At Her Core

This beautifully describes how I felt after my divorce. It doesn’t get better on its own but with work you can find that reason to go on!

Kristen Ruchalski, Writer

Deep inside, a feeling, a longing to belong.

At the center of her being, a sad and lonely song.

A shattered sense of self.

A lost and broken girl.

Wildly seeking something.

A reason to go on.

Aching and burning, that reason doesn’t come.

An empty core is left, her heart is on the run.

via Daily Prompt: Core

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How Much Do I Love My Girls?

I love how responsible my kids are.

I love how they think.

I love how they can solve problems.

I love how they pitch in when there’s a lot to do.

I love how aware they are of the world around them.

I love my kids more than I ever thought I could love another person. I am beyond proud of the people they are becoming. They are a part of me; the core of who I am.

I want the world for them.

I want happiness and friendship.

I want love and success.

I want adventure and freedom.

I want it all for them.

I want them to know that anything is possible, anything at all. I want them to know that they can be whoever they choose to be; they can do whatever they decide to do.

I try to be the person I hope they will be.

I try to be thoughtful.

I try to be caring.

I try to be patient.

I try to be strong.

I try to be loving.

I try to be a role model, someone they can look up to. I try to be someone they can be proud of, so they can be as proud of me as I am of them.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Core

I Have the Courage to Face Their Retaliation

My vision is flawed, my perception is skewed. The past week I’ve let fear creep back in. This fear clouds my view and causes me to question my judgement.

I worry that something is going to happen with my ex and his wife. I am afraid that they are going to retaliate. This is how they operate.

When I was going through my divorce my ex found out I used $50 to open a bank account in just my name, so he took over $10,000 from our savings, money meant to pay taxes and insurance on the two houses we owned at the time.

When I do something they don’t like I expect them to respond with something dramatic. They are not ones to tolerate my noncompliance with their desires.

This past weekend my daughters were sick. On Monday my youngest stayed home from school. Their stepmother wanted me to keep the kids at my house so her toddler wouldn’t be exposed and she was furious when I told her that she already had been, since they were just at her house.

And so she retaliated.

Apparently my book has caused quite a stir at their house. I have heard that they are angry by the things I’ve said in it. When I was writing it I didn’t think I said much about my ex, and based on word count any reference to him is a tiny fraction of what I had to say. I barely touched on the things that happened. There is so much I left out. The only reason I included any of it was so that people would realize I’ve struggled, that I had serious problems.

And now I’m worried they’re going to retaliate. They are putting my oldest daughter in the middle and I’m afraid what this will do to her. I’m concerned they might be planning something bigger.

Because of this fear, I’m questioning whether writing the book was the right thing to do. It felt so right in the moment but fear is causing me to doubt.

This week I talked to someone who has started reading my book. A stranger who heard about it through the Meetup group I belong to. I saw him on Tuesday. He had read through the first section, the introduction, and wanted to explain to me how motivating he found it. He told me it had him seriously considering making a drastic change in his life. And he hadn’t even gotten to the good part yet.

This is why I wrote the book. I did it to give people hope. I did it to change the way they are thinking so that they can change their lives the way I did.

I didn’t get here by letting fear get in the way. I didn’t achieve all I have accomplished by cowering in a corner. I have become brave. I am not fearless, but I am brave enough to face this challenge. I need to refocus on the present and not the future. I can neither predict nor prevent what might happen and so I will enjoy today.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Skewed

The Secret World Hidden Deep in the Forest

When I was growing up there was a park down the street. My sister and I would ride our bikes there so we could play on the playground. One day we found a trail in the forest behind the baseball field and decided to explore.

The path started at the far end of the field and almost immediately dropped down. A few steps in we were transported into a magical world, the park behind us completely gone from view.

My heart raced with excitement as we moved forward, slowly, taking it all in. The trees filtered the sun in such a way that I felt drawn to the spots where the light was cast. At the bottom of the hill the trail split. Straight ahead was a small stream with a makeshift footbridge, leading up the hill on the other side. To the left the path followed the stream and then turned out of sight.

