Stop Comparing The Past To The Present

It’s amazing how we can adapt to a simpler life if we only allow ourselves to stop comparing the past to the present. – Janie Leeds

During the good years of marriage, it was wonderful. We enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle for which I was really grateful. But when he left, things took a downward turn. For awhile, the kids and I had a hard time because they’d been used to a different lifestyle. And I’d grown accustomed to it too.

But while he kept our comfortable lifestyle and even had more money to himself, the kids and I had even less. I was the one to say ‘no’ many more times because we couldn’t afford it on what I had in the bank. At first they were really angry with me (and they weren’t spoiled by the way), but after a good family talk where I was really honest with them, they started to come around and not ask for expensive gifts because I didn’t have the money for them.

It became that getting ‘take out’ was a treat and not something we did every week. We started cooking together more often. We began to find that the simpler life was actually more fun because it brought us together.

When I stopped comparing what we had to what we presently have, a lot of stress fell away. Sure, I liked our comfy lifestyle and no, I don’t like worrying about money now. But that’s the way it is and once I accepted it, I felt better.

Is it fair? No. Is it right? No. But it is what it is for right now. I can only do what is humanly possible and I have to rely on the court system.

So if you’re in a similar situation, I get it. I understand. And while the ex is driving around in a new fancy car and I’m not, it’s ok. He goes on expensive vacations and eats out more often than eating at home. But he’s alone. And I’m not.

Because I have our kids and they’re more precious to me than any luxury item could ever be.

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Is It Too Early To Decorate For Christmas?

When I was married, I had to abide by his rules – no Christmas decorating until December 1st. But now that I’ve been divorced for a few years, I’m really enjoying the fact that there’s no ‘boss’ to tell me when I can do what I want! So, guess what?

I’ve started decorating for Christmas!!

I woke up yesterday morning and felt that little nudge. You know the one? It’s chilly outside. It’s after Thanksgiving. It’s almost December 1st anyway….I’m a free woman and can do what I want….

So I opened up the coffin sized box of the new artificial Christmas tree I invested in last year and determinedly dragged each heavy and awkward piece into the family room. I laid them on the floor and then began my tree building. In practically no time, there it was! And when I pushed the foot pedal on the floor, it lit up perfectly!

I was ecstatic! And so began the rest of the day which consisted of decorating the mantle, setting up the stockings, finding little trinkets I’d forgotten about and nestling them around the house.

I lit a balsam candle and felt the stress drain away because there’s nothing like that smell of a fresh cut tree and even though I’ve had to give that up, the candle works just fine. I’ve learned that it’s all about making due and finding the good in a simpler life.

So far the tree only has lights on it and no decorations. I am liking that look by the way and loving that with a touch of a button I can change it from white lights to colored ones. It’s so much fun! Maybe next week the kids and I can put on our ornaments, but in the meantime, I’m just enjoying the serenity of a lit tree.

How about you? Have you started decorating? Do you have a live tree or a fake one?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Whatever you’re doing for Thanksgiving, I wish you well. I hope that you and your family enjoy counting your blessings! Because especially at this time of year AND in 2020, we need to be thankful for the little things and the big ones. My priority being health followed by love.

I talked with my brother this morning and he surprised me. Yesterday he was not happy about my not attending the Thanksgiving feast at his house. But today it seems he’s had a change of heart for which I’m grateful. So I’m adding it to my ever growing list of gratitude.

I’ve had a bunch of friends reach out via text to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving and I’ve done the same as well. I really am grateful for all the supportive friendships I’ve made, especially since the divorce. It’s funny how some friendships have fallen away and others have deepened. And some have appeared out of nowhere and we’ve gotten really close which wouldn’t have probably happened if I were still married.

Life’s strange, isn’t it? I’d like to think that We’re all just walking each other home (quote by Ram Dass) so we encounter all different people on the way. Some we keep meeting up with and with others we are only together for a little bit of the journey. While others stay on the path with you for decades.

On Thanksgiving I am grateful for all those whom I’ve shared the path and I thank you all for being a part of my blog family.

