Moving on is not a relationship status.Read More
time. The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present and future regarded as a whole.
The indefinite continued progress.
Forward movement that has no clear stopping point. Time is perpetual growth. We continue on until we don't.
Is success measured by your investment of time?
Think about the feeling of success. What provides the feeling of success in something? Success is the reward or praise for an action or accomplishment. Success is achieving a positive outcome based on action.
Consider career success as an example. If a person who has a very successful career were asked, "How much time do you invest in your work?" Their answer would be, at minimum, more than 50%. If a person's capacity to invest time uses a value of 100%, then at least half of a person's time would be invested in activities that generate career success. Divide the remaining 50% of available time between family, significant other, oneself, hobbies, health and other components of life. Time can't be evenly distributed. The less time invested into something directly impacts success in that same thing. In this example, if a total of 15% (if you're lucky) of time is spent on marriage- then there is less aptitude to feel successful.
It's natural to assume that someone who is divorced isn't necessarily supportive of marriage. For me, it's the complete opposite. I forced a marriage because I wanted a family so desperately. Deep down it's probably something that I still want, except now I completely realize how truly difficult it is. I also had to accept and make changes in my life because what I had originally chosen wasn't right. What I've learned is how very difficult it is to sustain all of life's truest gifts. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well." Difficult doesn't have to mean miserable. It means needing effort or skill to accomplish, deal with or understand something. We can't accomplish anything in life without effort (time), pain (growth) and difficulty (achievement).
When I hear other people talk negatively about their relationships, specifically marriages, I always ask, "How much time do you spend on your career?" Let's say the answer is 70%. Then I ask, "How much time do you invest in your marriage?" There is usually no answer. Then I say, "If you reversed the amount of time that you spend on your marriage with the amount of time that you spend working, would you complain if your career started failing?" The point is that happiness and feeling successful in something is directly related to the amount of time invested.
Realize that you have the power to improve anything in your life no matter what the circumstances are. All you need to do is make time.
Many of us, at one time or another, have asked ourselves that one pivotal question; "What is my purpose?" A sense of purpose gives meaning to our lives, it defines who we are and what our legacy will be. What impact will we, as individuals, have on the world? Is the purpose of our quest to define our individual purpose, really just a way for us to define our connection to life and the world?
noun pur·pose \ˈpər-pəs\
: the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something
: the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something
: the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc.
According to Merriam Webster
What does purpose really mean? How does a defined purpose dictate interactions? What defines who you are?
The list is nearly infinite. Purpose can be quantified in adjective, noun or verb- attribute, title or function. Trying to validate purpose can perpetuate. Defining individual purpose can alter the entire way we view the world and our connection to it. Happiness and purpose mirror one another.
There is no road map to navigate through this process. It somehow seems to evolve over the course of life.
What happens if and when you lose your purpose?
Purpose provides a sense of meaning. It validates the ShouldBe. Having a sense of purpose feeds the ego and creates positive self-esteem. Purpose establishes and measures happiness. It allows for a sense of community. It creates an environment where we feel a part of something, connected.
It's taken me more than eight months to write this post. In that time, I've allowed all of these questions to swarm through my mind like bees in the hive; rolling incessantly over one-another. I lost my purpose. I felt as though I lost myself and I certainly felt connected to nothing, meaningless. Finding myself yet again at another crossroad in my life, I vetted through all of these questions. I tried to find a road map within the ambiguity of it all, stumbling along while trying to regain my footing. It took more than eight months, a lot of wine and countless tears for me to come to the following conclusion; that I likely carried with me all along.
Human beings, for what ever reason, need to feel appreciated. It doesn't matter what adjective, noun or verb- attribute, title or function- that we choose to define ourselves; we need to feel appreciated for our role. Appreciation validates our importance- our purpose. When we're no longer appreciated, we're no longer able to experience happiness in being "good" at something, a part of something or in community.
Appreciation is the key to feeling a sense of connection.
Seeing the importance of appreciation within the human condition made me realize two very important things.
- Diversify what adjectives, nouns or verbs- attributes, titles or functions- that you use to define yourself.
- It 's critically important to appreciate one another for even the smallest things.
Diversify what adjectives, nouns or verbs- attributes, titles or functions- that you use to define yourself. If we only define ourselves with one purpose, for example a mother, then what happens if the appreciation for this single function is lost? If there aren't multiple roles defining purpose, then there is little ability to adapt to change as life shifts course in the way that it inevitably does.
It's critically important to appreciate one another for even the smallest things. Let's go back to the example role of a mother. You, as a mother, take care of baby or child all day. There is no thanks for this work. The baby doesn't look up after a feeding and say, "Thanks for waking up every hour with me to feed me mom, you were great!" If there is no validation, this mother will lose her sense of purpose even knowing how important she is in raising her child. This is where it's her husband or partner's role to provide this critical validation. This is also why it's so important for the mother to diversify her roles in order to incorporate aspects that provide her with external validation and praise.
As a partner, do you appreciate and validate your partner enough?
