Don’t Lose Your Dinosaur – Staying True to Yourself is Healthy AND Deserved.

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One of my favorite movies of all-time for no other reason than it’s DOWNRIGHT ridiculousness is Step-Brothers with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. That’s one of my ‘dinosaurs’ – I like dumb movies. I like to laugh. I am also the weirdo that can quote a movie after watching it once…if you’re good enough to keep up with me on the absurd movie references I can pull out, we’ll have great fun.

My journey is a process. It’s never-ending and honestly, I’m thankful for that. The more I walk along this path the more I see TRUTHS, bunked theories, things that work for me and things that don’t, and of course, the pursuit of happiness, which is different for everyone. I’ve reached, stumbled and learned many lessons along the way. But today, my lesson is about staying true to myself. And if I’m honest, *I* am my own worst enemy, my harshest critic and I’ve never really allowed myself to seek happiness. If I stay out of my own head long enough to fix everyone else’s problems, I will be good.

Except that lie I had been telling myself for years has finally crept up right in my face and I no longer can shy away from myself. I need to be ME, happy with ME, proud of ME and able to give ME to my family and other people I want to give ME to. So I thought, what is one thing that REALLY describes where I’m at that I can share today? THAT’S IT! No matter WHERE you go in life, don’t lose your dinosaur! For those of you wondering what the hell I’m talking about, you can find it here ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8gY0IT0CuA ).  <—–  BAD LANGUAGE ALERT – DON’T WATCH WITH THE KIDDIES !

When I got married, I gave and gave and gave….

AND GAVE every single ounce of myself to my husband. To Little Bear. To the court. To the documentation. To the ‘family life’ that was expected of me. I gave and gave and gave. And somewhere along the line, I stopped laughing. I stopped smiling. I stopped telling stupid jokes. I stopped being thankful. I stopped just ENJOYING LIFE.

I lost my dinosaur.

I’m not pouting, I have had MANY wonderful things happen to me and my family and I am SO very blessed. But when you spend all your time focused on what’s WRONG and living your WHOLE life for someone else and not allowing yourself to be….uhhh…yourself, or enjoying what makes you YOU, you quickly lose sight of things that MATTER. Like how GORGEOUS the sun is. Or how nice your husband smells. Or how soft the child’s cheeks are. Or how lucky you were that your car started this morning…you got to work on time…and you even were able to merge when traffic got nuts. I lost sight of how WONDERFUL my friends and family are. I forgot to look in the mirror and notice that I am attractive, and kind and funny and people GENUINELY enjoy my company. I forgot to remember how very special I am, and that no one else is now, nor will ever be, ME 🙂 Not staying TRUE to yourself and remembering to put YOU in the driver’s seat of your OWN happiness puts a much larger cloak of YUCK on your life than you might think.

Now, admittedly, the hardest journey I HAD faced to date was becoming humble. That was a tough one. To REALLY look in the mirror and say there are things I am doing W-R-O-N-G and if I actually took the time to admit my own faults and look at things from a perspective other than my own, I might actually find some peace. And peace I found. Oh did I ever find peace. I am in a place today where the petty BS that USED to pull me down, no longer does. I am in a place today where when I hear people ENDLESSLY complaining or in SUCH AN AWFUL RUT about the other party, my heart kinda smiles a little. It smiles because I’ve been there, I get it, but also because I know damn well that person TOO can find peace and let some of that go. Finding peace was hard. It seemed nearly impossible. But now that I have it, now that I KNOW how to achieve it, it can’t be taken from me. And yes, oddly enough finding peace had to come when I was willing to admit I wasn’t always right, and I had some crap ass qualities and behaviors.

But today…I’m on a different road (that happens along this journey). What about all the things I am right about? What about all the incredible qualities I possess that are MINE alone? What about some of my super great behaviors? What about the things that make me…….me?

I’d lost them. I actually allowed myself somewhere along the line to believe that I was doing everyone a favor by giving every waking breath of mine to my family. Every free moment. Every worry. Every thought.

