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Losing My Mind (and my keys)

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I’m convinced my sometimes over booked life is turning me into a complete idiot. There are days when it feels like I spend more time retracing my steps in order to remember where I left my pants than I do accomplishing my to do list. We all misplace our keys from time to time but honestly, I don’t know how many times this week I’ve stopped and called myself all kinds of names
memory36969112_crop out of frustration.

I’m proud of what I accomplish every week. It’s a lot. I consider myself incredibly productive. But man, sometimes I just stop and wonder what’s going on inside my brain. I had always had a history of laying things down in odd places and then completely forgetting. I learned over time how to stop, retrace my steps and then figure it out. And for the most part I’ve done a great job of doing it. But then there are times when I actually walk into the kitchen and completely forget why I was going there.

Does this happen to you? Do you forget things?

I remember driving to work one morning. I had just gotten off the phone with my mom and started thinking about the upcoming weekend and everything that had to get done. There were a couple of softball games, a birthday party, a project that needed some extra attention, yard work that needed to get done. Started thinking about an upcoming trip with the kids and then suddenly I realized I’d completely driven past my exit and was heading toward what was an old job I’d had seven years ago.

Stop right now, close your eyes and ask yourself what color socks you have on. Do you know? I’m telling you, our lives as single parents can really put a strain on our ability to keep up with everything. So it’s no wonder we drive off with our coffee mug on top of our car from time to time or go through seven to eight names including the dog’s before calling our kid the right one.

I would love to offer you a cure all. Like, have a place you keep your keys, wallet, phone etc. Put things you’re
DMLgroup.jpggoing need in the morning where you can find them the night before. Do crossword puzzles to exercise your brain. But honestly, I think there are just going to be days (sometimes several in a row), when you’re going to have to be aware of everything going on and give yourself a moment to stop, think and be cognizant of what you’re doing or where you’re putting something down.

It’s so easy to get so lost in our schedules and the hustle bustle of our days that we completely forget ourselves and what we’re doing. I’ve literally put dishwashing detergent in the refrigerator and have gotten out of the shower only to realize I never rinsed my hair. It’s easy to start thinking you have a brain tumor or alzheimer’s. My guess is I just overload myself from time to time and most of what I’ve read assures me that everything I’m experiencing is completely normal for a 40 something with three kids and four jobs. A lot of recent studies also show that stress is a major contributor to memory loss. And Lord knows, if you’re going through a divorce or trying to get back on track, stress just comes with the territory.

So, my only advise is to first stop every once in a while and give yourself a moment. I’ve found exercise helps on many levels. And make a point to try and recognize when you’re in a state of confusion and make an extra effort to be aware of what you’re doing. Slow your brain down a bit and try to focus. Lord knows I tell my kids to do it enough times every day. This is one instance where practicing what I preach can really come in handy.

So anyway … I’m sorry; what were we talking about?

 

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Different Paths

Another title for this post could have been “Growing Pains” and I hope you take what’s being said as a positive as it relates to personal growth. Growing pains can hurt, but they’re typically a sign that you’re making progress. It’s true when your body is growing and it’s equally relevant when embarking on a new direction in your life. Let’s look at your divorce as an example. You’ve worked hard to maintain a positive relationship with your ex. Despite some bumps in the road, for the most part you’ve both been able to see past it and have worked relatively well together. My hunch is, that there are good weeks and bad weeks. I mean let’s face it; if you were able to work that well together consistently, you’d probably still be married. But you’re not. A truth that over time will likely build distance between the two of you despite your best attempts to continue parenting as a tandem.

Sometimes one of you just needs time to digest recent events that may have rubbed you or your ex the wrong way. Sometimes life simply pulls you in another direction. I think it’s an illusion to believe that every attempt to work closely on schedules, events and parenting issues is going to go smoothly. It didn’t happen when you were married, no reason to believe it’s magically going to start happening now that you’re divorced no matter how good you get at compromise.

As your life takes you in new directions, it’s also likely that your confidence, both in being a dad and the choices you make as a parent, is going to grow. You’ll start to find your own groove and get accustomed to making decisions about things that in the past were made as a team. You’ll start to get more comfortable with doing things without consult and realize that, while many issues will always require a discussion or notification, not all roads have to go through your ex when it comes to parenting. And to an extent that’s fine. Just don’t get cocky about it.

There are going to be moments when it sinks in a little deeper that you’re no longer a couple. Part of the purpose of working closely with your ex is to help maintain that sense of family that is so important to the kids. But from time to time, things are going to happen that will remind everyone that you’re not. And it’s going to suck. It’s not necessarily the end of the world, but reality has a nasty way of slapping us in the face from time to time. So just be aware. Recognize that you’re not going to be thrilled with every decision your ex makes when it comes to the kids. Conversely, you’re going to make choices that are going to piss off your ex.

When that happens, stop for a moment and consider, even if for just a moment, if you’ve gone too far or if the decision you’ve made is actually quite reasonable. Is your ex over reacting and making assumptions? Are you? It’s easy to presume that one deliberately did something in an attempt to undermine the other. Typically that’s not the case and all you can do is reassure the other person of the truth and then it’s up to them to take your word for it or not. Still, when you work closely with an ex-spouse, sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the boundaries between still being a family unit and being a divorced couple.

