Once upon a time, I met someone.
He was very impressive, very handsome, and very grown up. He had a collection of letters after his last name that I couldn’t keep up with. I immediately felt an urge to stir up his life.
I fell deeply in love, but I wasn’t enough the way I was.
I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him.
He’s right, I thought.
I’m too childish. I should grow up.
He doesn’t eat Lucky Charms. Or read comics. Or watch cartoons. Or like messes.
He doesn’t cry or laugh or talk passionately about things (unless they’re important adult things).
It’s time to grow up, Kat. It’s time I got my head out of the clouds and became ‘realistic’ about life.
So, I put my comic books away. I stopped talking about music and art. I tempered my excitement about creativity. I talked instead about business strategy, logistics, and scalability issues.
I became a very impressive person.
I wore a suit to work every day.
I became an executive.
My relationship flourished.
Sometimes, though, if I listened very closely, I’d feel this terrible ache—this unsettled stirring in my gut. It made me weep with loneliness, and yell in rage.
Whenever I’d indulge in this part of me, we’d fight. The horrible static that hung in the air for hours after would weigh on my chest. I’d feel shame.
I’m ruining the relationship. I have to stop acting like this. I need to be more disciplined and more practical.
So, I would tighten the vice on my heart and change again.
I was so practical that when we got married, I didn’t even have the wedding I had dreamed of my whole life.
I was so disciplined that I never let him know about my faults or my past, and he never would, because I edited my life into crisp, concise anecdotes that I fed him at every turn.
I had completely changed.
And when that other, messy, unruly, passionate girl would try and get out, it was so much easier to control her now.
Because I was now his wife.
I did everything that a good wife is supposed to do.
I did everything I thought was right.
I gave up my career. I helped him with his business. I made dinner every night. I did the laundry. I stepped back, so he could step forward.
Then one day, I became a mother. I had a beautiful little girl. And the walls came tumbling down.
This little girl ignited the wonderment in my life again. Her reactions were pure and unfiltered and beautifully real. She cried. She laughed. She acted out.
She reminded me to live in the moment. To ask, "Why not?" I could feel life trickling back into my heart. I started writing again. I started seeing in colour again.
And when I did, I started seeing that things couldn’t stay the same way.
For a long time, I fought my feelings. I tried to be happy with the way things were.
But that passionate, creative self I’d buried deep inside kept coming to the surface. She kept saying and doing things differently. She challenged everything. I hated her so much for ruining everything, but at the same time, I realized how much I’d missed her.
I tried to fight the inevitable changes that were coming, but they had their own momentum.
The more I accepted myself and grew to love who I was as a whole, the more my relationship with my husband suffered.
And then it broke.
He was a good husband. He was happy with the way things were. He had only ever been himself.
His dreams had all come true with this person—this person who wasn’t actually me.
It wasn't his fault. It wasn't mine either.
If I could have only actually been the person I was trying so hard to be, I could have saved the marriage.
But I couldn't.
Knowing that made separating one of the hardest things I’d ever done.
Someone recently asked me if I still love him.
I care greatly for the father of my child.
I love what he represents—the stability, the security, the balance, the logic and order to the world.
I love that he meant safety and a clearly defined future.
I love that I had a clean slate. That I could recreate myself.
I loved the way he loved me. Even if I wasn’t myself.
But I love myself more.
Once upon a time, I met someone.
She is messy and wild, creative and awkward, and incredibly imperfect.
She reads comics, and has a dark side. She is impractical and loves to laugh.
She loves with all her heart.
She is finally realizing that life might just be about learning and growth.
And she’s not changing who she is.
There are lots of things we do to get ready for the holidays. Christmas lights, tinsel, elves, credit card debt, you know—the usual stuff. Here are three things you can ‘UN’ do to cut the mental fat, simplify your life, and help others as you get ready to turn over a new leaf for a new year. Provided the Mayans are wrong. But whatever.
Count your blessings not your Facebook friends. If you have added people you don’t know, people you don’t like, or people you have outgrown, it’s time to do an annual festive trimming of the friends list. Go ahead. Unfriend. And while you’re at it, look into your security settings and make sure that you know who has access to your photos, wall, and status updates.
It’s seriously refreshing to know that the people in your feed are all friends that you care about and with whom you enjoy communicating.
Every so often I catch myself jumping with a Pavlovian reaction to the ‘ding’ of my emails streaming into my smartphone. I drool, I can’t concentrate, and I am compelled to see what someone has sent me. Then I find out that it’s a newsletter advertising 20% off of a product I don’t use anymore. Blarg.
It would be ok if this was a once in a while thing but come on. We know the drill. Take this scenario and multiply times a zillion. Who amongst us doesn’t know the tease of hearing ‘DING DING DING DING DING’ of incoming messages only to be horrifically let down by the onslaught of useless e-crap that has us swearing (in the spirit of Vivien Leigh) “AS GOD IS MY WITNESS.. I shall UNSUBSCRIBE!!”
But then we get sidetracked. With life, kids, work—basically even picking lint off of a sweater has trumped clearing out my email of this stuff. The mere thought of going through all your newsletters to cull them down is overwhelming. Right? Nuh-uh.
