Too Much, Not enough, Who cares?

For as long as I can remember, people–friends, family, strangers–have been trying to stuff me into a tiny little box with predetermined dimensions and ideas of who and what I should be. I tried to live the way they said I should. I tried to be who they said I should be.  What happened is that I was miserable and they were much more comfortable.

The problem with that little box is that it does not allow for any individuality and color at all. Anyone who knows me, knows that confinement and conformity do not suit me at all. It took a long time to realize that God made me unique and I should embrace the crazy, chaotic, colorful nature that is me. Hiding it and stifling it creates misery.

Over the years, others have decided that pieces of me are too much to handle and just not enough to be valued. According to their standards, I am both too much and not enough. I think that is why my recent attempts at relationships have failed. There is this assigned group of behaviors and standards given to women my age and any divergence from said behaviors and standards is unfamiliar and unbecoming and therefore, unacceptable.

I am too much:

  1. I am too boisterous–If I am having a good time, you will know. Even in a room full of noisy people, you will hear me laughing above everyone else. While I don’t like being paraded in front of others (I even hated being the center of attention at my own wedding), I don’t have a problem with being the center of the giggle storm.
  2. I am too talkative–I can’t help it if I have a lot to say, whether or not others share that sentiment or appreciate my loquaciousness.  There are many things on this beautiful planet worth talking about. I refuse to apologize for enjoying them and the many beautiful and flawed people with whom I share this planet and my space.
  3. I am too animated–If I am excited about something, enjoying myself or telling a story, I use sound effects, exaggerated body language and crazy facial expressions. I have tried toning it down, but I just can’t.
  4. I laugh too much–I have survived horrible bouts of depression, serving in a combat zone in the military, exposure to sarin, electrocution, rape, 2 sexual assaults, a life-threatening pregnancy and delivery, robbery at gunpoint, job loss, bullying, abandonment, abuse, rejection and being used. If I am able to find joy after that–well, I have earned every single belly laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw and snort. I will take laughing over crying any day of the week.
  5. I am too weird–At the age of 47, I still like to color my hair in crazy hues (my favorites are pink and candy apple red). I love crazy non-matching socks. I am mad for shoes, and the crazier they are, the better–I own four pairs of Hello Kitty Vans, rainbow zebra striped sneakers, slip-ons that resemble disco balls and tennies that sparkle in gold and silver. I am obsessed with all things that write, color and brush. Frogs are my favorite animal and I have a growing collection of froggie things. On occasion I will sing in public, rather badly, and sometimes even dance.
  6. I am too naive–As much as I would like to be able to protect myself from the big, bad world and the unsavory, ill-intentioned people that occupy it, I find myself looking for the good in everyone and seeing their potential, even when they have given me more than enough proof that they are not safe or healthy to be around. Some days I would love to be cynical and jaded and angry, for the sake of self-preservation.  I have had moments where I have been those things, but then Pollyanna takes over and the world is beautiful and kind again. I can definitely be gullible and believe exactly what people tell me about who they are. Thankfully, I am getting better at recognizing when I need to walk away, because their “truth” is anything but.
  7. I am too silly–I love nerf gun battles, rolling down hills and having burping contests with my boys. I appreciate kid jokes and making up songs about random stuff going on around me. These things are not likely to change anytime soon.
  8. I am too nerdy–Apparently, I should aspire to be a dumb blonde (sorry blondies, just a term. I know you aren’t dumb). I never understood that. I like being smart. I like words. I will never understand why a man, or anyone else for that matter, would want me to be any other way.
  9. I am too scatterbrained–I don’t think it is age. I think it has more to do with a creative personality than anything else. Most creative types that I know are a bit on the scatterbrained side. In my humble opinion, being scatterbrained is nothing more than the free flow of ideas. There are just so many things running around in my head, that if everything was completely structured and ordered, there would be no room for another batch of creative ideas to run in and join the party.
  10. I procrastinate too much–This is probably one of my greatest flaws and one of my greatest blessings. It is a flaw because it drives most people, including me, batshit crazy. There is always a mad rush and a panic to finish any assignment or project or online order. While it appears that it is detrimental to the process, for some reason, I always do my best work when I am under the gun. That gun, pushes me to fight for the right words, the perfect image or clarity of thought. I get tunnel vision. Some of my best 10-page papers in college were started 24 hours before they were due and finished just minutes before the start of class.