Are you diversifying the roles in your life enough in order to arm yourself with the necessary praise required to fill your ego and self-esteem?
I don't have the answers. There is no rule book. You have to map it out. Challenge yourself to be better. Challenge yourself to evolve. Challenge yourself to appreciate where you are in your journey. Forget about where you ShouldBe.
Comment, criticize, or share...
I am no stranger to a selfie! I find a sense of amusement in the entire concept of social media. I'd say that for me personally, I find so much joy in observing all of the various behavioral patterns. I've even pushed the limits on my own content just to study what my personal audience does or doesn't engage in. I sometimes post ridiculous things, as if I were serious, simply for my own amusement. I'm sure that there's a level of boredom associated with this type of behavior, but either way the novelty rarely wears off for me. I find it all intriguing and completely confusing at the same time.
The creators of social media platforms are geniuses. I don't think anyone could really argue that. More than creating something revolutionary, I think social media is one of the greatest social behavioral experiments of all time.
What are we missing from our real lives that makes us so enthralled with connecting online? What does the internet do to our psyche?
For some people, I think it provides a level of validation. Online you can proclaim the achievements of all of your ShouldBe's in a strategic fashion. I know this may seem like a strong statement, but I only say it because I've totally done it. I think most of us have on some level.
Recently, I've begun to pause and evaluate my state of mind right before I make a post. I've found that when I'm taking a selfie I'm doing it for my own self-esteem. There's a level of insecurity occurring in my life when I feel the urge to selfie. I have this ideal in my mind of what a "pretty" version of myself looks like. If I find myself appearing as my "pretty" self, I capture it, for no one other than myself. It's total weird. At the same time, for someone like me who has struggled connecting my inner and outer being; I consider the whole process of taking a selfie to be a form of self love in a very odd demeanor. There has been a lot of talk in the media about selfies being an indication of narcissism. I don't particularly agree, and not because I've done it. I genuinely think that, a lot of times (not all the time), selfies frequently display signs of insecurity.
I've begun to explore how the Internet and social media affect relationships. The individual insecurity projected through selfies can also translate to relationships and relationship statuses. I've seen some of the worst relationships broadcasted as the greatest love stories across social media-my marriage included. I highlighted every moment from our adventures together, to moving in together, to buying a home, to our engagement, to getting married, the honey moon and finally getting a dog. I'm definitely not saying that all of those moments were terrible or that I wasn't satisfied. I am questioning why I felt the need to put them on display. All I wanted to do was hide the divorce though. Why? None of it was real, that's why. My parade of happy moments on social media completely masked my reality. Those posts weren't for my "friends". Those posts were an attempt to convince myself that I was happy when I wasn't. That's my truth. Please remember, that I am speaking from personal experience. I don't mean to generalize and lump every person into one category. Let's be honest though, for the most part, it's pretty true.
I've become increasingly afraid of the negative impact that infinite access to the opposite sex has on relationships, not to mention, the increased opportunity for infidelity that social media breeds.
You never truly know someone, ever. Someone told me once that finding your soulmate is pretty much like hitting the lottery. The rarity of it makes my heart heavy. The ability to connect online opens you up to a whole world full of people you would otherwise miss the opportunity for an introduction under more traditional interactions- like meeting at a bar. While this may seem like an opportunity, it's also very scaryas well. Technology gives us the ability to portray who we want others to think we are without actually being that person. It's an ingenious branding method but it can be fraudulent at the same time. I can say online that I'm a thoughtful person. I can say online that I'm honest. I can say online that I'm all sorts of things. There are infinite "things" that I can present myself as online. You literally can be anyone. BUT...You can't see me hold the door open for a stranger or give money to a homeless person online. You can't look deep into my eyes and soul when I'm speaking and know whether or not I'm being honest online. I feel the same way about texting. Whether it's online or texting, you have an altered sense of reality. You never truly know what's real.
I want to sit across the table from a man and notice how nervous he is talking to me. I want to see his pursed lipped smile when what I've said means something special to him. I want to see when he doesn't like something I've said. If you genuinely like me I want to know it. Conversely, if you genuinely aren't feeling a connection to me I also want to know it. I want realness. It baffles me how difficult it is for people to just be real. It's difficult for me to wrap my brain around the idea that people don't genuinely communicate how they feel. It seems effortless to me, and yet more often than not I bare witness to sugar coated technology driven communication that is all together perplexing. I think that this type of quasi-cowardly behavior, that a lot of us have participated in, devalues relationships and face-to-face communication. Simply, there is something very different and real that happens during communication in person that can never exist online or via text. Why avoid that realness?
I genuinely struggle believing anything anyone says online or via text anymore. It's not real to me. It's an altered reality for us to become something that fills some sort of void. I'm not being judgmental. I'm not being hypocritical either. I'm fully aware that I'm an active participant. I'd even say that this blog fills a void for me. I'm not even saying it's a bad thing. I'm just asking if you've ever paused before a post or before you've sent a text and asked yourself, "what is my intention?" I haven't until recently. I've posted and texted some crazy things, particularly, early on in my divorce.
