“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
It can be easy to fall into a rut when you are working hard every day just to get all of the required chores done. In fact, you can get so buried in the day-to-day tasks, that you forget there is MUCH more to life and to being alive than just getting through the day. One of the most amazing things that our human brains are capable of is learning and synthesizing new information, When we stop learning, we can find our lives become boring and uninspired. Growth and development does not stop when our bodies finish those awkward teenage years, but it continues in our minds for every day that we are alive.
The challenge for March is to find something new to learn. Cold winter months seem to drag on forever, and the darkness and poor weather can really take a toll on your perspective. The spark of a new interest is always a great way to counteract these moments in the doldrums. Is there something you have always said you wanted to learn? Make it as simple or as complicated as you like, but try to choose something on which you can make good progress within the month of March. Perhaps you know someone who already is an expert at your chosen conquest. If so… Wonderful! As an added bonus to this challenge, you can reach out and grow your personal relationship by asking them for help in your new learning adventure!
If you do not know anyone with the required skills, there are other ways to learn. Of course, you can take a formal class (at a college, local community program, library, or even the local craft store often has many courses), though formal education is not often at the top of the list for those running a busy household. (See Education is THE WAY). Luckily, we all have access to the internet in some way (even at your local library) so YouTube is at our fingertips! The internet is so expansive, you can find a wealth of instructions (both good and bad, so beware) on almost any topic you may be thinking of learning. If nothing immediately jumps out at you as something you always wanted to learn, here is a list of ideas:
“I no longer feared the darkness once I knew the phoenix in me would rise from the ashes.”
-William C. Hannan
Things fall apart. It is almost inevitable that when something begins, it will eventually end. It may seem to be pessimistic to think in that way when you are just beginning something new. Your budding venture will likely be absolutely fabulous and well worth all of the effort you put in, despite the fact that it may eventually end. If, instead, you are on the tail-end of your adventure, simply remembering that all things ultimately come to a close is a very pacifying and calming thought.
The worst endings, it would seem, are the abrupt, unexpected endings; the ones you never see coming and that hit you hard like a right-hook. Even though long and drawn out endings can be excruciatingly painful in their own right, at least, when there is writing on the walls and some foreshadowing of what is about to come, you can prepare yourself, get your feet set, and then wait for impact. Abrupt endings don’t allow you time to prepare. Because of this lack of preparation, it can seem that you fall even farther down when the unexpected endings occur. If you find yourself already in this unfortunate position, you can read about some tips to start working your way through in this associated post, aimed at helping you start to rebuild.
Women in our society are often told to be reliant on their surroundings instead of on themselves. This can lead to serious problems when their surroundings start to crumble, with seemingly nowhere to turn for help. There are a few basic things that everyone should be doing, even when things are going well, simply because it is always good to have the basics covered. Having a bank account in your name only with a bit of funds, reliable transportation that you own, necessary documents organized in a way that they are safe and easily accessed, hands on knowledge of your debts and payments, and a support group not affiliated directly with your relationship are all things you can do to ensure that, no matter what happens next in your life, you will be starting above “ground zero”.
Bank Account: Whether it is a divorce or separation from a significant other, a death, or needing to disconnect from other loved ones that are causing you harm, money can be a huge barrier. It is not suggested that you have “hidden funds” necessarily, but there is no reason that a significant other should be offended by you having your own bank account. In the event of death or separation, these funds are not tied up in the chaos and are accessible for you to maintain your life. If a loved one does not want you to have this type of security account, it would suggest that there is an underlying flaw in the relationship and should cause a red-flag in your mind.
Transportation: An inability to leave a situation because of a lack of transportation is a terrible feeling. You don’t need to own your own car if you live in a city where public transportation is reliable and readily available, but, if you live in a more rural area, having a car in your own name would be preferred. A car registered to you and of which you hold the title is ideal. This will limit anyone’s ability to claim that the vehicle is “their property” and therefore allowing law enforcement to be involved should you wish to leave.
