Book Review: Big Magic

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A few weeks ago the girls and I were at the library and I saw one of my "must reads" in stock! I quickly snagged it, dragged the girls to check out and was happily on my way with Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic" clutched in my hands. AH! I love Elizabeth Gilbert. Her voice, her experiences, her everything just speaks a huge big happy into my soul. "Eat, Pray, Love" was constantly on repeat while going through my divorce, and on craptastic days, I sometimes pull up some of her Ted Talks just to listen to her experiences and thoughts on really anything.


This is a self-help book for creative people looking to find that "spark" that they be missing in their work. Whether you're a writer, painter, singer, etc. ... this book is aimed at helping you to think outside of the box, dig deep into your soul and pull out what gets your creative juices flowing. I consider myself a creative person - a lazy creative person - but creative none-the-less. I've recognized that I'll never write the next great American novel (I'm not broody enough), and I'm not a poet. I just know I love to write ... and sometimes I get to do just that. 

But what I gathered from this book isn't necessarily to try your hardest, be creative, get your stuff out there in the world in BIG BOLD LETTERS! Nope. I get that some days you need that creative spark - whether it's communicating with others, or shaking up your day in general. You don't need to live the status-quo and day to day boring every single day. You're meant to live this beautiful life - so do it ... and pull out the things inside you that drive you, inspire you, etc. Is it travel? Do you adore the ocean? Does your heart sing when it hears a certain artist sing? Are you a doodle pro? Whatever makes your heart happy. Follow that path and do it. 

For me - it's blogging. I like to write and I'm naturally an over-sharer. I realize I'm happiest when I'm getting my experiences and words out there into the world, even though it can be scary to let unknown people in sometimes. Like I said - I'm not a novelist, I'm way to busy to chase after a byline in a magazine, and I would never quit my job to take up writing full time. I'm not even sure I have enough to constantly communicate that's interesting (que "Big Magic"). But I express myself in little posts here and there and that makes me happy. Sometimes I hit an awesome idea, sometimes I say things that touches other people, and sometimes I just like to see my words out there in the world. 

How Do You Move On?

Monday, June 27, 2016

In my last post, I addressed how things (although painful in the moment) can lead to other things to put you on your "life path". But in the moment it is usually really hard to see past that, and when you're going through a tough break up or divorce it's sometimes easier to hang on to the pain and the hurt than to move through it. So, how after being with my ex after 8 years was I able to get to the point to where I'm at today? With a lot of work and a lot of "stock taking" with myself and my responsibilities.

Last year I was in a deep dark place ... even before things with my marriage were in the process of unraveling. If I had paid attention and looked closely, I could have seen that I was unhappy, and my relationship was failing. I think I knew - but I failed to acknowledge. Anyways - once things started falling a part, my life felt like it was completely out of control. Not only was I unhappy with my post-partum body, my life, myself, but now I had all of these super touch emotional things to go through associated with "losing" the love of my life. I had to grapple with infidelity, and the thought that I wouldn't see my children every day. It was horrible. But I survived.

Don't get me wrong, there were many frantic phone calls and texts made to friends, many tears pouring out of my face on a regular basis, tons of self-help books devoured (if only I could understand what was going on in my ex's mind - then I could save things) and many hours (yes, hours) spent sitting on the floor of my tub under a scalding hot shower (it's one of the rare things that calms me down from a panic/anxiety attack). But I dealt with it. I let it all in and at times I let it eat me right up. But I played with those emotions and let myself feel them. I didn't shoo them away or ignore them. I let them in. And it was brutal. 

On the backend I started making moves though. While I was a pile of depression, I still forced myself to try to live life (and I have kids so I kind of have to - I can't sit in the bathroom all day). My kids were my saving grace - they were the reason I NEEDED to get out of bed and make meals, that I NEEDED to get out of the house for the day, that I NEEDED to slap a smile on my face when all I wanted to do was crumble into a tiny ball. So we did stuff. We went to festivals, to the store, to parks, on playdates. I started bringing them to a weekend exercise class too! I went out and looked for apartments and the first one I visited, I signed a lease for THAT DAY. If I sat on that decision for any longer, it wouldn't have happened. And after my ex told me repeatedly that she wanted a divorce - I made the move to hire a lawyer and I started the process. I may not have wanted the divorce - but I made myself move through it.