We have to stop and ask ourselves:
What are we doing? What is it that the internet and the lack of personal interaction brings to us? What drives the confidence we feel in front of a computer screen or a cell phone that we aren't able to have in real life?
You tell me...
I had every intension of posting about a completely different subject, but I had to pause and take a moment to vent about something that's really been bothering me. I'll begin first by saying again that I believe in marriage. I understand all of the religious, legal and social obligations surrounding it. I also understand that we're faced with a society that fosters what ShouldBe. I'm not saying that all of the ShouldBe's in life are bad or negative either. I'm simply committed to forcing people to question the norm and judge others less if and when they choose a different path, because it's what's right for them.
There's a level of emotional negativity that I feel when someone pities my life. People frequently have looked deep into my eyes, held my hand and told me how sorry for me they are because I'm divorced. I completely understand that their intension is to comfort me, but honestly it's actually insulting when someone assumes that it's sad for me to be single. There are definitely days when I am sad. There are days when I could use affection and attention. There are days when I do wish I had a partner. Some days, I do just want to lay in my bed and pretend that the world doesn't exist; but I feel like that's simply a part of life, and it's not specific to my life in particular. All of us have some days that aren't the best. All of us miss things that we don't have. Right now for me a relationship is just one of those things.
MY LIFE IS NOT SAD.
Why is it sad if someone isn't married? Why is it sad if someone doesn't have children? I was definitely one to have pitied someone who was older and never married or never had kids. Why? My current position has since shifted how I feel in this regard. I can't speak for every single or divorced person out there, but I'm not sad. It's not sad that I got divorced. It was the best decision that I've ever made in my entire life. I'm living for the first time in my life. I'm exploring people and relationships for the first time. I go through each day with an awareness that I never thought existed. My life is beautiful. All lives are beautiful quite frankly. Just because a life is different or someone is experiencing something that you couldn't imagine, or you feel like you couldn't deal with, doesn't mean that life is sad or has any less value. Who am I to pity someone else?
There is a huge difference between pity and empathy. I think that a lot of people whose intention is to show empathy actual display pity.
Pity: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
When you tell me how sorry you are for what is happening in my life you are implying your judgment and that I'm suffering and/or having misfortune. I'm sure that for some people, getting divorced is a misfortune. There was even a time for me when it was. I suppose that pity could be acceptable if I've shared my sadness with you. Regardless of its appropriateness, there is a sense of judgment associated with pity. Pity has a level of negativity that is hurtful when you're on the receiving end. Essentially, pity makes me feel abnormal. Pity makes me feel different and disconnected. Empathy connects us. It relates us to one another. Empathy is a significantly less judgmental alternative to express concern.
No one wants to be pitied, but everyone can benefit from empathy. I challenge you. Before you tell someone how sorry you are for what they're experiencing, stop and ask yourself- am I really sorry for their life? Chances are you're not. Life is a journey and we learn the most pivotal lessons through the hardest struggles. Our hardships aren't something to pity, they're something to admire and embrace as we power through and overcome.
I'm not sad about my life. I'm not sad for you either, but I do get you (or at least I'll try to). Share this post with someone who you empathize with. Celebrate their journey and honor their life.
One of my goals for the ShouldBe Society was to make an attempt to be extremely thoughtful in my posts. Offending someone is the last thing I'd want. I want people to feel connected and less alone on whatever level that may be. With that said, it was necessary for me to turn inwards over the last few weeks as I navigated through an emotional period.
It's no secret that I've been moving through a divorce. I'm sure that most people can relate to the pain associated with dealing with any kind of a breakup. While breakups are difficult, I've found that it's very different from when you divorce someone. A looming possibility of breaking up always exists while dating. This can be very hurtful a lot of times, particularly, if you're the one being rejected. I think that's why so many people rush into getting married. Marriage provides a sense of security that differs from the commitment of dating and/or living together. It legally and spiritually fuses you to one another. For me, my marriage was more than just a vow to my husband. It was a promise to myself and my life. No one enters into marriage believing that it won't last forever. You get married with the specific intension of forever. A divorce is more than a breakup, it's the dissolution of the contract of forever. It doesn't matter how long you were married. Divorce is the death of a life, a dream and a promise. There's a sense of emptiness, grief and despair that can't truly be understood until you've felt it's wrath.
I've known that the official processing of my divorce was imminent. I knew that I'd be getting the final decree in the mail. What I didn't know, and what I wasn't prepared for, was the pain that I'd feel looking at the court sealed document officially announcing that I'd failed at the only thing that I'd ever truly wanted in life.
The only analogy I have is to compare it to the terminal illness of a family member or a close friend. Clichéd or not, time and the world literally slow their movement as the doctors tell you that the end is near. You're thoughtless for a moment before you allow yourself time to process the information. There's no immediate reaction available because your body has begun to let shock take over. You enter a state of being paralyzed. As you regain some of your senses, you put forth your best effort to gain some closure as life approaches its final stages. No matter how much time you have to prepare for death, no matter how much closure you think you have; the loss always aches the same. The grief is never lessened or prevented. It can only be felt in its truest capacity.