Think about your friends. Why are they your friends? Your TRUE friends know all your crap but they love you anyway. They like the way you laugh. They like the stupid things you do in the car. They like your INTEGRITY. They like your values. They like your opinions (sometimes!), they like your personality.

My friends are no different. Man, do I love my friends.

But somehow I’d traded in MY personality, MY sense of self worth, MY dinosaur for this family. While it certainly IS all about compromise, where is the line of personality suicide? I already knew I was giving too much and starting to dislike who I had become. But I figured it was ONLY because I had no peace in my heart. Now there is an overwhelming peace in my heart but a lack of ‘know who’ (I am). Actually I know who I am, I’m just not allowing myself to BE who I am, or even be happy with who I am. It’s kinda like living with shackles. You’re so worried about what everyone else is doing or thinking or needing that you forget….hey wait! I am breathing too! I have needs too! I love ME too!

Today you should take some time and write down the things that make you YOU. The things YOU enjoy. The pieces of yourself that only YOU can offer the world, because believe me, we ALL have them, that is what makes us all unique. I challenge you to really assess if you value YOURSELF, or if you’ve placed all your value SOLELY on the strength and success (real or imagined) of your blended family. This blog is FAR from a shot at my husband, as I know he loves these things about me too and no one MEANT for this to happen. It is just possible to allow mediocrity and miscommunication to run your life sometimes…..DON’T LET IT <—– my advice 🙂

You can’t base your happiness or personal success SOLELY off of how your family is faring at any given moment. How are YOU faring?

Please don’t get me wrong, plenty of people would say the best thing that ever happened to them was to be a spouse and parent, and now you and your spouse are one and best friends, and move and breathe as a unit and your family is strong for it and you have a zillion extra curricular activities to keep you well rounded….

Okay, for those of you who say that that is great for you. That is just not me. I believe I can and should be attentive, involved, responsible and available (physically and emotionally) for my family. But I should also be all those things for myself. Many of us are guilty of relinquishing our own lives to live our spouses for them. I know that was harsh…so re-read it until it sinks in.

Again, MANY (not all) of us are guilty of relinquishing our own lives to live our spouse’s lives for them.We take on ALL the issues and then some. We forget we matter because there are unresolved troubles. We are in a CONSTANT state of putting ourselves down (often unintentionally) for fear of overstepping our boundaries. We believe our needs come last and forget we have a dinosaur that is ours, that we love, that no one should be able to take from us.

We can love ourselves and be ourselves without overstepping our boundaries or cutting others down.

I’m no different. I have been there, I am there. And I wanted to dive in and fix everything ASAP but in the process, I lost my dinosaur.

I love my dinosaur. My dinosaur is funny, caring, thoughtful, sarcastic, and is loved by many. We get so wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others and in making their lives our lives that we forget we are uniquely and wonderfully made. We deserve and should BE ourselves. Since, after all, everyone else is already taken. But I’d like to add another layer to that. Living your life for someone else leaves you COMPLETELY empty. So today, instead of my normal humble stance (where I ALWAYS encourage you to think of what YOU may have done wrong or what you could fix) take some time to focus on what you do RIGHT, what is ALL YOURS and YOURS alone, and what makes you YOU.

You’re incredible. You’re enough. Hell, you’re MORE than enough. And I am too. You don’t have to diminish someone ELSE’S dinosaur to embrace your own.

Parents are expected to compromise parts of themselves and their wants in order to meet the needs of their children. AND you must be willing to do the same for your spouse in order to have a healthy marriage. I do NOT disagree with that and I believe as a responsible adult, you make sacrifices where they are due. But you know what your kids and spouse really want? YOU. Your smile. Your involvement. Your dinosaur. It’s a balancing act. But don’t go believing for one SECOND that you are doing anyone a favor by pretending you’re not tapped out if you are. Your spouse picked you for a reason. You are learning to have a relationship with your stepkids and if you are NOT trying to replace anyone (and ahem…please don’t) you’ll find that they want the AUTHENTIC you. Dinosaur and all.