Happy Thanksgiving! Stay healthy and safe!

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Thanksgiving Is Almost Here!

Thanksgiving is coming and while the number of Covid cases are increasing, friends and I have been talking about our plans.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

So, this year the kids are going to the ex’s family for Thanksgiving and while I’m fine with giving up the Thanksgiving feast every other year, I’m a concerned this year due to Covid. I’m trying not to worry about it, but, four separate household families getting together, including one from out of state makes me nervous because my kids are involved. I feel like it’s a recipe for disaster. Because how can you social distance in a house for hours? Not well.

As for me, I’m staying home. My brother and his family invited me as they do every year, but I’m choosing to stay home. They have been meeting with friends, his kids have been hanging out with their friends who just came home from college and he’s been away with friends the last two weekends. It just feels like it’s too many possible germs.

So, it’ll be a quiet Thanksgiving alone at home, waiting for my kids to return home. I’ve spent holidays alone before so this isn’t the first and I’m not a huge fan of turkey, so I’ll make myself something else. But it’s a little sad. Perhaps I’ll start decorating for Christmas!

I have a few friends who will be home alone too so we’ve decided to check in with each other and have a glass of wine together via phone/zoom.

What are you doing???

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Laying The Foundation After Divorce

When my kids’ dad declared six years ago that he ‘didn’t want to do this anymore’ I was devastated. I spent a lot of time mourning his abrupt departure from the family and when he left the home, three months after his declaration, I could finally breathe. It was at this time I realized that I had to find a new normal for the kids and for me, together as a family of now three.

Laying the foundation of how our family would function was a gradual process. Because the ex had been distancing himself for awhile, the kids were used to me being the primary parent which helped immensely. But the deepening of our relationship came only after the divorce.

While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing here, I wouldn’t trade what we’ve cultivated here. We are a very close family now, even closer than we were before the break-up and I’m grateful.

While parenting alone (because there isn’t co-parenting unfortunately) is difficult at times, there is also a richer manner in which our relationship has blossomed. There are few subjects (if any) that are verboten (off-limits) and while it’s been uncomfortable at times, I’d rather my kids feel that they can talk with me honestly instead of hiding their feelings.

My intention was for us to bond together. Luckily the kids are close in age and have bonded as brothers, each with their own unique set of strengths. When it comes to their relationship with their dad, I do not intervene. In the beginning, I tried to encourage the relationship and even went so far as to try to help them bridge the gap of how dad has changed by giving their dad the benefit of the doubt. I was thinking that it would help them to bond with him too. I didn’t talk badly about him. I encouraged time spent with him until one day I let go. Their relationship with their dad has nothing to do with me. That is their relationship, not mine. And while I am here to listen when they need to talk about it or if they ask advice, I am not involved. It was one of the best decisions I made.

Here at Chez Leeds, our bottom line is unconditional love and support. The kids have mine, they have each other’s and I have theirs. We work through problems together. I have tried to raise them to not stuff their feelings down, but instead to feel them so that they do not fester. They are strong kids with big hearts, open minds and are caring individuals. They have learned about connections, about talking through problems instead of fleeing. Honesty is key here. I keep hoping that I am helping them to be good husbands someday. Men who are comfortable in their own skin, respect all people and lead with kindness and confidence.

At least that’s my intention.

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Be Careful What You Say To Your Kids

Growing up, I was the elder of two kids with strict parents. Right from the start, I was told that I was the smart, responsible one and that I was also the ‘peace-maker’ so it was my job to keep everyone happy. Being an empath didn’t help so the co-dependence grew at an astonishing speed and depth. All of them confided in me, including my parents which is a whole other conversation for another time because what I knew at a young age was not appropriate, but that’s another post for another day.

I grew up believing that innately I was a peace-keeper and that my happiness depended on making sure everyone else in the home was happy as well. Then I could relax until the next crisis. I never put my happiness ahead of theirs because that was not my given role. You can see how dysfunctional it was, right?

