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I need to figure out who I am when someone else is not the priority.

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Wow, this year has been a doozy! Personal loss, professional loss. And now we are at the end of it and I am ready to say good bye!

As a result of all the loss, I have been so tempted to just throw in the towel and completely blow up my life several times. Sell the house, live in my car. Quit work and just do odd jobs. Just leave, everything and anything behind. I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

Let me give you just a summary of the context that has driven me to this desperation.

The Summary of 2022

Coming into this year, I thought it was going to be a banner year. I had a wonderful job that I loved that paid me well and a stellar work ‘family.’ A fiance with whom I was planning forever. And all 5 of the kids were stable and living life. My mom’s health continued to go down hill, but she was still my mom in a lot of ways.

And here we are at the end of the year…

  • My wonderful job turned into 6 months of turmoil ending with a “mutual” separation that left my confidence SHOT like never before. And I recognized that my identity was completely tied to my work. Not the way that it is supposed to be, and I am still really struggling with this.
  • My new contract to hire job, became just a contract job, which I am grateful for, but I really want the stability and benefits of a full time role again. The job hunt is on. Although I’m grateful to have stable full time work, it’s just a hard place to be on top of everything else.
  • My 5 year old relationship, 1 year engagement, ended with a single text message one week after we took our engagement photos and decided on a wedding date. And that text was sent overnight on the night that my uncle passed away. (No contact since and I am still reeling!)
  • My beloved uncle passed away. The one who has played such a big part in our lives over the last decade, my youngest daughter’s “best friend”, the one I sat with at Thanksgiving and listened to his tales with my fiance by my side. Yes, the one who helped me get my car, who let us live with him during our transitionary time between living in Virginia and Georgia. We were eating Thanksgiving one day and just a few short days later, I got a call from my dad that he had passed away. (I am writing this the day after the funeral, so I am RAW!)

Princess and Uncle Frank at Thanksgiving

  • My mom was put on hospice at the end of the summer. She no longer speaks or can care for herself in any way. Now it’s just a waiting game and it is so hard to watch. (I recognize that it is far harder for my siblings and dad who are her primary caretakers, but the daily updates and pictures just tear me up.)

And these are just the “highlights” or rather low lights of my year. I am just torn down.

The Results

I cannot even put into words all the emotions I am feeling. They overwhelm me, drown me. It’s not even stay in bed and cry reactions anymore. It’s more of a burn it all to the ground reaction. Does that make sense? The anger, the betrayal, the sadness, and the loss – they all combine to a swirling pit of (I can’t even find the word for it.)

Obviously, I have had time to sit and process some of this and some of it is very, very new. And I’m clinging to the few things I feel like I have some control over, which frankly, does not feel like much. But you know me, even in the midst of all this, at my very core, I am a planner, a list maker. I can’t just do nothing.

How I’m processing

This is what I’ve got right now, this is how I’m coping.

  1. As far as my personal relationship failure goes, I am following the sage advice of no contact for 30 days. I blocked him on all channels. Do you know how hard that is? Someone I have connected with multiple times a day for 5 years is suddenly gone. It’s like losing a limb, an integral part of myself.
  2. I am giving myself permission to feel whatever I feel, there is no right or wrong way to feel with all of this going on. Smiling and laughing is okay, crying and screaming is okay. And asking for hugs continuously is okay. My kids, especially Gymnast, have been so supportive through all of this. I really have raised great kids. Pat on the back to me.
  3. Spend time with myself – no distractions, no tv, no technology, just let my mind wander and answer any and all questions as best as I can that come to mind. There’s a Tik Toker I watch who gave me this idea. She takes herself on a date every weekend. I don’t want to do that, because I don’t want to spend my money that way. But I love the concept so I modified it to meet my needs.
  4. Get out of the house. This is hard. I am an introvert to the extreme. Really, the only time I go out of the house is with the kids, but they are all mostly gone or about to be gone. I have to establish a life outside of them, and right now connecting with others is very important for my mental health. This is really hard for me. But this weekend, Princess was home for the funeral and we went to the VFW line dancing night with live music. No, neither of us dances. But I love live music and it’s dark and everyone is old, no offense, so it’s something I can do myself to just be out sometimes.
  5. Ask yourself the hard questions:
    1. Who am I? If I’m not mom, who am I? If I’m not supporting others, who am I? What is my purpose?
    2. What is next? I am months away from being an empty nester. All my “plans” blew up with my relationship. Work?
    3. What do I truly enjoy doing – both personally and professionally? I have spent so long being everything to anyone as a jill of all trades. It’s not serving anyone anymore, especially me.
    4. Is this reality? Or something that is a response to an emotional trigger?