And most importantly, don’t lose your dinosaur simply for YOURSELF! You deserve it! Stay true to YOURSELF. If you’re not happy, stop faking it. There may be a million reasons why you’re struggling, start with peace…be humble…find patience, but ALSO remind yourselves of the things you love and want and need and don’t let anyone tell you they are wrong, or you’re not getting them. One of my  FAVORITE quotes ever is the following:

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Staying true to yourself ensures you never have to settle, or live a life without your dinosaur, which again is what makes you YOU. You know why more people aren’t walking around happy, fulfilled or with a real sense of peace? Because they aren’t staying true to themselves. Just because you’re true to YOU doesn’t mean you have to screw other people. It means you have to remember YOU are special, YOU are enough and YOU are unique! Being humble doesn’t mean being down on yourself, it means allowing yourself to notice your own faults and not blame them on others. There’s not much that is more dangerous than living blindly and blaming everyone else for your problems. Unless of course you’re living SO humbly without remembering why you’re so awesome, losing sight of the beauty you bring to those who love you and are lucky enough to have you in their life.

Keep both ideas in mind, be humble AND kindly confident and hop on your dinosaur. Your family may be totally freaked out by you saying you need to be true to yourself and standing up for you and your dinosaur. Mine kind of is right now… They are surprised that I am making some changes in my behavior and in what I will and won’t put up with any longer. Not because they want to hold me back but because change is hard for ANYONE. But in the end, they’ll thank me and what better example to teach the kids? They have dinosaurs too 😉

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You’re Too Involved.

“It’s not your battle to fight.”

These words were spoken often by some of the closest, most trusted members of my circle when I became serious with dear husband (DH). Childless stepmomming, and stepmomming in general begins on a slippery slope. If I had it to do over again, I would have held more stock in these words, and not been so quick to blow them off. I remember being 25 years old, in a GREAT spot in my life. Well educated, grounded in a career, in great physical shape and ready to give myself to a very deserving man.

DH fit the bill on nearly every count. Every count except of course, having a colored past, including a child with an….interesting woman… that wasn’t part of the picture I had painted of the perfect man. But otherwise, he satisfied nearly everything on the ongoing checklist of my heart so when it came time to choose a direction for my life, I didn’t bother walking slowly, in a calculated fashion as was advised by the most TRUSTED people in my life. I ran. I picked these boys, “all in”. And I mean, ALL IN.

I remember being irritated when people would dare SUGGEST I should back off. Let him fight his own battles. Not get so involved. Not take things so hard. Not become an overnight addition to their little family.

Um. CLEARLY I am capable of making my own decisions; he is a good man, I really love his son, and I’ve got this. So you and your advice….are annoying.

Except hindsight is 20/20. And their advice was more spot on than I ever realized.

I’ve told you time and again that in our situation, we HAD to go all in, we HAD to fight for Little Bear, we HAD to keep him safe. And that is not inaccurate. However, there were plenty of other areas where I was “all in” (like, EVERY area) that eventually burned me out. I’m in a fizzle position today. I am slowly trying to keep my positive vibes going, to remember why I’m here, to be humble, and to make the right choices for the family I’ve chosen. But the truth is, I did way too much.

I was WAY too involved.

I took things WAY too personally.

I hopped in the driver’s seat of this thing and was left wondering why I was driving.

It has in the past, and continues to threaten my marriage. Because it’s threatening my well being, and I’m struggling to back off, gently, while still remaining responsible, adequately involved, and a positive force in their lives. If I don’t, I am hurting myself. I appreciate SO MUCH those of you who are in a position today, like where I was just a few short years ago. You are IN this thing. You are fighting with all you have. You have binders. You have notes. You have text messages. You’re losing sleep. You’re documenting. You’re calculating. You are giving MORE of yourself to this little family of yours than you have EVER given before. You’re special. You’re AMAZING. And you may find down the road, you were too involved.

I know, you hate reading that. I probably lit a fire inside you like hearing that trash ALWAYS did me.

