Category Archives: Challenges

When a Band-Aid isn’t Enough

A Band-Aid is meant to cover a wound, not to heal it. I’ve had plenty of skinned knees in my life, and I remember all-too-well the sting of Bactine on my owies.

“It will only hurt for a minute,” I remember my Mom saying. Only a minute, but it was a minute of pure torture. The icy-cold spray shocked the injured area and coaxed all the infectious potential to the surface and killed it. Just 60 seconds of the raging pain, then a cute Snoopy Band-Aid would cover it all up, and eventually the wound would heal.

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It turns out that when we are able to pinpoint the cause of potential infection, bring it to the surface and apply the proper medicine, our miraculous bodies will heal us from the inside out.

Sometimes the wounds go much deeper though. And no amount of antibacterial spray can surface and disinfect the pain. And no kitschy cartoon Band-Aid is big enough to cover it.

I am tending to some of my own festering wounds at this stage in my life. And I am reminded that to properly heal the infection, I need to surface it.

My childhood was tumultuous and my adulthood bears deep pockets of pain, but despite my challenges, I have always put on a happy face. Even when I didn’t feel happy, I wore my smile like a Band-Aid and it worked perfectly to cover my soul-scrapes. Yet, the infection persists. And the infection alters the way I see life and the way I view myself.

Here’s what that unhealthy thinking sounds like…

When I wasn’t able to have children, I thought I was undeserving.

When I unsuccessfully competed for the love of my step-sons, I thought I was unlovable.

When I was no longer able to see my step-granddaughter, I thought I was unworthy.

When I am not included in events or relationships are strained, I think I am unwanted.

My wounded heart sees my worthiness as the cause of my own pain. If I had tried harder or given more, then things would have been better or different. And that kind of toxic thinking translates into a deep self-loathing that cries out to be proved wrong. And when no one is able to love me enough to tip the scales of my skinned self-esteem, I prove to myself that I was undeserving, unlovable, unworthy, and unwanted all over again.

Where is that damn Bactine when I need it? Seriously. Spray me down!

But there is no magical disinfectant spray for what ails me. The cure is in the slow un-doing of my harmful thinking. And the un-doing will take some doing.

My “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality has not served me well. It looks pretty on the outside and it covers up whatever scratches and scrapes I may have, but it doesn’t allow me to feel. Instead, it pushes me to get over whatever caused me pain. But getting over isn’t the same as getting through.

Getting over diminishes the gravity of what happened. Getting over implies that there was nothing of importance that warranted sitting in the moment. Getting over sweeps things under the carpet and waits for them to re-surface later in life because we didn’t give them the attention they deserved at the time. Getting over minimizes our power and maximizes our shame. And when you’re talking about something monumental like not having children, sometimes there is simply no such thing as “getting over”.

Getting through honors the challenge and shows our strength and perseverance to trudge through the messiness. Getting through allows us to feel the weight of the issue and experience the painful, frustrating, heart-breaking emotions that we are completely entitled to. Getting through promotes our power and protects our hearts. Getting through is our badge of bravery and shows that we have grown and are forever changed. Getting through takes time and patience and understanding and grace.

I am ripping off the Band-Aids and exposing the wounds. After years of getting over, I am now working on getting through.

By hinging my value on the things outside of my control that have caused me pain, I’ve been subconsciously creating a life where I will never be enough.

The “if I achieve this, then I will be deserving” or “when I accomplish that, then I will be worthy” ways of determining our value pins everything on external circumstances. That if-then thinking tells our psyche that right now, in this very moment, I’m not enough. It has us reaching out for our value instead of reaching in.

My goal is to disconnect my self-worth from the outcomes of my life and to stop the cycle of situational self-esteem.

Here’s what that healthier thinking sounds like…

When I reflect on my inability to have children, I am rightfully saddened and understand that it does not define who I am.

When I look back on the struggles with my step-sons, I feel hurt and know that it isn’t an indication of my capacity for love.

When I miss being in my step-granddaughter’s life, I grieve the loss and realize that I was not the cause and the decision was outside of my control.

When I feel overlooked or under-loved, I accept that as a sign that I am placing my value in other people’s hands.