I am not enough:

  1. I am not thin enough–I have never been a size 2. I used to be a size 5. I am a far cry from either now. A lifetime of crazy eating habits, not enough sleep, working too much, clinical depression, pregnancy and autoimmune disease as well as a genetic predisposition for weight issues have complicated things. I have probably lost and gained and lost and gained and lost and gained about 200 pounds or more in the last decade. I take it off, I gain it back. And studies (countless studies) have shown that weight loss is a crap ton harder in your forties. I have finally accepted that the best I  can do is take care of myself the best that I can, eat as healthy as I can (but I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination)  and stay active. Size be damned.
  2. I am not feminine enough–I am a tomboy. I have been my whole life. I prefer jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers to a dress and heels. I like makeup, but I am limited in my application skills so it is usually pretty minimal. I would love to have beautiful hair, but  despise having to put forth the effort to do it. My nails have been polished, but I have found that with the work I do and my art, attempting to keep them girlie is a pointless endeavor. As a child, I would go frog hunting (no killing involved, I promise), bring bugs into the house and play with cars and mud. I am uniquely suited to being a mother of boys. I am not squeamish about bugs and dirt and worms and snakes. I find fart humor both disturbing and funny, but don’t tell my boys that. I like rough housing and getting dirty. No offense to the girls out there or the mothers of daughters, but I think boy stuff is the coolest and being wild and dirty beats restrained and pristine any day of the week.
  3. I am not pretty enough–I have plenty of flaws. My nose is too wide and grows wider by the day. My eyelashes are almost non-existent. I have a round face and hair that always seems to be in need of styling. My eyebrows have random hairs that appear to migrate north leaving me with an odd brow line. I don’t look anything like what most men see as conventional beauty.  That used to bother me. I wanted to be tall and thin and blond with blue eyes and a sparkling personality. I was born as a altitude-challenged, hazel-eyed brunette. I was given brains instead of beauty.  I also got kind heart, an abundance of compassion  and the ability to love the broken and wounded. Beauty, while a nice thing to have, is fleeting and has a limited shelf life. I will keep the “beauty” I was graced with. And the other gifts–they have served me well.
  4.  I am not sexy enough–I guess that I was sexy enough when I was much younger, in my army days. I don’t know that it was so much sexy as appealing for my very youthful looks. For some reason men  really appreciate and have an addiction to women that look really young. I have been blessed in that regard. I am 47 and people still guess my age to be in my thirties. But sexy? Not really. Some people say that sexy is in the attitude and self-confidence. If that is the case, then I am in trouble. I am just weird and seriously lack the self confidence and attitude that would make me sexy. That’s okay. Some day, someone will love me for the awkward mess that I am.
  5. I am not graceful enough–I am like a bull in a china shop. I trip over my own feet,  roll my ankles,  fall upstairs, run into walls and door jambs, drop stuff and bump my head all the time. I am not sure from whom I get this lovely gift, but I would love to give it back. I usually have a variety of bruises in various stages of color at any given time and it really isn’t attractive. Getting them isn’t any fun either.
  6.  I am not “easy” enough–I have been told, quite recently, by men that I have met online that I am not putting out quickly enough (read: just not doing it). A lot of them just want easy, quick sex with no attachments or their ability to love and/or appreciate you hinges on your sexual availability. They don’t really want to get to know me as a human being or a woman. They want to get to know me as a sperm receptacle and little else. One went so far as to tell me that if I didn’t “get hip with the now”, I would find myself “old and in the way.” Nice.

