Tag Archives: stories that define me

Stories that Define Me: on friendship.

*This is the seventh in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*

M remarked to me recently that he feels like I have SO MANY friends. Especially compared to him, as he considers just a few close friends as just that: friends.

I found his statement interesting, because I  too consider myself to have a handful of close friends as well as a circle of all of YOU in this home I’ve cultivated here that truly ‘get’ me. That don’t make me feel compelled to compromise, to censor myself, to walk on eggshells, to feel short-changed. Real, solid, friends. Sister-friends, if you will.

Let’s start at the beginning. 

My very first best friend was a girl I met in Kindergarten. Her name is Tali (and yes, we still keep in touch, though, relatively loosely as she is a missionary in Guatemala and Haiti!) and to this day, I truly believe she is who ‘taught’ me how to have a sense of humor. And to cultivate my own sense of humor, with a dash of wit and sarcasm. She is, to this day, still one of the funniest people I know (and actually, now that I think about it, her humor mirrors M’s quite a bit. I bet they’d get along so well…). But beyond humor, she ‘got’ me, even back when we were 6 or 7 years old. We had each other’s back at the playground, we stood up for each other, and we were always together. She is also one of the first friends I made that I felt was ‘my’ friend and not ‘our’ friend (given my sisters and I shared virtually all of the same friends, often, they were ‘our’ friend, not Jess’s or Jen’s or mine, but Tali? Was my friend first and foremost).

Tali and I stayed close friends all the way through middle school and into high school, even after we were no longer classmates (after fourth grade). But what united us was the ability to pick up where we left off, even if it were one month, one year, or even more. There were never apologies needed. There was never the need to feel like you ‘owed’ each other a reason why it had been awhile since we’d last gotten together. Life simply happens, and when you can keep in touch and get together when you can and really value that time together? That’s friendship. 

And that friendship and what I learned from her over all of those years (reuniting once again after my divorce, and talking all through that, and talking all about her own love and life experiences) really set the tone for what I deem the friendship foundation: mutual respect, love, give-and-take, and simply for it to be effortless. For you both to WANT to make the time for each other, to make each other a priority. To honor each other’s life paths and goals and desires. To listen, and not always immediately advise, or provide an opinion. To laugh. Friendship is happiness, and when it is no longer happy, friendships evolve

It took me a long time to realize that friendships evolve and that it’s okay if you come to a point where you realize that you have outgrown a friendship, or that friendship is no longer enjoyable for you, or for them. Where there is more strife, tension and negativity, than laughs, caring and respect.

The friendships I hold dear to me now are those that I consider sister-friends, that ‘get’ me, that understand why I live my life the way that I do, in every single way. Because that’s exactly how I treat those friends as well. Respect what they do, love them for who they are, and that friendship will thrive for as long as it’s meant to.

Stories that Define Me: On being ‘alone’ vs. being lonely.

*This is the sixth in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*

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I wrote this post for Emma over at Divorced Before 30 a few months ago…but for some reason, feel compelled to repost it here, as a story that has defined me. Because I don’t think there is a day that goes by where I don’t embrace being alone, to some extent, and look back at where embracing this came from. As I near closer and closer to three years since my divorce began, I can’t help but continue reflecting on how it has shaped me and how I still learn from that time, every single day.

(and to be honest, this distinction between being alone and being lonely doesn’t *just* apply to those that are divorced, I think it’s one of those universal truths that we all need to embrace…embrace being alone. Celebrate it. Truly appreciate it.)

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Being Alone vs. Lonely

One of the biggest things I learned as I went through my separation and divorce was the difference between being alone and being lonely.

I found that as much as I feared being lonely, I was more afraid of being alone, and for how long I might theoretically be alone before finding love again. I remember how often my mind would just want to skip and jump ahead to the part where I was no longer alone and no longer hurting. To the part about being in love and looking back on the ‘bad’ as a distant memory.

