Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Process

Over the years, marriage has occasionally crossed my mind.  With each passing birthday, I've wondered if it would be the year that I found someone to spend my life with.  Like a ticking clock.  But my thoughts and feelings on the subject have changed over the years.  At 30, I sat in my front room and drank wine straight from the bottle and thought for sure I was going to be the lonely old cat lady for the rest of my life.  At 32, I still wanted to eventually get married, but I wasn't in a huge hurry because at that point, I had already decided that Isaac was the only child I was going to birth.  He would've been 8 by the time I had another one at that point and that seemed like too much of an age difference to me.  The biological clock was no longer ticking for me.  I was perfectly happy with just one of my own and hopefully some future stepchildren.  I remember that 34 was the year that I cared a little bit more and was really bothered by the fact that 1) every last sibling and cousin and extended cousin of mine were either married, engaged, or in a long-term relationship well on their way to marriage, and 2) that my parents may not be there if I ever DID get married.  Both of my sisters had had my grandparents and parents at their weddings.  As of age 30, I no longer had any living grandparents and at this rate, my parents may be 95 or dead before I walked down the aisle.  This is an actual glimpse into the future:


But since turning 36, my mindset has completely shifted.  I've actually done a lot of self-reflection on the topic over the last couple months.  Not really sure what exactly brought it on.  Maybe the fact that I am officially on the downhill slide to 40.  Maybe because I am in a genuinely happy relationship again for the first time in a long time and honestly didn't know if I ever would be again.  And then one day several weeks ago, my coworker got engaged.  And it just kind of hit me...  I could potentially never get married.  Not because I don't want to, but because it suddenly seemed like this super foreign concept to me.  When she announced it, I felt so far removed from the topic that I didn't even really know how to respond.  I obviously managed to respond in the most socially acceptable way possible, which, of course, was excitement and congratulatory words of support.  And I was genuinely happy for her.  She had patiently waited long enough for that damn ring.  But the whole situation got the hamster wheel turning, and as a result of being the over-thinker that I am and have always been, this blog post was born.

How do people even get to the point of marriage?  I'm not talking about Vegas elopements with someone you met last night.  Or marriages that come out of feelings of obligation (arranged marriages, pressure due to an unplanned pregnancy, when an ultimatum has to be given because she's waited 7 years for a ring and her uterus isn't getting any younger so come on already WTF, etc.)  But the ones where you actually go through the long process of dating and mutually falling in love and realizing you want to spend your life and money and space and snacks with them, like FOREVER.  I have obviously seen marriage all around me my entire life.  My parents have been married for 40 years.  I have friends who have been married 5, 10, 20 years.  Sometimes several times.  So I know it can happen.  So my confusion isn't with the end game of marriage.  I'm not anti-marriage by any means.  I completely appreciate the marriage part.  And I definitely understand the meeting aspect.  I've been on more first dates than I care to admit and many have stopped there.  What baffles me is the in-between.  Point A to Point B.  And everyone's A-B is different.  Some people get married after a few months like my parents did and stay married forever.  Others can date for 7 years before marriage and end up getting divorced.  I guess it's all personal preference with varying outcomes.  For me (and this has all changed drastically over the years), I need at least a couple years to figure out if I even want to share my food and bank account with you.  How do I know you aren't crazy or jealous or pick your nose in the car or eat the last Oreo without even asking me if I want it?!  It takes time to learn those important details and quirks about a person.  As Aziz Ansari once said, "I see people my age getting married to people they've known for like a year and a half.  A year and a half?  Is that enough time to get to know someone to know you want to spend the REST of your life with them?  I've had sweaters for a year and a half and I was like, 'What the f*ck was I doing with this sweater?'"

Despite the length of your A-B process, it's hard enough to get through the BEGINNING phase of dating.  I have heard people say that "dating is so fun!" And I'm like....


People that are married or in long-term relationships say they miss the initial dating phase.  But are they remembering those first few months?  The questions and the wondering and the overthinking.  Because I know I'm not the only one with these experiences.  There are memes out there that support the fact that I'm not the only one who struggles with those early dating worries.  Like this one:


The person who made this is my soulmate.  It was probably a woman, she probably has a little bit of anxiety, and it sounds like she has had some dating experiences similar to mine based solely on this picture.  And she's totes been ghosted several times.  If you don't know what that means, you come from a dating era I like to call "privileged dating".  Good for you. 

Someone also once told me that specifically online dating is fun.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Then I later found out that she just swiped for her friend on the dating app, she didn't actually have to do the swiping for her own dating life.  Well yeah, it's awesome fun when YOU aren't trying to find an undamaged needle in a haystack full of horse crap and garbage that's on fire.  Because to me, that's the most brutal time in a relationship.  Internally, of course.  You aren't having blowout fights in those first few months (at least I hope not because if so, RUN.  Trust me.  Been there.  Didn't run.  Another life lesson learned by Becca.  So many life lessons...) 

The beginning stage of dating for me is like eating dairy.  It sounds like a great idea and you're craving it and you desperately want that Blue Bell Cookie Two Step and some mac-n-cheese because in theory, it's awesome and makes your heart happy.  Can't get enough of it.  But it's not without risk, and for me, early dating and dairy give me similar gastrointestinal discomfort.  Sure, it's great to go to dinner and cuddle and not fight and not have them fart under the blankets in the beginning.  But everything else about the beginning these days is so stressful.  If I could skip from date one to the moment you both admit your love for one another, that would save me so much time and stress.  But I'd also have way less life lessons to blog about. 

