Freedom to Make New Mistakes

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How do you trust your ability to make sound decisions after what you thought was ‘happily ever after’ turned out to be an ugly divorce and custody battle?

Trusting my gut seems riskier now.

I had faith in my marriage. I trusted a man who had been my best friend for more than 10 years, whom I had a child with.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about him. He cheated, lied, assaulted and stole from me, and then left me to figure out how to care for our child and put all the pieces of my life together differently.

I was left questioning everything.

In the beginning, I wondered how I would make it through. Time was the answer, because I more than made it through my divorce – I thrived.

But the marks of those experiences are still there. How could they not be.

Where’s the sweet spot between remaining vigilant about not repeating mistakes and having the courage to make new ones?

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Childhood Graves’ Disease

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At the age of 10, I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease.

I struggled to understand my own body, which didn’t work the way I had grown accustomed to. My heart raced too fast, my metabolism outpaced me, sleep evaded me, and I was constantly sick.

Medication sometimes helped control the symptoms, but more often than not, it didn’t. It wasn’t until I was 16 that we actually treated my Graves’ disease by irradiating my thyroid. It took five more years to balance my thyroid levels with the right dose of medication. Thankfully, my levels stayed normal after that, with fluctuations as expected during pregnancy.

I was in high school when I wrote the passage below, and the words still chill me now.

My heart aches for my teenage self and how difficult it was to make it through. I hope that other young teens who have to deal with thyroid disease or thyroid cancer know that there are many of us out there who can relate. The emotional and mental toll of the disease should not be overlooked, especially in teenagers who have a double whammy of puberty and teenage hormones.

Graves’ Disease, Personified

         Mr. Robert Graves was the man who discovered Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is a thyroid condition; it is a chronic illness that I have been dealing with for the past six years of my life. In my mind I have made up a terrible characterization, I have put a face, body and soul right along side of something I hate most about my life.

Mr. Robert Graves is one crazy old man. He’s big, tall and extremely cruel. He wears an ugly mask and only I know what lies behind it, a mean madman. Behind the mask his face is disfigured, each one of his facial attributes not quite fitting the other. His eyes are the color of ice, the iciest blue I have ever seen. His stare is colder, crueler and even less relenting than the frozen waters of Alaska. His cold glare chills you to the bone and will even make your teeth chatter. His complexion is pale and pasty. His forehead is long and deeply penetrated with wrinkles; his dark, mysterious thick eyebrows stick up and intertwine every time he grins. His dark, thin hair is slowly receding. His long thick nose is crooked towards the end, it looks as though it has been broken and glued back together again in little, tiny pieces. His cheeks are ghostly, pale and red, chapped by the cold weather and high winds. His ears stick out, appearing as though he could stick them in you like a cold, piercing knife. His lips are thin and rough to the touch; they feel like sandpaper against your skin. His teeth are slowly rotting away, half of them already in decay. His chin juts out appearing as a huge rock in the seawater; his cleft was put there to make him seem as though he were smart. He breathes on you whether you are awake or sleeping and surprisingly his breath is warm like the desert sun.

Mr. Graves is gigantic in stature; his chest is broad and wide in span. His enormous beer belly gut sticks out and hangs loosely far over the rim of his pants. Below, his legs hang and dangle as though he was a puppet, long and thick matching the rest of his body. His arms are big and doughy, his palms large enough to hold a small kitten. His fingers are long enough to wrap around someone’s throat in one solitary stroke. His fingernails are long and unruly and in many ways can all alone describe his personality. Underneath lie loads of decay, they get crustier day by day. His small feet do not fit the remainder of his body; they look like someone stuck them there by mistake. And a big mistake that was, Mr. Robert Graves uses them greatly to his advantage.

He sneaks up behind you like an insignificant ant and the worst part about it is that you never hear him coming. You never have enough time to protect yourself, let alone fear. He creeps up on you when you least expect it and he will pound you into the ground, beating you into a little pulp.

He is horrible, annoying, time consuming and dirty. He is hurtful, painful and dreadful. He is a dark, black and gray lurking shadow. He’s scary, unpredictable, nerve wrecking and sadly true. He is an unhappy man inflicting pain upon others to keep up his sick drive. Just when you thought you were having a bad enough day he will capture you and trust me you shall never get away. He does what he wishes with one thing in mind, to drive you crazy and make your mind go insane. He will curse your body and fry your brain; you will feel like an egg sautéing up on his silver platter. Before he consumes you though he will make you suffer for an intolerable amount of time, until you can no longer hold on in pain. You will feel as though you are nothing but butter slipping through his mighty powerful fingers.

He will speed up your heart and make it beat so hard you will feel it from your hair down your body through your toes. Mr. Graves is a two-sided devil inside so make sure he doesn’t take over your body. He is like a cosmic breeze that will tear you apart, he will give you a rush from finish to start. Your mind will rage and he will tear you apart like no other kind. He will candy coat his words and it seems all right but if you fall into his trap you will be lucky to make it through the night. He grabs, ties, thrusts you down like tape, that’s Mr. Graves, no hope for escape.

You never really know for sure when he comes or goes or which is which. Even though he might leave for awhile I can ensure you he will be back so beware, take extra caution and care, do not let him drag you to the ground. Run, scream, kick, and hold on to life just as long as you can. He may even come to you as no alarm, but when he does reach you he shall do you great harm and remember, he will not stop until the job is done.

It’s Circumstantial

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I’m filled with conflicting emotions, confused, and trying to figure it all out.