That’s what I’ve got right now.

Shuttering my business for the time being.

The Plan

These are in no particular order or priority. Just my list…

  • I have decided to give myself a break. For 16 years, I have been a consultant, it’s just a whole part of my…my identity as mentioned before. I even continued that while working full time jobs for the last 2 years. I am exhausted. And I am not doing anyone any good any more – neither me or my clients. After I wrap a few straggling projects, I am shuttering it down for a while. Time to re-imagine what this looks like or if it is time to let it go. The experts say not to make big decisions for 6 months after the losses I have suffered. I can’t imagine I will go 6 months, but I am giving myself the time.
  • I want a “real” job. I want something I can leave at the end of the day and the weekends. I want paid time off. I want holidays. I want bereavement pay. I want a team I can cheer on. I want to focus my energy on one “job.” Therefore, the job search is a priority. I can’t keep settling.
  • I am going to give myself a gift. For YEARS, I have waited for a man to recognize my value, to shower me with love, to freaking celebrate my birthday! That may never happen. So I’m going to stop waiting. And I’m going to start celebrating me. I told the kids, I am going to start celebrating my own birthday. I don’t know what that is going to look like, but it’s going to happen (maybe next year.)
  • I am going to travel. My three year plan with my ex-fiance was to hunker down for 3 years, get our financial life tied up in a pretty bow, and then travel for a while…I’m not getting younger. And there is so much I want to see and do. I’m not going to wait anymore, I am not going to wait for my “person” to show up. What’s crazy is that the day I was chatting about this with Gymnast, their old sitter announced she was starting a travel agency. I’ve already contacted her to start planning some “just me” trips this next year.
  • I am going to read books. I have a slew of mostly business related, some relational and some personal development books, I have been collecting for the last 4ish years. 2023 is the year I’m going going to read them. Every day, I’m giving myself some time. If you would like to read along with me, let me know and I can certainly post what I am reading and my thoughts on it occasionally.
  • One thing I have determined from my “hard questions” above is that I LOVE to write. Like love. I love making people feel or think about things differently. I love sharing different perspectives. And I don’t know if I love it enough to make it a career move, but it’s definitely been cathartic. So when I’ve asked content developers that I’ve worked with how they think I should proceed with this, their response is “just write.” So that’s what I’m going to do. And I’m going to do it real and raw and ignore my shame, my pride, my hesitations of sharing too much. I’m just going to write and put it all out there. You can follow my personal ramblings HERE. There will be no affiliate links, no sales, just personal epithets and really whatever comes to mind.

In the end, it’s time to put me first. My kids are almost all gone (update on Gymnast coming soon,) and I’ve spent way too much time waiting on a man. It’s time to just do me, my mom role is fading to the background now, and that’s disconcerting. I need to figure out who I am when someone else is not the priority.

What do you think? Have anymore suggestions for my “healing” journey?

 

 

 


17 Comments

  • Reply Mary C |

    So sorry to hear of these challenges and about the loss of your uncle. You have survived complicated and difficult struggles before, and you will make through these too. You are absolutely right that you need to take time to figure out who you are when your kids don’t need you to parent them full-time anymore; they still need you, but not in the daily caretaking way they used to. A regular job with benefits and set hours would be a great way to restructure your life and set some boundaries, and maybe you should look into traveling with an organized tour group. There are lots of solo travelers who travel this way and make lifelong connections and friendships. As far as the insensitive and cowardly way the engagement ended, try to be grateful that you hadn’t moved him in! It’s probably for the best that he revealed his true self before he was in your house. Stay strong and stay positive; this too shall pass.

  • Reply Reece |

    So sorry to hear about the struggles you’re going through. Smart not to make major decisions for awhile. Also on the financial front, please cancel that joint credit card ASAP!

  • Reply Anon |

    No suggestions, but good thoughts being sent your way. You’re a good person, mom, employee, writer and I wish you good things in 2023.