Grief is a nonstop train. All you can do is allow it to happen and then let it pass.
So, for the last few weeks that's where I've been; allowing the grief to pass. I'm sure it's no surprise that during this time I've done a lot of thinking about relationships and love. I suppose that's pretty much all I ever think about. While I think all sorts of things, I don't often find myself at a place where I truly believe something. A thought can change but a belief becomes part of your soul and who you are. I don't think that beliefs can change all that much.
I'm beginning to believe that I've found the paradigm for how men and women experience love. There are two separate components that explain what makes a man feel loved. Conversely, there are two completely different components that make a woman feel loved. It's my belief that a man needs to feel respected and appreciated in a relationship in order to "feel" loved. A woman needs validation through a sense of intimacy and safety in order to "feel" loved. I mean closeness and affection less than physical intimacy. This is where the communication gap lies.
respect and appreciation vs. intimacy and safety
Now, what makes a man feel appreciated and respected will vary tremendously from man to man; as well as, how much of each component he needs. One man might need more appreciation than respect and vice versa. The same can be said for women. How a woman receives intimacy or feels safe will vary from woman to woman. Some women might be looking for financial stability from a man, which would be considered safety. Another might need to feel physically safe in the presence of a man, and thus find herself seeking out high testosterone males. It's completely possible that this could also translate into same-sex couples, but I don't feel confident in commenting not being an expert. I will leave that to those of you who understand the subject more personally.
My conclusion is this, love is not about how you feel. Love is about how you make other people feel. Do you know what someone else needs? Are you aware of who they truly are? If you don't understand someone's needs can you ever really love them? For me, the answer is no. If you never get outside of yourself you can not love someone else.
I challenge you if you are in a relationship. Ask yourself, "What makes my partner feel loved?" Do you know the answer? Does the answer fall within the two basic categories? Now, ask yourself, "How do I feel love?" Do you know yourself?
You tell me. Comment, criticize, or share...
I couldn't save myself, so I set out to save everyone else.
I've spent my entire life trying to make up for the fact that I let myself be abused for so long. The only effort that seemed to provide any kind of relief was in turn protecting or helping those who I love, or those who are in need. I'm a fixer. I've become extremely versed in the art of fixing other people's problems. It's also one of the ways in which I show my love and gratitude for someone. I find my self-worth in serving others.
When does being helpful actually become hurtful?
I can't speak for all women, but there's an inherent quality in me that enables me to deeply connect to other people and their problems. It has become almost a sixth sense to where I can actually feel what other people feel. Simply, I have a heightened sense of empathy, almost to a fault. Overtime, I've clung very tightly to the qualities that I slowly discovered were a strength of mine. This helped me to focus and keep moving through the darkness. My creativity and helpfulness became two of my strongest personality traits, my gifts and my purpose.
Sometimes, I find myself so caught up and invested in everyone else's issues; and I forget that I'm not meeting my own needs. How do you balance being a friend, a wife , a mother, a sibling, a daughter, a philanthropist, a career and/or any other role that you choose to take on; and be successful at all of them simultaneously? How do you measure that success? How do you maintain success in all of your roles, while taking care of yourself at the same time? This is extremely overwhelming and something that I think a lot of people, not just women, struggle with.
How do we truly find a balance?
Recently, I have been beginning to really understand how being helpful might not always be truly healthy in relationships. Let's explore a hypothetical scenario.
I have a magnetic attraction to a man. In his presence, I feel like my inner being connects with my physical body, and I feel inexplicably and overwhelmingly empowered. The feeling is organic and new. It's as though he's held a mirror up to awaken me to realize how the world perceives me, and I've fallen madly in love with the woman in the mirror.
I'm not in love with him. I don't know him all that well, but I'm so thankful for his support and the perspective that he's given me through this transition. This is a debt that I seemingly can't repay. My past experiences have been rare in meeting a man who's so supportive. I'm so inspired by his compassion that I'm compelled to show him how very much I appreciate him.
I begin to reciprocate truly listening whenever we converse. My imagination becomes flooded with all the ideas in which I could address or resolve his problems. I start to take concrete steps in sharing my ideas and proposed improvements to bring resolution. I'm wildly passionate and also very able to bring ideas into fruition fairly quickly. Knowing my strengths, I move forward with repaying my debt in an effort to improve his life in the way that he's enhanced mine.
Here's the problem!
He doesn't know that he has impacted me that significantly, because there is a layer of superficiality that I reserve in order to protect myself. More simply, I haven't communicated my feelings. He's a very strong and successful man. He likely doesn't need my help. Thus, my intended "helpfulness'' and "thankfulness" actually translates as potential disrespect and implied incompetence from his perspective. What began with great intent is mistranslated with the poorest of outcomes. The interaction is quickly over before it's even started, because respect is more important to him than feeling loved.
I think this type of interaction, on some level, happens a lot between men and women. Regardless, it still spreads light illuminating a bigger picture. Our intention is only as good as our communication and our delivery. You can never assume that someone understands your motives. You also can't predict how someone will perceive your actions.