I am me. I don’t really know how to be anyone else. When I try, I fail horribly  and I end up miserable. The closer I am to who God designed me to be, the happier I am. Am I perfect? Not even close. I am flawed and broken and messed up and I fail at something every single day. I don’t get it right. I don’t do things the same way everyone else does them. My drummer has a unique beat that I follow and revel in. I have learned, and it took me until my forties to realize this, that my path and purpose are unique to me, as are the path and purpose of each individual inhabiting this planet. Embrace yours. Grab it and run with it. You never know who might be blessed by your mess. Your beautiful, broken and flawed mess. The world deserves to know the real you. And you deserve to be it.

The Cesspool of Romance, part 1

2016 regrettably found me back in the dating pool. I went back and forth on whether or not I was really ready to date post-divorce, but at the coaxing of a friend (read: pushing) I went ahead and put up a profile on Plenty of Fish. I am still not sure what made me think that online dating would be a good idea since online was where I met my ex. And Plenty of Fish? Well, much to my chagrin, it’s mostly a bunch of horny douchebags and douchebaggetts looking for nothing more than easy, semi-anonymous sex, friends with benefits (which generally means benefits with a little friendly conversation) or easy non-challenging relationships where one party gets what they want, when they want, how they want it and immediately loses their shit when the other party actually has a mind and opinion of their own.

Please don’t get me wrong. I DO NOT think that all parties on said dating site are bad people looking for the above-mentioned things. I have met some really nice men online and some of them, while no romantic connection was made,  are now friends, at least on facebook where we occasionally chat or make plans that never really come to fruition.

But–if you have ever attempted the online dating thing, you know what it is like and how disappointing, and sometimes even frightening, it can be. And not all bad dating/relationship experiences are confined to online dating either. I have had some of those in the real world where we have been friends or acquaintances for a very long time (high school, or, in my case in the army immediately after high school as well).

So, here are just a few things that might be helpful to know or watch out for when considering stepping back into the cesspool that is the dating world.

