dark times indeed. And yet…despite all that…I find myself looking back on this year with immense gratitude. Because it was through those darkest moments that I finally figured out who I want to be. Not only that – but I can see clearly now the things that I have been doing that have kept me from being that person.

There are so many cliches that fit my last year:

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

“What defines us is how well we rise after falling.”

“This too shall pass…”

I’ve said them  all and repeated some as a type of meditative mantra to get me through the roughest times. And now I put them aside for a new saying…call it my tagline for 2015.

     I will run my first 10k race.

     I will write more often and complete my first novel by the end of the year.

     I will be more present for my girls and be the role model they need me to be.

     I will be a better friend to those that have stood by me through everything.

     I will work at my marriage and not let this second chance pass me by.

Okay 2015…let’s do this.

A Fresh Start…

Two weekends ago – after what was to be a “brief” separation turned into 7 months of living apart – my husband moved back home.

It has been a long and bumpy road to get us here…to a place where we were both ready to be married to each other again. To a place where we have both agreed to put in the work needed to try to fix what was broken.

And so far I am very happy to report that this reconciliation has been very positive. Our girls are over the moon to have their daddy back home and we have made family time a top priority – spending lots of time playing board games and reading stories all together.

We have also made spending time as a couple a priority. This was something I know we didn’t do enough of before. This is one of the big lessons we needed to learn.

I have always said that marriage is hard and communication is the key to success. Turns out I was talking the talk and not walking the walk. Because we weren’t communicating…we were co-existing.

I had convinced myself that we didn’t have to spend every second together and that having time apart made us stronger. And while to some degree I still think that is true…I also know now that it’s a fine balance. And that spending time just being with each other – even if we are just watching TV – is just as important as regular date nights.

The past 7 months on my own has given me (and I think I can safely say him as well) a huge dose of perspective. I have thought long and hard about our life together – how it began when we were so young and how I was so sure this was the right path for me that I never even considered it could go wrong.

I realize now that we never really had a chance to figure out who we were without each other. We were just 17 when we started dating and that from the beginning we were always a “we”.

It’s a dangerous thing to not have a strong sense of self as you grow up and change. As the world changes around you and life takes you on it’s crazy journey. Because by the time we realized the problem it was almost too late to change it.

And it’s tempting to consider starting all over again. I think for both of us this has been true. The lure of “what could have been” or what “could still be”. But it is the true unknown…and we have built a life and a family together. To throw that away for an unknown future…well…for me it wasn’t worth it.

While our relationship may never be shiny and new again…it is rich and deep with history and memories and love.

And so I approach this take 2 on my marriage with my eyes wide open and my head leading my heart. I love my husband. Have always loved him and will always love him. But I know now that love is not enough. It is mandatory and amazing but it cannot be the sole foundation upon which a relationship is built.

We are still a work in progress. We have 20 years of bad communication habits to overcome. 20 years of thinking “I know what that look means” or assuming that we know what the other is going to say or how they will react. it is key for both of us to never assume but to ask the questions and express what we are feeling. 

I am grateful for this second chance. This opportunity to really learn from our mistakes, to realize where we went wrong and – hopefully – do it better this time.

Time will tell…wish us luck.

 

Trusting my Instincts

Wow…where the hell did July go? I can’t believe I haven’t written in almost 3 weeks…it’s absolutely criminal…

And trust me…it’s not like there hasn’t been anything to write about. In fact, its more likely that I had so much to write about I just didn’t know where to start.

There have been the usual parenting ups and downs. Lots of lovely moments with my girls and quite a few that had me pulling my hair out.

The biggest change since my last post is that I have made the conscious decision to stop second guessing everything and allow myself to just “go with the the flow.”

Now…I’m not really a “go with the flow” kind of girl. I’m a planner. I like order in my life. And a nice colour coded spreadsheet for everything.

But throughout my marital struggles of the last year I have realized that – while in some areas my need for order and structure was helpful – in many others it wasn’t. I was very black or white in the way I viewed my life. There just wasn’t any room for gray.

People have told me that this sometimes makes me come across unfeeling or aloof. Even rude. Close friends joked that I had a “cold black heart” because I didn’t cry during The Notebook and said it was a “sappy, predictable bunch of schmaltz…” (I stand by that assessment by the way…)

But the truth is that my troubles over the past year have made me realize that this need for things to be black or white was a way of protecting myself. By forcing my emotions to fit in this box or the other I was really just avoiding dealing with them and giving myself permission to move forward with the (false) belief that I had dealt with something.