For now, my conclusion is this- the balance between being helpful and harmful in relationships can be determined by whether or not someone has solicited help. People complain as a natural form of communication, which very simply is just venting. The expression of experiencing a problem doesn't always mean that a person is seeking assistance. What I've recently found success in is asking the direct question, "How can I help you?" This has been effective in two major ways. One, it's very clear if they need help and are willing to accept it. Second, it's also very clear if your listening is help enough. If they aren't interested in the assistance the questions still shows your support, and that you're willing to be there should they feel more comfortable in the future. This is received with much more appreciation than the wildly passionate natural response detailed in the "scenario".
It's also really important to balance you're role in helping other people with their problems. Boundaries are essential. We can never truly be there for someone else if we aren't taking care of ourselves. I know that I need to be aware of the indicators that I subconsciously display when I start experiencing what I call "fixer burnout". This is when you've instinctively gotten yourself too caught up in the lives of those you love, and need to make a better effort to self-love. The fixers out there know exactly what I mean!
More and more, I realize the significance of both communication and setting healthy boundaries in relationships. I think sometimes people are scared to take these steps because they're afraid of making someone else feel badly. We feel how we feel though. Hiding or denying how we feel towards others only ultimately hurts them more than it would to simply set clear boundaries and communicate effectively. Being genuine is everything. I think people respect you more when you are thoughtfully direct. It's never what you say, but how you say it.
Take away- being a fixer is a great quality and being passionate is also beautiful. If you take care of yourself and communicate thoughtfully, being a fixer can really empower the people who you encounter. Sometimes, I do forget that I can't save the world; but that doesn't mean that I won't keep trying!
You tell me- How do you balance the roles you play in your life?
Comment, criticize, or share.
Certain secrets just aren’t healthy to carry with you. It’s always felt like I went through life carrying an added weight to my soul. I felt like I was participating in a triathlon; but was the only participant who had to carry a backpack of everything that I owned, without any additional training. The struggle to persevere through running, biking and swimming is hard enough; without the added weight. The weight of the pack always grew as I traveled each mile. At a certain point, the weight was so great that I was falling so far behind everyone else. I was alone in a wasteland, with a bunch of things I didn’t need. No one was there to pick me up when I'd fall.
The last 9 months have felt like I was in the last stretch of the race. The weight of the pack was pulling me under water. I felt like I was literally drowning. Sometimes pressure can bring about an awareness that you never imagined. Suffocating, I realized that I didn't need the pack anymore. In Fact, I likely never needed to carry it with me in the first place. What I thought I needed to carry with me was nothing of what I needed moving forward. I made the difficult decision to drop that shit and watch it tumble and sink without me attached. I gained so much strength carrying the baggage for so long, that I was able to take off moving forward with great speed. Whoever handed me that pack in the first place must have known my destination.
Letting go of all of the ShouldBe’s in my life was miraculous. My secret slowly ate away at my soul. Do you know how difficult it is to hide a life altering traumatic experience every day for an extended period of time?
Let me explain what it was like for me.
Your entire life slowly changes its course in the universe and you begin revolving your life around hiding your secret. There isn’t one choice that you make that doesn’t have the goal of covering up your secret at its root. I couldn’t make eye contact or feel comfortable if someone was within an arm's length of me. I always felt that if someone got too close, or if I looked them in the eyes for too long, then they would know that I wasn’t at all the person that I’d projected myself to be. They would know that something was “wrong” with me. Living in that sort of survival mode on a daily basis is poisoning.
There is no timeline that indicates when a person ShouldBe "over" something that happened in the past. Yes, it's extremely important to move forward in life; but letting go isn't always so easy. A lot of times, we think that we've let go only to realize that we are still living and breathing it.
My abuse is something that I deal with on a daily basis. Even today, I still have to manage issues that are residual. I'm not angry anymore because I realize now that any issues I'm working on, at one point, helped me survive- and for that I'm so thankful. Trauma affects each person differently. Where one person may move through the experience more quickly, another may be held there to manage the emotions longer. Trauma is like anything else in life, it's a personal experience that doesn't have designated structure and varies person to person. It reminds me of chemotherapy, there is no known reason for it but some people just tolerate the chemo better than others. You simply have to manage your symptoms in your own way.
I’m not saying that every person needs to take to the internet and detail all of their problems. What I am saying is that keeping a secret in order to hide who you truly are will kill your spirit. Whether you confide in a friend, a family member or seek out a therapist; you have to admit that you are struggling in order to find a way to really live. You have to ask for help AND be willing to help yourself.
I’m also saying that you absolutely can’t be critical and judge someone. Struggling doesn't make someone weak. Different situations cause people to act differently. The beauty of life, and the world, is that each of us are different. It's crucial in moving forward as a person that we respect our differences. I can’t expect every person to understand all of my struggles and I can’t expect everyone to understand why I am writing about all of this so publicly. That’s all ok, because if you don’t understand me then the message isn’t for you. That’s all part of life.
