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Evolving, Slowly

I’ll start out today by apologizing that its been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to sit and write. School has been kicking my butt, hard. I am absolutely thrilled though, that in a few days (10), my semester is over (not that I’m counting) ((10 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes)). After spending 6.5 years fumbling around in college, I’m leaving this spring semester with my first degree – Associate in Sciences, Health Sciences. Apparently, if you keep coming back to it, take enough science and math courses, you eventually get some kind of degree out of it. Conveniently, I needed all of these classes for Nursing school, which I’m starting in the fall!

Fret not, I won’t be discussing my personal Corona stance; my brain is exhausted, I have read too much, witnessed too much, and I am not up to discussing it beyond my best friends and therapist.

Today is April 26 – 3 years to the day that my life went from average to unimaginable. I once had a friend tell me “I don’t ‘do’ dates. I just don’t ‘celebrate’ them, and then they won’t bother me. I just ‘forget’ about them.” Convenient, right? Just set my brain to “delete.” Sunshine of the spotless mind, I’ll just never recall the day my husband killed himself! I can’t believe I never thought of that! Purposely forgetting wreaks havoc on the brain. Ask me how I’m still dealing with the mental fallout from three decades of “purposely forgetting.” If I sound a tad bitter… well, I won’t deny it. One of the things I want most for my friends is to EXPERIENCE and PROCESS their emotions. Stuffing things down in dark chasms of your soul does nothing but guarantee that they will surface at the most inopportune moment.

So, I want to use this unfortunate anniversary to really talk about PTSD here. No, not like a veteran who hears a firework and is instantly transported back to a warzone. I’m talking about post-traumatic stress as it pertains to a lot more people than you might think. Trigger is such an overused word. Its used to mock sensitive people. Its used especially to mock people who think that a person should be prioritized over money. Its overused to warn people to turn away if they’re sensitive to topics or that they might find offensive.

But here’s what it means for me: out of no where, I might have a sensory experience (one or more combined of the five senses) that transports my brain somewhere. You might be familiar with the experience, but hopefully good ones. For example, smelling a campfire takes you back to an idyllic summer with friends. Baking cookies, back to grandma’s kitchen. A certain flower takes you back to your favorite aunt’s garden. If you aren’t acquainted with the dark side of these memories, let me demonstrate: I once bought him a jacket. Just a simple windbreaker, but it was very distinct; navy blue with yellow trim. Nautica. I don’t even know where that jacket ended up. I didn’t have to handle it. About a year later, Nicky and I were grocery shopping and I stopped dead in my tracks: standing about 10 feet from me was an older gentleman, approximately the same build, but in no other way similar to him at all, except he was wearing “the jacket.” I was instantly sweating, the room was spinning, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think straight or logically, at all. It took me a few moments to ground myself and regain focus. It wasn’t him; he couldn’t hurt me, he wasn’t alive anymore.

Let’s take another less sensory-related example. Trust is quite possibly the most difficult thing for me to genuinely do. Sure, I can gab with a friend about “personal” topics. But over time, I have learned to never trust anyone with all of the information. Loose lips sink ships, right? Every. Single. Person. I have ever trusted with every part of me has betrayed me. I learned that my sensitive soul was never to be entrusted to anyone, because no one would care for it. I learned too late, as usual. Now, its taking hours and hours of therapy, self-work, and self-care, to make use of this damage. Note, I call it “make use” not “undo.” Just like blogging and sharing my trials is therapeutic, in the hopes that someone will read this and begin to help themselves similarly, there is no part of my lessons I want to “undo.” I could do without the pain, without the deeply seeded, sharp triggers, but they have propelled me into a wildly self-sufficient badass that I never thought I could be.

Having been essentially “single” for three years, I have discovered this painful truth about myself: I have virtually zero idea how to just exist in a relationship. I’d say “anymore,” but I don’t think I knew how to do it effectively before. Thus far in these three years, the longest I shared time with anyone was 6-8 months, and we’d see each other one, two times per week? Everyone is busy. Somehow I always get entangled with either a) the busiest of busy people or, b) the person who lives at least an hour away, or c) both. None of those things help you to actually learn someone. And even so, I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of “one day, someone will love me so much, that they will not only love me wildly and unconditionally, but will also love, tolerate and want to help raise my wild animal of a child!? When you’re entangled with a biological parent of your child, its pretty natural to just say “it’s your obligation” because, well, it is. But perusing excuses for men who can barely care for themselves, expecting them to be able to handle a child who is chaos-embodied and an overtly and undeniably, opinionated, driven, responsible, overthinking, never-take-your-foot-off-the-gas, Gemini… wow. All I can say is, I never thought that I was offering much. I have learned that, despite my harrowing flaws and struggles, most parties I have dated just were not evolved within themselves enough to cherish everything “Jess.”

