When I started this journey, I promised you we’d examine truth. We’d grow and learn together. And we’d be honest in the process. I created this group for childless stepparents at first. Which then grew to blended family members (and those who work with them) in general. What I wanted was a place for us to really make this lifestyle work. And the truth is, sometimes in order to make this work, we have to find what doesn’t work, and correct it. A message I’ve always passed on to those in need was that I want us to be a place to go when we believe there’s something missing. We believe there must be something more than that which we are currently experiencing. We can’t quite put our finger on it, but we know we have dreams and hopes far bigger than this. And my journey is just a road like yours, with lessons along the way.
The voice inside my head whispered for so long that something just wasn’t right. That there must be more. That all that I believed this life could be, we just weren’t living in my home. We were not experiencing anywhere NEAR what I wanted for our life. Not only were we not living it, but no matter how many strides I made in my personal progress, things seemed to be actually getting WORSE around my house.
Which has left me, many times, questioning the fate of this family. If we cannot click happily no matter how much work I do, perhaps we were meant to come together as a lesson for each other instead of as a family for life. I have no control over my Bear, no legal say in his fate or life path and that has recently become a staggering reality. DH holds all the cards when it comes to his son. And that is a scary concept full of unknowns. And I didn’t get it. And I tried hard to figure out what was right and it hurt and I scrambled for an answer.
And that is what’s led me to where I am today. This has finally come out in my home. I made IMMENSE personal changes. But something was still off. Then, although hard to admit, it came to me. I made them. Dear husband (DH) did not. The dreams and aspirations I have for myself and our family he did not share. Or if he did, he had no interest in making his own changes to obtain them. In fact, as I was growing and changing into something far more positive than I ever imagined, he was self destructing. He was actually not only missing all that he COULD be and refusing to work for it, he was acting negatively. I realize that’s vague. It’s nothing criminal or horrible, just not of humble nature, and that I cannot accept as the person I am today. The man I married is capable of far more than he is exhibiting and living at the present time.
This caused a rift.
Many times along my way I’ve heard quotes, advice, or just ideas that sounded pretty, but I could not accept them into my personal journey. Either I didn’t want to, or they didn’t fit, or if I’m honest, I wasn’t ready. Each time I heard something it sounded so cliche, and I would hear it, and try to process it, but at some point it would stop ‘loading’ and I’d put it down. Then, one day, it would click and all make sense.
One of these concepts was our comfort zone. More specifically, REALLY learning what it was, what it was meant for, what it WAS NOT meant for, and what it could do to and for us. We hear about our comfort zone ALL the time. People always push the message that we grow when we step outside of our comfort zone, I am no different. This growth can be maturing, prospering when it comes to our health, growing in our faith, the list goes on. But as an adult in a blended family, the message is far deeper.
Deeper than I can even put into words. But today I’d like to try. Without getting too personal, things in my family are a bit rocky currently. For those of you who have followed me for any length of time, you know that I’m working HARD on my own piece of this puzzle, meeting my responsibilities, and more importantly self assessing and holding myself completely accountable for my own behavior.
But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time where the concept of remaining humble, or at least calm and collected under pressure was totally foreign to me. The stress and anxiety of any wave in the blended family sea would overwhelm me. <—- And that’s actually hilarious because let’s face it, the seas of blended familyness are not often calm friends!
As I told you in my last blog, I truly do believe (because I’ve lived it) that EVERYTHING happening to and for us at any given time is SIMPLY a part of our story, we must learn to embrace it, adapt to it, and simply, react to it. HOW we react to it, however, is entirely up to us.
The place where we are today is a result of living in an unhealthy comfort zone. I found mine, learned EVERYTHING I could about it, and left it. Despite being uncomfortable outside of my comfort zone, I am no longer afraid to leave it. DH is not there. He is in the beginning stages of this and is not quite ready to leave it. And I cannot promise that he will. I can encourage him but I can’t do it for him. So, while I don’t intend to get too involved on that which he is doing on his own journey to his personal best, I would like to explain how refusing to exit your comfort zone and creating one of poor patterns can be dangerous for you and what you can do to overcome it. Living in your comfort zone has proven, quite literally to be the most hazardous place for a (blended especially) family’s health.
I’d like to start by discussing what the ‘comfort zone’ is that I’m referring to. Not all comfort zones are destructive. Some are simply safe. I’m not suggesting you have to go out and do something overwhelmingly incredible just to prove your worth to yourself and fight your fears (although, if it’s healthy and you believe it will serve as a positive example, I say get your ass out there and do it). Only you know your comfort zone and what things you think you should work on. I cannot determine them for you and neither can anyone else. But if you find you’re so worked up by the other party, question why, and what YOU can do to change that. If you find you’re doing everything around the house and are not taking time out with your friends, taking a break or being the person you want to be, it’s time to question why and determine what you can do to change that.