Another thing that baffles me is, how do some people and personality types find someone to marry and others don't?  Almost weekly, I meet someone who is married and I try to picture their married life and how they got to their Point B.  Weird, I know.  I'm a freak.  But it intrigues me because some of these people are so...whatever they happen to be...annoying, loud, confident, funny, negative, bipolar...that I can't help but wonder about their spouse.  What made them say, "Yep, this is the one I want to spend every single day with."  I know everyone has their own cup of tea and what is my cup of tea may not be someone else's cup of tea.  But then there are others I come across who are NOT married and I wonder why.  What's their story?  Where is their person?  Why is this smart, funny person single while this crazy ass narcissist over here is attached?  Right?!

So then I wonder, is it something I want because that's what's "supposed to happen", the course of things because society says so?  Because it seems that most of my engagements and "close calls" have been because it was just the "next step", not because they couldn't imagine life without me and vice versa.  Here's a timeline of my significant failed relationships:

* My high school sweetheart was my first fiancé, but we were practically kids.  We just thought that loving each other since 6th grade meant that we were meant to be forever.  It was the next step.  Sure, those stories happen sometimes, but it's extremely rare.  Rarer than me turning down a cupcake rare.  I pretty much spent my entire childhood thinking that life was set up for you on a schedule - married at 20, done having 3-4 kids before 30, grandparents at 50, live happily ever after and die at 80.  Not even sure where or when this timeline developed in my head, but I truly believed it to be true until reality slapped me in the face in my early 20's.  But I had been on that path with him and he was the obvious next step.  But he wasn't and I wasn't and we weren't.  And we're both thankful to this day that we didn't take that plunge.

* Next up is the guy who was probably the most likely candidate, the one I had a child with who never wanted to get married but then married the next girl a month after I left.  Makes me chuckle now as I type this, but it was a sucker-punch to the gut 10 years ago.  We were never engaged, but it was a 5-year relationship, my longest.  So I had gone through this long process with him that was essentially supposed to lead to marriage, right? - fell in love, had a baby, stayed together for most of our 20's - but nothing.  Through 5 years, we never completed the process.  We fell in love in the first 3 months, hit our high at 6 months, then never really moved beyond that.

* Then there was the guy I dated for 4 months before we got engaged (fiancé #2).  We were still in that happy, can't-get-enough-of-each-other phase and thought getting married early on would be an awesome idea.  It can happen but man, that would've been disastrous.  He's one big reason why my A-B got extended significantly.

* Then lastly, there was the guy I genuinely thought I'd marry, but I actually dodged the biggest, most narcissistic bullet in the universe. 

So basically, I've thought on a few occasions that I was with the one I would marry.  Been engaged twice, long-term a couple other times.  And as I outlined above, I am thankful that those relationships didn't work out for various reasons.  They weren't the right ones.  Things have a way of working out for the best.  Had to throw that cliché quote in there because it's true.  But what was different about my A-B compared to other people's A-B's?  THAT is the million dollar question.  One that likely doesn't have a concrete answer. 

But all of that being said, I am actually incredibly happy with my life and relationship.  I can honestly say I'm the happiest almost 8 months in that I've ever been at this stage.  He's all kinds of great and I feel lucky to have found this needle in that haystack.  We aren't even remotely close to any engagement or marriage talk.  Nope.  But will it get to that point?  History says no.  But what's that other cliché quote?  Trust the process?  Yeah, that.  That's what I'm trying to do.  Although trust isn't my strongest quality.


There is a meme that says something along the lines of "I'll get married when a man makes me as happy as queso".  And as funny as that may be (and actually kinda true), I'll get married when I feel like I'm just as special and beautiful to them and adored by them as they are to me and by me BEYOND the honeymoon phase of dating.  And that takes time.  Mutuality is key.  Because why wake up at 50 and either look over at the empty space in your bed because you ended up in divorce or look over at your snoring spouse that you resent because you feel like you care more and do more than (s)he does?  I've seen that happen so often, so the silver lining of being my 36 year old unmarried self is that I've actually had a lot of extra time to learn from other people's marriage woes.  Sorry guys, but thanks I guess?

But I do think the world is changing and with that comes major changes in the way we handle relationships.  The dating world has changed drastically since my grandparents met organically, fell in love, and got married.  Heck, even since my sisters got married.  Online dating is the #1 way to meet people and despite the cheesy commercials that make you want to vomit in your mouth while you sit at home eating ice cream in your underwear on a Friday night, it's not all fun and games.  So if you are currently single and looking, or in the early awkward phase of dating, or going through a divorce or yet another dating breakup in your 30's or 40's, just know that you aren't alone.  And you're not "too old" to start over or get married.  And you're not "damaged".  I mean, you could be but everyone is in some way.  And even though your 6 year old self watched Mannequin in 1987 and developed unrealistic expectations of love and marriage and timelines and A-B processes, there's still time.  Marriage is not required in order to be "normal" or happy.  You create your own happiness with who you choose to have in your circle and who you choose to love.





Monday, January 2, 2017

Congratulations, it's a burger!


Anyone who has known me longer than 5 minutes knows that I have been a gassy individual since birth.  I've never been particularly shy about my ability to burp louder than most men or clear a room.  Sure, I keep these things under wraps with various people, such as new boyfriends, friends who aren't as disgusting as I am, my boss (most days)...  But being a walking fart bubble is just who I am.  Sorry not sorry.  I've always teased people like my mom and middle sister that if they didn't start letting out their gas, they were going to explode one day.

In the last year, what started in 1981 as just a normal part of my day, turned into a complete nuisance when it started affecting my ability to enjoy my food.  Nothing gets in the way of my food.  And it wasn't so much the flatulence and belching that bothered me.  I was actually still quite amused by that.  It was the other symptoms that made me realize that something was wrong with me.

