A Trip to Remember

Last month my sister and I made a trip to New York. We braved the wintry weather and drove out there with my four year old son and five year old nephew. There was never a dull moment, to say the least, and the boys for the most part enjoyed the trip. I didn’t have high expectations, for myself or my son. I packed my anxiety medication and a bottle of lavender essential oil, thinking that being out of our routine would trigger plenty of anxiety! And we were on our way; two women, two preschoolers, a map and plenty of excitement! I was in for a big surprise.

I’ve mentioned before how living with depression has led me to have many superficial relationships. Yes, I’ve talked about the weather, our families health (including mine), any interesting bit of information I’ve read, or just shared complaints (trying to move away from this : /). This has been changing as I’m learning to open up to people. I’ve been selective in who I share my vulnerable side to. Not everyone deserves to hear my story. Some won’t appreciate it, others will not understand, or worst, won’t care. So if I’ve shared this blog with you, it’s a personal invitation for you to be a part of my journey. And you can’t feel like a part of something unless you understand it.

Anyway, the difference about this trip as opposed to others we’ve made, was that we stayed with the mom of my sister’s friend. It was not something we normally do. When we have stayed over at someone’s house it’s been that of a relative. It’s something deep rooted from our childhood (a whole other story). I was nervous about how my son would behave and if it would be too much for our hostess to endure. I soon realized it was unnecessary stress on my part. She was welcoming from the moment we walked into her home. She greeted us, offered us something warm to eat and helped us get settled in.

I used to think I was a caring person. But there’s more to it than I ever imagined. People who truly care have a special way of communicating it to others. It doesn’t remain a feeling they keep to themselves. They manifest it in action. Not simply by giving or sharing what they have, but by showing personal interest. And you can’t show personal interest without asking questions, but in such a way that it doesn’t intimidate, or make the other person feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but open up to her. And in doing so felt a connection that, until recently, I’d only had with family. This was my surprise!

In planning for this trip I never expected to come away with a wonderful friendship. Having listened to her experiences and insight, I learned a lot more about myself that week. I also had many heart to heart conversations with my sister. Confined spaces and no where to go can do that (just kidding)! I truly enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about our trip. It’s amazing how people can come together, and come away encouraged. I learned that if I want to, I can steer things in a more positive direction. There’s enough negativity out there already. Why would I want to add to it and weigh anyone I’m interacting with down? I can encourage them instead!

I’m not there yet. I’m still climbing, but as I get further along, the view is becoming more beautiful. Life doesn’t seem like an endless sequence of tragedies as it once did. My friend assured us that we are strong women for having overcome what we did as children, and not letting that part of our lives destroy us as humans. We have thrived so far. Yes, there’s still much more to work on, but we have each other to lean on.

Janet, my friend, I’m glad we made that trip out your way. I’m so grateful for everything you did while we were there, but above everything else I’m thankful for your honesty, caring spirit, and hospitality.
Sensei! (Wax on, wax off!)

Celeste, I’m glad you convinced me to make this trip in the middle of winter, to a place that was just as cold and snowy as Michigan, and not some hot tropical place! It wouldn’t have been the same with any other person. But that’s what sisters are for! Thank you. ; )

Life is too short to sit around waiting for the “perfect time” to make a special trip with loved ones, or waste time worrying about the impression we will make on others. If we show them our true self, we give them the option of either wanting to get to know us better, or not.

Love you guys ; )

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What my Husband has taught Me

I’ve shared many of my personal struggles and insecurities over the past year and I wanted to share a list I put together along the way, about the things my husband has unknowingly taught me. After twenty years of marriage it’s easy to take each other for granted, unless we stop and focus on the good qualities. There’s nothing more rewarding for a couple (in my opinion) than to grow together.

So here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. There is such a thing as unconditional love and I CAN be at the receiving end of it.

2. There’s no such thing as too much patience, especially when the one you love suffers from a mental illness.

3. There are boundaries we all need in order to show those we love the proper respect they deserve.

4. To never give up on those I love. If they are valuable to me, I should never see the effort and hard work as a waste of my time.

5. To always be sincere and honest with myself.

6. The truth, no matter how painful, is better than the temporary comfort of a lie.

7. Adulthood shouldn’t mean the end of growth and maturing.

8. It’s better to face my fears, than to try to outrun them. (I can’t run fast anyway!)

9. I have his support in my journey to heal. He’s on my side and wants to see me triumph over my depression.

10. I can’t just take. I also need to give. This will keep me from developing an ungrateful, unthankful, and selfish attitude.