You may find as you walk your own journey that your comfort zone is unhealthy. Before you fight this, follow me through this example. The other party texts what can be construed as an unfair request about the children. Your gut reaction is to anger. Retaliate. Your anxiety heightens, and suddenly this text message has become the topic of dinner conversation….Facebook posts….it may even be slipped somewhere into your prayer…and it most certainly for days…weeks…perhaps months to come it’s on your mind. Not just the simple text most likely of course…by now that little seed of nonsense has likely grown into an oak tree you’re dragging along on your back.
I used to do this. With everything. The child said something and I took it the wrong way? React poorly. My husband did something I thought was rude? React poorly. BM and court and blah blah blah? React poorly. It quite literally took me about 3 years of riding along on this train before I said ENOUGH! And I was not the only one. DH and LB lived in their own world of the same thing. They began to develop their own comfort zones. Reactions that were unhealthy. Go-to behaviors that were unhealthy. Patterns that were unhealthy. And I couldn’t sit by and watch anymore. We need more and better. They DESERVE it. Everyone does.
As I’ve gone along on my own journey I’ve tried hard to involve DH. Encouraging him to read my blogs, discussing therapy with him and what I’ve learned. And certainly to the extent a 7 year old should be involved, I’ve included LB in my journey, showing him what I’ve learned, and trying to teach him ways to get out of his little comfort zone too. Not to scream and pout when things didn’t go his way, etc. I’ve worked myself into the ground trying to help them along on their journey. Being my best, providing a positive example and encouraging them too. As we grew together and tried to find our places within this family, we found ourselves on a path of 2 steps forward 1 step back. And to be completely honest with you, that 1 step back for us, and probably for you, is the comfort zone.
Let’s go back to the piddly text message example I gave a minute ago. Or insert like ANY other ANYTHING that might piss you off in your day or BETTER YET **SCARE** you, and cause a negative reaction. I’ll give you a minute. Think of ANYTHING that someone else is doing or has done that put you on alert.
Okay. Take that example and follow me for a minute. They did X. You did Y. The result was Z.
But what if….just WHAT IF…you did not do Y? What if you did L, H or G? What if instead of you responding (or DH responding) or whatever, you just put the phone down and took a walk?
The reason I am better able to respond to the behavior of others, and more importantly, control my own behavior is because I practiced (HARD) the concept of living outside of my comfort zone.
Inside your comfort zone feels safe, because your comfort zone is what you make it. But is it HEALTHY? Mine was not. OURS was not. And I stepped up and made a change. The main issue in our home these days is that while I was working SUPER hard and stepping out of my comfort zone, holding myself accountable and being my personal best, my husband was not. This has caused a significant rift between us and more importantly, what I believe, is an unhealthy example for my Little Bear. In my opinion, he needs 2 parents who are working to be their personal best, and he needs to see his strongest role models in a state of forward positive motion. Unwavering. They can and WILL get hit with trials, but they will overcome them. And they will overcome them with grace, because while we are ONLY human and we WILL mess up, it’s in the recovery that our children learn their life skills. And most importantly in a marriage, the strongest bonds hold up when BOTH parties are healthy, stable and WANT to be together, not HAVE to be together. You may not always be on the same page with your spouse, but you must be reading the same book.
DH needed a nudge on his own journey to become his personal best. That is where we are. I am a very different person than I was a year ago. FAR different. And I am SO proud of that, and my family is as well. But somewhere along the line, the danger lies in living in our comfort zone. And while you can and SHOULD make positive changes in your own life regardless of anyone else, you need to also expect the position that I’m currently in to possibly become your own. You may find yourself becoming the leading example in personal best, if you’re the only one on the journey in your home. That means you may have to be the voice of reason and encouragement to help OTHERS along as well.
Today I literally refuse to live in my comfort zone, not because I can’t get “comfortable” or “content” in my life, but simply because now that I KNOW what I’m capable of, I insist on challenging myself to be the best I can be, and of course, provide this example for that incredible 7 year old in my house. As we’re all well aware, our lives with them are not guaranteed, but our example for them, no matter how short in duration is there. That is why I posed that thought provoking question to the Facebook community a few days ago. It’s a very sad and scary thought, but I don’t even shy away from those anymore. I do not live negatively and I no longer allow negative ideas to rule my decisions and behavior. But I am not afraid of things that make me uncomfortable. The idea of NOT having that little boy in my life makes me uncomfortable, to say the VERY least. But because of the circumstances as a stepparent, it’s a very real possibility. That doesn’t mean I believe it will happen, it means KNOWING IT CAN HAPPEN alters my behavior and fuels me to be my best. I don’t say this to scare you I say it to encourage you. If there came a day where your stepkids were no longer in your life, would you have shown them how important it is to be their best? Would you have shown them the value of the high road? Would you have shown them BY EXAMPLE how to tap their own potential? How to deal with stress? How to love? What it looks like to respect themselves and others? What to put up with and what to NOT put up with? How to follow their heart? How to TRULY determine their worth without influence of others? How to face their fears? How to obtain their goals?