Go to your inbox. Search ‘unsubscribe.’ And there you have it. All of your e-newsletters should be right there. Then you can keep your favourites (like those incredibly awesome ones from yummymummyclub.ca) and ditch the rest!
You will be breathing way easier in no time.
Every year I go into my closet and say ‘I have nothing to wear’ while I petulantly flick at my shirts and dresses like they were a collection of burlap sacks. It’s funny how that happens. From one minute to the next we can go from feeling like we have everything to feeling like we have nothing.
Well, here’s how to make your ‘nothing’ do something amazing for someone else.
Haven’t worn it in a year? 2 years? 3? Give it away.
When you look at it do you say, “..yes, but maybe I’ll need it one day”? You know the answer already. You won’t. Someone else however needs it now.
Are you storing things in boxes that you haven’t opened in over 18 months? Wave goodbye.
The things that we think we need, can weigh on us terribly. The things that we really do need, make us feel light, energetic, and focused.
This is not to say that a collection, a special memento, or anything else that has become sentimental has to go or that you don't really need it. It just means that you are giving conscious thought to the things in your life, and their place around you.
Just so you know there are things I will never give away. Ever. And I will totally freak out if someone suggests that I do. Likewise there will be certain newsletters that make me perk up when I see them magically appear in my inbox. And certain people I haven’t seen for years that I love showing up in my feed.
But there is a sense of clarity that comes with choice. Clearing things out and realizing where they belong in your life is an amazing feeling.
And that’s a pretty great way to go into a brand new year.
Want to know how to get through the holidays when you’re going through a split?
This is what I’ve come up with so far to get a handle on how this first, separated Christmas is going to work.
Routine Trumps All
It doesn’t matter how many days or nights either one of us is going to have with our kidlet this holiday season, the most important thing is making sure Baby Girl’s routine stays put.
That means her morning snack, her lunch, her nap (if she ever has one again *crossing fingers*) and her bedtime stay the same no matter where she is, and no matter who she’s getting festive with.
It’s so easy to get off track. ‘It’s a special occasion..’ or ‘But they never see her/him..’ or ‘It’s just a little slice of cake..’ Yes, traditions are super important, but during a separation, your child’s routine is even more-so. It creates stability in a world of ever changing faces and places. Don’t confuse traditions and special time with your families as the ‘exceptions to the rule.’
Instead, use your routine as the jumping off point to plan pickups and drop offs, and don’t worry about asserting the times and familiar activities that are going to keep your kid happy, and centered. If turkey dinner is running late but your toddler eats at 5:30pm, plan for that. If bedtime is 7:30pm, try and keep it as close to that as possible.
Pick Your Battles
There are always going to be certain things that require a more adaptive approach in the holiday season.
A little flexibility at bedtime when Santa’s on his way is probably in order.
Sweets are not the end of the world even though I just cringed as I wrote that. I know that whether with my family or the Ex’s, there are going to be lovely people sticking festive cookies and squares in Baby Girl’s hand if not in her mouth. If you can, get on the same page as your Ex so that you can wrangle your respective families and agree on when during the day is best for treats.
Dates and times do not Christmas make. Each family has their own special approach to traditions, dinner, and everything in between. Just because you’re no longer married it doesn’t mean that your own little unit doesn’t have its own traditions too. Instead of squabbling over down-to-the-minute details, work together to preserve the best of everything and include it wherever you can, keeping an open mind, and a flexible schedule.
Who’s giving what, and how?
I think it’s a great idea to set a budget together, discuss beforehand what a major gift is going to be, and also, to make sure that all loving, ever-spoiling aunties and grandparents know your joint approach.
Here are some questions you might want to ask. ‘How are we signing the cards this year?’ You might decide together that everything is coming from ‘Santa’ to put a cloak over the ‘who gave what.’ There’s also ‘What tree should this go under?’
Try and share the giving and the receiving parts — take plenty of reaction shots of your wee one digging into gifts no matter where they are.
Get Your Stories Straight
Some people are agnostic. Some people are devout in their faiths —whatever that faith may be. Some families embrace Santa. Others have the Christmas Angel or even Jesus drop off the presents. True.
So when there is more than 1 story of giving in the family, or more than 1 belief, make sure you sit down with your Ex and go through what exactly each other’s traditions and beliefs really are.
I think if at all possible, being able to have a united message to say ‘on Christmas Eve, the Christmas Angel puts all the presents under the tree, and then Santa comes down and stuffs all the stockings..’ is way more fun than the divided context of '..well your MOTHER believes that Santa stuffs the stockings. But in OUR family..'
Am I wrong? I don’t know. I’m just looking at it from a toddler’s perspective.
Accept that people are going to do things differently than you, and that you have no control over it. None.
It might grate on your nerves. It might have you tearing at your hair. But at the end of the day, those differences are opening your child’s heart and expanding his or her experiences to a world of diversity and multifaceted people.
People that are their family, no matter what happens.
People that will love them, encourage them, and support them, every single day of the year.
BONUS: My gift to you? A little sample of a fun 'routine' print-out that I made for Baby Girl, that we can share across the board. Every family gets one. It goes up on all our fridges, and it's fun, and interactive. Enjoy! :)