Then I find myself stressing bizarrely over things that have not yet materialized. What is it like to be with someone who supports me constantly? What is it like to never fear that my partner will never leave me with no home, no income, and a shit ton of questions? What is it like to *live* with someone?? Is that weird? I’ve lived with my son; I lived with my husband; my husband and his parents; my husband, his parents, his kids; my husband and his kids; my husband, his kids, and our son, and finally my husband and our son; and yet I’m sitting here after three short years going WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO COMES HOME TO YOU EVERY DAY, or vice versa? And simultaneously wonder WTF is wrong with me, that this is suddenly so foreign, that it terrifies me that I will have to adapt. Its not that my habits are so horribly offensive. I have never been able to depend on someone to care for me in the way that every single person deserves. Mentally, physically, emotionally.

I’m about to enter nursing school; obviously, I’m no freeloader. I’ll have a beautifully stable career, no matter where I go. I always know that if the bottom falls out, ya girl got herself, you know? But how do I trust someone with the rest of it. The sticky, black, dense hurt. The tangled triggers that send me recklessly over the edge, overthinking, trying to fill in blanks that I obviously need the other person to fill in for me, but my brain can’t wait for. For now, I struggle to stop myself when the swirling, drowning, temptation to come unglued happens. I notice it sooner, but I still find myself consumed with catastrophic thoughts and questions. Its improving. I catch myself sooner. I know when I need to work something out. The most we can ask of ourselves as we sort out trauma and heal is to allow ourselves grace and pray that we are presented with the right people to handle it with us. And that seems to be constantly evolving, but I am thankful. The right people have found me, and I am grateful. Everything has changed and it has been much akin to a violent car wreck, but it has put me on a path I wanted, but never thought was attainable. Three years later, I’m still echoing prior years; I am grateful, and I know I’m headed exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Much Love & Light,
~Jess

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Those Freaking Millennial’s

I finally figured it out, guys. I figured out what Millennial’s are doing right! Take a seat and a deep breath because this one is gonna sting.

We are having difficult discussions and waiting to get married (or remarried, as the case often is)! In today’s post, we are going to talk about the child-bearing and -rearing portion of this topic. Catch the conclusion soon!

So yes, you’re probably rolling your eyes, Karen, its ok, hear me out. Yes, I did say “remarried.” Remarried is actually my favorite category. Most of us in this early 30’s dreaded millennial category are stuck between these two generations. Stuck between the “OMG YOU MUST BE MARRIED HAVE 2.5 KIDS A DOG AND A PICKET FENCE BY THE TIME YOU’RE 25 OR LIFE IS OVER” generation and the “Wtf I can’t have responsibility, I’m just a 25 year old baby, Mom, can you make my doctor’s appointment for me please!?!?” generation, Millennials have gotten an absolute shit reputation. Often accused of being indecisive, childish, and not wanting “traditionally American valued lifestyles,” we are a much maligned generation.

Pushed into educations we couldn’t afford, because it was “the only way to go,” some were fortunate enough to hate school enough to never finish, or never even start. Some of that crowd was fortunate enough to find an actual career, especially in trades. The rest of us floundered with debt and miserable jobs, because “it was just what you do.” We hurried into relationships because “its just what you do.” Granted, for many of us, its what we wanted. However, those who buck this tradition; the purposely childless, the avocado-toast-eating-heathens, who pamper their rescued Schnauzer-doodle, who rent apartments, who are drowning in school debt but don’t want to or can’t find a career in a field they chose when they were 18 but hate at 30…. those are the people that the traditionalists hate. I don’t fully fit into this category. I’m stuck in this generation largely by age only. However, I am fanatical about bucking tradition.