Organized Documentation: Having a vehicle in your name is absolutely useless if you don’t know where you put the Title of Ownership. It is very important to have a single place where all of your important documents are kept. Your best bet is at a bank in a safe-deposit box, but sometimes this solution is not a practical one. Alternatively, you could invest in a small, portable “fire safe” as a great way to keep everything together and safe. Having two small individual safes (instead of one large and cumbersome safe) can be a good reason to keep your items separate from your partners. Keep your vehicle titles, birth certificates, social security cards, and passports for you and your children, any savings bonds, travelers checks, or emergency cash, and other things you might find necessary, in your safe. (A quick search on Amazon will give you a lot of options, like one of these… SentrySafe 0500 Fireproof Box with Key Lock 0.15 Cubic Feet or First Alert 3031F Deluxe Locking Steel Security Box.)
Knowledge of Debts: It may seem easier to have one person in the household handle all of the bills, but it is also a setup for potential disaster. If your loved one is handling all of the bills and something should happen to him, you will have no way of knowing how to pick up where he left off. In a more confrontational situation, you may find that a family member or significant other has run up debt that you are not aware of, but since you let them handle the bills, they have been able to hide the deception until they disappear, leaving you holding the bag. It is best to always know about all the bills and debts in your household, and working on these things together can add a lot of clarity and bonding to an already strong relationship. Again, if your partner does not want to share these items with you, it should be a huge red flag that there may be more going on than what you see on the surface. Find out what they don’t want you to know, and find out quickly.
Support: Having friends or family that are not directly affiliated with your relationship is beneficial in many ways. Having these outside connections will add interest to your daily life and, as a bonus, you will have more things to talk about with your partner and friends. This will add to the richness of your conversations and relationship. In the event that something tragic does occur, you will have friends that you will know to be “in your corner” right from the start. Not knowing who you can trust can be a real issue at the end of a relationship, and having these reliable friends and family who will not have loyalty issues to contest with will be real life saver.
It is always the hope that what makes you happy today continues to be what makes you happy into your old age. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Instead of putting yourself in a situation where you have no way out of bad circumstances, or no way to handle things on your own if something changes, take the time NOW to make your life a bit more secure. This way, if something goes wrong, you will be ready to rise from the ashes like a phoenix instead of sitting among the rubble of a crumbled life.
“Don’t lose faith in humanity. There are good people out there. You have the power to make a difference.”
– Akiroq Brost
When you find yourself to be the one left in charge after some traumatic experience, it can be easy to be like a turtle… pulling all of your important “things” into your shell with you and doing your best to keep everyone safe and sound. You automatically start to think only of what is best for you and those who are important to you. Damn the world for making you withdraw like this and forcing you to become “selfish” for your family. As a reaction to pain created by a terrible situation, this is very acceptable. But, be very careful that you do not limit your view for very long. It can be easy to get into the habit of making quick decisions, and while those decisions may be good in the moment and may get you through to the next obstacle, make sure you pause and consider where you are in the grand scheme of things.
The world is not the enemy, the person that hurt you is not “just like everyone else” out there. You don’t need to hide from the whole world. You need to maintain connections, build trust with others, and stay in the present moment. Without connections, trust, and current knowledge, you are setting yourself up for a more challenging road. You don’t need to trust just ANYONE, but you need to trust SOMEONE. You don’t need them to know everything about you, but you need to have someone to talk with on an adult level. People who you can trust will give you an honest opinion if you ask it of them will offer more than just an opinion, they give you a basis on which you can build. It is so very hard to trust after being hurt. Having someone you can believe is a beautiful way to start. It will widen your perspective, especially if you know they are being honest and you find that their opinion differs from yours. You can dig in and find out why they feel that way and give yourself a chance to reflect on your own opinion and whether it still holds true. Being the only adult at home does not allow for opinions outside of ourselves. We all learn the most when our perspective is challenged, even slightly, which cannot happen if you seclude yourself out of fear.