Squirting a little of that antiseptic enlightenment into my painful places today, knowing that in time it will seep into my soul and help to heal my wounds.

Wishing you the strength and power of “getting through” for your Band-Aid covered painful places too.

Moments Turned Months

Hello, lovely readers! I have been on a break lately from writing. Not really an intentional break. More like an “I’m not sure that I have any meaningful words to share” break. And even as I type these words, I am filled with doubt about that very thing. Meaningful.

Do you ever have moments that turn into days that turn into weeks that turn into months of heaviness? Of not-quite-right? Of silent battles behind the scenes?

I wish I could say that I have won the battles and have successfully come through a stronger, happier, more fulfilled me. But that would be a big fat lie. I’m still battling a little bit every day. Against exactly what, I don’t even know. But it sure does feel like a fight. And it often feels like I’m losing.

To admit I’m not doing wonderfully is a gigantic risk to my pride. It is a huge blow to my ego. And it is an incredibly vulnerable position.

I don’t do vulnerability well.

I do “here have been my struggles and here’s what I learned from them”. But in that uncertain place before the learning and before the understanding of what will overcome the challenges… in that confusing, uncomfortable crud, I am not good.

I don’t like the way I feel during the struggles. I like the way I feel after the struggles. Empowered. Accomplished.

But during – in the midst of those bad moments turned months – I feel weak.

Somehow lately, my thoughts are not lifting me above things, but are dropping me deep down in the sticky icky bits that seem impossible to trudge through. I’m stuck in the stuff that reminds me I’m not good enough. That painful and powerful stuff that is screaming lies instead of whispering hope.

This happens to me sometimes. I know I am capable of getting through it. But it sure doesn’t feel like it when uncertainty envelopes my brain and the destructive chatter drowns out my inner cheerleader.

So today, I don’t have words of wisdom. I just have a few words of “this is sometimes all I have to offer”.

These are the words that churn during my not-so-powerful but oh-so-vulnerable days. These are the open-wound words that don’t yet have a happy ending. And these are the words that I’m sharing with you today, sweet friends.

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Finding the Up Side of Down

Some days are just bad days. The days that doubt sneaks in through a judgmental comment. The days when your mind snags a tiny thread of evidence that you’re not good enough and your confidence quickly unravels. The days where your self-worth teeters on the edge of everyone else’s opinions. The days when finding the up side of down seems monumentally impossible.

Yesterday was that kind of day.

It started out just fine – plenty of coffee and potential. But then I let someone else’s story hijack my happiness.

Recently I auditioned for a local production of writers, reading their own original work on motherhood. And, while I know nothing about motherhood, I know everything about wanting it and the pain of never getting it.

My story wasn’t chosen, and I was fine with that. Oddly relieved, really. The thought of sharing my perspective in person, out loud for an audience to hear, terrified me. But it also stirred something inside of me. Something that may connect with people who have lived a similar journey as mine. Something that led me to be brave and put myself out there.

But that same courageous something was not quite as “fine” with rejection when I read about myself through someone else’s eyes…

“I noticed the four other women auditioning were in their 40s and 50s. They wore conservative department store outfits, had easy to manage hairstyles, and were a little overweight. Even the ladies putting the show together were similar to that ‘average mother genre.'”

Suddenly I was not so freaking fine. I was mad. Then sad. Then as judgy about myself as this stranger was about me.

These words were found on the blog of one of the talented writers that were chosen for the show. This particular writer has a similar story of struggle as mine, and I know how painful that struggle can be.

Let me be clear: I am not upset about not being selected. I am upset about being misunderstood, not fully seen, and pegged all wrong.

I know that I am one of those four women she described, because she also described herself in her post. I very clearly remember her leaving the audition room while I was seated in one of those rickety folding chairs, waiting for my turn.

As I read her words, I immediately began grasping for contradictory facts. I am 40-something, so nothing to contradict there. But I was wearing a vibrant pink sweater set, a turquoise scarf, some slightly faded and fitted jeans, and some seriously edgy, pointy toed, hot pink boots. I wasn’t dressed like a Sears catalog model. I was dressed like I dress – classy with a touch of sass, for Christ sake!