If you’re living inside your comfort zone, which is probably a tiny little world of unhealthy patterns and a lack of ambition, strength and possibly TRULY positive behaviors, you are not showing them. You can’t possibly be showing them. And more importantly, you are COMPLETELY missing out on the fullness of life that we all deserve. For some, your comfort zone is not necessarily destructive, it is just safe. You tiptoe around, afraid to rock the boat, making zero strides at bigger and better for fear of the unknown…or causing discomfort to others. But it doesn’t have to be destructive to be unhealthy, in my opinion unhealthy is just not living to your full potential. And I know because I did. For far too long I lived planted in my comfort zone, afraid of being afraid, paralyzed and immobile. With a dash of unhealthy negative behaviors and reactions as well. I do not live like that anymore. And I refuse to be in partnership with someone who accepts not only mediocre, but destructive. It is a poor example for the child, and it leaves us living a life with a gaping hole in it. I’m all too familiar with that hole and I’ve tried hard to fill it. But I cannot do it alone and I must support those that I love, but remain true to myself. I believe God intended marriage and life to be spectacular. We are to walk with Him, make positive choices in our lives and challenge ourselves. In short, to live outside of our comfort zones. And that is what I’ve encouraged DH to do and will continue to encourage LB to do. They deserve it. I deserved it, it just took me so long to see it!
Now, you probably read all of that and thought, that’s fantastic, now how do I do it? The trick is in the change, CONSCIOUS change, every day, at every opportunity. The reason that I can quite literally stand in the face of what would bring any average human being to their knees without falter at this point in my life is because I trained myself to. I trained myself to react differently and I trained myself to trust myself, trust my God, and know my own capability.
There is INSANE peace and strength in that. It’s a strength and peace I never knew I could possess and I want it for you too. So here is how you do it. Start small….like the text message example above. Be CONSCIOUS of your gut reaction. And do the opposite. Take a walk. Make a sandwich. Take a nap. Play a game with the child. Go to Target. Take a drive. As long as what you’re doing is healthy, you can do anything you want. EXCEPT your gut reaction. The point is to take a minute to let it sink in, and react in a collected fashion. REACT DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU NORMALLY WOULD. Why? Because in doing so you train yourself to not only change your behavioral patterns but ease your anxiety by realizing all the things you feared, probably did not come true. Therefore, you don’t have to move 90 MPH on everything anymore. You can actually train yourself to change your reactions and alleviate anxiety.
BUT THIS IS HARD!
I am in NO way telling you this will be easy. In fact, it may quite possibly be the hardest challenge you have EVER had to face. Like EVER. I’d like you to remember this:
Today I encourage you to listen to your heart and the voice of reason inside you that knows you want more. When people say “just be happy” they do not often follow up with, “that takes personal HONEST work and is not just a choice or a given”. If you want to be happy, you’ve got to trust yourself, and not let anyone stop you. That is where I sit today…actually it’s not sitting at all 🙂 The train’s leaving. The train is in motion in fact. I’m in high gear, making sure my life is not mediocre. The birds are chirping. The sun is shining. There is SO much to live for. I want a BEAUTIFUL example of marriage, love, life, humanity and respect for the Little Bear. And I will expect NOTHING less. Train’s leaving in my house, you’re either coming along or staying put.
As for my following, I have worked super hard to truly find myself, find what is right and genuine in life and to better know who I am and what I want. And I honestly could not be more proud or at peace. We can do GREAT things! We can be GREAT! We do not have to live in fear and mediocrity. Our stories are so similar, yet so different. And that is what I hope you take away from this blog. You do not need to run out and overhaul your entire life. Just listen to your heart. If your heart wants more, do NOT ignore it. You and your family deserve the beauty that you can have in your lives. And if you’re working with another adult who would prefer to live in their own destruction (or just mediocrity), you can be a positive example, but I’ve learned the hard way (I tend to do that!), you can’t do it for them. If they want to be all they can be, the journey is theirs alone, as yours is as well. But I wasted far too much time living in my own comfort zone, afraid to grow and change, and most importantly, not experiencing all that was meant for me. Do not do what I did, do what I am doing now. Press on, even if you’re all alone in your efforts for a fulfilling life. I want nothing more than for my bear to learn by this example so he too experiences greatness. And I will continue doing my part, for my own happiness and just to be a light and example of goodness. That’s what we were meant to be in my opinion.
You will ALWAYS encounter people who are either not ready or refuse to make positive changes. Encourage them, be the example, but don’t leave yourself in that cycle of dysfunction and miss out on life’s great joy for their sake. If they want what you have, they will follow, if not, you cannot save everyone. Every day is a chance to be a positive example for those children. We are not guaranteed to remain in their lives forever and the scary truth is, there may come a day where your impression on them is ONLY what you’ve shown them up to a given point. Your job is not to be the rescuer of others, but to control your behavior, show the ones you love what they can have if they so choose and keep on being your personal best.
But your personal best is ONLY found outside of your comfort zone. Find it, learn everything you can about it, and leave it. Your happiness, your marriage and the PRICELESS example for your children depends on it.