But if I can offer anything to you, it’s experience. The HOURS of my life wasted on negative energy, and doing, NONSTOP for those I call my own, has left me empty. I was kidding myself and lying to myself believing I had to be everything to everyone. I did not ever fill myself up, I just gave and gave and gave and now I’m tired. No, I’m EXHAUSTED. I’m drained. I’m overwhelmed. And they are just looking at me, deer-in-the-headlights…like why did mommy put the brakes on?

I’ve had to have many gut wrenching and emotional conversations with DH lately. About how MUCH I care, and how bad I’ve been about trying to take over and control our family’s destiny…and how I can’t do it anymore. I should have never done it to begin with.

The message at church this past weekend was profound and hit me right in the face….as God tends to know JUST how to do with me. It was about a ‘learning curve’. In short, if we try to learn by experience, and NOT by the advice of our TRUSTED circle, we end up hurt, and it costs us bigtime. While it FEELS impossible, to sit back, take advice from those who have BEEN there, and patiently walk the path they advise until we GET IT WITHOUT REGRET, it is better for us.

If I had it to do over again, I would have listened to others more intently when they said…..hey girl….maybe you should back off a bit…let him do a bit more of raising his son without your input…it’s not YOUR fault his biological mother is the way she is….you do a bit more of you, the way you were BEFORE you got married…give of yourself enough without giving more than you have.

NOT ONE OF THEM SAID DON’T GET INVOLVED.

Not one of them said don’t help.

Not one of them said don’t contribute.

Not one of them said don’t be a partner.

They said don’t lose yourself. Don’t become so obsessed with THEM and you forget you’re a person too.

And guess what I did friends? I didn’t listen. And I had to learn by experience. My own. And I see this in SO many of you. I realize some of you will be tempted to read this and think how sad it is that I allowed this to happen to myself…but you’re in a position today where you THINK you’re in control, you THINK you can handle the immense pressure this lifestyle can put on you and you THINK you’re not over extending yourself. But if you were really honest, there are PROBABLY parts of your life with your family that you are TOO involved in. And I want to warn you about them and share with you my own trials for the sake of saving your sanity, and your family. My family wants nothing more than to love me, and I to them. Yours is probably no different. But really loving each other means sharing in responsibilities, and allowing ourselves to be imperfect and not afraid to admit that you need a break.

The HARDEST part about this, is that I didn’t know I’d given too much until I was at my breaking point. I really believed I could give and be the perfect parent/stepparent combo (as custodial stepparents are). I ran myself into the ground giving and giving and it just became the norm. It was expected. If you want something done right, better do it yourself….so I just took it all on. MANY of you, are doing the same thing. I know this because you tell me you are. And I do NOT fault you for it, I love you for it! Because I did it too. But realizing other adults in the child’s life are capable and should be EXPECTED TO step up in certain areas is healthy. You have an absent bioparent? Super. So do I. That doesn’t mean I should be a SINGLE parent, which I often felt like I was. Because I had to be supermom and then some, so I just took it all over. And now, I’m kicking myself for it. My husband is a wonderful father, but instead of me allowing him to shine, somewhere along the way I thought I was doing everyone a favor by handling it all. I fooled myself…..but not any longer.

My advice is NOT to back off entirely…but to be AWARE of how involved you are at any given moment because over involvement MAY cause resentment and overwhelming heartache down the road. Remember to STOP and smell the roses, there are more than enough parts of this lifestyle that super suck. Take time to enjoy the reasons you CHOSE TO BE HERE. Allow the children’s biological parents to have their roles and you calmly find yours too. That should NOT suggest you don’t fit or are less important. But there will come a time that you will want to fit comfortably in your own role and not be so bombarded with the everyday. SOMETIMES being a stepparent is wonderful, if we use it as we are supposed to, an ADDITION, not a take it all on overnight stroke out down the road because we didn’t know what we were getting into and are now unsure where we fit kind of thing. If you DON’T follow that advice..well, I can’t blame you. Then you would be just like me 🙂

But for those of you reading this thinking…damn…I feel like I am doing EVERYTHING sometimes…you feel that way because you PROBABLY are….and if the WHOLE thing falls apart because you back off…it’s probably time to reevaluate. That’s not much of a ‘partnership’ anyway, now is it?