I made an agreement with my ex-wife that we would try to include each other in a lot of things like holidays, birthdays, extra curricular activities, school events etc. And so far it’s gone pretty well. We’ve even had each other over for dinner from time to time. But sometimes, I think it’s natural for it to feel a little too close. There comes a point where in some respects, you’re going to want that space. Especially as you start to feel more at ease with being a single parent.

When that happens, I think you should embrace it as it means your’e growing. But I also believe, it’s worth considering the other side of the coin. I’m not saying you should necessarily change your course every time, since there comes a point when your life and the decisions you make are going to be more and more your own. Just remember the shoe will likely be on the other foot at some point and be prepared for the fact that once you start to take those steps there is another person who will likely take some of their own. And it’s going to hurt when they do. Just as it did for them when you found your own stride. And it’ll be up to you to acknowledge and not make it an excuse to get angry. It won’t always be an easy decision, but it’s an important one.

There are going to be struggles for both of you as time passes and lives take their own turns. It’s all about navigating those ebbs and flows and remembering that it’s a two way street and that from time to time, it’s going to hurt. Just promise yourself that you’re going to do whatever you can to ensure that you’re the one who’s going to be feeling the burn, not your kids.

 

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Oh CRAP!

Life is like house training a dog. Just when you start to get comfortable with the situation and are convinced your hard work has paid off, you find an undetected new pile of crap you have to deal with. The trick is learning how to deal with that revelation as it means you’re not quite as far along as you thought and still have some work to do.

I had reached a point where I was getting pretty good at accepting those little set backs. Then a few weeks ago I noticed myself slipping back into my old habits of letting the little piles irritate, well, the crap out of me. I was getting edgy again and found myself feeling overwhelmed and having a difficult time getting out of my funk. I was getting mad over stupid things like my football team losing, not finding my keys, and yes, our new dog taking a dump in my office. I was also getting irritated with my ex over things that really weren’t relevant or that important.

Early on, when I first started this blog, I wrote about being aware and how that’s the first step toward reaching new levels of peace and personal growth. I still believe that and put myself in time out one evening to think about what was going on and why I was so irritable. So I sat back and tried to assess the changes that had taken place and recognized that although I’d made tremendous strides the past several months regaining control of my life; I had ignored some fundamental truths about myself that needed to be readdressed. Biggest one on the list?; I had stopped running and getting exercise. I’ve written multiple times about the importance of giving yourself that hour and the difference sweating and physically pushing yourself can have on your mental state. Yet, somehow I’d managed to ignore my own advice and had allowed a busy schedule to get in the way of maintaining that balance I’d come to rely on.

The other thing I’d manage to do is forget to being ok with saying “no” once in a while. I was putting pressure on myself to make everyone happy and it was taking its toll. Especially since professionally I was increasingly busy, which was a good thing. The problem was, I was also trying to be the perfect dad, friend, neighbor, blogger, brother, son, dog owner etc. And in doing so, I not only ignored my own needs, but I also overextended myself which inevitably led to far too many situations where I felt like I was constantly catching up. And as you well know, when you spend an entire week or even month continually five to ten minutes behind, ultimately you’re going to get warn out both physically and mentally. It honestly felt like there was no time to sit, no time to breathe and no time to recharge and though I consider myself an extrovert, my inner introvert was failing fast. I was ignoring a fundamental truth; we ALL need a chance to recharge.

The problem with all of this is that by trying to be all things to all people, no one gets what they need. And that only leads to more rushing and anxiety as you feel even more overwhelmed and guilt ridden. And of course, being a guy, the last thing I was going to do was ask for help.

So I stopped. I knew I wasn’t being myself and the person I’d worked so hard to grow into. Life kind of helped as baseball / softball season ended which freed up no fewer than 4-5 nights a week. I also asked my ex for some help with the kids so I could focus on some extra projects that had come in. I made a point of forcing myself to go to bed at a decent hour. And I started running again. Even if it was only two miles on the treadmill, I was giving myself a chance to clear my head again. Within 48 hours I noticed a difference. I became more focused in whatever I was doing. I regained my composure and felt less panicked. I started finding myself on time, on target and on task.

The funny thing is, I actually have more on my plate now than I did even two weeks ago. And yet, I don’t feel nearly as far behind on things. Sometimes it’s just our perspective. I honestly believe that rest and exercise can really be under appreciated. Working out helped clear my head and helped me sleep better and sleeping better had a profound affect on my mood and ability handle the heavy load. Just stopping periodically gave me a sense of control. Especially when I realized the sky wasn’t going to fall, the sun was still going to rise and people would find a way to continue without me from time to time.

The reality is, you’re constantly going to find surprise loads of crap from time to time. It’s jut how it is. The world is constantly going to drop little turds when you least expect it and what matters is how you decide to handle life’s little presents. You can either allow them to irritate the bejesus out of you or you can scoop em’ up, toss em, light a candle (or incense) and move on with your life. It’s really up to you. The point is to be aware when those little things are causing you to sweat and give yourself a chance to regroup.