Tradition is what YOU make it. Its wonderful that the Boomer generation got married straight out of high school to the first person they laid eyes on, could afford a Bachelor’s degree working part time, could afford a house as their first living experience away from their parents; its great, really, I’m so glad that at one point in time, that was a reality! However, my generation is seeing the fallout from that. We are witnessing people staying married sheerly out of absurd stubbornness. We are witnessing kids who are dealing with the emotional and mental consequences of growing up under stringent, emotionless conditions. We are witnessing people still retiring with nothing, or working until they’re completely broken because their finances and plans fell apart. We are witnessing men and women alike staying in horribly mentally and emotionally abusive situations “because its what you do.” Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone… the same goes for my generation, FYI. We aren’t all childless, marriage-hating assholes. Some of us still want a career for 40 years, a marriage for longer, and kids who are stable, secure and happy.

What I am seeing my peers doing now inspires a lot of hope in me, though. Lately, I’ve been seeing some incredible awakenings and truths occurring. People are realizing they cannot hurt someone else when their own psyche is suffering. We surged forward after high school, armed with the experiences of our parents and grandparents, doing “all the right things,” getting our oh-so-important educations and often marrying quickly and having children quickly, but have the perspective of being far more aware that there are other options, and no, you won’t die.

There’s two categories of people to discuss here: One is that category I mentioned. We did “all the right things” and are now ending up either “woke” or broken in our 30’s. The second is the Waiter crowd, the Avocado-Toast-Renting-Plant-Lovers. These aren’t the only two categories that exist, but for today’s purposes, they’re the ones we are focusing on. Of course there are outliers, who are living fabulously wealthy, fulfilled lives… and the people who just lie to themselves.


Consider this: in today’s economy, its nearly mandatory to have a two-income household, if you’re interested in living above paycheck to paycheck. Financial security is no longer a big part of deciding to marry and combine households. No longer are women leaving their parents at 18 and immediately marrying off because they don’t have a career. Now, they need that career, because its a financial necessity. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle doesn’t exist anymore. The climate is as unstable as the financial climate – if you have children, will there even be a world for them to live in? Kids are being mowed down in their classrooms; diseases, cancer, allergies, developmental issues are rampant. Kids are expensive. Every parent is nodding their head right now. Even if you do the bare minimum – no sports, no travel, nothing extravagant – feeding, clothing, caring for them, the occasional night out without them… it adds up.

Lets address another huge elephant in the room here: it used to be that those couples without kids were limited to the rare “weirdos” who just never had them, and the couples who were physically unable. Now, its becoming acceptable to admit that you don’t actually want them, and not have to explain to everyone why. Its a topic of conversation when you first start seeing someone – do you want kids? More frequently, men are voicing their desire to have or not have them. But more importantly, women, who have long been seen as motherly, regardless of their desire to actually be a mother, are able to say, “its just not for me.” Traditionally, child rearing is easier with a consistent partner, as in, the other parent. Since women are expected to want children, its nice that this comes up so quickly. It can be discussed openly immediately, since this is a fairly non-negotiable area for most people.

Its not hard to see why reproducing is still such a touchy topic. There’s so much at stake. A whole new person who depends on you is no joke; we are also the generation responsible for the declining birthrate too. Less unplanned children in fewer unplanned or unwanted relationships is a GOOD THING, SHARON. Of course there are a whole lot of people who are not trying to repair any of this damage. I am no sooner lumping us all together, saying “yay, everyone wants to grow and improve themselves!” than I am saying “millennials are all the same.”

One thing we’ve figured out, if nothing else, is that what’s been happening simply doesn’t work. Its a hard reality sometimes, when you feel like you’re connecting with someone so well and major, non-negotiable things like children come up and you disagree. But that’s one of the things that makes this generation so powerful. We are having these conversations, early and often, and aren’t afraid to speak up.

This becomes especially important when I talk about marriage and re-marriage later on. Children coming as “part of the package” in a relationship is just about the truest test of a relationship there could ever be. As a widow, I’ve been put in a challenging position of handling my child solo in the meantime, but also the freedom to make choices based exclusively on what’s best for myself and my child. I count myself blessed that I do not have someone interfering, making our lives difficult, manipulating my child, manipulating my feelings, at every turn. I feel incredibly blessed that I can meet someone, and while I come with the “cute kid” package, I know that whoever that person is, does not have to also carry the burden of my late husband’s treachery. We are free to experience life without someone making things difficult, simply because they can.