When it was time to move out of the home I shared with my ex and officially divvy up our belongings, I made the conscious choice to not take many of our shared/wedding items. I didn't want constant reminders of my ex in my new home. I wanted a fresh start - a place that was all mine. On moving day, I asked my dad to just spend the day with me (I hired movers) to keep me company so I wasn't so sad. We had a good day and even went to dinner afterwards. I decorated MY new home the way I wanted and was so happy to finally be in a space where I wasn't reminded of my ex's existance in every room I was in. I put pictures up of me and my girls. I put together their bedroom furniture and hung stuff on my walls. I proved to myself that I could do it. I could survive.

The first holiday weekend without the girls. I felt alone and bitter. But I hung out with friends and went away to Michigan for the weekend. And when Thanksgiving and Christmas finally rolled around - I was in a bit better place knowing that time would have to be split with the girls. My ex and I had stopped all communication that wasn't related to the girls by then. No social media friendships, no random texting, no sharing of our lives. It helped me move past connecting my life to hers. And on the day she told me she was dating someone new (in January), I choked back the information and then fell to my knees in tears once I got home. After that big cry I felt a lightbulb come on. Something changed in me. My ex was officially no longer mine (I mean she wasn't before then but ...). I was free.

I wasn't exactly ready immediately, to start dating myself - but my heart was free. It changed the way I saw my ex, it changed the way I felt about her. And over time, I was able to open my heart to someone else. The idea of dating has become less terrifying. And now my ex and I have an amicable relationship and can talk about things going on in our perspective lives, outside of the girls, without drama. I NEVER thought I'd be in this spot emotionally in less than a year. 

So I guess my only advice on how to move through the pain is to let it in. Feel it and deal with it in whatever way that works best for you. But don't ignore it. Don't shoo it to the corner of your mind. Process that shit. Because the day that your lightbulb comes on and your heart is finally free - it'll be the best day you have in a long time. You'll feel GENUINE happiness (have you felt that in a while?), you'll be able to give your heart to someone else, and you'll be able to move forward in your life. And you owe yourself that. 

Ain't It Funny

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The way life ebbs and flows is so interesting to me. You can be on top of the world one moment with everything go so very right in your life, and one little thing changes and your world is flipped upside down. It's remarkable but that's just the way things are. Life isn't meant to be boring - the same exact thing day after day. If it were, we'd never grow as people. We'd never learn, we'd never expand our knowledge and our talents. We'd never truly live.

It can be hard to remember during difficult times - that you'll get through it. That there's a light at the end of the tunnel. That it's not permanent. Life is every-evolving. I have a hard time remembering that at times. When I get hurt, it hits me deeply. Sometimes I can't see outside of the pain - or the moment. My mind races, my heart breaks, my stomach lurches. I'm impacted not only emotionally but physically, during difficult times.

But like life does - you'll bounce back. You always do. And maybe it's for an hour, or a day ... or whatever ... but life won't be 100% grim 100% of the time. It's important to remember that. It's important to have faith that what's meant to be will find a way. Whatever you're supposed to be doing or whatever you're supposed to experience - you will. It could be pain one day and it could be euphoria the next. You'll get to where you need to be.

One of my favorite sayings of all time is "everything happens for a reason." It's over-used and corny, but I just love it. I truly believe in it with my entire heart and there are some major examples in my own life where things worked out for the best, but in that moment of pain or grief I couldn't see why or what the purpose was. My very first example of this was with my relationship with my college girlfriend. She was my first love and I took our mutual break up very hard. I stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. I was depressed and drank a lot. I begged to get back together. She moved on to someone else, but we still stayed in contact. I stayed behind in my college town, working, for a year after I graduated. She was finishing her senior year. We didn't stay in too much contact because of how much I was hurting - but she was always about 15 minutes away and my heart just ached. I couldn't understand why that relationship didn't work out. What was the point of all of that pain?