My brother wasn’t held to the high standards that I was as a child. The burden of perfection was heaped on my shoulders and not his. He was given carte blanche to do as he pleased. Whether that was because he was a boy or younger, I’ll never know. But it caused a huge wedge between us. I saw it as he got away with everything while I was held to a higher standard. He saw it as I was the star of the family and he was nothing. It’s interesting how we saw our childhoods play out in different ways.

While my parents weren’t mean, they weren’t able to see what they said and did made such a difference in our lives. It’s taken years for my brother and me to unravel the tangled dysfunction and to be friendly again. When we walk down memory lane, it’s fascinating how our viewpoints are so different when we talk about situations and events that happened.

My point is that we have to be really careful in what we say to our kids. My kids and I have talked at length about this subject because even though I was a product of this type of dysfunction, and never intended to repeat it, to a certain extent they were labeled too. One was the really athletic and the other the brainy. And while those are traits of the kids, it was never meant to limit their abilities. It was meant as complimentary, but it pegged them in a box that was never meant to be. Am I making sense here? Do you have similar stories with your childhood and siblings?

Because as parents, what you say to your kids when they’re little makes a huge difference in the self-worth, discovery and expansion of your kids’ minds, bodies and abilities. If you tell them that they’re not athletic or brainy, they believe you and overtime that evolves into part of their sense of self. Even if it’s said in a complimentary way.

A child’s psyche is fragile. We have to feed them encouragement and give them chances to grow in limitless ways. That’s NOT to say that we allow them that feeling of entitlement though! That’s a no-no. Instead, teach them to try, to experience, to pick themselves up when they fall, to reach out for help when needed and to help others along the way. To try their best. To find and enjoy hobbies that enrich their lives. To pursue their dreams. To care and to hold dear relationships with family and friends. To connect with people and the world around them. To do good and be kind. To value each and every life. To enjoy their lives. To connect with nature. Etc., etc., etc.

While my kids affirmed that I didn’t do too badly and they aren’t horrifically scarred by their childhood (well, with the exception of the divorce), I hold guilt as a divorced Mom. And yet, I feel grateful that I am the primary parent so that we can talk about these subjects. But it’s hard for them because their dad isn’t really in their lives. And it’s sometimes hard for me when they tell me things about this topic because it makes me feel badly.

I know my parents never intended the hurt that happened. I know that the ex and I never did either. We did the best parenting we could, with what we knew, under the circumstances. I think that’s what we all do when we’re parents. We try to not repeat what was done to us in order to make sure our kids don’t scar in the same way we did.

How about you? What are your thoughts?

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Who Died And Made You Boss?

As my father used to say, Who the hell died and made you boss?  To which now, I would retort, You!  But at the time, I was a little girl in a dysfunctional family who was just trying to survive.  Heaped with family secrets burdening me, my father used that to tell me that I was the responsible one.  I was the one who had to make things right for everyone.  He burdened me with the belief that because I was a caring, responsible kid, one who yearned to be noticed as a good girl, who was always striving to please, to placate, to smooth over any relationships that even had nothing to do with me, I was responsible for everything and everyone.  All encompassing responsibility that knew no boundaries and charged with this role, I wasn’t allowed to fail.  Heavy stuff for an impressionable kid.

But being that he gave me that job, that role, that belief and I never felt I was able to say no…the seed was planted, firmly and I grew up thinking that it was innate in me that I was put on this earth to take care of everyone and everything.  Until I was much older, the thought, What about me? never even came into my head.  Me was secondary or last.  Good Catholic girl – do for others as you would have them do for you – meant do for others…period.  Do for you?  Selfish.  No such thing.  And so my co-dependency was born.

I remember seeing a therapist, having an eating disorder (anorexia) which I clearly remember my dad saying wasn’t anything except I needed to eat more.  Even when the therapist wanted a family meeting, he refused.  And so I went alone and only divulged what I thought she wanted to hear.  I remember she was the one who gave me the book Co-Dependent No More.  I tried to read it, but I couldn’t understand why she would recommend such a book when I didn’t come from an alcoholic family.  All that mumbo jumbo about the 12 step program and al-anon etc missed the mark and I stopped reading it.  And promptly stopped seeing her.  It wasn’t relevant to me.  I was just there to find peace in leaving my younger brother alone with my parents and maybe talk about my missing meals because my mom was insisting.