Today, we are in the process of transformational change. Not surface fixes. A completely new family model has to be made because the old one is dying. The new one includes DH and I breaking some old habits (which is SUPER hard), and settling into new positions and altering responsibilities within the household. I put SO much pressure on myself to be mother of the year, I burned myself out. And while at any given point DH could have said, ‘you’re too involved, I got this’….think of how that conversation would go in your house? There are MANY men who are all in for their families, and stick by their wives through thick and thin, mine is no different. But if you live a certain way long enough, it SIMPLY becomes the norm. And it may not always be healthy.

I have run this show for years now. Not because he is not capable, not because he expected me to find myself where I am today….not so hot and gasping for air in my circumstance. No, I ran this show simply because I took the reigns. He was a force to be reckoned with on his own….once I joined in….I showed him new levels of ‘documentation’, ‘responsibility’, ‘accountability’, ‘discipline’…the list goes on.

Does this sound familiar to you? EVERY DAY I am contacted by a stepmother who is IN THIS THING. They need to know what THEY can do…”what should I do to”…..well first off…I ask…where is your husband in this? I am NOT talking shit about those who are steering their ship and taking it all on….I AM YOU. But learn from me…..the world will not implode if you relinquish some control RIGHT BACK TO THE ONE WHO MADE THE CHILD, and go do something for YOU, even if it’s simply to keep your sanity for a few hours.

I could write for DAYS about all the things I have done that I didn’t ‘need’ to do, or that got me to this point. And I would be willing to bet, you’d see yourself in most of it. Because that is what we do. Stepmoms, we own shit. We take it on. We take it over. We fight. RIGHT out of the gate, we hit this thing running.

But friends, you WILL lose momentum. You WILL lose steam. You WILL lose energy IF you don’t stop to remember you are ONE person, one VERY SPECIAL DESERVING person. You are ALLOWED to take a break, you are ALLOWED to not have all the answers you are ALLOWED TO SAY AT TIMES, I did not create this child. I do not care to field this particular issue. I’m going to Target. I’m going to the gym. I’m going to dinner with my friends. BECAUSE I AM ALLOWED TO. And me leaving for a little bit to breathe is NOT me abandoning you. And me giving YOU the reigns for your own child does NOT make me a bad stepparent and it does not mean I am trying to disown my responsibilities. NOR does it mean I do not love you both. It means I love you ENOUGH to let myself NOT BREAK DOWN and continue to be a productive member of this family.

Because of the role I took on SO hardcore and SO quickly, I did not allow myself significant breaks and you NEVER EVER EVER would have heard me say ANYTHING to the effect of, I did not make this child, this is not my particular battle to battle, I am going to keep my nose out of it and let THEM (his bioparents) decide.

It is often said be careful what you wish you for, you might just get it. A stepmom wants a great many things. We think. Our hearts and minds are walking ‘if onlys’ and our daily behaviors become habits that border on IMPOSSIBLE to change. EACH OF US has a breaking point. You may believe you’re reaching yours, but stepmoms, moms in general….we have breaking points that are MUCH further than we ever anticipated, and likely we’re in dangerous waters before we get there.

Take some time to see that YOU are important. YOU are meaningful. YOU deserve a PARTNERSHIP where you are not the only one doing all the work. If you stopped documenting today, what would happen? If you stopped researching today, what would happen? If you stopped giving 700% (uh yeah, NOT even an exaggeration friends) of yourself today, what would be left in your home?

These are questions I challenge you to ask yourself. Because I never did. It would have made a world of difference for myself and my family if I had.

You’re giving your all because you believe if you don’t do it, no one else will. What pressure. What ugly HEAVY pressure. And take it from me, because I truly love, appreciate and respect ALL of you…that pressure…gets a bit too much to bear at some point. Catch it before it gets there.

