From the Ashes

“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.

Setting Priorities for the Future-You

The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.

-Isaac Asimov

There are a ton of things you are juggling all at once right now, and an amazing amount of pressure is on you to make sure you don’t drop even one. If you were to drop something, it feels like it might just be the catastrophic end of the world. One of the worst feelings in the world is that of letting someone else down, especially one of your children. With all of this pressure, it is difficult to even consider adding another thing to your plate. It may be fine to continue to do what you are doing, maintaining the “status quo” of juggling all of these things that have now become your whole life. But, keep in mind that there will come a time that the things you are juggling will no longer be the priorities anymore. When that day comes, do you want to be left (likely in middle-age) just STARTING to sort out who YOU are?

At some point, your family will have grown to the point where they don’t need the same things from you any longer. When you get to that point, it would be a shame to find out that, after all the time you have invested in those around you, you don’t even recognize yourself any longer. What were those hopes and dreams you had before? What was it you enjoyed doing again? What kind of hobbies brought joy into your life before? Do you still have the abilities you had back then to do those things well now? Most of the time, we find that we have LOST our connection to what makes us happy by giving all of our time and effort to others.

As we age, our likes and dislikes change very naturally. Usually, though, there are a few activities that really help bring you back to your center. Writing, reading, learning, teaching, painting, bowling, martial arts, playing a musical instrument, pottery, or even knitting are all the kinds of things that often we learn how to do in our youth, but quit doing while we are giving all of ourselves to others. When we come to the point where no one is asking for our every second, we find that we have lost our prowess at these skills. We find that our bodies and our minds are no longer properly trained to do these things that make us happy. When we are not physically or mentally ready, these things that used to bring us so much happiness now cause incredible frustration. Muscle memory has disappeared for your favorite dance moves or you can’t recall how to do your favorite stitch… If, instead, you were able to at least “dabble” in the activity over all of that time, you would be much better prepared to dive in and hit the ground running once you are able to come up for air after raising your family.

It is a form of self-care to maintain your abilities to do these things. And, in this world full of a take-take-take attitude, it is also teaching your family how to navigate life in a healthy way… that it is important to stay true to themselves and to make time to do things that they love. It will also create a life full of meaningful time, less likely to slip past unnoticed. Similar to that odd feeling you get when you are driving home from work and realize you have no idea how you got this far without being conscious of your driving efforts, you don’t want to “wake up” in life already at your destination. It is absolutely worth noticing every moment that passes in your life. When it gets to the point where it has become monotonous and personally uninspiring, you may find that the time is disappearing from your consciousness… That is when you know for sure that you have lost your center. Life has too many amazing things to offer for this to ever happen to you.

If you never really found anything in your younger years that brought you to this center, you should take some time to start searching for what you enjoy now! It adds interest and depth to a life that can be very stressful and repetitive. You do not need to dedicate a lot of time, maybe one hour per week, to this goal.* You wanted to finish your college degree? Take one class, and then when that class is done, take another one. You will be thrilled when the juggling stops and you find that you are so near, or possibly even finished, with that goal. Want to play your instrument again? Get it out and practice one scale each day. You will shake off the cobwebs, start getting your groove back, and possibly even spike some interest in your little ones.

This post is a challenge to its readers. Find one anchor that can help you keep in touch with your center… what makes you “who you are”. What is something that you can do to retain your “self” even during all of the chaos?

*Of course, more is usually better! If you can set aside 15 minutes per day (that adds up to under two hours per week) you can really stay in touch with your center! It’s time well spent. Don’t feel like you have to “finish” anything during this time…. Instead of it just being a quick-fix and then going right back to the grind of life, let your “project” breath and have space in your life!

Define Yourself

“Our past may shape us, but it doesn’t define us.”

– Alyson Noel, Night Star
Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash

It is the nature of people as a whole to try to sort our world into simple, logical boxes.  This process allows all of the crazy aspects of the world to be simplified and quickly processed and understood, and it is the reason for our tendency to make snap-judgments. These judgments are used to sift through what has already been painstakingly learned through an individual’s collective experiences to help ease the way into the future.  It means that each new person met or experience encountered is automatically categorized to be “like” the most similar person or experience dealt with previously, creating morphed little caricatures of the actuality.  This is incredibly unfair to those who you meet and judge while knowing nearly nothing about them, but it is also unfair to YOU, since even YOU are being shoved into little category boxes by every person you encounter.  How you are superficially perceived by the world has almost nothing to do with your own actions. The concept is very odd and unsettling.

Not until there is a great deal of time invested on learning about a specific person are you able to lift the veil of these snap judgements and misinterpretations to meet the actual person on their own accord. Even after you know someone very well and have devoted endless hours on this learning quest, you may not be able to grasp the reason for decisions they make. It is a wonder that professional therapists and counselors can gain workable insights, and assign life-changing labels, in an hours’ time spent in sporadic sessions once per month or less. Certainly, these professionals are able to follow guidelines and make practical suggestions that may fit an appropriate criterion, but to really get to the heart of an issue, one must KNOW the participants intimately, not superficially. This is where the disconnect begins, because who can possibly know you intimately enough to truly define you?

It seems to be that the only people who can define you are those that you allow close enough.  Even then, they will still have a disconnect. Having not grown up AS you, they cannot possibly have every bit of seemingly unimportant facts needed to understand you.  That leaves only ONE person who is capable of defining you, and that, of course, is YOU yourself.  Having passed through this short thought experiment, it seems like you should probably take the job of defining yourself very seriously.  Your opinion of yourself is truly the only one that matters.  Others will come and go in your life, bringing and taking away with them their judgments. Leaving out all of those other people’s verdicts, you can grasp the task of self-definition with your full attention! What a better place to start than with this amount of self-proclaimed power!

Photo by Lopez Robin on Unsplash

Decide who you want to be and make it happen. With each decision, you are making that meaning of your life clearer.  Many people make bad decisions without realizing that life is a result of stringing together decisions. If you string together too many bad ones, you create a bad life.  If you string together all good choices, you have naturally created a good life.  Even if the world throws the inevitable curve-ball at your creation, a well-practiced decision-making muscle can guide you past the obstacles while keeping your identity as a good person intact.

This concept begs another question.  If you are the only person who can truly define your life, and life is a combination of the choices that you have decided to make, then perhaps there are no “good” or “bad” people in this world, but instead only people who have made good or bad decisions.  Bad decisions are made when someone does not realize that they have the power to define themselves. Knowledge is truly power when this realization is internalized. Move forward through life and, when a decision must be made, consider that it is a chance for you to flex the power you have; a chance to define and solidify who you truly are to the only person who actually matters.