11. The best place to be is in the arms of a man who is aware of all my imperfections and still chooses to see my good qualities, even though these are few!

We should cherish and hold on to those who choose to ride out the storms with us, and don’t allow us to give up on ourselves. I didn’t know how much his inner strength would one day help the two of us. If he had sunk with me, it would probably have taken twice as long to come out of it, but I won’t go there. We’re a team of two imperfect people who want to see each other thrive, and pass that on to our children!

For those of you who are married: go give your significant other a warm hug!

Love you guys ; )

Communication

Family relationships! They can be a source of joy or frustration. In most cases it’s both! Now that I myself am a mom, I’ve come to understand how hard of a task it is to raise children. It’s not simply about providing shelter, food and clothing. It’s more involved than that. Especially in the area of maintaining a good relationship with each one of them.

Growing up in a broken home, I thought all that was needed to have a happy family was for the marriage to remain intact! That was naive thinking on my part. I can say I was clueless about what was needed for a relationship to truly function. My perception of a happy marriage was based on “happily ever after” stories and movies. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, there’s a problem, it gets solved, they marry and it’s all good. Anyone entering a marriage with these expectations is bound to be disappointed. It makes for a bad foundation to build a family on, because it’s based on illusion not reality.

I’ve now come to realize that one of the best gifts I can give my children, is to have a good relationship with my husband. It’s not simply about avoiding arguments. It’s about being sensitive to each other’s feelings. Listening to understand one anothers’ thoughts and opinions. Our children are growing up in the space between us. If there’s toxic energy in that space they will feel it. This may not be new for anyone out there, but it may as well have been rocket science because I wasn’t “getting” it.

What about our relationship with our parents? Does that affect our spouse and children? Why do I ask? Well, how we communicate was learned from them. How effective is it? Do we find that we have a hard time expressing ourselves and understanding others? Do we avoid conflicts at all costs, resolve them peacefully, or instigate them? Do things get swept under the rug to maintain peace? I never thought it mattered how well or how bad my communication with my parents was, much less how it affected my family.

After reading an article on this subject I began asking myself some hard questions. The article mentioned that there’s a direct link between how we communicate with our parents and how we communicate with our own family. It sounded interesting. I myself never had a good relationship with my dad. I was terrified of him. His anger was unpredictable and explosive. I’m aware he isn’t gonna punish me now that I’m grown, but that fear hasn’t completely gone away. This has affected how I interact with my husband. When he’s upset, I don’t try to understand the reason why, I simply retreat in fear. Just like I did with my father. I’d never realized how unhealthy this was for our relationship. Not that I want to go the other way either (fights and arguments), but my goal now is to find a healthy balance.

What about with my children? Well, that’s even harder to face. I find I mirrored both my parents in this area. I’ve been that parent who has held their child to a higher standard than I myself was willing to follow. I’ve let them see disappointment in my eyes. I’ve judged them harshly and been overly critical. This may not have been so bad if I had used more praise; been more patient and understanding. I could’ve openly shared my mistakes and apologized too. I have a lot to make up for. They may, or may not choose to forgive my mistakes. But that shouldn’t keep me from maturing and learning as a mother. I don’t have it all together, but I love them enough to show my vulnerable side.

Being proud led me down a dead end road. There was no growth there. It kept me from searching for better ways to do things. I figured if it wasn’t broken there was no need to fix it. Well, I didn’t want to wait until my family “broke” in order to start changing unhealthy habits, my communication included. Making mistakes is unavoidable. Admitting and working to correct them is courageous. Not acknowledging them or placing the blame somewhere else is cowardly. Our kids deserve better than that!

Who doesn’t want a happy family? Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically happen, not without work on our part. We will fall into comfort zones, hit plateaus, but we don’t want to stay there. When we want to advance in our job, we keep learning. Some people will invest in college courses to move up in their career. How much would our family benefit if we put forth the same effort for them, for us?

To say that my communication skills needed some updating would be an understatement. Breaking old habits and ingrained thought patterns has been my biggest challenge yet!
I’m a work in progress, but some progress is better than no progress!

Love you guys ; )