Oh, the dog is doing much better by the way. Like me, she’s adjusting and learning. She’s also a great running partner.

 

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If You Think You Are Beaten

I graduated from college in 1988 from the State University of New York @ Fredonia. Despite a successful four years and a pretty fair grade point average, a freshman biology class I’d put off until my last semester had me waiting until two hours before the ceremony to find out if I’d actually earned my diploma. With fingers crossed I called my professor who informed me I made the grade. He sounded a tad less thrilled than I did and before I could thank him, he’d hung up. Loved that guy.

With diploma in hand, my parents and I made our way to my eldest sister’s home where a slew of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, sisters, nephews, niece (only had one at the time) and a few strangers who just “showed up” all took part in quite the festive celebration. 

It was your typical graduation party and as hoped, I received my share of gifts that afternoon. But there was one in particular that stood out from the rest. One that would find its way through every move I made, every part of the country I lived in and on every wall that saw me faced with challenges. I’m actually looking at it as I write this blog entry.

I found it while rummaging through some boxes I’d packed after leaving my last “office gig.” It was given to me by my Aunt Sophie an amazing woman. A Franciscan nun who spent her life opening up schools and educating the masses, Aunt Sophie was indeed a saint. Mind you, I’m not an overtly religious man, but five minutes with her and you recognized that you were one “linked in” connection from heaven. There was a sense of calm about her right up until the day she passed earlier this past year. How odd I should find this treasure at a time when I find myself in transition, often questioning myself and my ability to overcome adversity.

As I unwrapped her gift that day, I found these words in front of me, inscribed on a simple plaque:

If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t
Success begins with your own will
It’s all in your state of mind
Life’s battles are not always won
By those who are stronger or faster;
Sooner or later the person who wins
Is the person who thinks … he can

God Bless you Aunt Sophie and thank you. Good to know there are angels watching out for us, I’ll pass this along to some friends of mine who could use some words of encouragement.

 

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“Whoa There Partner!!”

So you’ve worked hard since your divorce to pick yourself up and face the world again. You’ve transformed your mindset, taken the high road and grown in so many positive ways. Your outlook has been better, you’re happier, calmer, more content and more at ease. It wasn’t easy, but you managed to see the world from a new perspective and met every challenge head on. You’ve battled negativity and overcome hurdles you never thought you’d ever manage to conquer. You’re approaching anxiety calmly and with a cool head. You’ve remained unrattled even in the most chaotic scenarios. You feel like a new person and you’re convinced you’re on your way to a happier healthier life.

Then this morning you woke up angry, short tempered, frustrated and convinced it’s all falling to pieces. What the hell happened? How is it possible? Where’d the new you go? Now you’re mad at yourself for being mad. And so it reverberates.

But here’s the difference. You’re aware of it. You’ve noticed it. That didn’t happen in the past. The mere fact that you’re recognizing the difference is huge. It’s a new level of consciousness and one that will allow you to weather this emotional storm.

Consider the pace you’ve been going. You’ve accomplished things you’ve never dreamed possible. But you’re only human and at some point your mind and body are going to say, “whoaaa there partner.” It’s inevitable that your system will eventually shut down and require a recharge. If you’re like me, when you’re flying and are forced to stop for a moment, it can be frustrating. You feel momentum and don’t want to stop. But some times we need to pull over and allow our systems to recuperate.

I’ve never been one to believe in the affects of chemical imbalances. But I’ll tell you, my mind is shifting. When you are constantly doing an introspection, considering every aspect of your being and what’s changing day to day, it’s easy to see that something as simple as increasing your intake of water can have a huge affect on your mind and body. Don’t laugh. Try drinking 3 cups of coffee a day for six months and then cutting yourself off. Tell me your body doesn’t reject the idea.

So, you’ve hit a snag. Don’t panic. Give yourself a chance to regroup. Take a few days to give your mind a reprise. Take care of yourself. Workout, drink plenty of water, let the phone go to voice mail, shut off the computer and if you can, spend some time focused completely on the kids. See if in a week or so you don’t feel a difference. I once wrote about life coming and going in waves. Just consider this to be one of those waves you need to ride out. Look for things that may be causing those waves and address them; calmly and thoughtfully. You’ll feel better about yourself again and find yourself headed for calmer waters.

As I’ve said in the past, there really is no finish line. Congratulate yourself on reaching this new plateau of self awareness. To be at a point that you can recognize a shift in your approach is a big deal. It means you’ve probably come farther than you even recognized. So stop, take a deep breathe and just contemplate the amazing things that lie ahead as you continue to grow and move forward.

Peace!

- Side note: As you know. I’m not a therapist. I don’t have a degree in psychology. I only know what I’ve experienced first hand and share it with you in hopes that it may help you through what can be a difficult transition. If you find yourself continuing to have bouts of anger, frustration or depression over long stretches I would strongly urge you to seek the help of someone who is more equipped to get to what could be a deeper root. Meanwhile, give yourself a break. Recognize that you’re human and need to stop from time to time and recharge. This is not a journey to be taken alone. You owe it to yourself to fInd a friend or if you feel it’s necessary, a professional to talk to. 

 

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