It started with my body's hatred for sodium almost 2 years ago.  If I ate a few salty meals in too short of a time span, my feet swelled up like my sister's when she was 8 months pregnant with twins.  Then came the acid reflux that only occurred at night.  If I even so much as looked at a piece of food or glass of alcohol within 3 hours before bed, I woke up a few hours later drenched in sweat, knives in my stomach, burning chest, and for several days after the incident, I would have the feeling of a lump in my throat (we Speech Pathologists call this "globus").  This was an easy fix...don't eat before bed.  But then the queasiness kicked in.  Anytime I ate, I felt slightly nauseous.  I was eating Alka Seltzer acid/gas chews like candy, going through a bottle every week or two.  I took Nexium but I wasn't consistent with it and it's one of those medications that you have to take every single day for it to be effective.  I was entirely too cheap for that so I mainly took it if I knew I was going to be going out for a beer or unhealthy meal.

The worst symptom, the one that bothered me the most, was the bloating.  After a meal of any size, I looked as though I was 6 months pregnant or had been holding in a fart for a decade.  At one point, I took a "before" picture after a meal at my sister's house.  My stomach was sticking out, literally hanging over my pants.  The next morning, a mere 10 hours later, I took an "after" picture of a perfectly flat, semi-toned stomach (this was over the summer when I actually had stomach muscles, before a Caribbean vacation and holiday indulgence made them disappear.)  I talked to my college roommate about this because she had had similar symptoms and found out she was allergic/intolerant of a bunch of stuff.  That would explain a lot so I decided to look into this as a possible cause.


I showed my doctor these pictures side by side and her diagnosis was simple and what I had already suspected: I was allergic or intolerant of one or more things.  I could either get allergy testing and/or get a GI consult.  The allergy testing would've settled the allergy/intolerance question right away, but my insurance sucks and I didn't want to pay for both.  So I opted for the GI consult since the globus (feeling of a lump) was still present and I had this paranoid feeling that I had throat cancer or something.  Wrong choice.  She told me what I already knew (globus...duh, I can feel it) and recommended an endoscopy before she would diagnose me with any stomach or esophageal ailments. But like I said, terrible insurance with high deductibles.  Seeing as how I'm in the process of saving money for a major life event, dropping a couple grand on an exploratory procedure wasn't an option.  I asked her to do the food allergy testing but she said I'd need to go to the allergist for that.  Should've gone there first...  Her "in the meantime" solution was to troubleshoot and figure it out on my own: take 2 Nexium every single day (approximately $40/month versus $2000 surgery, drink a glass of prune juice with Benefiber 3 times per day, and cut out gluten/dairy/wheat/grain/sugar, so basically almost everything in life that makes me happy.  Once the bloating and reflux improved, I could add things back in to test for reactions.  At this point, I had gained 10 lbs since August.  I knew there was no way I had consumed an extra 35,000 calories in 4 months, so I knew it had to be the bloating and I was willing to try just about anything to feel right again.  Not because I felt like I needed to lose weight, but because I felt like I wasn't healthy.

Well, from the get-go, the Benefiber/prune juice cocktail wasn't going to happen 3 times per day.  I had to work, I drive over 2 hours a day, I workout... I wasn't about to lose control of my intestines on the treadmill or in my car.  And there are only certain levels of smells I can get away with blaming on the dirty linen cart - or the residents - at work.  So I tried it twice a day for 2 days...and nothing.  Except a belly that looked 6 months pregnant and a fart bubble the size of a melon that refused to pop.  After googling this strange reaction to a concoction that should've cleared my body of everything I'd eaten in the last year, I discovered that some people can't tolerate a lot of fiber at once.  It recommended that instead of a fiber supplement, I simply increase my fiber in my food choices by 1/2 cup.  Done.

Thanks to Pinterest, I learned that this "elimination" diet that the GI doctor suggested was basically Paleo, which made it a lot easier to plan my meals.  I could have meat, vegetables (except potatoes, but sweet potatoes are allowed, THANK GOD!), fruit, eggs, nuts (but not peanuts because they're legumes), almond milk, coconut milk...yep, that's about it.  No bread, milk, cheese, cereal, pasta, BEER!, WINE!, cookies, etc.  Sounds awful, right?  And the first couple days were.  Breakfast options are limited to protein shakes or eggs and bacon.  I'm not a huge egg fan nor do I have time in the morning to make bacon.  So the first health shake of the week tasted like death.  I've perfected it since then but the first day was bad.  I. Was. Starving.  Even though I ate all day long (ask my coworkers - "Man, you always have food in your mouth!"), my body was craving my oatmeal bar and the leftover Halloween candy in a giant bowl above my desk.  But I quickly got into the Paleo groove and I learned to crave fruit and pistachios and sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli.  It took a few days but I got the hang of it.

I had my first cheat meal on day 4.  I decided to test out the wheat/gluten allergy by having a couple beers on a really bad date.  And to emphasize how bad, you should know that my cheat meal also consisted of a Whataburger cheeseburger that I picked up on my way home from said date because...He. Didn't. Order. Food.  Who doesn't order food at a restaurant on a date?  Not my future husband, that's for sure.  Lame sauce.  Pass!  So anyway, the beer and cheeseburger.  No reaction at all.  No significant bloating or acid reflux that night.  The cheese was minimal, not enough to really test for a dairy allergy, but it was freaking delicious.  Even though I passed the beer/wheat/gluten test, I wasn't ready to add those things back in completely.  I wanted to do this elimination diet through December 16, my 35th birthday, before I took a break for the holidays.  A good 3 weeks felt like enough time to figure things out.  So I forged on.