And let’s talk about my hair. It’s kind of my signature “thing” I like to think. It is long and blonde and not particularly common or “easy to manage”. Oh, and my weight – let’s go ahead and go there. My weight lands me in the “normal” range for my height, but is always on my mind. And apparently on the minds of others as well, as if I needed one more reason to feel insecure about my weight.

So, as I was mentally defending my style and personal appearance and nursing the sting of the snap – and snappish – judgements, my confidence crumbled beneath my cheerful exterior. Inside I felt not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not young enough. Not thin enough. Not talented enough. Not anything enough.

I am not part of the “average mother genre” that I had been erroneously lumped into. I am not a Mom at all. Even though that is all I ever wanted to be. Even though my appearance may indicate otherwise. Even though I would gladly trade in my savvy style for a saggy pair of mom jeans and a Dorothy Hamill haircut if it would change the outcome of my story.

I, like so many of you, have been misjudged and misunderstood. And yesterday I felt that deep within my soul. But isn’t that just the best reminder to all of us to look deeper than the surface?

How about this ladies…

Let’s learn the real stories before making up our own. Let’s leave our assumptions at the door. Let’s celebrate each other instead of comparing and competing. Let’s lift one another up. Let’s withhold judgement. Let’s be supportive and encouraging. Let’s include others instead of excluding them. Let’s not define people by their appearance. Let’s live and let live. And please let us love each other.

And THAT my friends, is finding the UP side of down.

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Filling the Empty Places with French Fries

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My tummy rumbled and my heart ached as I set out on a “clear my head” drive. It’s calming to get away and hit the road sometimes. Especially when things seem complicated and confusing. When I need to figure life out. And when I need to hush the chaos.

Somehow in those moments, my car auto pilot settings drive me to fill the void. I reach in the paper bag as I drive away and a stray fry jumps overboard to join the others. I look down and spot the fry graveyard in the crack between my seats. I can see them, but my arm cannot quite reach them. Petrified french fries mostly, but also the remnants of a healthier choice in one lonely little crouton.

It was supposed to satisfy my hunger, but guilt follows close behind. It was supposed to fill my empty places, but it just fills out my fat jeans. Still hungry. Still empty. Still searching for the magic thing that will finally curb my cravings.

I can’t even begin to explain the source of the problem. But I know it’s a problem. I can recognize the symptoms as easily as the common cold. But I have yet to find the cure.

What do you reach for to fill your empty places?

Maybe it is french fries like me, but maybe it’s something else. Shopping, alcohol, food, gambling, drugs, and so on. The list grows when we add in the small things like reality television or Pinterest or Facebook to fill our emptiness and numb our pain. They are all numbing agents of one form or another. Something we reach for or go to that will apply a short-lived bandaid to the yearning.

Oh, and by the way, on that long list, the only things I haven’t turned to at one point or another are drugs and gambling. The rest of the list I know from intimate experience. Good golly, sometimes I even enjoy a cocktail while eating fries and watching a Real Housewives marathon which is pretty much the winning trifecta!

But what if we reached for healthier things to fill up on?

God. Prayer. Community. Friendship. Gratitude. Love.

What if those where the things we turned to each time we are running on empty?

How would our lives be different? Better?

Less guilt. Less shame. Less regret.

More enlightenment. More faith. More comfort.

Just for the record, I’m not giving up french fries for life here. And I like me some wine!

But not to be used to fill the space that is meant for something else. Something positive. Something that I can feel good about afterwards. And something that won’t cause me to need elastic waisted mom jeans.

I am re-thinking how I fill my empty places. Are you?

Mother’s Day When You’re Not the Real Mom

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Mother’s Day. The day we honor our Moms and all they have done for us. The day we appreciate their sacrifices, their love, and their caring hearts. And a day where many of you are being honored in your spectacular role in motherhood. A blessed day and a cherished day for so many.

Mother’s Day is quite the opposite for me. It is possibly the most challenging day of the year for my otherwise strong, turned fragile heart. It isn’t a celebration (Even though I celebrate my Mom and other amazing Moms that I know and love.) It is a reminder of my shortcomings and my never-meant-to-be’s. My failures. My missed opportunities.