The air was cool and slightly damp. On the wet shore of the water there was moss, rocks and leaves. Poking them with sticks we found all sorts of fascinating bugs and playful salamanders. Squirrels and chipmunks would scamper up a tree as we approached. At times we might see a deer hiding in the trees or a cat chasing some small animal.

I would spend hours in these woods, pretending I lived here among the animals, free from the judgement of humans. Here I could be anyone; I could be anything. Perhaps I was one of the animals, free to roam wherever I chose, living in a hollow under a big rock just where the path bends. Maybe I was a fairy and these creatures were my friends. Most often I was a girl, one who had run away from her problems to live in the woods. I was ruler of the kingdom like Peter Pan in Neverland or Ralph in Lord of the Flies.

Eventually I would have to leave this secret world and return to the real one. I would once again have to face the kids who tormented me and the responsibilities that were more than a little girl should bear. But I knew I could return; that this magical place would be waiting for me when I needed it.

Now that I’m older the forest is still a refuge for me and I miss it sometimes. Where I live now is beautiful, but lacks the forests you can find in New Hampshire. I wish I were able to share this magic with my girls. I want them to feel awed and inspired by something. I hope they can discover within themselves an ability to create fantasy.

It is this ability to create a vision of something not yet attained, not completely believable, that allows us to achieve impossible goals.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Forest

What is the Importance of the Tumultuous Teen Years?

Every parent hopes that their child makes it through the tumultuous teen years unscathed. By most standards my parents were lucky. I was the easiest teenager any parent could hope for. My biggest flaw was my love of sarcasm, something that was surely difficult but far from fatal.

But I’ve come to realize that this stage is an important one. It is during these years that teenagers practice skills that they can use as adults. They learn to fight against injustice. They learn their self-worth. They learn who they are. They learn to make their own choices, and they learn to live with the consequences of these choices.

Because I failed to rebel as a teenager, I allowed myself to be controlled for years. When I met the man I would marry the foundation was set. I had no demands, no expectations. I lived by his rules because I knew no other way. When we disagreed I eventually gave in, learning over time that it wasn’t worth the effort to fight with him in the first place. When things got tough I reverted to the childish tactic of doing what he expected when he was around and doing what I wanted when he wasn’t. He was a pilot and gone half the time so this was easy.

It wasn’t his fault. He is the way he is. I am the one who should have wanted more for myself. I didn’t rebel against this situation for many years. I didn’t know it was wrong, and once I had the realization I didn’t know how to change it. I was stuck. How can a 37 year old mother of 2 learn to rebel? I suppose the same way a teenager does. I had a tantrum and stubbornly refused to change my perspective.

Now I am entering the teenage years with my daughters and it scares me. I want them to rebel. I know they need to. I don’t want them to blindly follow the rules the way I did, but I hope every day they choose to follow the important ones. I feel my daughter already pulling away and I’m fighting the urge to pull her closer. I don’t have a model to follow. I’m just now learning to rebel in a constructive way. I need to teach her to do the same.

I don’t know how yet, but every day I’m learning. I will figure it out.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Rebel

What Happened to Their Carefree Laughter?

There is little in this world more beautiful to me than the sound of laughter. The smile on their face; the shine in their eye. When someone completely loses themselves in joy it’s magical. Kids running and playing at the beach or park never fail to make me think of my own kids.

They do not seem as carefree as the other kids. They aren’t necessarily unhappy, but I wish they would smile more; I wish they’d laugh more. They have suffered from our divorce more than anyone. They are innocent victims and I would do anything to undo some of the damage I know has been done. What they have been put through is my biggest regret in all of this.

And yet this divorce was also for them. They have benefitted in ways they may never understand.

When we were married I was a role model for them, but not an example of how I wanted them to be. They learned by watching me, but the lessons I was teaching are not things I’d want them to do.