My next semi-cheat meal was on day 6.  I made a spaghetti squash marinara bake and added some mozzarella.  Within 20 minutes of eating, I was bloated and crazy gassy.  So was it the cheese or marinara?  My gut (literally...ha!) says it was the cheese.  I had a dairy intolerance as a kid that I outgrew so maybe it came back?  But like the beer, I wasn't ready to say for certain after one trial that I did or didn't have an intolerance/allergy. By the 10th day, I had already lost 8 lbs and 4 inches off my stomach.  8 lbs in a week and a half is insane but I know I did it in a completely healthy way and simply cut out foods that were holding onto my insides, not to mention the excess water that my cankles were holding hostage thanks to sodium.  These 10 days also included 5 workouts, so that helped the process.  Like I said before, my goal wasn't weight loss, but monitoring my weight helps me to be more aware of food intolerances.  Watching my weight was what made me aware that I had a problem with salt.  I can gain 5 lbs in a weekend from sodium alone. After a cheat WEEKEND where I had 3 major cheat meals and beer, I gained 6 of the 8 lbs back.  I lost all 6 within a few days but still, it shows how much my 35 year old body doesn't like the good stuff anymore.  In those first 3 weeks that I followed that diet, I really only 100% figured out that lettuce isn't my friend.  I highly suspect that dairy and wheat are also a problem, but those symptoms have been inconsistent.

So in summary, Paleo is definitely the way to go if you a) want to lose weight quickly in a healthy way, b) want to get rid of bloating, or c) have food intolerances that you can't quite figure out.  I still plan on getting food allergy testing done and resuming this diet now that the holidays are over.  After a few weeks of Christmas cookies, potlucks, and dinners out, I feel like crap and look like I'm with child again.  I also still plan to get that endoscopy done since the globus never completely went away, even with the diet changes and Nexium.  Both things will have to wait a few more months, but it's a relief to know that I found a fairly simple way to control my symptoms for the time being.

Here is a site that gives a food list if you're interested.  Or just search it on Pinterest and you'll find a ton of ideas.  Here's to a healthy, happy, less gassy 2017.

Paleo Diet

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Closure



I read something the other day that said that, on average, it takes 3 months for every year of your previous relationship to heal and move on.  If that's the case, I have a good 5 months to go before I am remotely date-worthy and no longer damaged.  But I'm coming up on the 4-month mark and I'm actually pretty proud of the progress I have made in terms of healing and coming to terms with what happened.  Sharing my thoughts and feelings on my blog has helped tremendously, as have my friends, family, new job, great co-workers, and plenty of self-reflection.  I still have random hard times and those usually happen around the time of a "first".  First trip to a favorite restaurant without that person, first anniversary without them, approaching first summer without them.  You miss the good times that come with those firsts, but the key is knowing the difference between missing the good times and missing that person.  During times like these, I make myself sit down and reflect on the relationship and list the cons of still having those times with that person.  Not because I only want to focus on the negative, but because thinking about the pros of the relationship isn't going to help a person heal and certainly isn't going to help them to not repeat the same mistakes in a future relationship. I'd much rather keep it real and remind myself of the absolutely crap behavior on the majority of a 5-day cruise than to dwell on the ONE afternoon of happiness.  (Speaking of crap behavior, I'll get to "red flags" and "things not to tolerate" in my next blog post so stay tuned!  I've added to the list since my blog post from 2013 - Guide to Happy Dating.  If that one was remotely helpful for you, my next one might help, too.  Just doing my part...Experiencing bad relationships so you don't have to.  Consider it a Public Service Announcement.  :-)  )

I've also had to reflect on the meaning of that dreaded breakup word: Closure.  I've always needed "closure" after a relationship ends.  It means different things to different people. For me, it always meant ending on good terms.  Admitting that the relationship ending was a "good" thing and mutually walking away in opposite directions with warm, fuzzy feelings of no regret or sadness.  Very rarely has this ever actually happened, and it's only ever occurred after the end of a minor relationship that didn't progress.  As I've grown these last few months, "closure" has become synonymous with healing and moving forward.  It's no longer an ending that is nicely gift-wrapped and set on your doorstep.  I was never going to have that.  I wanted that, I aimed for it.  But reality sets in and you come to terms with the fact that the other person doesn't want that ending and isn't going to give it to you.  Some people, typically the person who caused the most damage in the relationship, don't want a nicely wrapped ending.  They want anger and hostility so they feel better about it ending.  So you're forced to rip the Band-aid off and form your own ending.  I had to rip the Band-aid off with Isaac's dad, too, and while it took a little bit of skin off, we both survived.  Ripping the most recent Band-aid off was the best decision I could've made for myself.  It still stings but in 6 months, I'll be really glad I took that step.  It needed to happen.  

One habit I have formed over the last couple months as a form of "me-time" is watching 80's and 90's romance movies.  This has been good and bad for the healing process.  On a happy note, it has brought me back to my childhood and reminded me of all of those warm, fuzzy feelings I felt as a little girl or teenager as I watched couples fall in love and live happily ever after.  It made me realize I still believe in love and would love to have it again someday.  But the downside to these movies is that they give you unrealistic expectations of relationships from a young age. You can't compare everyday relationships with these romantic comedies because you will be highly disappointed.  The only romantic comedy my life even remotely emulates is Mannequin, and only because I've dated a lot of dummies (ok, complete dumbasses).  Maybe a little bit of When Harry Met Sally, but without the same ending.  Pretty In Pink, but does it count if I'm Ducky in that scenario? Luckily, at 34 and with another failed relationship under my belt, I can watch my favorite movies with a little more maturity and realistic expectations.  Maybe a spoonful of bitterness for good measure. 