My husband is an INCREDIBLE man. Boy is he a good man. He is smart, sexy, talented, and has the most wonderful heart. And that Little Bear, he is deserving of glorious things as well. But when you use up all you have doing EVERYTHING…people simply start to expect it. I do not blame them for this…though at one point I did. I don’t believe had he seen me cracking (because I, like you, am EXCELLENT at hiding it) he would not have tried to step in. But we are masters of disguise us stepmoms. We want to help them, fix them, and do it all because how the hell we got this superhuman strength is beyond me, but we possess it. And we want to share it with them. And they see it and begin to think it’s the norm for us. I never complained about doing too much I just DID it. So when I hit my breaking point and said ENOUGH! He was pretty dumbfounded. I CONSTANTLY encourage open communication and honesty….in general, I have become great at it in my house. Except in this one area. We believe if we back off we are weak. We believe if we don’t do EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME we succumb to the stereotypes.

Being who I like to be, relieving myself of some of the pressure…I put on myself….will help me be who I want to be. And I am willing to bet, the same is true of you. You are not a stepmom FAILURE for giving some of these issues to those that created the child. You are not a stepmom FAILURE for saying NO sometimes. And you are not a stepmom FAILURE for saying I’ve had enough, I bit off more than I can chew, and now I need some help. That is what your husband is there for. It has no doubt become a battle you’ve assigned yourself to…or may feel hurled into…but when all is said and done you CAN back off and honestly I encourage you to.

You know my best trick? Saying I can do it all, DOING IT and then being irritated that I had to do it. Men love that 😉 My DH? Oh it’s his fave. I get in there, do it up, tie up the whole package with a pretty “for you, from stepmom of the year” bow….and then think why do *I* always have to do all of this?

Who said I had to? I did.

You did (to yourself).

And guess what? You don’t. Not EVERYTHING.

The idea of backing off may seem impossible. You PROBABLY believe you are NOT taking on too much and you are MORE than capable of being as involved as you are right now. Many of you are brewing up responses, justifications, and retaliations as you read. And I was just like you.

“Backing off”  for whatever reason, sounds threatening. Because we heard BM say it, it feeds the stereotypes that we are ALREADY too involved…blah blah blah I get it. But backing off comes in MANY forms, and it has to be specific to YOU to avoid resentment. What is an area of your family life that you are REALLY overexerting yourself in? Mine, was Little Bear in general. His school work, his healthcare, and ESPECIALLY, his discipline. My husband didn’t come with the most detailed discipline experience book…so I ran with it. Okay, I didn’t run with it, I sprinted with it. I took it from him, and dictated how we should follow it. Since I had made some arguably better life choices than him, he felt inclined to listen….so reluctantly overnight I became the disciplinarian.

A ticking time bomb for our marriage.

Well, we all know a stepparent who disciplines is bad news and a rocky stereotype, but as a custodial stepparent, I wasn’t left with many options but TO take it on. That is neither here nor there. While I felt whole-heartedly at the time I had to be the perfect parent and I HAD to do all the things a GOOD mom does but BETTER….looking back on it, I did pretty damn well and could have been FAR less hard on myself and them.

I was obsessed with what he watched on tv, what he said, if his clothes were clean, what he ate, EVERY. MOVE. HE. MADE. And it crushed me. And it hurt our relationship too. What is one area of YOUR blended family life that you justify giving TOO MUCH of yourself to? I guarantee there is at least one. When I say ‘back off’ it’s not a threat. It’s not a statement to belittle. It’s not in EVERY area OVERNIGHT. I only want you to RECOGNIZE it and perhaps think up some TINY SLOW fixes for breaking that habit, or AT LEAST throttling back on it. Because ‘all in’ is wonderful sometimes, but ‘MORE THAN WE HAVE IN’ is dangerous.

My message is simple:

You matter. You are to be a PARTNER, a CONTRIBUTOR, and while it is your nature to take EVERYTHING on, it’s not SOLELY your battle to fight. You are not a one-man show.

Share in the weight or it will crush you.

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