Having a healthy amount of perspective will serve you and your family well. It is easy to become overwhelmed and think “I can’t worry about other people and their problems right now, I have too much on my own plate!” Certainly, your issues may be far worse than what anyone you know is dealing with at the moment, but do not withdraw completely. It may be difficult to listen without judgment to someone else’s woes when you are going through your own issues. Still, listen very clearly to them and try to sort out a parallel that you can build on with them. Maybe their issue is vaguely similar to yours in some way, or similar to something you dealt with in the distant path, or even something you hope to never deal with in the future. Any parallel will help you build trust in that relationship. Certainly, some people will not be “keepers” because even as friends they cannot offer honest opinions. You may need to sort through some different people and decide who you can trust. Having and being a sounding board is a priceless thing. Building trust is the beginning of building your new life to be stronger than your old one.
All of this becomes even more applicable when you are making choices for your kids. How can you make a good decision for your child, lets say perhaps joining a local sports team, without having a larger perspective about what is going on in your neighborhood? If you want your son or daughter involved with a “team” so they can have friends and be socially healthy, please ask around about the coaches and the dynamic that other parents have experienced before you sign them up. Some very reputable organizations are ruined by an overzealous coach or a group of parents with unquenchable expectations (think Cobra Kai from the Karate Kid movie!)
You think you are doing something good for your child, only to find out after a few months you have thrown them to the wolves, lowering confidence levels and self-worth… the EXACT OPPOSITE of what your intentions were! Ask around and you will find out about bad coaches, and save your child some heartache and help them grow or retain the love of the game overall. Find a neighbor that you can trust to give you honest answers. Ask a teacher at school that you know loves your child to see what they can “find out” about the coaches with whom your child may be crossing paths. Whatever you do, please don’t go in blindly and see what comes of it. Even though they may not yet be able to appreciate what you are doing for them at the moment (see more on this here), you still have to be sure you are making the absolute best decisions you can for them. Make sure that you do not cut yourself off from the world, because a limited perspective cannot make informed decisions. You need to make sure that you are exposing your family to healthy circumstances where growth and joy are possible, and the only way you can be sure to do this is by allowing yourself to have a broad perspective.
Holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and thankful feelings. Joy and laughter, decorations, bright packages with bows and ribbons… You know, the whole festive picture. So what is to be done when your world is not right, things are not settled, and you just don’t feel any holiday cheer? Trying to fit into the old norms can be disastrous for your mental well being.
It can be very difficult to sort through this inner turmoil. Making matters worse, you may feel like the whole world has its eye on you…. trying to see if you are “alright,” which may seem supportive, but in reality it is a LOT of extra pressure. This may be, for example, your first holiday as a single parent… or your first holiday out on your own… or your first holiday after a divorce… whatever your situation, it is different and it is stressful. If you try to make it just like every other, it will feel very much like a fraud to you and those you love. It is time for a change. Just like you reinvented your environment for a fresh start, you can reinvent this holiday. You can take this moment in time to refresh and refocus your holiday norms, making them more bearable after a change, and also showing that ever-watchful outside world that you are taking the reins in your new situation and molding your new world to your expectations.
Choose one or to “traditions” from your “old holidays” to keep up, as that will be very grounding as you move forward in your life. Try to make these the very oldest ones that you can remember, like from your own childhood or from stories you remember being told of your parents childhood. Those are good for you to remember and continue. (Maybe, holiday baking with the family, or getting a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, like you always did when you were a kid.) Take every other thing that you have done more recently around the holidays and just forget about it. You are going to make some changes this year.. You are going to re-establish the traditions. I know, I know… you are saying “but isn’t a tradition supposed to be TRADITIONAL???” If you have kids and they ask you “why aren’t we doing blahblahblah tradition this year?”, you will simply say, “that is what we used to do, but now we do THIS instead!”