However, if there's one of you out there that feels less alone by my story; if there's one of you who's able to acknowledge what you need to do for you; or if there's only one person out there that finds a sense of peace in what I’ve learned- then every minute of what I’ve survived was worth it. You are not alone. I’m right here with you. My pain is kin to yours. I’m not special. I’m just like you, trying to figure out who I am and what life means. I'm just trying to make sense of it all too. You can make the changes that you need to in order to preserve. Choose to let go of the backpack you’ve been carrying. Do you really need it anymore? Did you ever really need to carry it?
Share this with someone who's struggling. Let them know that they are not alone!
I was lucky enough to participate in a poverty simulation recently. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a poverty simulation- much like its name- is a role playing activity that helps individuals explore the complexities of an impoverished lifestyle. It's a team building activity that guides you through life scenarios that help you better understand the harsh realities of decision making under the stress of poverty. It's a very in depth exploration, particularly for those who aren't regularly impacted by or involved with poverty.
Each person in the simulation was assigned a role within a family. I was the only single person household assigned in the simulation. The irony! The facilitator handed me a large packet that read Single Family Household. I literally thought to myself, "It totally figures." I just laughed and decided that I'd try to embrace it and make the most of it, like I've tried to do with everything else in my life.
The simulation took place in a series of four- 15 minute intervals; each interval symbolizing one week of a four week month. My name was Vince. Vince was an 85-year-old widower, who was living on social security. As I looked through my information packet, I quickly began mapping out my plan like your typical type-A individual would. It looked something like this:
- Hit the bank up first. Cash the SSI check and pay the pre-planned burial fee.
- Head to buy bus vouchers to get around. Would need a minimum of 6, one to and from each trip left.
- Swing by the grocery store for monthly food and meds.
- Stop by and pay the utilities.
- Pay the mortgage.
I completed items 1-4 on my list during the first week. The second week the mortgage company was closed, so I sat at home that week. I got out to pay my mortgage during the third week. Someone tried to rob me at gunpoint. I told the robber that I was 85 and that I wished he'd shoot me. Needless to say, he didn't shoot me or rob me. I sat at home the remainder of the third and fourth weeks.
I was one of very few who finished the simulation with all of my bills paid and some money left over. I spent the majority of the simulation sitting in my chair watching all of the activity around me. This was very reminiscent of my life up until recently; the silent observer- thoughtfully engaged in watching what's happening, but never an active participant. At first, I was pissed that I really wasn't getting the opportunity to participate. Then, I realized that I'd received an even greater gift.
I came to two major realizations. First, this experience really affirmed what I've already been exploring; which is the importance of relationships and connecting with other people. In the simulation, I played by the rules. I was an example of someone who's made safe decisions. I'd made all of the appropriate life choices that allowed me to find stability; but this stability was at the cost of really living. I was missing out completely on living the remainder of my hypothetical life. My problems were very small; and yet I still felt like I wished I could be out with everyone else who was struggling. I had no sense of community. There was a moment where I realized how I could've ended up in my real life had I not made the challenging decisions that I'd made over the last year. This was so powerful. We often forget through our daily lives how important connecting with one another is. It really brought home what we've been talking about in the blog. You can play by all the rules; but without feeling a sense of community, what do we really have?
Second, I observed something very enlightening in those who participated in the simulation. There was a sense of excitement as they interacted with one another. They quickly and uninhibitedly shared their situations or their "stories". There was an even greater sense of accomplishment when they reconnected later in the "month". They'd explain to each other what they were or were't able to accomplish and where they found the best resources. In not participating, I realized that it was almost instinctual for everyone to share their stories. In this pretend scenario, judgement didn't exist! People were so much more uninhibited in sharing themselves when they were free from the fear of being judged. This was so beautiful to me.
As you start your week, I encourage you to let go of both your judgments of others and the fear of being judged yourself. What does this bring you?
Comment, debate and share!
Next topic starts Thursday. Email info@theShouldBeSociety to submit content suggestions.
So this is basically how the process will work. I will post an anecdotal story and lead the discussion with some questions that I hope for us to explore. I will allow time for the conversation to evolve and then, based on activity, I will do a follow-up summary post.
One important thing to keep in mind is that you can comment on the site without entering your personal information. When you comment, a box will pop up asking for your name and information. The name field is all that is required to post a comment. You may enter "anonymous" if you aren't comfortable sharing your name. I don't know who the author of the post is if you choose to be anonymous. There is no tracking. I'd much rather you click the join link, enroll in the blog eNews letter and post anonymously than you be afraid to share!
It has taken me a very long time to get to a place where I am ok with sharing myself; and I don't expect that other people will be as openly public with the intimate details of their lives, what they think and how they feel. I realize how private these struggles can be. Anonymous is completely acceptable.
Expect the summary post tomorrow night! Don't forget to send any topic request to info@theShouldBeSociety.com. You can submit guest blogger requests to that email as well.