As I work through the issues in my marriage – I can see where this led me wrong. I can see situations where I should have pushed for a better explanation and didn’t. Where I let something slide when I knew I wasn’t really happy with it but had somehow justified it. I can see very clearly where I should have trusted my instincts…and didn’t.

Of course…I was so freakin’ young when I got married that I didn’t even realize that what I was doing might have repercussions. For the record I wouldn’t recommend getting married at 22.

Live a little together first. Experience life with that person. Love them with all of your heart and mind and soul…but also make sure you talk honestly about your dreams…and your fears. Figure out who YOU are an individual before you commit to a lifetime as partners.

Anywho…that said…I decided about a month ago that it was about time I trusted my instincts a a little more. It was a decision borne out of me surviving the most emotionally trying day of this separation. A day where I alternated between screaming obscenities and crying uncontrollably. A day that really made me realized I could no longer view my life as black or white because I was very clearly living in a word of grey.

And since making the decision to just go with my gut…I feel like the weight of the world has lifted from my shoulders. Because instead of spending time and energy debating the pros and cons of EVERY situation I just do what I think is right and deal with the consequences if it’s not.

Because I’m not always going to be right. I won’t always have the answers. I’m not always going to be able to hold in the tears or hold back the anger. I’m learning how to be me. A new me. In some ways kinder and softer and in others stronger and bolder.

My hope is that trusting my instincts will help me find a balance in my life. And maybe – just maybe – help me fall back in love.

Fingers crossed…

 

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Empty Promises, Empty Threats

Throughout my separation I have been struggling to control – and understand – my emotions. So many of these feelings are completely foreign to me. My emotions are completely jumbled and I am left feeling out of sync…

The emotion I am struggling with most right now is hope. Hope can be a wonderful thing. A ray of sunshine through the clouds. A light at the end of a bleak tunnel.

It can also be a complete son of a bitch when it lets you down.  When that sense of hopefulness gets crushed by bitter reality.  And empty promises turn out to be just that.

Given all my emotional letdowns during my separation hope is now a rare emotion. I have my guard up…and I am getting pretty cozy behind my fortress wall.  Just me and my bitterness.

It’s actually quite a depressing place actually.  I really must pick up a lamp and a throw rug or something.

Anyway…suffice it to say…that this week I allowed myself to hope…just a little.  I let myself believe that change was coming and that it was good for once.

And once again I was made to feel a fool.

Albert Einstein once said that the very defintion of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well now I know I’m insane. Awesome…

It was with this flagging sense of hope and disappointment that I realized I need to figure out how to spend Canada Day with my girls. I wasn’t into facing huge crowds to watch the local parade. I didn’t have the energy to host a bunch of people at my house. Honestly…I was kind of wishing it would rain so I wouldn’t have to do anything.

There was no rain in the forecast of course…I was getting off the hook that easily.  And so I decided on a somewhat quiet morning/afternoon at home with my girls and some family and then off to a backyard pool party BBQ.  I was hoping it would be the right mix of quiet and loud. Mellow and…well…not so mellow.

In case you were wondering this is where the empty threats part comes in.  Because as a parent – especially now doing it solo – I am very guilty of making empty threats.

“I’m going to count to 3 and if you don’t do {random act} by that time we are going to {insert empty threat here}.”

“Don’t make me come over there or we will {insert empty threat here}.”

“If I have to tell you that one more time we are going to {insert empty threat here}.”

And so on and so forth. It’s bad parenting. It’s lazy parenting. I know it. All my friends know it. And worst of all my kids know it.

Every once in a while you have to follow through and it sucks. Because it usually means giving up something I want as well.  Which was exactly the case tonight. After a great afternoon at the bbq I was back at my best friends house relaxing and letting the kids play.

Play turned to arguing. Arguing turned to tears. Tears turned to hysteria. And finally…I had to follow through on my threat to leave. And we did.

All the kids were shocked. I didn’t want to leave. My friends didn’t want to me to leave. I hadn’t even had a freakin’ cup of tea yet!  But we left. I loaded my sobbing girls into the car, handed them tissues and started the long drive home.

It was the right thing to do.  And I’m glad I did it because I think it really had an impact on all the kids.

But now – instead of sitting on a deck in the fading sunlight with my friends – I tucked two tear stained faces into bed and am sitting at my computer alone with my thoughts and my emotions.

Sometimes doing the right thing sucks.  Sigh…tomorrow is another day.