  1. Benching “happens when someone repeatedly leaves you on a bench to wait around hoping they may choose to play you again. (Similar to what happens in sports games.) They might want you, but they aren’t quite sure if you are good enough, and there may be someone who they think is better right now. Or they are afraid of love, and they get emotionally scared, so they leave you in a position where they can pick you back up and use you when their interest spikes—or more plausibly in the dating world: when their ego needs a boost” (Elephantjournal.com). Who knew that, in your forties,  this is still a thing and even has a name? By your forties, you should be mature enough to know what the hell you are doing and enough to not do something so disingenuous and hurtful to someone else. This happened to me with someone I knew in the army. We have known each other for over 25 years and, while he lives in another state,  we decided to engage in a long distance relationship and,after a  month or so, began discussing him moving to be closer me to actually have a real relationship. A little over two months in, he flips out and suddenly can’t be away from his family and whatever the hell is in his state of residence. So, on the bench I go. Fool me once, shame on you. Almost 2 years later, the discussion comes up again. Thinking he may have matured in that time, maybe knows a bit more about what he wants (me?), I fall for the bullshit again. Very quickly in, he gets very icy and distant and conversation from him becomes very calculated and careful. Fool me twice, shame on me. Benched twice and I have learned my lesson. It will not happen again with him. Ever. My advice is if you get benched once, don’t let it happen again. The big, bad love/relationship thing will more than likely scare them again and you will have wasted your time, energy, effort and affection that might otherwise be applied toward someone who actually deserves those things from you.
  2. Ghosting. “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject’s maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels” (urbandictionary.com). This hasn’t really happened to me in the real world, but occasionally happens online when you have been conversing with someone for an extended period of time and they either meet someone they clique with or you say something they don’t like. In the real world, based on what a couple of friends have shared with me, it usually happens when a. they have sex once or a few times, or b. when they meet someone else who gives them what the first party hasn’t yet or isn’t willing to give them (and I don’t necessarily mean sex). I think that you really need to pay attention to dialogue, attitude and language. If they are  obsessed with the topic of sex, and I mean beyond normal guy obsession (is that even possible?), evasive or vague, you might have a potential “ghoster” on your hands and you might want to reconsider giving them the time of day.
  3. Self centered men. These men are looking for someone to be their on-call playmate and expect you to mold your life around their schedule and do the things they want to do, when they want to do them. They have little regard for your schedule, family obligations, job, needs etc. If you don’t mold yourself around their needs, you will be seen as a problem and will be left at the curb rather quickly, but let’s face it, that curb in all it’s mundane “blah-ness” is a damn sight better than being with someone who is incapable of giving you even a tiny percent of what you deserve. Case in point: I had been messaging a guy for a couple weeks (what can I say, I am wary and need to talk to someone and get to know them before I hand out my personal info like email or phone number). We had been trying to make a meet date but for some reason our schedules were always conflicting. We finally had a date to meet for coffee on a Friday. Turns out his son had a football game that day and he said we would either have to reschedule or we could attend the game together. Now, I have this policy (or rather my ex and I do) that until something is serious, the kids don’t meet a significant other and definitely not casual dates. I won’t do it to my kids and I won’t do it to someone else’s. It creates confusion and it is unfair to parade a bunch of men in and out of their lives. So we rescheduled for breakfast the next day. I get a text that his brother came into town unexpectedly and we would need to reschedule again. My friends said “Red flag! Don’t do it!”, but because my family is a priority, I assume his is as well and I give him another pass. Reschedule for Monday. Coffee in my town at 5pm? No, he had kid stuff going on starting at 5. We decide to meet for pizza right after I get off work. Meet. Talk. Spiral. Seemed nice, but not immediately comfortable. True nature comes out about 30 minutes in. My kids are my priority so I don’t care who you are, if you don’t get that, it’s not going to work. If you have kids at home and they aren’t your priority, again, it’s not going to work. So, because of the number of days I have my kids with me, my dating availability is limited.This gem told me that because I couldn’t make him my priority, having just met, I was using my kids as an excuse. I was a little dumbfounded. An excuse? They are my offspring. I brought them into this world and I am responsible for them. Things rapidly deteriorated from there, and the date ended abruptly when I got up and walked out on him. My kids are an excuse, but him rescheduling twice and then my schedule having to accommodate his was okay. I have zero respect for a guy (not even a man) who would treat my kids as if they were disposable or an inconvenient option.  When I make them a priority, it is an excuse.

You’ve heard that the tip of the iceberg is just that–the tip. What lies beneath, is so much larger and more expansive than what is immediately visible to the eye. That is kind of the nature of this subject. There is so much more to discuss than just these specific types or problems. I thought I knew what dating was going to be like and what kinds of pitfalls I would run into, but being naive has always been my problem. A little foolishly optimistic too. I kind of expected that the good in people would outweigh the not so nice or honorable. What I am finding is that there are a lot of creeps out there, but I still have faith that there is a gem worth waiting for. Somewhere out there, is a diamond, I just have to sort through a lot of stone and dirt. Someone please pass me a pick and a shovel. And possibly some dynamite.

Change sucks

Change, at any age, is not easy, but when you have long-established patterns that you keep into your forties, change can be exceedingly difficult, especially when that change is something like your diet. I am not talking about watching your calories or cutting your carbs. I am talking about complete and total overhaul and having to rethink and redo EVERYTHING about your diet. Such is the case with me.