You see, Mother’s Day is not the same festive occasion for all of us. When all you’ve ever wanted was to have children of your own, but that wasn’t in God’s plan. When you remember the long and painful road of infertility. When you are a step-mom to grown boys who can’t begin to understand the challenges you faced trying to make their lives better, only to have your efforts go unacknowledged and your love sometimes unreturned. When you are not the real Mom. When you are not a Mom at all.

Today opens a wound for me that is otherwise covered by a big fat bandaid. A vibrant and colorful bandaid, but a bandaid nonetheless. Other days I can be fine and not miss what I always wanted. Other days I can celebrate my other amazing blessings in life and not get stuck in the things I never had. But today, not-so-much. That bandaid is ripped off, leaving the sting in my heart and the scar fully exposed.

I am sharing this, not as a sob story for you to pity. But as a tribute to the other not-the-real-moms out there who may feel the same way I do on this difficult day. You are not alone in your sadness, in your regret, or in your tears. You are not the only one.

Remember the blessings today. Instead of getting stuck like I often do in what you are not. Get wrapped up in what you are. And you are a beautiful, loving, giving soul that has other gifts and purpose in this life.

Today, rejoice in where this journey has taken you, even though it is not the path you planned for yourself. Today, know that despite all your imperfections, you are perfect in God’s eyes. Today, love yourself and everything brilliant and wonderful that you are.

Editing Schmediting

Good day lovely blog subscribers! I had a painful brush with imperfection last night as I realized my “Claiming Your Space” post was delivered to your inboxes… unedited.

The truth is that I did edit it, but am technology challenged and did not save my edits correctly, but instead clicked “publish”. My heart started beating quickly as I opened the email version of my post and saw the big fat errors staring back at me like an unsightly pimple on an otherwise pretty face.

Blemished work. Imperfections.

I ran upstairs and made the corrections in record time, then worried all night about what you would all think of me and my ghastly grammatical errors.

Today, I have clarity.

We all make mistakes! And I have no doubt that your grace is entirely enough to forgive my errors while still leaving room in your inbox for future potentially imperfect posts.

Blessed by your readership, your encouraging feedback, and your mercy for what I am certain will not be by last mistake.

Thankful for you, sweet readers! And wishing you a beautiful day!

~ Tris

Stuck-ness of Step Parenting

Parenting is both a blessing and a curse. Those who want children are sometimes denied that desire, and those who have children can occassionally overlook that they have been given a miracle. To those of us who have been praying for the exact blessing that many take for granted, it… well, it just pisses us off!

Every trip to Walmart is a painful reminder of a smattering of parents who clearly do not view their role as a blessing. I am fully aware that every moment as a parent is not sunshine and rainbows, but it also shouldn’t be accompanied by unkind words and berating topped off with glimpses of indifference. Those little souls are craving love, guidance, and boundaries – not Kool Aid and candy bars – and in my experience, those things are rarely evident in the far too narrow aisles of any super store. And when what you are craving is to see that others actually embrace their children as the ultimate gifts that they are… it’s not so super.

So as I wollow in the pity and pain that I am not a Mom, I try to take solice in the blessing of my step-sons. Then Mother’s Day this past year rolls around like it does every year and despite my involvement in their lives for 20 years… my phone did not ring and the only acknowledgement of my giving spirit came from my husband and my sweet pup. I am the best doggy mommy I can be, but in that moment I believed that I had clearly failed as a step-mom. My inability to cultivate a positive relationship over two decades was perhaps the ultimate sign to step down, step away, and step on with my life.

I had been stuck. Stuck between my efforts to nurture and guide them and the disappointment of their actions. Stuck between my desire to be important and relevant in their lives and the realization that I am insignificant. Stuck between the sacrifices I have made for them that will never be acknowledged and the still longing hope that someday things will change. Stuck between my expectations and what I actually experience. Just stuck. And in my stuck-ness, my internal pity party was raving on.

It was time to take a few steps in the right direction, and I have been slowly doing just that. The first step has been for me to consciously be kinder to myself. If I can’t forgive myself, then who else could? And on my path toward forgiveness of my seemingly failed relationships, I am finding a stronger relationship with God. Who else could I possibly, should I possibly turn to, than the King of forgiveness. But these steps have not been easy and I am noticing that each day, every thought, even the smallest moments have significance in my journey. Step by step, I am getting there.

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