  • Reply Laura |

    Hope, I am very sorry to hear of everything coming down on you all at once. Regarding the ex, I think it’s also telling that after 5 years he still wasn’t living in the same state as you. You’ve said you’ve blocked him for 30 days, which is a good start, but I would encourage you to make that permanent, and cancel the joint credit card if you haven’t already.

    Good luck in the job search! You have a lot of experience and I know you can find something good for you.

    • Reply Hope |

      Yes, the credit card was done quickly and without fanfare. I’ve packed the box of things he had here. And had Gymnast take it to the car. That purge felt good. Now to take the final step and get it shipped off and wipe my hands of this chapter. The physical purge certainly helped. As I moved things around, I rearranged and replace with items that bring me joy. I kept things that will serve me. And trashed and boxes everything else tied to him.

  • Reply Lisa |

    I’ve wondered where you’ve been. I’m so sorry that things have been so difficult.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    I am sorry to hear of your loss. As far as knowing who you are, I think you already know who are based on where you are placing your priorities (travel, reading, writing). The thing that I have found is women tend to think of ourselves as adjuncts to people we love; daughter, mother, wife/partner, however the essence of who we are is not abandoned simply because we take on these roles. You are going to find that as the children head off that there will be a sense of loss but there is also going to be a sense of freedom. The you who for years didn’t have time for reading and writing because they were busy being daughter, mom and girlfriend will have time to explore doing some of things she loves again without guilt. It’s hard in the beginning because we have created the habit of caretaking but it gets easier over time and eventually you will be teaching your children that caretaking is important but it is also important to balance that with caring for yourself. You will find you also don’t need a man to care for you because you have the ability to do all the things you were expecting him to do(including creating a network of people who support each other.) Anyway, I hope 2023 becomes the year you want it to be.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thank you very much for this perspective. Even aside from the fact that my romantic relationship ended, I have been filling set adrift as the kids have grown and gotten more independent. With only one left…phew, it is a whole new world. Scary and exciting at the same time.

  • Reply Den |

    Hope, I’m so sorry you are dealing with so much heartache and pain. It sucks!

    One of my favorite sayings when things get crazy is “Life is Messy” and it’s so true. And to continue the metaphor…..when I do a deep clean of my house I pull everything out, sort it, discard some of it, and then rearrange it all into a tidy house. I have to make a huge mess, deal with it, and then put everything back together. Sounds like what you are going thru right now – pulling out everything in your life, examining it, evaluating it, and then eventually you will put it all back together into the life you want to lead.

    Best of luck as you go thru this process. Just know life is worth it, in all it’s messiness!!

    p.s. sorry if that sounds like a sermon:)

    • Reply Hope |

      I love that metaphor, it is spot on! And I suppose this season of loss is a great time to really purge things that are not serving in my life…physically, mentally and emotionally. I will certainly keep this analogy in mind as life gets messier before it gets grander…and yes, that’s what I’m claiming. A grand life for my next phase. No idea how that will be defined.

  • Reply Alice |

    I’m so sorry for your double whammy losses. My first thought is to do just what you’re doing. Take some time to figure out who you are as an adult without all of those other descriptors. Read a book or a dozen. Know that it’s OK to not be busy sometimes.

  • Reply Kerry |

    Hey, Hope—I’m really sorry to hear about your mother’s decline, the loss of your uncle, and the rest.

    I think no contact for 30 days is an excellent decision. I would also say now, with that relationship ending abruptly and unexpectedly and you considering who you are, that a short term course of therapy to provide support and provide backsliding would be helpful. I would also suggest not reading those self-help books. One of your best/worst traits that I have observed on this blog over the years is that you are very industrious, always working and hustling and seeking to maximize your time/money/skills—-but the down side is that you do fall into others’ thinking and authoritative pronouncements instead of trying to figure out what works for you. Concentrate on feeling your emotions. Maybe read some fiction. If you go see Princess, see if any museums or gardens are open. Try and draw your dogs’s noses.

    PS—Am I the only one who thinks Princess looks just like your uncle? She has his nose, forehead and chin!

  • Reply Katie |

    Wow, this is a lot to process. So sorry. Reading your struggles and plans made me wonder if finding a regular volunteer gig might help. As a fellow introvert, I still really enjoy volunteering as a way to get out of the house and meet terrific people.

    • Reply Hope |

      Great minds, I have been thinking of a way I could give back and get out of the house a bit. I recognize that caring for/supporting others is one of my strengths and gives me a lot of satisfaction.

So, what do you think ?