Category Archives: My Story

How Do You Overcome Paralyzing Fear?

Nervously, I check my phone as I walk into the restaurant. I don’t know why I look at my phone, there’s nothing to see but the time. There are no missed messages, no texts from friends, not even an email left unread. But it gives me something to do with my hands, something to occupy my mind. I take a deep breath and open the door with shaking hands.

The hostess smiles at me and I tell her I’m with Meetup. She points me toward the back patio, like that’s enough information for me to find this group of strangers. With resolve, I slowly put one foot in front of the other, wishing the floor would swallow me up, looking more like I am going to my own execution than a party.

It’s New Year’s Eve and my kids are with their dad. I had spent the day at the beach, writing messages in the sand then watching the tide wash them away. “Goodbye 2013, hello 2014.” I was feeling lost and alone, adrift with no course charted. For hours I watched the waves crash against the shore, wondering if my life was always going to be this lonely, completely unsure how to make anything better.

One thing was certain, I couldn’t sit home feeling sorry for myself. I had to do something, anything, but wallow in my own self-pity.

My options for the night were limited, which is why I find myself inching toward potential disaster instead of celebrating with friends and family. Almost everyone I knew was still back in NH. After moving to Florida and getting a divorce that was admittedly long overdue, my life changed dramatically. By the end of 2013 I had failed at my rebound relationship which had,until that point, consumed my lonely evenings, leaving me suddenly alone on the one day of the year I find myself most introspective.

I reach the opening to the patio, my heart pounding in my chest. I desperately look around for a familiar face but find none. The room is filled with smiling, laughing people celebrating the past and welcoming the future; but nobody I know.

Could this be any more awkward?

Feeling my cheeks flush with embarrassment I scurry to a seat at one of the long, high tables reserved for our group. There are supposed to be more than 50 revelers at this party. I am afraid to count, but I know there are a lot. People all around me are chatting and having fun, while I look on in utter terror.

My eyes brim with tears but I don’t let them fall; it would be too humiliating to start crying here at the table. My stomach is churning with panic and my breath is shallow. I close my eyes for a moment to collect my thoughts and gather my courage. I can do this. I NEED to do this.

When I reopen my eyes, I pick up the menu in front of me so that I seem occupied, but I’ve been unsuccessful in my camouflage. The person sitting next to me is a rather large man with a kind smile, who has chosen this moment to introduce himself. I quietly mumble my name in reply. He attempts to engage me in conversation but I am simply not able to speak; words fail me and eventually he turns back to the person on his other side.

As the dinner progresses I surreptitiously watch what is going on around me. I listen to the conversation I’m unable to join, only daring to look up when my mouth is full of the poorly prepared hamburger I’d selected as my meal, a perfect excuse to remain silent. As soon as the waiter comes back to fill my water glass, I beg him for the check. I can’t take much more of this. I need to escape.

The second I can break free I do. I slide off my chair without saying goodbye and ease out an opening in the covering to the patio rather than walk past the other tables.

Outside I breathe a sigh of relief. I survived. I don’t know if this will get easier, but I know it’s necessary. I need to meet people. I need to have some sort of life to fill the gaping hole that is left when my kids are gone. I can’t handle any more empty nights.

This truly was one of the most difficult evenings in my life. But it was also a night that changed everything. The person who introduced himself to me has since become a close friend. Somehow, with relentless persistence, he broke down my walls, not that night, or even the next few times we found ourselves at the same event, but over time.

I have come a long way since that night, helped by several people I am now proud to call “friend.” I cherish each of them and I sincerely hope they know how much I appreciate them.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Awkward

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I Absolutely Love my Overly Complicated Life!

My life is complicated. There’s no denying it. There are so many moving parts even my good friends have a hard time keeping up with what I have going on.

My kids keep me running with gymnastics, school projects and other activities. Every week when Friday comes around their first question is, “What are we doing this weekend? Who can we have over?” We always have something going on and usually one or two of their friends tags along. Weekends are a whirlwind of crafts, games, errands and general chaos.

It can be disorganized, but I love it.

I have a wide network of friends that expands ever more as I grow and make connections. After my divorce I was unable to hold a conversation with anyone, and now I can walk into a Meetup event with 20 or more people and hold my own. I’ve found that the better I feel about myself, the more people are drawn to me, and I end up with seemingly endless opportunities to build friendships.

It can be overwhelming, but I love it.

I believe everyone should volunteer, make their community better and so we’ve been fostering kittens. I have four little ones running helter-skelter around my house, climbing my curtains and terrorizing my cat. They have a tentative grasp on the concept of the litter box and I feel like I’m constantly mixing up food for them. The beasts will be here for a total of 4 weeks, with still a week and a half remaining.