Hindsight reminds me that I stopped going because while she didn’t know too much about my life, she knew I had dysfunction in my life because I wasn’t eating, purposely not eating even though I didn’t know why I was doing it.  I was overly worried about leaving my brother alone at home while I went away to college.  Overly worried because he’d have to navigate the family dynamics alone without me and I was responsible for keeping him safe.  How could I move away to college and leave him all alone with our dysfunctional family?

I remember that the not eating was the one thing I could control that I did for me.  Crazy as that sounds – starving myself, living on one saltine cracker and one leaf of iceberg lettuce was a triumph for me.  I loved it.  My bones stuck out and I was so thin in my bikini.  I had power.  I had discipline.  I was a good girl.  I had control.  And as my weight dropped to 85 lbs (height 5′) my family turned a blind eye to it.  Except my mom, but she was powerless to stop me.  Because I viewed her as powerless because I had been told I was responsible for her.

How the childhood traumas and beliefs get twisted, right?  Dysfunction in a family is dangerous.  But when we don’t know any better, or even when we do, but we’re young, it’s insidiously sneaky toxicity damages all of us in its wake.  So we do what we can to survive and help those who we love…and feel responsible for it all.

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We’ve Voted

I dropped off the ballots into one of those boxes awhile back. Finally, we received the postcard confirming the receipt of our ballots so it’s now official. That’s a good thing I guess even though my college kids wanted those stickers that you get when you actually go to the polls. You know the ones, right? The ones that have a little flag on them and a sticky back that say, “I VOTED TODAY” that you used to get when you actually voted.

It was strange to me to instead fill in the bubble of my choice like we did when we took those standardized tests in school. You remember those don’t you? With the teacher there telling you to make sure you filled in the complete bubble so that your answer would be counted? Except this is in black ink and not number 2 pencil.

Times have changed, haven’t they? Just another challenge that the Virus added to our lives. I think I’ve had enough of it though…haven’t you?

I don’t get political here ever. It’s not my cup of tea and it’s such a heated subject everywhere these days, especially today. So please don’t do it either on the post because honestly, I don’t care who you’re voting for this year. It makes no difference to me because I’m all about who you are as a person and not who you’ve chosen for President. I have had enough of hearing about friendships which are breaking up because of who someone votes for – seriously? But yes, it’s true. Sad, but true.

It’s a madhouse out there these days. I don’t know why I even wrote this post, but I’m going to just hit publish and pray that bloggers aren’t that type of people. Surely, I’m not, so I hope that you aren’t either.

Posted in Covid-19 Virus, Untold Stories of Isolation | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

The Winds Of Change

It’s frighteningly windy out there today. Seriously, a cold snap here and the wind makes it even colder. Even the garbage cans (emptied at 5:30am by the hardworking town workers) were actually being carried by the winds down the street!

Honestly it feels creepy to me. Like the winds of change have arrived full force. I can hear the winds howling in the empty fireplace as I write. I wonder what the winds are taking away and what will be left when it’s over.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” quote from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It feels apropos, doesn’t it?

I have been thinking that lately with this election and all the craziness that’s been happening. I am not getting political here because I don’t like it. It is simply an observation. And a valid concern as to what will go on afterward and how it will all pan out. Because tempers are running high these days and it’s concerning that people are misbehaving (I tried to find a better word, but I can’t think of one. Can you?)

The “Ugly American” has been our reputation in other countries and we are not holding back as to the increase in ugliness with such a disjointed country where we are at odds amongst ourselves. Ugliness meaning bad behavior and not necessarily ugly.

I’m staying out of the fray and staying home until the dust settles. It’s far too windy out there for me. Stay safe everyone!

Posted in Untold Stories of Isolation | Tagged , , | 6 Comments