A New Therapist

After a long hunt, I finally found a new therapist. We meet once a week. We meet through a secure video chat during this COVID crisis. She’s very results-oriented, compared to my previous therapist in Alaska, who really was more focused on listening, holding space for my pain and validating my worthiness, which really, was exactly what I needed.

Now, we’re focused on moving past the trauma from X. We set goals. She gives me stuff to read. I wasn’t ready for this before. I am now.

Last week she gave me an article to read about the stages a relationship with a narcissist goes through. While not exact, they can be some-what predictable. I’ve wondered about whether or not X was a narcissist. I’ve struggled with this label. My previous therapist said, while she couldn’t give him that label, there is a spectrum of narcissistic behavior and he definitely fell on it. Still, I resisted. A childhood friend shared that she thought he fell in that category. Still, I resisted. But I read this article. It basically told the story of our marriage. And while the stages at the end happened in slightly different order for me, they all happened.

It says, “Once the relationship has ended, the narcissist will move on as if nothing happened. They won’t even remember what it was like to experience the love and care of [their partner].” I’ve known this to be true from the beginning. Even when well meaning friends and family would say, “He’ll realize what he lost, ” I knew he wouldn’t.

Then the article says, “The narcissist will move on and find another victim to fill their needs.” And just like that, a massive weight was lifted.

I don’t know why, this time around, it makes complete sense to me. Perhaps this is the shedding of lies and the confusion of subtle manipulations finally dissipating. But I feel free. I truly feel in my gut that this wasn’t about me. I truly see that he is just very, very broken. I finally feel separate from it all.

I’ve had so many revelations repeat themselves throughout this healing process, I know it’s possible that this might not be “the end.” But I have never felt such a strong shift, a shift that has lasted at least a week! I really do feel detached. It’s so good.

I’ll keep working with my therapist. We’re going to look for the red flags that I missed, so I can be aware moving forward. We’re going to spend a lot of time on building me. I’m ready to move on with my life.

Therapy is good. If you’re stuck, be brave. Reach out and get help. It helps.

Walk to the Lake

This quarantine thing has really put a lot of stress on me, both emotionally and physically. Last week I started to realize that my body was starting to hurt from such little movement. So I charged up my FitBit and I told my co-teacher that every day after our afternoon Zoom meeting, we needed to end by going to get our sneakers on, and not signing off until we knew the other was ready to walk out the door. She charged up her FitBit too, and we started daily step challenges. It has made a huge difference in how I feel. And on days when I skip my walk, boy do I feel the difference!

Today I decided to walk in the morning. The sun was shining, I had the time, and my body felt like it needed to go! It was windy and chilly and I was glad I bundled up. The lake was choppy and deep blue where the shallows dropped off. In the distance I could see the Sandwich mountains with a dusting of snow on them from yesterday. I sat for a bit on the end of the dock, like I usually do, and tried to quiet my mind, relax my shoulders, release the tension in my chest, and just listen to the sound of the waves. I had a memory, then, of laying on the dock up at camp when I was younger, and just listening to the water move underneath and slosh against the pillars and the shore.

These walks are a real blessing. They are healing, and beautiful, and I’m grateful to myself for taking that time for me.

I hope you are taking care of yourself during this time by getting out and walking, even for short jaunts. The movement makes a difference. Take care of yourself.

Good News

After a very long time searching for a dog, and many rejections because I live alone, I finally am getting a puppy!

Meet Willameena – Willa for short.

She’s a lab who was born on March 31st. She’s three weeks old in these pictures. Isn’t she just the sweetest?

I’m so incredibly excited to get her. Because she needs to be with her mom for 8 weeks before being adopted, I won’t be able to take her home until the end of May. While it’s hard to wait, I think it’s good too. The timing is good, because I’ll be wrapping up the last couple of weeks of school. It also gives me time to get puppy supplies that I need and it also gives me time to read about and watch videos about puppy training. I’m going to have to take her out every hour until her bladder gets stronger and to teach her that going to the bathroom outside is so exciting! I was worried about how I am going to sleep, and at first I will definitely have interrupted sleep, but I can put down puppy pads for her at night so I can get a bit more sleep. If I had a partner, we could tag team it. But I’m doing it alone.

I have to admit, that earlier this week I had a moment of fear that I wouldn’t be able to do this alone; that it would be too much and I’d be doing a disservice to my puppy. It’s a big responsibility to take on, but the truth is, I can do this. I think I’ll be able to give her a good life and so much love. I think she’ll be so good for me, keeping me grounded, getting me outside, helping me focus on something positive. A puppy is joy, and I need that right now.