Here are some ideas that might trigger something inside you for a new holiday tradition… They lean towards the free stuff, but there are plenty of things things to spend money on too.
Take I night out to drive around a nicely decorated neighborhood and oh- and ah- at the light shows.
Find a group of friends to carol (or if your have instrumentally talented friends, have them play their instruments!) near a religious establishment that is collecting people for the holiday. (Some churches have live nativities with hot chocolate that already draw an appreciative crowd.)
Take holiday-themed books out from the library and read them aloud with your family a few nights in a row
Search the local papers (also available at most libraries) to see when there will be festive things going on in your area
Ask the local high school when their Winter Concert will be (almost always free) and take your young family along to see the “big kids” playing holiday songs.
In some areas, the county or local “symphony orchestra” will play a free or low cost concert aimed towards encouraging young children to pick up an instrument.
Look for local reenactments that are done in your area each year around the holidays.
Start a “cookie day” or “cookie exchange” with your new neighbors, or old neighbors that you have never really met.
Find a local plant nursery and see what seasonal selections they offer, many have ornaments or supplies for building your own wreaths and whatnot
The idea here is to do something DIFFERENT this holiday, and make it a new tradition for your family. Your world is a different place now, and holding on to wanting everything to be “just like it was” is a recipe for disaster. It won’t be the same, even if you want it to be. That can cause some serious depression if you are not on the front lines trying to sort out a way to overcome. Put the decorations in new areas, or if you can afford it, but some new ones. Reach out to people and share joy with them. Make some crafts or food together, which can generate good feelings and bonding, which can help heal your heart. It is difficult to do these things when you are sad, but twice as important.
If you are having money troubles, which happens when thing fall apart…. most schools have a charity system set up for families that fall on hard times… don’t reject this help! This is the community you live in coming together knowing that hard times happen to all of us, and likely have happened to them in the past, and they want to make sure that families can enjoy the holidays despite what they may be going through… Take the charity, and once you get yourself better positioned, give back to that same charity for others.
“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
Everyone that you encounter in everyday life has their own story that you don’t know. Some are on a downward slope; some are trekking up a difficult mountain. Some may be in the midst of a life disaster; others are proud of themselves for having just dug out of a deep hole. In your daily interactions, this is really important to keep in mind. Even those on the “lows” will try their best to present themselves well to strangers, but they can be very fragile. So, when dealing with the cashier at the store who made a mistake, or with the girl at the office that seems to be forgetting everything today, you don’t know the full story. They may not have slept at all last night due to a newborn with a cold, or because of a teenager who is going through some difficulties at school. Maybe they just visited their mother with dementia, or their best friend after a difficult cancer surgery. Just like you have faced difficulties and have wanted and hoped for empathy, you should be ready to offer it at every interaction.
Many of us are still working on rebuilding our worlds after disaster, others are trying to become the best they can be; but, ALL of us are a work in progress. It takes time and a tremendous amount of effort to get where you are going in life. Regardless of how hard you try and how far you have grown, those that are watching your progress from the outside will always have some opinion of your choices and evolution. Sometimes they are supportive; many times, they are not. You may find that they are harsh and critical. Finding others on the same journey as you will provide some sounding boards for feedback, but be careful to be conscious of the opinions from those that may not actually be moving forward. They can drag you down.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time you will find your harshest critics will be the elder members of your own family, which can be frustrating and difficult to tune out. Even worse, though, is when it is your own children… Little kids that don’t understand why you are spending time building yourself up, instead of time with them; older teens or young adult children, who resent you for changing their surroundings, even when it was not your choice to do so. They know you well enough to know which jabs and digs will hurt the most, but they are young enough to not realize how painful these jabs can be when the world is already beating you down. When the very people you are trying to make abetter life FOR are the ones who seem the least appreciative, the worst feeling of wanting to give up can start to take hold in your very soul.