In the year before my ex-husband and I split up, I had become sick. I was having a lot of digestive problems, gaining a ton of weight, having a lot of pain (which I thought was solely the weight gain) and generally feeling like a giant pile of canine excrement.  Eight months in, I finally decided to see the doctor because whatever I was going through was not getting any better.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with 2 autoimmune diseases. The first one, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I was pretty sure was going to come up positive. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism several years before but was only prescribed medication and told to lessen my carb intake. So, I took my meds and went on with life. That went on for several years until I started doing research. I found that 9 out of every 10 cases of hypothyroidism are actually autoimmune disease. The early symptoms I showed were fatigue, sensitivity to cold (I would be in a hoodie covered by a blanket in 80 degree temps), weight gain, crazy menstrual cycles (I honestly thought I was hemorrhaging), constipation and hair loss.  The last one, hair loss, was what finally made me go see the doctor.  A few more fun facts I found out in my research is that some of the additional symptoms of Hashimoto’s are brittle nails, muscle and joint pain and stiffness, depression, memory lapses and pale, dry skin (my skin was so dry and itchy, I would scratch until I bled). One of the dietary recommendations for Hashi’s is a lot of whole grains (whole wheat, rye, barley, etc), which leads me to diagnosis number two and the sucky change that followed.

Autoimmune disease number 2–celiac disease. I need to step back for a moment. While the doctor was positive that what I had was Celiac disease, I had to wait for the blood tests to come back from the lab. In the meantime, she told me that I needed to cut gluten from my diet. That meant no wheat, no rye and no barley–no pasta, no bread, no cake, no cookies, no crackers, nothing breaded, nothing batter dipped, no beer.  While I was relieved to know that what was going on with me was not in my head and not a case of frayed nerves and stress, I had no idea just how difficult that diagnosis and “treatment” were going to be. I cut the gluten cold turkey. My first trip to the grocery store resulted in tears and frustration and a trip home with no groceries. Part of it was that almost everything has wheat in it. The other part that my doctor forgot to tell me about, was that removing gluten from my diet was like detoxing from a drug. Normally,  I am a pretty happy go lucky, non angry person. Removal of gluten turned me into a monster. I was angry. Inexplicably raging over everything and nothing. I wanted to punch walls and rip heads off. My anger frightened me. Thankfully that only lasted maybe 5 days. Those were 5 days I would like to erase from my memory.

After recovering some semblance of my sanity, I returned to the grocery store and found that, while difficult, the changes necessary were not impossible. The easiest solution is no processed foods, only lean meats, vegetables, fruits, yogurt, etc. That is not always possible or feasible. Sometimes you need something quick and easy like a frozen meal or a prepackaged sauce. It became necessary for me to read every single label because wheat is often used as a cheap filler or a binder. There was no eating out because there are not a lot of places that do gluten free. Not only that but there is always the risk of cross contamination. That means there is always the possibility that someone won’t clean the prep surface properly or wash their hands in between a regular menu item and a gluten free item. One crumb or a slice of bread–it doesn’t matter. A crumb of bread will set off the autoimmune reaction. Family dinners became a nightmare. At first, I think my family thought the diagnosis was bunk.They kind of poo-poo’d my new issue. They are also set in their routines and they don’t have the restrictions that I have so it was even harder for them. But, they have really come around and make every effort to make sure they have gluten free, carefully prepared things for me to eat. They have taken the time to do what needs to be done to keep me from getting sick.

Two years post-diagnosis, life is much better. I lost about 50 pounds. I discovered that Coke and Funyuns were on my edible list and have gained some of that back. What can I say? I am a work in progress and always will be.I do eat better. I feel better. Muscle and joint pain and stiffness are a nearly constant companion on this journey, but thankfully, movement helps alleviate some of that so staying busy and running all over the store where I work is a blessing. Gluten free food is getting easier to come by and I keep a mental list of what convenience foods I can eat. I found a pasta that is comparable to regular pasta (Barilla–you helped me keep my sanity). That might sound insignificant, but when so much has been taken away, the little things like that are a Godsend. Restaurants are starting to get it. They are making efforts to have gluten free options on their menus which means I can go out to dinner with my kids and my family. My boys are amazing. While they tease me about my restrictions and give me a hard time (Thank God I still have a sense of humor or I wouldn’t survive), they are diligent label readers and will sometimes catch a possible screw up that I don’t even think about. Self control is no longer an “option”. It is essential that I pass on the doughnuts and French bread. If I slip up, I know what my body does and how it feels and I want to avoid that if at all possible. Avoiding the digestive cancers and permanent intestinal damage are kind of important too.

