The most practical advice I can give.

You can’t fix her.

There is so much you can do. But you cannot fix her.

(Her, being your stepkids’/foster kids’/grandkids’ mom, or dad. Or teacher or principal. Or your kids’ friends’ mom. Or your mother/sister/whoever in law. Or your own mother/sister/whoever.  Or the energy that permeates your house when your kids seem to feed off of each other and collectively don’t listen. Her, really, being the person or thing who causes you to flare up in irritation and sometimes downright exasperation that they Just. Can’t. Get. It. She can infect a lot of things.)

Here’s what you can do:

  • Breathe. Stay centered. Find your inner peace and cling to it like a life raft.
  • Be the mainstay, the touchstone, the constant for anyone else caught up in the storm. Be the light on the shore. Your presence, no matter the amount of time in between, will be the thing that makes the difference.
  •  Focus on your own growth. Open your heart to new experiences. Live your best life and what used to be a tsunami will start to feel more like a gentle current you pass over.
  • Allow yourself grace when you need to retreat because you are worn down. The chaos impacts you. Of course it does.
  • Stand tall in your own strength and remember that no matter the size of the challenge, you can withstand it and overcome it. No matter how many times you are knocked down, stand again.

I know it can seem impossible, but I believe you can do this.

Focus on what you can do. And the can’t will cease to matter.

Learning to fight for yourself

10 months ago I started seeing a trainer. I didn’t even know my intentions when I started, but I had heard great things about her, she was just getting started and charged a killer rate, and I kinda sorta knew I needed to do something about my ever ballooning figure.

The first week, just 2 sessions, was hell. HELL. (After watching many fellow gymgoers’ first weeks in the last 10 months, I now know this is intentional on the part of my trainer). I was thinking that maybe this level of intensity was not for me. I didn’t like her standing there asking me why I was stopping (because it’s the 40th TRX squat and I haven’t done a squat since 9th grade, that’s why!), holding me accountable for what I said I was going to do, even though it was really hard. Still, I went back the next week.

She had told me to track my diet, just to see where I was, so we could figure out where I needed to go. It was impossible not to try a little to look impressive when I was logging my meals in my app. And then shit got hard and messy with my stepkids, so I just let it all show. “I was doing good, and then life became a shit show, so it kinda fell apart,” I told her.

Her next words will stick with me for life.

“It will ALWAYS be a shit show. This is the only thing you can control with any certainty. You have to decide that YOU deserve to fight for you. You are worth fighting for.”

That just blew me sideways. I have spent so much of my life fighting for other people, but never once fought for myself in the way that I deserve. I mean, it makes so much sense now. If the only person truly looking out for me is me, why was I so okay with putting myself on the back burner? It is so much easier to focus on other people’s shit then our own.

Don’t even tell me that you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Stepmom life is ripe for ignoring our own problems. The dark side of any kind of caring, helping soul is that constantly focusing on everyone else masks insecurities and buoys the low self-esteem driving the behavior in exchange for feeling needed and wanted. That’s actually some really big stuff to confront. It is much much easier to protect your husband from the evil ex and be hero to your stepkids than it is to recognize your own shortcomings. No one is going to tell you that you’re handling your shit wrong or that you have faults if you are saving everyone else. No one can argue that. You’re safe.

Except…you could have so much more. You could BE so much more.

How many times have you said to yourself that you don’t have enough energy or time to workout/take a nap/ go for a walk/make a craft project/work on that goal/write in that journal/get a pedicure/take that trip? It’s all the same thing. Until you learn that YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR, you won’t have that time, you won’t make any steps towards what you really truly want.

Going to the gym became allegorical for learning to fight for myself. Right now I’m fighting for the health and strength that I’ve always wanted and for the catharsis I need to cope with my life. Somedays I’m just fighting for the space to spend an hour on myself.

It doesn’t have to be about going to the gym, though. That’s just what works for me right now. But that has spilled into every aspect of my life. I have to constantly remind myself, I CAN take the time. I deserve it. Sometimes it’s making the time to do a trail run, sometimes it’s carving out a Sunday free of obligations. But each and every time, I fill up my cup which allows me to better support my family, give my all at work, and, most importantly, be my truest, happiest self.

I no longer subscribe to the myth of sacrificing myself in order to bring happiness to others. That assumes there is a finite amount of happiness to be had. In reality, happiness begets happiness. The happier I am, the more my light shines on others, which only illuminates their happiest selves.

Each day you have to remind yourself to fight for your own happiness. You are worth it, you deserve it.

 

On the first day of Spring

PosterMaker-1490037298007Inhale growth, exhale inaction.

Let go of what has sat cold and has died. Today newness bursts forth.