Aside from drowning myself in romantic comedies and wine/cheese nights, I've started focusing on my health a little more, physically and mentally.  I'll go ahead and put it on here that I'm planning to do another 10k in September.  When I publicly announce that I'm going to do something, the chances of me backing out are pretty slim.  :-)  So there it is.  It gives me something to strive for and focus on. I recruited one of Isaac's baseball moms to run it with me so I can share my misery.  Research has already been done on last year's race and it has been determined that HUNDREDS of people are way slower than I am, as shocking as that was to see.  So I'm feeling confident and excited for it.   One step at a time.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Acceptance - Phase 1

Another month has passed (2 months yesterday) and another milestone has been reached, one that I never expected to happen in the next 6 months.  It hasn't been pretty; there have been good days and bad, days when I thought I was DONE followed by days when I felt just as bad as I did on Day 1, days when I was happy and content followed by days when I let my feelings get the best of me and I took 10 steps backwards in my healing process.  But I can confidently say that I have officially transitioned into the next stage of grief, the stage that psychology books tell you is the final phase: Acceptance.  But I somewhat disagree.  During my many hours of reflection while driving around DFW, I have decided that the Acceptance stage can be split into 2 phases.  Acceptance Phase 1 is the actual acceptance of the loss/situation.  Coming to terms with the loss, realizing it's never coming back, letting go of what it once was.  But Phase 2 takes it a step further.  Phase 2 is healing, and that can take months or years.

Making it to the Acceptance stage at all is a major step for me.  For so many weeks, I just struggled to wrap my mind around the loss itself.  I knew it was over, but the whole unraveling was so bizarre and unexpected that I just couldn't accept that he was no longer a part of my life, that all of the things we had done together would now be done solo or with others.  I remember the moment I reached Phase 1 of Acceptance.  It was about a week ago when I suddenly realized that I really WAS done.  I had lost the desire to reconcile, I was no longer "in love" with this person.  Sure, I loved him, I cared, I wanted him to be happy and ok.  But that's where my feelings stopped.  I had finally accepted that this part of my life was over and I was ok with it.  I was moving forward.

I realized that the Acceptance stage is a 2-parter when I began to reflect on other moments of grief and loss in my life.  One particular circumstance involved the death of a close friend 8 years ago. That loss had a profound impact on my life.  HE had had a profound impact on my life, so losing him was excruciating.  It was the first major loss I had experienced in my adult life.  It was also the most devastating loss of my 10 year career thus far.  Kevin was my first patient ever and I spent countless hours with him; trying to save him even though he couldn't be saved; being his friend; bringing him his favorite meal of steak and potatoes from Texas Roadhouse after work hours and personally feeding him because I didn't trust anyone else to do it right; bringing Isaac to see him after work and on weekends because he loved babies; playing Bingo with him almost every afternoon and winning almost every time with our lucky number 15 since he and Isaac shared a birthday. When we lost him, it left a huge hole in my heart and intense feelings of sadness and guilt.  Guilt over not being able to save him from a completely unfair disease that I never could've saved him from anyway, guilt over his medical care at the end - again, out of my control.

For years after his death - YEARS, 6 to be exact - I never made it to Phase 2.  I had accepted that he was gone and had moved on in my career - who am I kidding, I had run from my career as a way of healing, left my comfort zone in long-term care to avoid another Kevin. I thought I had completed the grief process but I hadn't.  I saw this quote on Pinterest, which reminded me of Kevin and ultimately made me realize that Acceptance has 2 phases.


You can accept something is gone, but until you can move past the sadness, you haven't reached the final phase of the final stage of grief.  Crying doesn't necessarily mean you're stuck in the Depression stage, but it is definitely an indicator that you haven't healed.  I COULD NOT talk about Kevin for years. I couldn't listen to a certain song that reminded me of him.  The memory of him saddened me. These days I can think of him fondly and with happy memories. I can think about him throwing his head back and laughing, long talks about our favorite Nascar driver, feeding him breakfast every day, the sight of him holding my infant on his lap with a big grin on his face...  When you have honestly healed, you are better able to look back on experiences clearly and with good memories.  Sadness taints happy memories. Losing someone to death is obviously much worse than the end of a relationship, so I'm definitely not trying to compare my heartbreak over one to another.  But thinking about Kevin this last week has helped me to gain perspective on the grief process.  And that's how I know that I haven't yet reached Phase 2 in my current grief.  I have accepted, I have not healed.  I still carry sadness that taints my happy memories.  Someday I hope to look back on my 3-year relationship and remember the moments that brought me joy, because there were a lot of them.  I hope that Isaac can also one day look back on that part of his life and remember the 5/6 of the relationship that included camping trips and the building a winning Pinewood Derby car and skipping rocks at Texoma, instead of just remembering the 1/6 of unhappiness.  

I'm getting there.  Closer and closer every day.  Thinking of Kevin these last few weeks has brought me unexpected comfort and clarity.  Not only did it make me realize that I wasn't quite done healing, and that's ok, but it also helped me to focus on something more important.  If I could get through the death of a beloved friend and come out on the other side a stronger and happier person, I could get through this. 

The song that I had a hard time listening to after he died was a song by Carrie Underwood called So Small.  It reminded me of him because while he was dying, I was in the process of leaving Isaac's dad and breaking apart my family.  I was dealing with something that, while sad and devastating, was nothing compared to what he was dealing with.  For 6 years, this song broke my heart because of the sadness and guilt I felt.  But tonight as I reflected on my old friend, I listened to it again and fully appreciated the meaning behind it.  Something might feel huge at the moment, unbearable even.  But there are much bigger things in life than this one situation.  My situation doesn't define me, it doesn't define my future.  I'll get to Phase 2 when I get there, but in the meantime, I am focusing on all of the other things that make my life great.