But after my lease was up for that year, I started thinking about what I needed to heal emotionally and what I wanted in my life. It was clear that my life was no longer on a path with hers. So I asked for a transfer back to the Chicago area with my job and packed up and moved 3+ hours away from her - back to my support system, with a fresh start on my mind. It was rough. I was in a new relationship by then (super long distance) but was still hung up on my ex. I moved into my first apartment on my own, and didn't have many friends - especially gay friends. I started eating again - and joined a gym and worked out ALOT (but ate well). I met some people that showed me around Boystown in downtown Chicago and my circle of friends grew from there. The rest is history.

I attribute that break-up to bringing me back to Chicago. If that relationship hadn't ended I would likely still be in central Illinois and I have no idea where my life, my career would have been. That relationship ending brought me back to my family (with whom I had limited contact with while away at college), grew my independence, brought forward my second gay relationship - and eventually led me to my now ex-wife (with whom I have my girls with). At the time, sitting in my grief, while that first relationship was ending I had no idea why. My heart just ached and ached and I felt so rejected and pained. I couldn't see that it was actually good for me - that it was part of the journey that I was meant to be on. And it's something I try to remember even today. It was something that (at the tailend) got me out of my post-divorce funk.

Life is continually moving. And if you're still living and breathing - you're still destined for something. Do not think whatever is currently happening to you or in your life is your end game. It's not. It's part of your experience, it's part of your learning, it's part of your evolution. And one day the big grand plan for you will be revealed. Just be patient and try to hang on through those tough times.

Checking In

Monday, June 20, 2016

the past two weeks have been a bit insane emotionally for me. i knew these times were on their way but yeah - i'm not sure what's really going on. anyways, i've decided to get back into reading and have been making my way through elizabeth gilbert's "big magic." i love her style of writing - it flows so well and is so thoughtfully written. she's also one of the few people that i could listen to speak all day long. if you haven't yet, you should check out her ted talks - one focuses on success/failure and one on your creative genius. "big magic" comes post "eat, pray, love" (incidently one of my favorite movies) and just dives into the creative process for whatever motivates you in life. 

i've been eating better and working out alot more. i've had some outside motivation to kick it into gear, but am really trying to hold myself accountable. plus it helps keep my mind off other stuff going on in my life. 

and overall i'm just really excited for summer - i'm ready to have fun especially since last summer sucked. :) a few more things on the horizon and a lot of new "plans" in the works. 

All of the Feelings

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I've been battling with a bunch of feelings. This post-divorce life isn't for the faint of heart and getting your heart back up and ready to love again, is some tough business. I find myself constantly feeling the urge to "run" from anything/anyone that wants to get closer to me - but at the same time feel the pull towards something that I at times, can't deny. It's confusing business.

I'm sad sometimes. I think about my past and the 8 years spent with my ex. My marriage falling a part. My life now. I'm not sad over the loss of that relationship, but more sad that I lost my best friend. I can't lean on that person anymore. And that person shattered my trust in others. In myself and my intuition. I'm working on finding that again - but the trust thing is hard to get back. I'm sad that was taken from me.

I think a lot more than I used to when it comes to love/dating. It stinks because I do not want to think at all. I'm exhausted from over-thinking for almost a year. But each relationship will come with it's own challenges, and again you're left thinking about that person, situation, what you want, etc. I've been terrified to let go. The urge to run is always, always there. My mind sometimes is murky - my walls drop down, and then I think and they edge back up. I feel like I'm in the weird limbo. Half in, half out.

I'm not sure what that all means.