You are a beautiful wellspring of new beginnings today. Everything is possible.

From this day forth, go out and turn your face into the sun. Let it warm and invigorate you.

What is meant for you was sitting underneath the surface all along, waiting for the right moment to emerge.

The long winter has finally passed. Your time to bloom is now.

Friday Five

Five reminders to take with you as you start the weekend:

  1. Leave the week at the door. Whatever it was for you, you are under no obligation to carry it into your sacred weekend.
  2. Sleep is healing. Allow yourself the indulgence of a little extra.
  3. You can do anything or nothing or something in between with your weekend. Whichever you choose is exactly enough.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. You deserve to show yourself kindness.
  5. You are loved, always, exactly as you are, exactly where you are.

Reclaiming the mess

This spring, I’m helping coach a local Girls on the Run group (GOTR is an amazing program, by the way, and if you have one in your area, make sure every young girl you know is participating!). Today we are talking about converting negative self talk into positive.

I love when things outside of my life line up with what’s going on with me, emotionally.

I’ve posted on Instagram about how I’m going through a particularly dark period in my stepmom life. I honestly don’t even know how to cover it all here, but in sum, we’re dealing with my stepson doing a stint in juvie, false accusations against my stepson from BM, and straight up parental alienation and custodial interference with my stepdaughter. For most of January and February, I woke up wondering what fresh hell awaited me that day.

It can be difficult to talk about these things when you’re living this kind of life.

People don’t understand. You feel like a drama queen. It feels like you can’t get your act together. There is ALWAYS. SOMETHING. GOING. ON.

(Wait…is that negative self talk?)

I have been trying for the better part of a decade to learn how to rise above the bullshit. For a long time my motto was “Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your burdens.”

See how positive I am? How I am not even paying attention to the negativity and choosing to just be grateful for the good shit?

F*CK THAT.

Do you know what the problem with that is? Oh…where do I even start?

  1. You cannot possibly keep it all in. Choosing to only talk about your blessings means you’re not processing the burdens;
  2. If you do choose talk about your burdens, you feel like you are failing at living a positive life;
  3. You are denying yourself the right to experience your life and turning that experience into something you feel shame towards;
  4. Thinking of your challenges as burdens robs you of the value they bring to your life (and yes, they do have value).

I understand that the point of the aforementioned saying is to encourage less complaining and more gratitude. And that is a good start. But when you live a life of perpetual chaos, the positivity has to come from a different place.

I don’t want to feel shame for things that happen in my life over which I have zero control. I want to acknowledge each blow, each obstacle and stand upon them in all my strength, celebrating the new heights each one has helped me achieve (how’s that for positive imagery??). I am not going to cower in the corner and hide my life like it is something to feel ashamed of. There is so much power in saying LIVING THROUGH THIS HELL MAKES ME INCREDIBLE.

Don’t hide it, don’t shy away from sharing it. Find your power (hint: it’s your incredible persistence) and bang your sword on your shield, Stepmom Soul.

You are a warrior.

What is a stepmom soul?

I have been pondering this post for way too long.

The idea of the stepmom soul resonates so deeply with me, but I worry it’s not inclusive. “Stepmom” is a touchy word. It doesn’t naturally bring forth images of warmth and selflessness. Honestly, that’s why I was drawn to do this work, whatever it is, exactly, that I’m doing.

Years ago, when I first started looking for resources to cope with my new life as a stepmom, there wasn’t a lot out there. And what was out there wasn’t for me. It was either sites with lots of anger and BM-centered posting or lots of very, ah, biblically driven encouragement. I believe in trusting a higher plan, but there was something missing. What could I actually do, where was my agency, my purpose, how do I keep my sense of self through what can sometimes be a very trying and toxic experience?

So I started looking out further and farther afield. I’m a (nonpracticing) Masters level psychologist, so I turned to my trusty books about attachment in development. In researching some of the troubles my kiddos were experiencing, I found the incredible work of the foster and adoptive parent communities. And then, suddenly I became a custodial stepmom and I found myself actually paying attention to parenting posts on Pinterest and finding the humor in mom pages on Facebook.

In each of these communities of different types of mothers there is this common cry:

I am doing the best I can, and I still matter.

So, to the grandma raising her grandson, the mom with 3 (or more!) kids under school age, the foster mom with more kiddos than she could ever take in, the stepmom who says goodbye to her kids every other Sunday night…I see you.

We are all connected and we all share this light. We are all striving to be our most authentic selves in order to benefit the little souls that are tied to our own. I happen to do so under the title of stepmom, but each of our titles are valid and worthy of recognition. This is as much about my journey to illuminate my own soul as it is yours.

Love and Light,

Melissa