As crazy as it sounds, and as much as change sucks, sometimes it is a blessing. Such is the case with me.

New year, new me? I don’t think so.

I have really come to resent this idea that with each new year, you are supposed to reinvent yourself. You see it on every magazine cover, in newspapers, on TV and in a million blogs that cover a plethora of topics.Why? Do we somehow lose value with each year that passes and must reinvent the nature of who we are to be relevant, loved, appreciated or valued?

Can improvements be made? Sure. Who couldn’t make a few improvements in their lives? Lose a little weight perhaps? Maybe eat healthier and hit the gym more? Be kinder? Love more? We all have areas where we fall short, but the essence of who we are, unless that happens to be a complete jerk, a serial killer or a total pig/pigette , shouldn’t need to be completely reworked each and every year.

The beauty of being in your forties is that you have a lifetime (or half a lifetime, as I plan on living a long time and being around for great grandchildren) of experience, both good and bad, that make you who you are and shape your perspective. You can allow the experience to break you or you can let it build you. The choice is always yours.

I have been through a lot, as a lot of people have, some of which broke me. Thank God we are resilient creatures and can rebuild from the broken pieces. We may not “look” the same when we come through the hardships, but if we are fortunate and determined, we can be better, stronger, kinder, smarter, more loving, etc.

There is a Christian recording artist, Jason Gray, that had a video, and I can’t recall the title on YouTube, but the gist of it is this: People who have been in need of grace and mercy are perhaps more capable and more willing to give those things away to others because they know what it means to need those things. I liken it to a piece of pottery. An intact piece of pottery is capable of collecting water and holding water, but until it is to the point of overflowing, the water does not spill out around it. A cracked, broken and chipped piece of pottery can collect the water, but much of what is collected spills out onto whatever is around it. Those of us that have been beaten by life and broken and damaged, have a unique perspective and vantage point. We can see the damage others are enduring and we can also see the possibility for beauty from those ashes, because we have lived it.We can “wash” them in the grace and mercy that someone once granted us. Someone who has only ever known good fortune may not be able to pour love out in the same way.

So all that heartbreak, all that hurt, all that pain that we have survived has made us who we are. So has the joy, the success, the beauty and the love. Would I change anything? Probably not. If I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I fought like hell to get here. I am a better, stronger, more compassionate person today than I was when I was younger.

So, the plan this year is to be even better, stronger and kinder and do what makes me happy.

To be better, I will revise my diet to be closer to what I was doing when I first got diagnosed with Celiac disease and Hashimoto’s disease: very little processed foods, lean meats, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, cheese and my Shakeology. I will do my best to resist the beckoning of the evil that is Funyuns and Coke. And chocolate. And (gulp) bacon.

To be stronger, the plan is to become a sort of middle aged, wannabe gym rat. I will take classes and figure out the gym equipment (for the umpteenth time) and get some sort of routine going. I will sweat away the wheat belly (thank you Celiac, you heartless witch), and hopefully shrink my the rest of my body, except my boobs, but we all know those will be the first to go.

To be kinder, I will try to look past people’s faults and flaws (including mine) and love them anyway. I will give wherever and whenever I can and give as much as I can and as often as I can. I will randomly compliment strangers and friends and people I love. I will hug my kids more, even when they try to resist and push me away because I am “so annoying.” I will tell them often that I love them and how proud of them I am. Because, despite their ability to push every single piss-mom-off button I have, I love them with everything that I am. And I am so proud of the compassionate,  kind-hearted, loving young men that they are becoming. I am also proud of the twisted sense of humor, goofy antics and endless chatter that they all have in common with me.