It can be turbulent, but I love it.

Physical activity is important to me and I take every opportunity to get moving. I have been doing yoga and can feel myself getting stronger. I love bike riding and have gotten the girls new bicycles in the hope this will entice them to ride with me. I’ve finally reconnected with my paddleboard and will be taking that out when I’m finished here, so long as the weather holds.

It can be tiring, but I love it.

I have goals that will make my life even more fulfilling. Writing is part of this and I devote an hour or more to this daily. But there’s more I want to do, more ideas floating in my mind that will soon beg to be brought to life. I may have to give up sleeping for a while, but I will find time for these projects somehow.

It can be staggering, but I love it.

Add to this work, two houses to maintain, chores, travel, family and more, you can see why “complicated” is a fitting description. But it’s complicated in the best possible way, and I love it.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Complication

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Today: Announcing Exciting Results, After a Last Minute Frenzy

Quite unexpectedly, my book is available NOW for pre-order on Amazon! The actual release date is Saturday 4/28 so you won’t be waiting long!

After much hard work I have been able to publish well ahead of my self-imposed deadline….And you, my reader, are among the first to know!

Although I am listed as the author on this book, I have been fortunate to be able to collaborate with two amazing WordPress bloggers. I am grateful for both their contributions:

The Creative PTSD Gal

The Wonderful and Wacky World of One Single Mom

Their work is featured throughout the book alongside my words. Using personal stories of success and struggle I share some of the changes I’ve made in my thinking that have allowed me to fundamentally change my life in ways I would never have imagined. Their words reflect what I have learned personally.

Even as a child, I have always had issues with self-esteem and true happiness proved to be elusive as I grew up. After 40+ years of searching I’ve finally discovered the secret to happiness and this book shares the most important mind sets, the shifts in my thinking that have allowed me to finally understand what happiness is.

I am not one to ask for help or favors, but if you find this news worthy of sharing with your readers I’d be honored if you’d reblog this post. I am grateful to all of you for your kindness and support along my journey and look forward to achieving much more together!

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What Was Lost Has Now Been Found

A week ago today I was writing a post about the word prompt “churn”. Although at the time I was staying in a beautiful beach condo with nothing to do but write, there were some things that happened that upset me more than they should have. Because I didn’t sleep well these events caused me to start the negative self-talk I’ve worked so hard to reprogram.

Fortunately I was aware of what I was doing and so I didn’t lose the entire day to self-pity. I didn’t let the spiral of recrimination and fear take over. I saw what was happening, I knew why and I stopped it. Allowing myself to continue was not productive. It would not bring back the lost item; it would not get my book finished.

And because of this experience I have grown.

It is scary to pursue a lifelong dream. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful, exciting, and completely amazing to be so close to reaching a goal I once thought impossible. But also absolutely terrifying. It’s so easy to let self-doubt crawl in, worry that I’m not prepared enough. And so I have made it impossible for me to back down. I have announced to the world (well, my world) that my book will be available, and so it will. I have invited friends and family over for a book launch on 4/28. There’s no backing down now. I’m 100% committed. Ready or not, this will be done.

I also told my daughter what I had lost. I accepted full responsibility and explained to her that I would replace it because what had happened was not her fault. And when I did this, she learned how it feels when the person truly responsible stands up and makes the wrong things right. In that moment, I honestly felt that the cost of the lost item was worth the lesson I was able to teach. I was grateful I could turn what had felt like a catastrophic event into something so positive. That would have been enough.

And yesterday I found what had been lost. I found it somewhere I’ve checked 100 times. I was certain it wasn’t there. And yet it has been found.

Everything really will be okay.

What Happened To “Grateful Single Moms?”

After much thought, I’ve decided to rebrand this blog. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts, my writing has taken a completely unexpected direction, and it’s one that feels true to who I am. I know many of you refer to me as “Grateful Single Mom”…or “GSM”…and I’m still all of these things, particularly the Grateful piece.

I’m grateful to all of you who have connected with me, supported and encouraged me, occasionally empathized and always lifted me up. Truly you have given me the courage to flourish. I want to sincerely thank all of you.

I am still a Grateful Single Mom. But I’m so much more.

As I started writing, I shared stories of courage, strength, and overcoming obstacles. I wrote about struggles and challenges, trials and conflicts. And I’ve barely begun to touch on all I have to say.

As I wrote, I realized that I have gone from a life where I was just getting by, to one that is more than I’ve ever dreamed of. And now I can see how much further I can go. The possibilities are endless.

I have gone from surviving, living day to day, to thriving, and living a life I never thought could be mine.

There have been times that the words of my posts have flowed so freely that reviewing them afterward felt like I was reading something written by someone else. The stories were mine; the thoughts and ideas belonged to me. But how they were put together was not how I thought I’d be writing.