It is the ‘fast forwarding’ in my brain to ‘the good parts’ that I think was more detrimental than actually just accepting my situation for what it was. 29. Divorcing. Short selling my home. Starting over…alone.…and, yes, from scratch, in just about every way possible, but the difference being seeing that as a positive. A mindset shift. Seeing my situation as an opportunity to shape my destiny, and who I wanted to be after all is said and done.

And truth is, had I not experienced being alone, I would never have learned how to be comfortable with being alone, not to mention actually embrace it. And embrace it I soon learned to do!

Settling into my very first apartment, living alone, also for the first time in my life…I remember looking around and realizing, wow, everything in this apartment? Is MINE. And ONLY mine. There is a huge sense of pride in that feeling, and to this day, I look back on that time in my life and am so proud of myself, for learning to live by myself, sleep alone (a scary thing to me previously!) and do things by myself. But that soon became empowering, and fun, and a way to step out of my comfort zone and push myself. Because every time I did that, gotuncomfortable, I learned. I stretched. I grew.

And being alone, doing things alone and experiencing that? I never once felt lonely. Because I had learned to embrace being alone and saw it differently than being lonely. To me, lonliness can be more easily rectified than being alone.  And if you are afraid to be alone, I firmly believe you somehow are more closed (than you think!) to those around you, potential mates and friends, even.

You gotta be comfortable with being alone in order to truly open yourself up to what you may want most…love and companionship. Once I truly embraced and loved being alone? I met M. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, I challenge you…separate being ‘alone’ and being ‘lonely.’ Get comfortable with being alone. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

EMBRACE it.

Stories that Define Me: why the connection matters.

*This is the fourth in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*

I’ve been emailing and chatting with a few friends that are going through the dating rollercoaster and all that goes along with it (the second guessing, overthinking, false starts, anxieties and oh yeah, the good stuff too…warm fuzzies, dating isn’t *that* bad…at least, not all of the time. It’s a means to an end!) and this topic sprang to mind as I continue my ‘stories that define me’ series.

And as I read some of my old dating posts from my old blog (and wow, were there many, and some hysterically funny ones too. Perhaps I was a wittier writer with such readily available fodder, huh?! If anyone wants to read them, email me and I’ll send you some links!), some of those memories came flooding back. Some of them were good…the rare good eggs in the bunch that I dated before meeting M, and some notsogood, the many, MANY false starts, one date wonders and the like, but what I remember striking me most, was the connection, and why it matters so much.

And when I say connection, I mean, the emotional connection that makes the physical mean something. Beyond the instant gratification and the exploration of someone new, the connection to that person is truly what makes or breaks it. For me, anyway. It was something I never truly realized until I had my first ‘experience’ after my divorce (how would I ever have even noticed that, being with someone for a decade and prior to that, the only time I was intimate with a man, it was within the confines of a relationship, nothing casual). Sure, it was exciting and in a way, made me feel alive again, but on the other hand, it just felt so…empty.

(as I write this, I hope I don’t come across as having many physical encounters with the men I dated before M. I can count them on less than a hand, let’s say that)

And only once I met M did I realize how much the connection  matters, and how much more emotional and gratifying an experience the physical connection becomes.

So why am I writing this? Because I think one of the things that really cemented it for me, when I knew M was ‘it’ for me, was that physical-to-emotional connection that we had. From the get-go. From the slight touch to the back (which I still absolutely love) walking out of a restaurant, to a hug, to a glance, to a smile. It all ties together. It was there. We shared it, believed it, and cultivated it. From day one.

Unlike anything else I’d experienced, there was no force-fit. There was no compromising on what I envisioned him to be and what he was. There was no settling on any of my dealbreakers and dealmakers. (and my list was truly feasible, not far-fetched!) So no matter how long you’re single, if you’re ‘single long enough’ after your divorce or breakup (whatever the heck that means…it’s truly different for each and every one of us! There’s no rulebook or guideline), when you know…you just do. 

It’s why the connection matters.

 

Stories that define me: facing fears.