One minute, I’m wanting more, the next I’m trying to just be grateful for what I have. I try to convince myself I don’t need more – it’s a constant colloquy that plays out in my head.

Our relationship has progressed to this point where we’re committed, but because of our circumstances, we’re not all in.

So, I hold back. I disconnect from him. Or, I try.

Sometimes it feels easier to hold back, than to keep wanting something I can’t have.

Do I really want more? It’s tangled up in the not being able to have it in the first place. It’s compounded by the complications of it all.

Does he want more? I don’t really know anymore.

So I’m flooded with questions, left examining the why’s, the how’s, and determining the root cause, analyzing the possibilities.

Where is he in all this?

I don’t know how much longer I can keep pretending it doesn’t hurt to be stuck here in this way – in a relationship with a man I love, who loves me, but what we might want might not be.

It’s Not You

Looking in

It’s not you.

Is it me?

It’s not me, right?

Maybe it is. It could be.

You’re a good man.

I know it’s true. There’s no doubt about the goodness in you.

But there’s a sadness too.

I know what quiets that sadness in you.

It’s the only time I see the little boy your mother tells me stories about.

Do I want you to be someone you’re not? Someone I see because I want to see you that way?

Or do I see the you who you actually want to be, not just because of me?

Reservation Theory

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Reservation theory — it’s the idea that you have to actively reserve or carve out time for yourself and personal well-being because if you’re burnt out or not healthy, you do no one any good.

It requires continual awareness. Constant self “check ins” and assessment of your reserves before deciding whether to take on something else. Should you say “yes” to one more thing?

I used to say yes to everything. I was the girl who baked gourmet cupcakes for the office parties, the Mom who volunteered for every event.

When I got sick, I had to learn to assess the value of saying yes and consider how it would impact my energy reserves. I hope the lesson sticks, and it helps to remind myself as well.

Would I rather bake sweets for my co-workers or ride my bike to the park with my son? Sometimes we get so bogged down saying yes, that we don’t weigh these choices side-by-side, assuming that we’ll somehow just do it all (usually sacrificing sleep).

Reserve your energy for what’s it can be best spent on, what matters most.

Hockey Mom

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I always knew I’d be a soccer mom. Sans minivan soccer mom that is. And last month, gearing up for futsal (indoor soccer) season, I found myself Googling “How are soccer shin guards supposed to fit?”

Turns out the six or so inches of shin my long-legged kid had exposed meant he’d outgrown his from the last field soccer season. So I ordered a youth medium (thanks, Amazon Prime!), except the medium was also too small, so then I ordered a youth large and we achieved the recommended amount of shin space that should be covered by the guards.

Fast forward to Spring season. Enter ice hockey.

I was rather surprised my son wanted to play. Ice hockey is hard as there’s a lot of coordination to master. But he begged to play, so I enrolled him in this awesome program the NHL does called Learn to Play. It’s a season of lessons for new players and they throw in head-to-toe gear, for free. That’s a huge savings for parents!

Today, the Google answer was “Boys aged five and up, reaching 4 feet 6 inches and 80 pounds should wear a cup 1 3/4 inches in depth.”

Yep, the Google question over lunch break today was “how to buy your son a cup”, which he refers to as a “penis protector”. As in, Hey Mom, can you please buy me a penis protector?

Next I suppose I’ll need to Google how to teach your son to wear an athletic supporter”. I did ask my boyfriend, hoping he would save me some time and add some giggles. He replied that it was very simple – you just strap it on.

Whatever it takes. Bring on the hockey. Momma’s got this!

New York State, Kid in Tow?

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Spring Break is almost here, and I have no plan. It’s so unlike me!

I’ve been focused on other things, like sorting out my finances and getting the summer schedule in order. I reserved summer camp spots and placed deposits for that. I got my follow-up MRIs and CTs done — got the “all clear” as they say!

I filed my taxes. Like before the IRS even started processing them. Which is awesome, because I also already have my return deposited into my bank account, which I knew would help me mentally prepare for Spring Break travel expenses.

The thing is, once I saw how summer would unravel (family time at the lake), and Thanksgiving (also at the lake), and Christmas (home to Florida), and the fact that I won’t have my son next Spring Break, the pressure started building. I feel like we have to do something super cool and different, something adventurous (within reason for a single Mom and 7-year-old, of course).

I considered flying us out to Colorado, but the flights aren’t cheap. I scoured the internet for all inclusive travel deals, anything tropical and family friendly – nothing during the Easter time frame.

And as much as I would love, love, love to do a road trip to Montreal since my little guy just finished his school project on our Canadian heritage (eh?!), I started re-thinking that too, as it’s just too ambitious for a solo driver and one little boy who would be bored and driving me bonkers in the car for most of it. The boyfriend saying he probably can’t join us (work, you know) didn’t help either. So that one’s out the window (Montreal as a travel destination, not the boyfriend).

Which leaves me thinking…. New York State. We could probably manage that if I map out a decent route and find enough kid-friendly activities to do, as well as indoor options since it could be a rainy March/April. Most of the resources I’ve come across though are what to do in the Big City with kids, but I’m on the hunt for more active things to do and fun stuff to see in New York State instead.

Maybe we’ll start in the city with a show, but then, I want to get out and see more than that – the lakes, the mountains, wild life, hikes.

What do you recommend in New York for traveling with kids in tow? The Finger Lakes area? Catskills? What resources do you use for booking travel and places to stay? IloveNY.com? What do your kids love to do? Where’s the best place to tap some maple syrup?