Shortly after I had one of these moments I thought, “what if I wrote a book?” I had always wanted to write a book; I’d even started a couple that fizzled out. Nothing I wrote felt authentic. It all felt like I was trying to write what people expected.

But here, with this blog, I found my voice.

What if I wrote a book with the same voice I’ve found for my blog? What if I wrote about some of the ways I’ve been able to change my life? What if I shared my personal stories, and perhaps even stories from others who have struggled?

And so I started to write. For the first time ever, as I was writing the words I wrote came easily to me. They were completely true to me, and who I want to be. They were emphatic and heartfelt. They were impassioned and insightful.

I won’t minimize how much work it was, because as much as I loved every single moment I spent writing, it has been work. I have put much of my life on hold to get this finished. I needed to complete this before time allowed fear and self-doubt to creep in. There is still work to be done, but the end is in sight. It will be published on or before 5/1/2018.

It may be imperfect, as am I, but it is sincere and authentic. I am extremely proud of what I’m about to put out into the world.

And so I’m rebranding my blog to align with the book title I have selected. It reflects who I am, where I’m going, and what I’ve found myself writing about here. Grateful Single Moms has become:

Thriving Not Surviving: Bravely Pursue a Life That Will Blow Your Mind.

The River Wild (1)

Make Small Changes that will Produce Exciting Results

I work in the downtown area of a mid-sized city. As happens in a city, I park several blocks from my office. On the trek to my car one day I realized something startling. Except when crossing the street (to look at traffic lights and cars), my head was bowed the whole time and my eyes were directed firmly to the ground.

Now I’m not exactly sure how I came to this revelation but once I did I started to really understand how low my self esteem really was. On the drive home that day I thought about it and decided that this was one small thing that was under my control. All I had to do was look up.

So the next morning I left my car, head held high and turned the corner at the end of the block. I immediately came face to face with someone walking the other direction. Without a second thought I dropped my head and averted my eyes. This was going to be harder than I thought.

At the same time, I was losing weight and wearing more attractive clothes. I was growing out my hair and had it cut much more fashionably than it had been previously. As I started looking around more I noticed people looking at me. And this made me extremely uncomfortable; more than that…I was afraid.

I can’t say why I felt afraid, only that as these strangers looked at me I felt fear. This made it even harder to stop looking at the ground. I would look up, catch someone looking at me and my heart would pound. Immediately I’d look at the ground and want to be swallowed up.

But eventually I realized that a lot of these people looking at me were smiling. I often passed the same woman and one morning she complimented the dress I was wearing. I started wondering what people saw when they looked at me. Maybe they weren’t judging me. Maybe it didn’t even matter if they were.

With conscious deliberate effort I walked to and from the car with my head up…most of the time. As I started to feel better about my appearance this became easier.

Sometimes I still catch myself looking down. This is more because I’m lost in thought now, but I still make a conscious effort to look up when I catch myself doing this. I make eye contact with people as I pass them. I smile and say hello. These small daily interactions make it easier for me to walk into an event with a large group of people and start up a conversation, plus I’m seeing a lot more of the world around me!

What small change could you make?

 

See These Remarkable Life Lessons from Kayaking

Today I was able to go kayaking for the first time this year. It didn’t work out quite as I’d planned as I was supposed to go with my wonderful friend Jill and a group she was leading, but I didn’t get free quite in time. Still, I went out by myself and it was fantastic, truly inspiring.

While I was out on the water ideas kept coming to mind that I wanted to write down. Among them was the following list of life lessons you can discover from kayaking. I decided to just post the list without expanding on them. They may mean something different to each person but there’s nothing wrong with that.

  1. Never care so much about your car that you’re afraid to get the seats wet.
  2. It’s okay to leave technology behind.  It will be there when you get back.
  3. Sometimes it’s okay to drift, but if you don’t paddle enough the wind and current may move you off course.
  4. Going with the flow can make things easier, but it takes courage to paddle against the current.
  5. Paddling into the wind is hard.  Just sayin’
  6. Look out for others, they may not be looking out for you.
  7. Use leverage.
  8. Sometimes slow is fast enough.
  9. The further from shore you paddle the rougher the seas, but you can get to great places if you’re not afraid to leave the shore and put in the effort.
  10. Sometimes it’s best to follow someone else’s trail.  They know the way because they’ve been there before.
  11. Be grateful for the people and circumstances in life that allow you time out on the water, or wherever you choose to go.

Kayaking today would not have been possible without the love and support of my good friend Nancy, who is always there for me.  Today was also sponsored by a fellow parent who was willing to help me out.  I am truly grateful for all the people in my life.

Who are you grateful for?