It tears my soul up when I hear friends experiencing that level of childish manipulation. Loving a child is a selfless act; using a child as a pawn is disgusting. I’m hoping that even just ONE person reads this and if they aren’t already going “I need to be the best I can be for my child and I want to peacefully coparent so I can enjoy a successful and happy relationship in the future,” that maybe it will jostle something, and they will. I’ve been on both sides of the situation, and they’re both challenging; lets give each other a break and just do what’s best for the children without being a baby ourselves. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our future generations to grow up and own our bullshit and HEAL!

In my next post, I’m going to dive into why millennials who are slowing things down and repairing themselves before marrying or remarrying are doing something our generation can be proud of!

Much love & light ~ Jess

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Is it Over Yet?

Depression and anxiety have spanked me this year.  I have always dealt with my anxiety.  What that really means for me is, its just manifested in “non-traditional” ways, like being short with people, having very narrow focus, retaining ridiculous amounts of stress, avoiding a wide variety of situations, and being extraordinarily moody for no apparent reason.  Basically, I’ve just lived with it and not acknowledged it.  You know, very positively!

Now my struggle with it is far more visceral. I can’t sit still.  I can’t move either.  Sometimes I can’t catch my breath.  Thoughts race – even the most ridiculous things seem true, imminent.  Thoughts feel thick, like wading through a tub of coconut oil.  There’s too many thoughts, but I can’t escape them.  I feel like I’m on the brink of complete collapse sometimes.  When I can gather enough clarity, I take a few pumps of oil and I can start feeling freer in 15 minutes or so.  Its as though I line everything up, like little toy soldiers on a wall and I can start flicking them off the wall, one by one, every wild, racing, over-the-top thought and fear.

Since I was in high school, depression has floated in and out of my life.  When I sought treatment the first time, someone close to me said “I just can’t understand what you could possibly have to be sad about.”  And that’s when I stopped constructively dealing with depression.  Sometimes I’ve anticipated the lows, and other times, I have been blindsided.  I’ve picked up, carried on, and dealt with it.  Its what we expect people to do!  Quietly, privately, and with as little emotion as possible.  No mess, no fussing, no drama.  That’s what I thought I was accomplishing after Matt abruptly passed.  I was dealing like a champ.  I was pushing forward, growing, kicking ass.  In reality, I was definitely surviving, if not even thriving, but I was completely failing to heal the hurt.Introvert inclusion

I have trust issues.  There.  I said it.  I find myself not trusting people about the DUMBEST stuff.  There are a million reasons running through my head why anyone isn’t doing what they claimed.  It isn’t even based in reality!  I was trained, systematically, over a long relationship, that I wasn’t worthy of the truth.  I wasn’t worthy of being included.  I wasn’t important enough to anyone. I wasn’t worthy of my own husband telling me what he’s actually doing.  Its a daily struggle of insecurity.  Who is excluding me from stuff?  Why didn’t I get invited to something?

The more I have been sorting out, the more I realize.   And the more I wonder.  I wonder why I gave so much trust to someone who repeatedly broke it.  I wonder why I believed someone who routinely fed me stories.  I wonder why I wasn’t valuable enough to get the truth.  But I also realize that this wasn’t my shortcoming.  I did what I was supposed to do.  I trusted the person who was supposed to take care of me and my son.

I’ve been talking with close friends lately about my purpose and what I want from life.  One of my greatest aspirations in life is to be a wife and mother – explains a lot about why I was so eager to please someone who would have pushed me off a cliff if it suited him.  I’ve felt this since I was young.  I feel for me personally (NOT everyone!), there is no greater calling than to have a fulfilling relationship and raise good humans.  That in turn gives me the framework to then achieve professionally and otherwise.  And don’t worry, I don’t think my value rests solely with a marriage.  Its just something I find extremely valuable personally, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What I want to bring to you, dear friend, is the awareness about yourself.  If you’re struggling similarly to myself, the first step is getting help.  Get perspective.  I don’t mean from your goofy friend with all the opinions. There are some easy things (from an implementation standpoint, anyway) that you can do that will help you get on the right path.