Just this morning, when I was walking to the lake, I was thinking about taking her out in my canoe every weekend, how I would condition her to being around and in the canoe, and around and in the water. That I’d need to condition her to a PFD, and get her to love being in the canoe with me!

There’s so much to teach her and so much to explore with her. I can’t wait! It feels hopeful and really, it’s going to be a lot of work, but so much fun!

Easter

Today is Easter and I am alone because of this pandemic. It’s a beautiful, early spring day outside. Partly cloudy, quiet with a slight breeze. I’ve got Bill Withers playing as I move through the day trying to do “normal” things.

I put a spiral ham in the oven, and I’m going to put scalloped potatoes and brussel sprouts in when the ham comes out. I might make a soup also, as I need to use up this bread for croutons.

I made my bed and am cleaning up my bedroom. And then I plan to go out to the porch and tidy it up for spring.

The isolation is getting to me though. Last night I had a strange dream about X leaving me, again. This time the women in his life were telling me they thought he was having an affair. And that I needed to work out more. So obviously I’m still working through some deep hurt.

This morning, as I was tidying up, I was thinking about how I really want to plant herbs. And this made a memory flood into my mind, of the first Easter X and I spent together. It was just the two of us, in the house I rented a room in. We had the whole house to ourselves. I made an Easter scavenger hunt for him. He made me enchiladas. We went to the nursery and got some herbs to pot. We napped together. It was a partly cloudy, quiet early spring day. I remember feeling so content.

So my heart is sad today. I’m not sure I understand this whole healing process, and the longing I have for a person that just isn’t that person. There’s no alternative ending here, and when I think about what could have been, it doesn’t feel like it ever could have been that way. But there were moments I was genuinely happy. And today I’m longing for that.

But I’m also trying to think of today as what it is – a symbol of rebirth, of starting new. While I don’t believe there will be an exact moment of starting new, I do work to move forward into my new life and today is no different. So that’s what I’m doing. I’ll go for a walk, and rake the leaves, and maybe do some laundry. I’ll cook for me, because I deserve that. I’ll reach out to friends and family because they need it just as much as I do. And I’ll honor this quiet, partly cloudy, early spring day for what it is.

Writing Class

I just had my first zoom “writing in the time of pandemic” class this evening. My incredible writing teacher decided to offer an online writing class to people she knew who were isolating alone as a way to connect.

I have to admit, I was feeling a bit of dread before logging on. I have been so tired from everything and was feeling particularly tired tonight. I think I was also feeling unsure about myself as a writer (a writer who isn’t actually writing these days).

But I did log in and as always when it comes to writing, I’m so glad I showed up to the class and to the page.

I don’t tend to warm to strangers but this group of people is really incredible. The diversity of their stories, the depth of their thoughts and goals of their writing, were so engaging and inspiring. I really felt connected in such an invigorating way.

My writing teacher always says, “Just write forward.” It’s such good writing advice. Show up on the page. Write. Figure the rest out later.

It’s such good writing advice. It’s also such good life advice. Show up. Figure the rest out later.

Repeating Revelations

Being alone 24/7 due to social distancing has given me a lot of time with my thoughts. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a few really important revelations that I’m pretty sure I’ve had before.

Last week, I was engaged in an imaginary conversation with X (while I still do this, it’s much less frequent that when he first left). I was talking with him about being alone in the middle of this crisis and not having him here, and I said to him, “The truth is, I’m glad I’m not going through this with you. If we were stuck in a house together, you’d be on your computer all the time. You’d be freaking out, going to the worst case scenario, and withdrawing into yourself. And I’d have to be the problem solver, trying to hold us both up.” And man was this a revelation. I’m better off without him. At least now, I can hold myself up, and can be a problem solver with work and my personal space and needs. And I have the space to have grace with myself. I’m so much better off.

This week, I was listening to a podcast and the host and her guest were talking about being seen by your partner. They were sharing that, while it’s so scary and vulnerable to be seen by someone as you truly are, it’s also incredibly amazing. I cried as I remembered my conversations with my therapist about how painful it was that X didn’t see me, both in my marriage and in his leaving. I remembered that, while there were nice moments, and I think even genuine gestures of affection, he just didn’t see me. It was so very hurtful and I don’t deserve that in my life. I deserve to be seen.

These are not new revelations. I’ve had them before, multiple times. It’s so interesting to me how in the moment of having them, they feel, well, revelatory. I think this process of healing, of overcoming, of struggle and growth – it’s not a to-do list and once you realize something you can cross it off the list and move on. I have to keep realizing it, over and over, until I understand it in my core.