*This is the third in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*

I think fear is largely innate…and maybe that’s just my opinion because of the observations I’m about to share. But think about it…I don’t know anyone that was born fearless. I think facing and overcoming fears is a learned trait and one that everyone has to overcome in their lives at least once, or maybe over and over again until they see fear as a propeller towards growth rather than a paralysis mechanism.

Growing up, one of my biggest ‘innate’ fears was being alone and doing things alone (I touched on this in one of my last posts in this series). I firmly believe this innate fear for me is because I never had to do anything alone. I always had my sisters. We experienced every ‘first’ together during childhood and adolescence, for the most part. Moving away from the pack was unnatural for me and well, scary. Enter fear.

For me, fear meant being shy. It also meant sticking with the status quo. And that meant never sticking my neck out there or making decisions that were different from what my sisters did or different from what I was comfortable with. Enter comfort zone. See, fear and comfort zone are so closely tied together for me, it’s ridiculous. (and I realize that this isn’t a unique fear or finding…I am sure this may be more normal for many, but looking back at my patterns is really helping me continue to break out of comfort zones and unseat them more). And once I am stuck in my comfort zone, it’s really REALLY hard to climb out and decide to do something different.

While I’d love to say that my divorce helped me face fears more than anything else, that wasn’t a decision…it was forced upon me to cope with. That first year of separation and living alone and facing all sorts of fears was not by choice, it was not something I ever would have done on my own. And not to diss my own growth or discount what I went through, facing fears during that time was involuntary…but looking back, it really made me realize just how many fears I had and how many were so deeply seated. Living alone. BEING alone. Doing things independently. Taking chances, risks, trying new things. All foreign concepts to me. So while I faced my fears during this time, what I faced more was just how comfortable I’d gotten in my little nook of comfort and how little I was actually growing. I think fear, fear of change, routine and being in a comfort zone were contributing factors to my divorce, unbeknownst to me until…now. I firmly see that more than I ever did before. And it makes me more thankful for where I am today in my life.

I think that the ultimate change for me, in facing my fears head-on rather than pushing them aside for sake of the status quo and comfort zone, was starting my job. And not just any job. But a job halfway across the country. A job that would force me to be more verbal, present myself more confidently, and prove myself. A job that would also allow me to hone the skills I’d cultivated for the past 8 years at my previous job (8 years PLUS…talk about comfort zones!!) and learn new ones. Teach myself more about the areas I consider myself weak in. ASK QUESTIONS. <<-for some reason, I have always been afraid of asking questions for fear of sounding stupid…but ya know what? if I don’t ask the question and try to fake it, that usually backfires more than just asking the damn question. Truth. A lesson I learn all the time, over and over again. 

Taking this job was sort of the seachange moment for me…where things all of a sudden felt just a little bit less scary. Traveling alone. Being alone. Standing up in front of people alone. (notice a theme here…being ALONE!). alonealonealone. This is what has allowed me to face my fears. Doing it by myself. Alone. Sometimes because I have to, but other times because I choose to.

And on days where I feel that shyness creeping back up (today, for example, as I face a few meetings and things I need to do on my own as my boss is on vacation…it’s those fearful moments I had for almost the entire three-month maternity leave she had, where I was forced to ACT and BE and DO…but I did it then, and I can do it now, right?!), and that fear driving me away from what I need to do, instead of towards it, I am going to harness the fear for good and ACT and BE and DO all over again.

Because that’s how I roll now…I face fear. I use it to motivate, not paralyze. It’s an everyday process and an everyday learning cycle for me, but for me, facing fears has been more rewarding than almost anything I can think of to equate it to.

How about you? Are you good at facing fears? Do you instinctively shy away from it? What have you learned from your own patterns when it comes to fear? 

Stories that define me: on comparison and identity

*This is the second in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*

It’s no secret that I have always struggled with comparing myself to others, and that includes my sisters.

And honestly, I think the basis for that comparison is pretty closely tied to growing up as a triplet, where comparisons are almost automatic, or par for the course. As much as I would not trade being a triplet (or what it’s like being a triplet!), being compared and searching to find my own identity over and over growing up, and even now, is something I wish I didn’t struggle so much with.