"It's so easy to get lost inside a problem that seems so big at the time.  It's like a river that's so wide, it swallows you whole.  While you're sitting around thinking about what you can't change and worrying about all the wrong things, time's flying by, moving so fast.  You better make it count because you can't get it back. Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just grain of sand." - Carrie Underwood

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My First Airbrush Experience



Since making the decision to pull myself out of the sad slump I was in and focus on happiness and healing, life has gradually improved and I feel better than I have in months. I've been focused on upcoming events, time with friends and family, and just trying to find my happy place.  I've always been a generally happy person (with the exception of a grumpy phase for most of 2009) and easy to please. Little things make me happy: coffee, dark chocolate, stinky cheese, warm weather, wearing flip flops, the smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of a freshly run-over skunk on a warm spring day...  I've been lucky enough to have worn my sandals twice so far this year, thanks to an unseasonably warm Texas winter and a few February days that were over 70*.  Coffee happens every day and I'm currently eating stinky Gouda as I type this.  No skunks yet.  😕

About a week ago , I walked past the mirror on the way to the bathroom and thought, "Ugh..."  Pale, dark circles from lack of sleep, lack of muscle tone thanks to my 2-month cold and allergies preventing a decent workout and run.  So I started thinking of all of those little things that I do for myself that make me happier. I'm not the girliest of girls but some of the things that make me happy as I get older are: good makeup, having a tan, having painted nails, and just feeling pretty in general.  Wow that sounded girly!  Yikes.  Barely a day has gone by over the last 3 years that I didn't have makeup on. I've never been a fan of my makeup-less face.  A little bit of color goes a long way with me and boosts my self-confidence. But over the past month, I barely combed my hair before heading to work. I just didn't care.  But when I walked past the mirror and felt disgusted with myself, I knew that not caring wasn't doing me any favors where my happiness and self-confidence were concerned. My self-esteem had taken a beating over the last several months and I wasn't doing anything to make myself feel better about ME.  As I looked at my pale reflection,  I knew what I needed to do.  I needed a tan.  Badly.

Since it's obviously too cold to get a real tan and I try to avoid tanning booths unless I need a little color before going on a tropical vacation, my next best option was an airbrush tan. My sister gets these every once in a while and recommended that I try one out. I had bought a Groupon over a year ago and never used it, but I could use the expired one for $21 off at least.  So I booked my appointment.

I knew what to expect, thanks to my sister's warnings, but I wasn't completely prepared for the actual experience.  When I arrived, the girl who would be spraying me down went over all of the recommendations (light-medium for my pale self) and "rules" for after the tan (no shower for 6-8 hours, loose clothing, etc).  She walked me back to the spray room and instructed me to undress as much as I wanted based on my comfort level.  I already knew that my underwear was staying on.  Not only was I not going to stand completely bare-assed in front of this girl, but I also like some tan lines.  A bra wasn't an option since I forgot to wear a black one and the dye would destroy my white one.  So I'd have to get past the embarrassment of flashing my boobs to a stranger for 10 minutes.  

She walked out so I could undress (you're going to see me naked anyway, might as well stay!) and I stripped down to my undies.  The giant mirror in front of me assaulted my eyes. Not only was I white and soft, but the fluorescent lighting added 20 lbs.  Was I going to look this gross in front of her or was I just fatter in the mirror?  Would she even care?  And why did I care?  I'm not trying to date her.  I gave my pasty self one last look and called her in.

Despite her warnings that it would "feel a little cold", nothing can really prepare you for the ice cold dye hitting your nipples for the first time.  I HATE being cold and this felt as miserable as a swim in Lake Michigan in June, except there was no gradual introduction of your boobs into the ice bath.  She just blasted me and giggled a little when I shrieked.  I clenched my teeth and tried not to grimace in case the spray tan somehow missed the lines in my face.   When she was done, she put powder in places where I might sweat and looked slightly confused when I told her to put extra in my belly button. Maybe she lacks stomach rolls when she sits down,  I don't know.  She also warned me that I would look dark before my shower, "so don't panic".  I dressed in my all-black, loose clothing and left, thankful to be warm and no longer exposed. 

With the exception of the full-body stickiness and the stench of the spray tan (similar to how you smell after a tanning booth), I felt better already.  I felt happy and a little more confident. So confident that I took a makeup-free picture and didn't hate it.  That never happens.



I drove home and started my 6-8 hours of desperately wanting a shower.  It's one of the hardest parts about the spray tan.  You're sticky, sweaty, and stink like crazy, especially since you're free of deodorant, body spray, lotion, everything.  You have to be aware of what you touch and whether or not your stomach rolls are sweating and wiping off the tan. At one point I decided to clean up cat puke with a Lysol wipe and it dripped on my arm. 



Luckily the white spot disappeared after my shower.  7 hours later, I was tired of smelling like death so I went upstairs for my much anticipated shower.  I briefly forgot the girl's warning that I would be darkest before my shower.  I panicked when I looked in the mirror and looked like the blonde sister of my Mexican brother-in-law.



I checked my tan lines and immediately noticed 2 things: a) I looked 20 lbs thinner than my whiter self had looked under those horrible fluorescent lights and b) my stretch marks were suddenly magnified x100.  (They faded slightly after my shower but definitely still more visible than with whiter skin.)  After my shower, I was able to see the true results and I was very happy with them.  Just a nice glow that I had badly needed.  I felt better already.



The next day, I noticed bumps on my stomach.  Over the next couple days, they spread to my arms, neck, and back and were really itchy.  So I've concluded that I'm allergic to the dye in the spray tan.  I make sure I use a lot of lotion so I don't dry out and that's helped with the itchiness.  But because of this, I don't think another airbrush tan is in my future, so I'll have to wait for bathing suit season to get another tan.  As of today, I still have a good tan going but it should start to fade in about a week.  Definitely not long enough for the price I paid.  If you get an airbrush tan, definitely use a Groupon.  It ain't cheap and it lasts for 12 days max.   Aside from the rash, I recommend it.  It's safer than the sun or tanning booths and gives you a nice color. 