Perception Changes Everything

Friday, June 10, 2016

Over the last few months, things with my ex have been getting a lot better. Meaning I have been getting past my personal feelings of hurt and anger and have just been living life and trying to cooperatively co-parent with her. Oddly enough, it's changed our little dynamic for the better. Looking back on this time last year - I was in a dark, dark place both personally and in my marriage. I was still super down about my body and adjusting to the girls, and things with my marriage were just beginning to unravel. I worked hard to get through the pain and deal with everything post-divorce and looking at my life now I can barely believe this change has come in less than a year.

That being said, I have been able to take my old grief, work it out (mostly) and create a new life for myself. I've been able to focus on the things that I can change, and have been building connections with friends and family that I have let go by the wayside for years. I have invested back in myself. And I think when you do that, that leaves no room for the bitterness or anger that can haunt your heart after going through what I did. Something clicked and completely changed the way I feel.

Online a few weeks ago, one of the parents in a Facebook group I'm in asked a question about her ex taking her kids on a vacation - she was upset because she couldn't afford this lavish trip that her ex had planned and she wanted to address it with her ex because it hurt her. She thought it wasn't fair because she couldn't provide the same experience for her children. That's the first thing I noticed in her statement - she was taking a personal stance against that trip because she couldn't "compete" with the other parent.

I responded. I told her that you can get to a place where you're happy for the experiences that your children have with your ex, without taking them personally. I want my kids to be happy all of the time. I want them to enjoy their time with their other mom, and I want them to experience things that sometimes I can't provide. It's about them and not about comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy, right? So I asked her to just try to work on her perspective - to think about the fun her kids will have and how happy it will make them, and then to do things that are special with herself, regardless of how much money it costs - making a memory is free.

I want my kids to be happy and healthy. I want them to have two parents that love them to the moon and back and can stand to talk to each other and dare I say - share a joke or two? I want them to have parents that problem solve together, lean on each other (when it comes to kids issues) and to feel like they never have to choose between the the two parents because even if their moms are no longer together - they're still a parenting team. It's taken a while to put my personal feelings on the back burner and keep my children front of mind. It's taken me a long time to realize I can't control everything and I'm wasting pressure time and energy worrying about it.

I still have dark moments here and there. I still have flashes of pain and anger. I'm not sure if that will ever fully go away. But I feel confident that it's just that - a little flash on this journey called life and not something that derails me from having a future, or being the best parent I can for my children.

When Fear Consumes You

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I've been choking back a strong urge to bolt from any romantic situation lately. I pinpoint it to my feelings growing stronger, and my walls going up to protect myself. I've felt anxiety and sadness over it all. Sometimes I am panicked and can't sleep. The feelings just are there, and I'm not really sure what to do with them.

I stumbled across a Huff Post article that really resonated with me. Specifically one quote captured from the article perfectly explains what I've been feeling in my chest:

I learned that when we see life through fear-tinted glasses, it’s like walking through a fun-house where everything becomes distorted. Except that it’s not fun at all; it’s torture. Fear wanted to convince me to run because in fear’s mind, love is dangerous. Love means loss. Love mean losing myself or losing the other person. Love means risking my heart and breaking down the layers of control. Real love means that I have to be accountable and vulnerable and, since I had never met someone with whom I felt safe enough to do this, almost every fiber in my body and soul wanted to run.

Shit. This is it ya'll. This is exactly what grips me into a panic some nights. Because of my past, I tie love/growing feelings to pain and not enjoyment. So as my feelings grow stronger, I have an urge to run from it to protect myself from being shattered again. WT absolute F.

And the messed up part? I need to let go and let myself fall - with the hope of being picked up but under the risk of being broken again. OR - I need to run to protect myself. I need to slam the walls back up, to hide myself, to never let anyone in. Because then you don't get hurt, right? So it's sink or swim. <cue tears>

Blog Share - You Are Enough

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Today I wanted to share something that really resonated with me - I'm on a mission to do the things in my life that make me the happiest. I hope you can find that happy, too.