The outpouring of support for the first Should Be Society blog post was overwhelming for me and so very much appreciated. I knew that I'd be vulnerable starting a blog and opening myself up to potential criticism. The internet can be a scary place sometimes. People can be fearless in their attacks when armed with a computer screen in front of them as a solid defense. It reminds me of what I imagine colonization or expanding the western frontier might have been like. It’s intimidating going up against a firearm when equipped with merely a bow and arrow. Sometimes, you just have to trust and follow your intuition no matter how frightening the circumstances are. This process and my recent experiences have been both terrifying and liberating at the same time. Thankfully, my story was received with such love and support. I'm truly forever grateful for all of your kindness.
Now, let's do this...
The concept for my blog was inspired by a Stranger. I can recall a very vivid moment when he said, “All women think that they're special, but everyone has a story.” My original conception was that he was completely ignorant. I was offended and angry because I'd let myself believe my entire life that I was special in order to find a will to survive. Who was he to tell me that I wasn't special? There would've been no hope for me if I didn't allow myself to believe that all of my suffering would lead to a greater purpose.
As I let his words take action in my mind, I quickly realized how unknowingly brilliant his statement was. It’s all about perspective, isn't it? I took his words to be so insulting at face value, when in reality, they were eloquent and poetic. He was right. What I didn’t understand initially was that it wasn’t a put down or an assumption that women weren’t special; it was simply a statement indicating the lack of connectedness that women feel towards one another. His perspective truly captured the loneliness women might feel in general about their individual journeys. I started thinking that feeling "I'm special", at the root of it all, actually might mean "I feel alone" subconsciously.
We are not alone! We all can feel alone in our journeys. Why? I've definitely been criticized before for being overly deep and too open. Clearly, on some level that’s true...hello-did you read ShouldBe blog post #1? I wasn’t always so open though and, to be honest, I hid my abuse by keeping it a secret for nearly 10 years. My recent exploration of brutal honesty is something new.
Let’s reasonably assume that most people prefer to reserve how deep they get and are more selective with whom and how they share their stories. What is it about being vulnerable that we fear? What holds us back from being fearlessly open about how we feel? Why is being human not socially acceptable? If you aren’t afraid of being judged, is there really anything left to be afraid of? Are we ultimately hiding the truth from ourselves when we don’t allow ourselves to share our stories?
Here's the real twister! I spent last night with my girlfriends. I thought about my post for today as I listened to them. We talked about my first post. We talked about how no one knew much of what I had gone through. The post made so many intricacies of my personality so much clearer. I felt so understood and free. On my way home, I blasted Sam Hunt in my headphones as I walked alone through downtown Pittsburgh back to my car. I'm not one for country but I am excessively in love with his music for whatever reason right now. Feeling a sense of nostalgia, I put my arms out and let the cool breeze move through my hair. I felt at peace for the first time. Then, it hit me. What if it's this simple. Eliminate judgment! Maybe we should be less concerned about the stories and just let people freely be who they are. Love them where they are not for what they are. Why do we need justification for everything anyways?
You tell me...
Comment, debate or share-just take action!
I am so grateful for the outpouring of support as I launched the blog with such a personal story of my experiences and evolution. I only hope to grow my perspectives further as we learn from each other through this process.
Before we jump into the conversation, I wanted to designate some ground rules for the communication that will occur.
- I don't expect every person to agree with the statements, views, suggestions and/or comments from myself or anyone else participating in the ShouldBe Society Blog conversations.
- I do expect that you will be extremely thoughtful in your comments. With that being said, it's imperative that contrary dialogue be issued respectfully.
- The ShouldBe Society does reserve the right to remove comments that are disrespectful, insulting, offensive and/or bullying in nature.
- This is a positive, nonjudgmental and supportive environment. I ask that you take your time and think about the purpose of the blog one last time before hitting "post".
This is a safe place for us to be real and explore life and love on an intimate level. Respect is everything.
Make sure you enter your information in the JOIN link, to receive notification of the most recent blog content. Also, remember to share the blog with your friends and family. The more who participate, the more we can achieve together!
I died when I was 10-years- old. I didn’t literally die or physically die; but it felt as though, at 10-years-old, a part of my soul was killed when I was molested for the first time. I lost a part of myself that day that has taken me nearly 20 years to get back. My innocence was ripped from me like a New Year's Eve confetti popper. It was as though one small string of my being was pulled from me igniting a massive eruption of all of the contents within. Such a tedious task trying to collect all of the tiny pieces and gather them back inside where they once were.
While this platform is not about my childhood or sexual abuse, it’s important to understand in general terms the foundation and catalyzing events that have led me to the realizations and questions that we will discuss and explore together in subsequent posts.
I didn’t know what happened to me that day or any of the other days that the abuse occurred over the following 10 years. It was natural for me to believe that it was happening to me as punishment for something that I had been doing wrong. That's where the genesis of the ShouldBe began for me. I allowed myself to believe that if I did everything that I should do, and became the person that I ShouldBe, the abuse would stop.