You want to be attentive to your kids in every way, but you can’t be if you are not first attentive to your own needs. Like the airplane pre-flight safety demonstration tells us, we must first put on our own mask before helping others secure theirs. What use will you be to your kids if you are not working on being the best you possible? How will you lead by example if you are a crippled mess yourself? It is your job to drag your family through this rough patch, even if they are kicking and screaming, into the best life you can offer them.
Your older children are starting to see how the world works outside of your household, and sometimes they feel enlightened beyond their years when they see what seems to be a “better way” happening at someone else’s house. Remember thinking how great some other family was compared to your own as a teen? You know, that one family whose kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted? They didn’t have to do homework or even go to school… maybe even drank and smoked without reprimand. Were you incredibly jealous of that lifestyle as a teen? Looking at it now, as an adult, it is absolutely horrific how little those children were cared for and looked after, and many of those children had a difficult time entering adulthood.
Your kids may critique your choices, but hold in the front of your mind that you are making these choices for yourself and your family with THEIR best interest at heart, and that YOU have more perspective than they have. They are not aware of the nuances of the full situation… there may be things they have been completely shielded from for their own well being (like when lawyers start getting involved…). Their opinions have worth and weight, so listen to them and hear their concerns. If they are valid, be sure to let them know you have considered them in your choices. Try your best to explain to them your reason for your choices, though they still won’t likely understand, and then do what you have judged to be best and accept your choice.
It hurts, very deeply, to have this criticism, especially from those you want to give the best life too. Hold on to hope that in the future, when these children have grown and seen first-hand some of the difficulties this world can throw at them, they will have some more perspective and appreciate those hard choices you made “back in the day”. For today, just hold your chin up and take a few deep breaths. Protect them from danger, provide them a good life, teach by example, and give them tools they need to enter adulthood with the necessary skills. Check off that box and consider it a job well done.
It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.
Sometimes you may feel tempted try to re-establish what you have lost, wanting to find some semblance of normalcy after a huge life change. This is a mistake! When you find your life has been cracked and broken beyond repair… when it has been shaken to its very foundation… it is primed for a new beginning.
What you lost is gone now, but that doesn’t mean that you need to desire the same thing. What you lost had its flaws. What you lost had inefficiencies, frustrations, and deficits. What you lost was NOT perfect. Now that it is gone, you have a chance to CORRECT the things that were lacking. Do not settle for something similar to what you already had. You may have been forced to make a change you didn’t want to make, like it or not. Don’t overlook the fact that you were given this perfect and golden opportunity to make your life BETTER than it was before.
First things first. It can be horribly depressing to walk into the front door of your home and see everything exactly how it had always been, except for that ONE piece that is now missing… it emphasizes and magnifies the missing piece. There it is, looming right in your face day after day. Don’t let this be! Most people don’t find themselves financially able to relocate, but if you can, MOVE to a new home.
Start fresh. If you can’t up and move, at least change every aspect that you possibly can. If you have a house, now is your chance to CHANGE it for the better. Move every piece of furniture. Take every picture off of every wall and swap it for pictures from other rooms. Change window dressings, add throw rugs, move the television, drive in a different direction on your way to work and other daily habits…. Change EVERYTHING! If you have kids who have their own rooms, swap them around completely. It will be good for them too, since they can see that you are accepting and embracing the concept of change, and that IT’S OK. It may seem like change just for the sake of change on the surface, but really, it’s a chance to reset your perspective. It is a transformation, and, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, you and your family will be coming out of this more beautiful, stronger, ready to spread your wings into the wind and take off!