It's the little things that make a big difference, so I'm glad I took this tiny step for myself.  Now that the majority of my looooong cold is over, I started running again.  Still hate it as much as I always have but I know it clears my head of unhappiness and negativity, so I'll stick with it.  Summer is coming, after all.  I even ordered new Brooks for myself, another little thing that cheered me up.  The tan and running shoes weren't the cheapest form of happiness, so hopefully a skunk comes along soon so I can get a free burst of motivation.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Healing

Almost a month has passed since a wrench was thrown into my future plans.  It's been a month of heartbreak, sadness, bargaining, sleepless nights.  But I think in the last 24 hours, a page has been turned for me.  I wouldn't quite say I'm entering the acceptance phase yet.  That will likely take months.  But I've slowly managed to start climbing out of the depression stage.  I'm still sad every day and still have (sometimes embarrassing) moments of randomly breaking into tears.  But I no longer feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest or that my heart is shattering inside my body.  I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This breakthrough has definitely come as a result of a lot of self-reflection and long, emotional talks with my best bud.  I hit a rock-bottom moment the Friday before last.  With my job, I drive a lot, and therefore have a lot of alone time to do nothing but think, which can be a dangerous thing when you're mad, sad, annoyed...  I have a couple hours during every day to stew over the things that bother me, lots of time for the what-ifs, time to wallow in my own misery.  Those imaginary arguments that you have with yourself in your shower...multiply that by 10.  On that particular Friday, just over a week ago, I was reaching the guilt stage.  Now, I never thought I'd actually go through this stage of grief.  I thought I would skip right over it, because what did I have to feel guilty about?  I didn't cheat, I wasn't mean; if anything, I had probably been too good of a girlfriend.  Too accommodating, too agreeable.  A doormat, basically.  But here it was, the guilt phase slapping me in the face that morning.  And it took the wind right out of me.

The feeling that I felt that morning that caught me off guard was a complete feeling of inadequacy.  I suddenly felt not good enough and I hadn't allowed myself to feel that way in a very long time.  I felt guilty for not being "enough" for him.  If I had been "enough", he would have been ok.  If I had been "enough", he wouldn't have done this or that, or said this or that.  He would've fixed his issues if I had been enough.  If my son had been enough.  The reasonable, smart Becca knew this was absolutely ludicrous.  I had been good to him.  We had made great memories as a little family.  I had spoiled him and made him feel special and given him so much attention and made excuses for him.   But the emotional, broken Becca that had just lost a long-term partner couldn't see this.  All I could see was that despite my best efforts, it had fallen apart.  I hadn't been enough for him to keep it together,

It took me several days of having this destructive thought process before I finally told broken Becca to shut-up.  I was scrolling through Facebook one day and saw this quote on my news feed.  It was probably the best timing I've experienced in a long time.


Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors (although I haven't yet read this particular book), and she was 100% right.  I had spent my entire 3-year relationship trying to mend a broken person and naively convincing myself that it was my responsibility.  I thought that by fixing his broken heart left over from his divorce, patching up those insecurities so he felt loved and wanted, and being ridiculously patient with him, that those things would make me "enough".  I thought it would guarantee me a happy life with the man that I loved.  I thought that by being that person, his "saving grace" so to speak, that it would make us complete, that we would complete each other.  

I never thought I would want to try to "fix" another man.  The last man I tried to fix was a decade ago and I learned way back then that a person has to fix himself.  Nobody can do it for him.  People have to grow and make their own decisions to be a good person and make good choices.  But here I was again, trying to be that savior for another person and I didn't even realize it.  Why?  Maybe it was the fact that he had a lot of great qualities that I wasn't used to in a man.  He was educated, handsome, tall, outdoorsy, liked good music...  I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I started dating him.  But I saw red flags and ignored them.  Over time, those red flags disappeared so, looking back, I think I thought I had conquered him.  I had succeeded in saving him.  I was his girl and he was my future husband and everything was going to be perfect because I had been patient and accommodating.  WRONG...

So many girls and women go through life and relationships with this same mentality.  Some like the bad boys, they like a challenge. They like to "save" people.  I honestly didn't even realize I was one of these women anymore.  Maybe in my 20's, but not now.  I had been single for 2 years before I met him.  I didn't have the patience, time, or energy to fix someone or chase someone.  Ain't nobody got time fo dat, especially a single mom.  It took me 3 years, the end of a relationship, my friend shaking sense into me, and then this Jodi Picoult quote for me to see that that is exactly what I had been trying to do.  It completely explained why I suddenly felt like a complete failure.  I had set myself up for failure.  Because...  this...


Let me tell you, friends. Love is not all you need, contrary to Mr. Lennon's claims.  You can love a person forever and not mend them.  You can love everything about them and tell them every day, and still not make them feel secure or happy.  You can only be so much for a person.  And that's where I went wrong.  True, I wasn't enough to fix those things, but I'm finally seeing that it's not a reflection on me.  It's not my job to fix anyone other than myself and my patients (and the occasional attitude adjustment for my son).  It took some reminding over the last couple weeks, but it finally sunk in yesterday.  I know my worth.  I know what I have to offer and someday, that will be enough for someone and I won't have to spend day after day trying to convince them (and myself) of this fact.

The healing process has begun and that brings me a sliver of relief.  Baby steps... deleting my 111 pins from my wedding album on Pinterest (I'll make a new album if that special person makes an entrance into my life later on), reading novels again (I finished an entire novel this week alone), working on my blog, focusing on work, watching Isaac show off his mad baseball skills, anticipating the upcoming Rangers season.  All of these things bring me joy that I haven't felt in a long time. When you finally stop the daunting task of trying to make others happy when they don't want that for themselves, you suddenly have so much more time and breathing room to enjoy what and who matters the most in your life.  In closing...