At 10-years-old, I set out on a quest for the ShouldBe; listening to everyone around me and becoming who I thought they wanted me to be, completely stifling my own desires. I created a disillusioned idea of what a woman ShouldBe, what life ShouldBe and ultimately who I ShouldBe. In reality, the only thing that stopped the abuse was me choosing to save myself, finding myself and being true to myself.
It took me 20 years- and the world crumbling around me- for me to realize that I was my own savior. All along, all I needed to do was love myself where I was and not where I thought I ShouldBe. That missing piece in my heart kept me from experiencing the freedom it is to be who you truly are. It also prevented me from living- I mean really living and loving life.
One year ago to the day, I had everything that I thought I wanted. I had just gotten married, owned a beautiful home in the suburbs, had a dog, financial stability and a successful career. I was on the brink of beginning my new family and a new life. I laid my abuse down to rest when I walked down the aisle and I saw my wedding day as a fresh start as a new woman. I felt as though I literally became a new person when I changed my name. My wedding day made me feel like I had the freedom to be myself for the first time in my life. I had no idea how true that was going to turn out to be.
I quickly realized after the wedding that even though I had everything that I dreamt life ShouldBe, I still found myself fearfully unhappy. Why? That was a question that swarmed through my mind tirelessly like bees in a hive. I'd been allowing people to desire for me my whole life, even down to the simplest of things like what I would eat for lunch. I didn’t know how to desire anything except for what I wore. In fact, shopping was the only indulgence that I've ever reserved for myself; which is probably why it became somewhat of an addiction. You can imagine my surprise when I literally woke up one morning with the strongest realization that my life had become a shell of what I thought it ShouldBe and nothing of what I truly wanted it to be. I had no idea how to deal with feeling a desire of my own for the first time. The thought of the number of people who were going to be impacted by my desire was completely terrifying considering that I've sacrificed myself for everyone else my entire life. I never believed that I really deserved happiness, so the only thing that resembled happiness for me was doing whatever I could to make everyone around me happy. Accepting that what I truly wanted would hurt all of the people who I loved was absolutely maddening. I genuinely felt like I was losing my mind. How was it possible that my heart wanted me to move in such a drastic direction? Why couldn’t I be happy with everything that I had?
Things can’t make you happy...that’s why.
It was a very difficult moment sharing with my husband that everything I thought I wanted, which included being a traditional mother and wife, was not who I felt I truly was. It wasn’t fair to go back and alter the expectations; but I knew in my heart that I could never be the mother and wife that I wanted to be if I stayed in the relationship that I'd settled in.
That single blessed moment of self realization set into motion a whirlwind of emotions and events that led me to re-evaluate everything that I've ever believed. When I say that I've questioned everything I mean everything about life and relationships; specifically, relating to love. This quest opened me to opportunities and relationships that have allowed me to realize that life is fluid. There is no one single way of living life the way it ShouldBe lived. We all have a story. We all struggle to understand our own desires. We all want to do the “right” things. We all place way too much pressure on ourselves and care way too much about what other people think about our choices and our feelings.
What I have realized is that there is so much out there to experience in life. We can’t limit ourselves and we shouldn’t have to feel caged or enticed to conform. I am divorced, childless, homeless, single and thirty and I can’t allow myself to care about the negative connotations any of these labels may hold. It has been extremely difficult for me to let go of how I thought my life ShouldBe and accept this new path, but I have to. I have to find happiness where I am. I've spent way too much time surviving life not to allow myself the freedom to truly live moving forward. I can’t rush through my life just to meet a self-imposed “deadline” that ultimately won’t bring me happiness. Letting go of the pesky worry about what other people will think and how they will judge me has been the ultimate struggle, and at times has intimidated me enough to contemplate retreating back into my old life. I struggle daily with the embarrassment that comes along with admitting out loud that I am all of these labels. This worry is completely self-inflicted though. When I find my mind becoming wrapped up in all of these “things” I try to remember that they are only temporary. These "things" are all short term definitions of my current state and they can’t truly define me because I'm also a lot of other really amazing "things". I can’t worry about my biological fertility clock that ticks away or that other people won’t understand why I chose this. Neither should you.
I am not here to bash marriage. I believe it to be a beautiful union of two souls. We were meant to share our lives and ourselves with each other. I believe in family and building a life and a home with someone. I want more than anything to be married and start a family. I wanted it so badly that I settled for something that wasn’t healthy for me. I am not here to promote my lifestyle or my choices. What I am here to do is spark honest conversations about what we struggle with as millennial women. No matter how old you are, and no matter your life stage, there are glamorous aspects and also very difficult situations that ALL of us deal with. It’s time that we respect each other and our differences. It’s time that we support each other. I want to talk about not just what’s amazing in my life but also the trials that I face. I want to hear from people that feel the same pain and joy. I want to be motivated and lifted up by my fellow women. I want to support and lift them up too. For me, loving is living.
Welcome to the ShouldBe Society, a blog based forum for women to un-define what it is to be a woman. Let’s respect each other and connect despite our differences. Let’s be honest about life, what we struggle with and help each other overcome. Only we can say who we ShouldBe. Share this post, join the blog and get prepared for respectful dialogue about what’s real.