Now that everything in your visual field is different, you are off to a great start! Sit down and write a list of everything you always wanted to do. This is different than a bucket list, like traveling to Italy or going skydiving. Instead, list all of the things that you personally expect from yourself in this lifetime. Consider that you have all of the power over the choices in your new situation. Did you always think you would have a specific career? Did you always want to own your own home? Did you always want to have a college degree? Did you always want to own and operate your own business? Your list will be specific to you and you only. Do NOT list things that other people wanted you to do, what they though you would be good at, or what others expected of you… This is 100% about you. You are going to make some plans for your future in your new surroundings without any old objections holding you back, because EVERYTHING has CHANGED and YOU are going to CHANGE RIGHT ALONG WITH IT!
Don’t bog yourself down with details. You don’t need to plan out how you are going to accomplish everything right now. You are just going to bring your personal goals for a better future into clear focus in your mind. Imagine what it will feel like when it is accomplished! Having goals in mind will help you sort out how you’re going to take your life and rebuild it in the direction of those goals. From the foundation up, brick by brick, you now have a chance to build your life as you have always imagined it should be!
The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.
There are moments in life when you can truly feel the weight of the world on your shoulders… Moments when it feels so unfair that you and your loved ones wake up to find a new mountain plopped down right in front of you. The moments when you realize that everyone who is important in your life has to turn to you now. Is it scary or intriguing? Are you nervous or excited? New situations allow for open-ended possibilities! You realize you are responsible for everything that happens from here on out, at least for now, and the pressure is on!
OK. Just breathe. We don’t have time for anxiety attacks…. Instead,we have to make a plan to squelch that anxiety. You WILL lead your family through.
Priority one! A wide-eyed and honest assessment of your situation must be done. Since everyone’s starting point will be different, this section wil be a work in generalities. Nevertheless, there are a few certainties everyone will need to check off the list:
Do you have a safe place to live? If not, priority number one must be to find that place. There are places that will help you find safety for you and your family. (Try the Red Cross near you to start… https://www.redcross.org/… I will try to post more options on the Links page of this site. ) A friend who can spare a room… family that will let you stay until you can get your feet under you. If you already have a safe place to stay, think about how incredibly fortunate you are to have this basic need already fulfilled!
Do you know where your next meal is coming from? There are countless websites that will list low budget meal plan ideas. It always amazes me how far a bag of rice and a few canned goods can really get you when you are hungry. Getting a good set of basic recipes under your wing will ensure that you can make due.
Do you have a steady and reliable income? If not, there are plenty of helpful community resources, also meant to get you back on your feet when you are down on your luck. If you already have a steady job, you can now consider yourself THREE steps better off than many others!
If you have the three basics above already checked off,
count your blessings! Let’s not stop there. One more thing….
Do you have a bank account? You need a checking account and a savings account. Both are necessary and non-negotiable. People who lack a checking account can easily be prayed upon by dubious schemers (think, check-cashing fees, payday loans, etc.) that want to nickel and dime you as much as possible. Nothing irks me more than knowing that there are companies that wait to pray on those who are down on their luck. A savings account is also required. The best way to prepare yourself for the unknowns that are guaranteed to come up in life is by setting a bit aside EVERY time you get money (on pay day or otherwise) so that you never have to panic about money. Think about the peace of mind you will give yourself if you know that you are OK if there is car trouble, layoffs, accidental fire, health emergency, unplanned emergency travel, etc… Buy yourself this peace of mind one deposit at a time into your emergency fund.
These are the practicalities… There are also emotional needs that you need to tend to so you can do what needs to be done. Often times, in cases where you find yourself with new responsibilities quickly, there is a period of a form of mourning involved. Mourning the death of your previous life where you knew what to expect next. Don’t short change this feeling or dismiss it. You are allowed to feel this way. Take some time each day, maybe a half an hour or so, where you can sit alone and really think about how the changes are effecting you and about your loss. You are alone, so, by all means, cry if you need to! You may need a brave and strong front for your family so they feel secure, but you need to give yourself time to vent your feelings so they don’t come out when you don’t want them to.
Check off each of these points and reflect on how much you already have. Then start to build up from there! One brick at a time, your life will come together.