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Love and Loss



The last time I posted to my blog, I was new to the 30 Club.  I had accepted that my youth was over and I had fully embraced my 30's. I was excited to be done with the drama of being a 20-something, excited to be a "real" adult.  Surely crazy things wouldn't happen in my 30's.  People settle down, get married, settle into family life.  Men in their 30's don't play annoying games.  They're grown up.  They're ready for a family and ok with dating a single mom.  They know what they want. Right?  Yet here I am, 34 years old, sitting at home on a Saturday night, writing a blog post as a sort of therapy to heal a heart that I had naively convinced myself wouldn't get broken in my 30's.  Trying to figure out how to proceed with a life that I thought I had in order years ago, and trying to accept that future plans won't ever happen now.  

People use the word "grief" when someone has died, but I've come to realize over the last several days and weeks that it can absolutely be used to describe the feeling that comes with the end of a significant relationship.  And by "significant relationship", I mean any relationship that had a profound impact on your life.  I don't care if it lasted 6 months, 3 years, or 20 years.  I don't care if you were domestic partners or if you had a piece of paper telling you that you're legally bound to that person.  I don't mean to downplay the meaning of marriage.  I don't actually think of it as "a piece of paper".  But over the years, married and divorced folks have downplayed my marriage-less relationships often.  "A marriage is always more important than a long-term partnership."  "You don't understand how a divorce feels."   I've always been highly irritated by the inaccuracy of these statements. I've had 3 relationships that lasted longer than a lot of marriages I've seen.  One of them lasted for half of my 20's and produced a child and, in turn, a family. That same relationship lasted longer than the dating relationship and marriage combined of my most recent ex-boyfriend. We didn't have a ceremony or rings or a paper signed by a judge.  But we were a family. And the end of that relationship was heart-wrenching and took years to get past.  Fast forward 8 years and that same heart-wrenching feeling is back, minus the legal proceedings to separate property and children. Is it any less significant because there wasn't a marriage?  Absolutely not.  I lost an entire family of people who treated me like their own, a family I so desperately wanted to be my own someday soon.  My son lost a father figure that he loved whole heartedly for 3 years. Ironically, one of those divorced people who often downplayed the end of my marriage-less long-term relationships happens to be the other half of this story and sitting a few blocks away, no doubt feeling the same devastation that I am feeling tonight. So for all of you who have never been married but have lost someone significant, I understand. Your feelings are valid.

The term "sick with grief" is so unbelievably accurate.  The physical symptoms of heartbreak are sometimes more difficult to deal with than the emotional ones.  They make it hard to function, get out of bed, go to work, eat, sleep.  It's as though you can feel your heart breaking from the inside out.  Queasiness with every meal, stomach ache, sleeplessness...I haven't slept through the night since September, when the first signs of what was to come appeared.  But I'd say the worst physical symptom is the breathlessness. Feeling like someone is sitting on your chest.  There are so many days, several times a day, when I can't even take a deep breath.  I catch myself holding my breath because my chest is heavy with grief. I'm sure it's also anxiety.  Fear of the unknown and someday starting over, fear of never seeing that person again.  Wondering how you are ever going to go to all of the places that you went to with that person again. State parks, cabins, our favorite Irish pub.  Wondering if you should go ahead and delete your 111 pins in your "Future Wedding" album on Pinterest.

I also feel like the amount of anxiety you feel is directly related to the progression of the breakup. When a couple is gradually unraveling, even though the end of the relationship is just as sad, you feel more prepared. With Isaac's dad and I, we were falling apart before Isaac ever made his entrance into the world. The end of the relationship was devastating, but it was inevitable and I had almost 2 years to prepare myself.  Not that we didn't try during those 2 years.  But when it ended, it wasn't anything too shocking.  To anybody.  With my current situation, the unraveling was somewhat sudden. When it goes from good to bad in a matter of a few months after almost 3 years together, your heart doesn't have time to process the devastation.  You go through the stages of grief, sometimes multiple stages in one day. I'd say the most common one right now is Bargaining.  If only we hadn't taken the next step in our relationship.  If only we had done this or that differently. The bargaining phase is full of regret and living in the past.  I think this phase makes it harder to move on because you're still thinking of all of the things that happened prior to the switch being flipped. These things cloud your judgement. We start thinking that those good things will fix the bad things. But in all honesty, the bad things wouldn't have happened if the good things had been enough.  I also try to bargain with the future. Maybe we can be friends someday. It's been known to happen. I have a pretty cordial relationship with most of the people I have dated, but some time has to pass. Sometimes it takes a couple months, sometimes it takes 6 years. Sometimes it never happens. But I know these thoughts are likely because I'm not ready to let go.  I guess that will come with the Acceptance phase, which I think I am pretty far from right now.

Anger is another common feeling. Just frustration that I'm dealing with this again at 34 years old. I have questioned God, fate, karma... Why?  Am I supposed to be learning some kind of lesson again?  Did I do something in a previous love life that put a curse on me?  Maybe a previous ex shoved a needle through the heart of a voodoo doll like Dane Cook's scorned lover in Good Luck Chuck.  That would explain why the majority of my exes end up marrying the person they date after the end of our relationship. You're welcome, guys. 

The thought of moving on is painful and it likely won't happen for a very long time. A few days ago, I fully intended to never date again. But a close friend of mine encouraged me to "leave the door open just a crack".  I deserve happiness and love as much as the next girl. 

The only real comfort I've had is to just remind myself of the positives of the whole situation. There will always be a silver lining in every bad thing that happens to you. The silver lining here is that I'll be able to do things that I haven't done in a while because he didn't want to, like watching UFC, watching live music, listening to my music in the car, maybe work on my blog again, etc.  I'll have time to read novels again. I can take mini trips with just Isaac like we used to.  There's always a silver lining.  Life will go on, the sun will come up tomorrow, and at the end of the day, I still have the biggest love of my life sitting next to me, biting his toenails and watching cartoons.