Growing up, we were in the same class (small, private school) from K-4. Fifth grade was the year we split off into two separate classrooms (naturally, Jess and I stuck to one classroom and Jen was brave enough to venture out on her own into the other classroom, where – side note – she met her now-husband for the very first time! Fate?). Middle school through high school, Jess and I were ‘the twins’ by default, lumped together, neither having a true identity to much of anyone, to be honest. As we got older, it was – who is the first to have a boyfriend (for the record, I was last…at 17. Jen was first, and her now-husband WAS her first boyfriend too! Jess was second, at 15 [I think?!] and then me), who got the best grades, who has the cuter outfit, who is more talented. (note: it wasn’t so much as we comparing between each other, just my observations outwardly, looking back at that time).  To college…Jen, again, went her own route, studying Biology at a nearby college. While Jess and I both opted for community college first (Liberal Arts) and then the very same college (shocker, I know) for communications. We both had the same internship, the same high school and college jobs and so on. The first shift in this was our first post-college jobs. Jess got hers right out of the gate, and went into graduation with a job. Me? Notsmuch. It took me four months to land my first job (which, incidentally, was the job I was at until I got the job I have now. 8.5 years at the same place).

That was probably the first time I felt like a failure. Both of my sisters had post-graduation plans. Jen, to grad school in Florida. Jess, to her first job in media planning. That summer was one of the hardest for me, as I stuck it out at the job I had all through college (and high school…and, again, where Jess met her now-husband, who, incidentally, was MY friend first. I take credit for making sure their first date happened…ask me about that story one day!). Wearing the same supermarket uniform I’d worn for the last 7 years, while Jess was off to her fancy job and Jen was thousands of miles away at grad school.

That was also probably the first time I truly compared myself. And certainly not the last. And I don’t write this as a woe-is-me in the slightest, I write this because I am exploring where this comparison mentality comes in, and how I have worked to surpass that and break out into my own identity.  An identity I struggled with for years. And one I don’t truly think came bubbling to the top until one of – if not, the biggest – inflection points in my life.

Divorce.

Yup. There’s that word again.

When I started going through my divorce and being divorced…that is what made me different. At first, I wanted to run from that label. Hide it. Bury it deep. Resist those failure feelings all over again (since, again, both of my sisters were married, and both before me, yet I was the one getting divorced…). But then, I embraced it. I started my first blog to chronicle the ‘me’ then, what I learned, and who I became….who I’ve become.

When I went through my divorce was the first time I really focused heavily on workouts, challenges, and goals, when it came to fitness. It was a time where I began working out 5-6 days a week, not 2-3. When I first started running. And lifting weights. And caring what I looked like. Before, I cared, sure, but I never put myself first, or invested in me. And that change, that shift in priority was one of the best things I ever did. I never wrote about it, or talked about it, even, I just worked out, and worked out hard. Jess and I soon shared this similar interest, running together, training to become Group Kick instructors, and eventually…to the barre n9ne challenge (one of the best things I ever did was submit us for that contest!!).

Why am I writing about all of this? Because, for the first time, I want to see myself for all that I have accomplished, not for all that I am not. Yes, I am divorced, but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Yes, I struggle with body-image, but I think if I never did, I’d never appreciate what I have learned from this experience, from fighting past it, squelching bad habits, and namely, the comparison game. And yes, I still struggle with comparing. And I still struggle with my body (though it’s much less!), but the one thing I will never struggle with? Being proud of who I am, what I have accomplished, and what I have shaped myself to be, since my divorce. And nothing can rip that away from me. I won’t let it. I won’t let ME be the one doing the ripping, either. Divorce was the catalyst, not the definer…to me, finally creating my own identity. An identity that’s mine and only mine.

Quietly determined. Stoic. Focused. Too serious sometimes, perhaps. But happy, confident, and focused more than ever on ME. Who I am. Not who I am NOT.