Take a Walk

The stress of the last week has been pretty intense. On Thursday evening, at 11:15, I sent an update email to my students’ parents. I worked non-stop trying to get teaching online up and running. By Friday morning, I really needed a break.

So while I checked in with my students during the day, I did a lot less work than the rest of the week. And most importantly, I went for a walk.

The moment my feet hit the road, I noticed that my chest was super tight and my shoulders were up by my ears. As I walked, I consiously tried to release that tension. And by the time I arrived at the lake, I felt more relaxed. My mind wasn’t racing. I could hear the birds and enjoy the crisp March air. I stopped at the lake for a while and enjoyed the fog rising before I turned around to head back home, feeling significantly more at peace already.

As I was walking, I was reminded of my daily walks after X left. Before he left, it had been such a struggle to even get myself to go on a walk. Part of that was due to the physical complications I had from my pregnancy and miscarriage – walking was a bit painful. But that pain had subsided quite a bit just before he left. At that point, I just had all I could do to get out of bed every day and go to work. But when he left, I felt such anxiety that I literally HAD to move.

The walks helped then, and they are going to help me now. With this COVID isolation, I’m going to be completely alone, save for some kitty snuggles. It’s going to be hard not to numb out, not to get off schedule with my sleep, not to overeat. When I’m struggling, just as I did when X first left, I’m going to take a walk!

What Day Is It?

Like all of you, I am in the middle of locking down and sheltering at my house to protect myself, loved ones, and strangers from getting sick or even dying from COVID-19. On Sunday, we learned schools were going to close for at least three weeks, starting immediately. Monday and Tuesday we planned a whole new digital delivery system with almost no guidance. We prepped materials for parents to take home. We figured out how to use Google Classroom. We filmed ourselves teaching lessons and greeting the kids. And today we launched remote learning. I spent the very long day responding to parents’ concerns and questions, cheerleading kids and parents to just do their best and try again tomorrow, and packing up my car with possible things I would need to teach from home for the long-haul. It seems very possible that the three weeks will be extended.

I’m exhausted. My anxiety levels are through the roof. And I’m scared. I’m scared for my kids, who will miss the structure, support, and friendships of school. I’m scared for my family and friends who are at high risk for getting very ill from this virus. And I’m selfishly scared about being home alone for a long time, without a hug. I know I can chat digitally. My co teacher and I are going to meet online every day for an hour, in addition to multiple texts and phone calls I’m sure will happen. I will talk with family every day, hopefully with my Portal. But it still isn’t the same.

I’m worried I’ll fall out of a routine and start shirking my responsibilities at work. That I’ll eat too much and move too little. That I’ll fall into bad habits and struggle to take care of myself. That’s I’ll move backwards.

I’m so tired I don’t know what day it is. I don’t want to lose “normal.” I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made since X’s abandonment.

My plan is to stick to a schedule that includes a lot of self-care, including a daily walk and pilates. I plan to practice gratitude every day, and say what I’m grateful for when the anxiety rises. (I did it many times today.) . I plan to do art and play my ukulele. I plan to read and write and cook healthy food. And I plan to get creative with my teaching online. I think the kids will easily lose motivation if I don’t mix things up. So I want to do weekly themes, take them outside with me to study trees. Set up science experiments with them and host morning meetings and digital lunch visits on Fridays. I want to use this as an opportunity to get creative in my teaching again.

I can make this work, just like I made the last year and a half work. I’ve got it in me to push through this. I know there will be an end, even if I don’t know when. I can do this. So can you. If you’re lucky enough to be home with others, hug them every day. And check in on those of us that are alone. Sending you warm wishes for health and safety. Take care of each other!

Crushed by a Crush

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had a crush on a guy. And the amazing thing was I was getting signals that he might actually like me back. I was really excited. The best part was I really believed he could see me for me. I felt like it was possible for someone to see that I am amazing and beautiful, even though I’m fat.

This is one of my biggest fears. I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons X lost interest in me was because I got heavy. I know that’s not the only reason, but I do think it was a factor. My therapist reminded me that, if that’s true, it’s evidence of how shallow a person he is. And there’s definitely other evidence he is shallow. But the idea that no one could love me because I’m fat is pretty embedded.

Then I found out the guy I liked was just looking for a hook-up. That he has a reputation for this. And, while I already had felt a little put off by a couple of our interactions, the knowledge that he didn’t really see me the way I feel, or want to be seen, was a bit heartbreaking. I thought I had evidence that I could be seen for me, fat and all. I know intellectually this doesn’t mean it’s not true. But I do feel sad with that evidence gone. It’s making it hard to hold on to the belief that I am lovable.

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