I will do what makes me happy. I will paint more. I will laugh more. I will see beauty in overlooked, unappreciated, mundane things. And grand, amazing things. And things that others regard as strange and weird. I will stop and smell the lilacs and jasmine, because roses do nothing for me. I will have more nerf gun battles, doodling sessions, long walks and long talks with my kids and try to make the most of the time I have with them. And I will learn to just be.

Yes, 2017 will be a year full of change, but new me? Screw that.

 

 

How did I get here?

Today is December 29, 2016–my 47th birthday. It also marks the end of my second year of freedom. Well, maybe not freedom yet, but I am getting there. At any rate, I am more free than I was 2 years ago.

On December 30, 2014, I left my 13 year marriage. While not entirely responsible for it, that decision began an avalanche of change that was, for me, excruciating. That choice was the healthiest thing I could’ve done for myself. My marriage was like having an anchor tied to my waist and I was drowning. The moment I walked out the door, the anchor was liberated and I could breathe again. If you have ever been trapped underwater and completely disoriented, that first breath of air is–how do I even describe such relief? A miracle? A godsend? Euphoric? All of those things. I was terrified and giddy. But that choice was just the beginning of nearly unbearable growing pains because my roller coaster ride was about to get really ugly.

My marriage was just the first loss. I also lost my stability, my income and the home I had lived in for 11 years.

During the last and dying year of my marriage, I got sick. I was sick, all day every day for 8 months. I was having a lot of digestive problems and intestinal distress. Migraines were a regular occurrence, usually 4 or 5 a week. I was inexplicably gaining a lot of weight (about 50 pounds). Insomnia robbed me of any sort of respite from the suck that was my existence. And I was stiff and in pain pretty much all the time. I was also incredibly depressed. I was convinced, as was my family, it was nerves. My marriage had been over, I think, for a long time and I was just staying way too long at the party. Our finances were a disaster. Everyone was threatening to sue us or take away our house. I was miserable. He was miserable. It was not a healthy environment. After I left, I finally went to the doctor. I know, 8 months is a long time to be sick and do nothing about it. But, I can be stubborn. Really stubborn. After listing my symptoms, she knew immediately what it was and just had to test me for the antibodies. She was pretty sure I had celiac disease and told me I would need to adopt a gluten free existence. That was the next loss. My diet. Every food I loved. Bread, pasta, bread, cake, bread, cookies, bread, crackers, soups, anything breaded or batter-dipped. Did I mention bread? We had eliminated most processed foods, but that wasn’t enough. I was going to have to completely revamp my culinary repertoire. Great.

For about 7 years prior, I had been working farmers markets. At first I sold art, hand painted glass and jewelry. Later we added starter plants for the garden and then vegetables. The last two years, we gradually added a variety of cakes, breads and cookies and stopped trying to sell my art. We needed the money so I took it upon myself to work an ungodly number of hours every week (about 60-80) just to pull in an extra $200-250 per week. The vendors at the markets became an extended family for me. I looked forward to seeing, hugging and talking to them each week. Working a full time job meant that I had to drop the market scene. At least for a while. That was another loss. Two seasons since then and I haven’t been able to get back.

There was a lot of loss for me in that first year, but also a lot of gains too. I found a job I love. It’s retail and I never thought I would go back into retail–I was hoping for something using my degree–but there I am. I love the people I work with (most of them). I have made a lot of friends I wouldn’t otherwise have. I am gaining financial freedom that my marriage destroyed. I am not there yet and it may be a while, but I am baby-stepping my way out of my financial hell. Even though my apartment has become somewhat of a hell, when I first moved in, it was like my own piece of heaven. I could breathe, I could relax, I could just be. And it was mine. I lost about 30 pounds in the first six months. My health was getting on track and I was feeling so much better. My confidence that was pretty much non-existent came back. I feel good. I got promoted at my job. I started painting again. This year I actually started dating again.  So that’s it in a nutshell: 47, divorced, employed, mom to 3 kids and just beginning to negotiate life and thrive again.