  • A therapist is a great neutral sounding board.  It might take a few tries to find someone that you’re comfortable with. That friend with all the opinions might be eager to listen, but they might not always have time to carefully consider your concerns – after all, they aren’t paid to listen to you.  They might also have ulterior motives.  God forbid they do not have your best interests at heart or don’t care who they share your personal business with.  It will only compound the problem to know that someone is speaking about your issues with others.  Find someone who is truly neutral.
  • If consistently visiting a therapist is out of your budget (I know it can get expensive!) look into some self help books and/or workbooks.  You don’t even need to pick something deeply self-exploratory.  Start with something that doesn’t feel too inflammatory and work your way up (just don’t let yourself off the hook before you get there).
  • Start journaling. Good old fashioned pen and paper, not on your phone or computer.   Take 10 minutes each day.  If you’re really committed, spend 10 minutes when you first wake up, writing about things you’re grateful for, and 10 minutes before you go to bed, brain dumping, so you can go to sleep with a blank slate.  Ten minutes is just a guideline – it gives you a set window of time to commit to the process.
  • Really want to go all in?  Start doing guided meditation.  Use YouTube videos like this one to help you.
  • Figure out if you would like or if you feel you need medication.  I weighed the options medications to help with anxiety and depression and I couldn’t balance the weight of not being lucid against the potential benefits.  Of course, I’m a huge advocate for hemp oil because of its lack of negative side effects and overall health benefits.  The hemp and cannabis plants are extraordinary in their benefits to humans and even pets; get good stuff in your body, however you choose to consume it.  There are tons of things to look at when you’re looking for a brand of oil (I’ll explore it in another post), but you can get the best here.

Accepting that you’re going to have good days, you’re going to have bad days,  and its all just part of life, is the first huge step to working through things.  Explore your reactions to things and situations.  Analyze why you’re reacting to things a certain way.

~The only thing we control in this world is how we react to things~

Read that until you understand it.  You can’t control what anyone else does; you can only control your reaction to the situation.  Stop letting other people’s stupidity send you over the edge.  Stop letting someone else’s inconsistency, arrogance, ignorance, selfishness, lies, jealously, etc etc control how you feel!

This is all just the tip of the iceberg, but its a great start.  Much love & light to you today!

Want more on the topic?  Drop your comments and questions below!

~ Jess

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The First Year

It will soon be a year since everything changed.  One year since the person I thought was my husband left this world.  One year since my life ended up in a blender, and came out a beautiful smoothie.

I don’t regret things in my life.  Its not how I live.  I make choices based on calculated, conscious decisions, and then accept the consequence.  A year ago, a choice was made that altered mine and Nicholas’s life dramatically, and like I always say, it was a blessing in disguise.

In the early afternoon of April 26, 2017, the state police came to my home to inform me that they found my husband in his vehicle up in Warren County.  The room spun; I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t speak.

I will eternally be grateful to the people who rushed to my side.  Alicia, who probably broke more than a few laws racing to me.  Sandi, who sat with me while I took wild phone calls that brought more mind-blowing information each time it rang.  Renee, who set up a GoFundMe that allowed Nicholas and I to find a place to live and stay on our feet while we were reeling.  Kelsey and Kyleen, who connected us with more help than I could have imagined.  Tina, for reaching out and being a voice of reason, even when I didn’t want to hear it.  My parents, for forgiving the grudges and being there for us.  Every single person who sent food, clothes and supplies for Nicholas, even stuff for me.  Even the people I don’t talk to anymore, for one reason for another.  I am grateful.

I’m sure each passing year will get easier and less confusing.  I didn’t expect to be “alone” this year though, and its making it a little more challenging for me to navigate.  My emotions have already bubbled up a few times, and we are still a bit away from the anniversary.  Keeping busy and focused are my only options right now.

Screenshot_20180411-162142Nicholas has come further than I could have ever imagined.  We have a secure, stable home; stable income; I don’t feel threatened that life is off-kilter and unpredictable this year.  Last year, I didn’t know if we’d have a place to live or food to eat each month.  Last year, I was stressed that health insurance was a question.  I’m stable.  That’s what matters.  I have a blossoming business.  I have a greater desire to be creative and continue growing personally.

 

There’s a knot in my throat, but I know it means we’re alive and making it.

-Jess