This became crystal clear in one moment I will never forget. About 6 months after the divorce was final the girls and I had been seeing a counselor who wanted my ex to attend one of the sessions. I knew this was a bad idea, she was inexperienced, not a seasoned therapist. But at the time I went along with it. I didn’t want to assume something we hadn’t tried wouldn’t work. And honestly I was desperate to fix some of the issues we were dealing with.

The day came and we all sat in a room together for the first time since we met with the judge. The counselor asked us each how we disciplined the children when they misbehaved. He went into detail regarding a particularly barbaric punishment he had started using, having heard about it from somewhere. When it was my turn I honestly couldn’t tell them. When an issue came up I dealt with it. I couldn’t explain the “method” because it wasn’t something I had put thought into at the time (I now realize that I use natural consequences so the “punishment” is different each time).

That infuriated their dad. He thought I was trying to make it look like they only misbehaved at his house. As I tried to explain my point of view the conversation escalated. The tension was palpable. I was in uncharted territory, confronting my ex. Eventually my daughter came over to me and placed her hand over my mouth. She looked in my eyes and told me that we were fighting because I had an opinion.

In that moment I knew, without a doubt that my divorce was necessary. I knew that for them I had to learn to be a better role model. I knew I needed to become the person I want them to be. And that has become my motivation for a lot of what I’ve achieved these past few years.

And perhaps it’s because of my example that they have become so serious so young. Maybe they are mirroring what they see in me. If I laugh more, will they follow suit? If I play more, will they join in? I think this is worth trying. I hope I can bring more laughter into our lives. This weekend will be a perfect time to start.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Laughter

What Happens When You Don’t Know Which Way to Turn?

Good versus evil; right versus wrong; white versus black. When our perspective shifts it’s amazing how rapidly our judgement changes as well.

I am told, “Do not worry about what others think.” And I believe this. My opinion of me is of the utmost importance. I press through my fear to achieve things I once thought impossible. I published a book that was deeply personal, allowing myself to be vulnerable. Take me as I am. What you think means nothing. But what if this is used against my kids? How can I say that their opinion doesn’t matter? How can I be true to myself, and still do what’s best for them?

I am told, “Their drama isn’t your drama.” And I believe this. I have the power to choose how I react, or I can choose not to react. I don’t have to engage in drama. I can rise above it, walk away from it. My ex is angry he has to pay child support. He is required by law to support his children and so there is no need for me to defend the small amount he contributes each month. But what if the drama is hurting my girls? How can I ignore it then?

I tell my kids, “It’s okay to let others be wrong.” And I believe this. If someone believes wholeheartedly that they are correct and nothing you can say will change their minds, it’s okay to just let them be wrong. My ex believes I cheated on him at the end of our marriage. What he believes to be true is not what happened. But what if what they believe changes how my kids feel about me? How can I not argue this point?

I am told, “Stand up for what you believe in; fight for what is right.” And I believe this. I have a strong sense of values and I will fight for what is right, especially when the girls are involved. The girls’ stepmother only wants them at her house when they are healthy (and possibly not even then). It is their dad’s responsibility to take care of his kids even when they’re sick. But what if what is right isn’t what is best? How can I not do what is best for my children, even if it’s not what is right?

I tell my kids, “Follow through when you commit to something.” And I believe this. Once you tell someone you will do something you need to do it, even if it’s difficult to follow through. The girls’ stepmother has asked that they babysit their sister one Saturday a month and I have agreed because the girls want to do it. She has promised to pay them both for doing this, which I believe is fair. But what if the other person doesn’t abide by their commitment? Am I still obligated to fulfill my part?

I believe I’m at a crossroads. There are a lot of things happening right now and it’s possible that the situation could escalate if not handled carefully. I need to figure out which way to turn. It’s not yet clear which direction is the best. What can I do that will be in our best interest? How can I ensure I am standing up for my kids and yet prevent the retaliation I fear is coming if I do?

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Rapid