Does Happily Ever After Even Exist?

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Just call me the “Crazy Dog Lady” in training…

Ahhh the fairytale romance……

“And they lived happily ever after.”
The End.

These magical words have always made me feel warm inside. True love conquers all.  The happy ending. Oh, how I love the happy ending. As a consumer of chick flicks and trashy romance novels galore (and author of the same – but not too trashy), I’ve always been drawn to the fantasy of that”perfect” love and the happily ever after. I subscribe to the notion of why pay to watch a sad ending or invest my time in reading a novel that ends in despair. There is enough of that in real life. I want to escape into a feel-good world. The idea that somewhere in the universe that perfect love exists gives me hope. However, the realist (cynic) in me knows real life is much harder than that. Relationships take work. People change. Humans are imperfect. Life is NOT a romance novel.  Fiction is NOT fact. I get that. I really do. So, that’s why I’m embarrassed to write that deep down I secretly hope it could be real. Now that I find myself a single woman, I dream the love story could be mine. It’s exciting to think somewhere out there my soulmate is looking for me and swoon, we’d fall in love and it wouldn’t be hard.  If only….

Navigating the dating world, let alone actually finding someone compatible, and nurturing that relationship beyond the initial butterflies is not easy. As a single mother with a full-time job in a middle-aged body, I know this beyond a doubt – more than ever before. I’ve tried online dating, but that is a part-time job in and of itself. Crafting the perfect profile that’s intriguing, but still true to me, finding the photos that make me look young and fun, writing  flirty messages and going on disappointing first dates. I can see that he viewed my profile, but he never responded to my message. What’s wrong with me? He’s online, but takes 10 minutes to give me a two-word response.  Swipe left or right? This feels so shallow.  Should I initiate a text or wait for him to text me? Should I offer to pay or let him? It goes on and on ad nauseum.

Dating should be fun right? Instead I find it makes me feel worse than being on my own. Online dating especially makes me feel “less than” when I know I am “more than” enough. I’m naturally a glass-half full person that finds the silver lining in a situation. I’m trusting and try to see the best in people. But online dating has left me feeling jaded and disenchanted. Do I really need to know my profile is “not popular?” or that the guy I messaged didn’t find me attractive enough to respond to me? Did I say the wrong thing? Was I too aggressive or too passive?

On the flip side, it doesn’t make me feel good to ignore messages or tell a perfectly nice man that I like him, but don’t want to date him?  I feel cheap messaging multiple men at the same time, not to mention going on dates with more than one person. I break into a cold sweat just thinking about it. And that’s just a cup of coffee… Then there’s sex.  On the first date? After three dates? When I’m in love? Isn’t there some in between? My intellect says it’s okay for two consenting adults to connect physically, but my overthinking mind and fragile heart holds me back.  I want to be that laid back woman, but in the end I’m that uptight girl.

I vacillate between wanting to find that special someone, a companion to share my life with and giving up on that fantasy all together. I don’t want to rush into a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. My friends tell me God will put the right man in my path, when the time is right, when I least expect it. Could he wear a sign around his neck, so I know it’s him? I don’t want to be like the person on top of a roof as the flood waters rise, turning away the boat and the helicopter that God sends to the rescue and end up dying in the flood wondering why God didn’t save me.  If God sends a boat my way, I want to jump in. On the other hand, maybe I’m destined to be a crazy dog lady (I hate cats so I can’t be a crazy cat lady).  In the end, I am confident that I am happier in my “aloneness” than I ever was or could be in the wrong relationship.

But still that “what if….” whispers in my ear. Take a risk. Be vulnerable. Life’s a journey…

780 words later I’m no closer to an answer.

Can anyone else relate?

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Stepping Back from the Edge

miawLearning to accept my panic/anxiety disorder instead of fighting it or denying it, helped bring stability to my life. I spent many nights lying in bed, praying for a cure. Asking “Why me? Why can’t I just be normal?” The answers never came nor did a magic pill that took it all a way. As this is Mental Illness Awareness Week, this post continues the ramblings about my ongoing saga with mental illness and shares ways I’ve learned to cope and overcome.

I know I’ll most likely deal with anxiety for the rest of my life. The periods in-between episodes grow longer and the severity lessens, but even now I know I’ll feel that adrenaline race through my body again as my brain’s “fight or flight” response goes awry despite the logical center of my mind knowing without a doubt that “I am safe.” As life goes on, as it always does, I try live a healthy lifestyle in a futile effort to ward off the next attack. But as complacency gets in my way, I slack off and am not always successful in that area – especially when it comes to junk food and Diet Coke. I do know I feel better and stronger when I make healthy food choices, limit caffeine, exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep and take my anti-anxiety medication as prescribed (a future blog post will be on medications).

Still the day comes when I’m faced with that wave of anxiety crashing down on me, forcing me toward the edge. Over the years I’ve become better equipped to force myself to take a step back from that edge instead of falling into the crevice. Having lived through this personal, sometimes lonely battle, I realized that something good has to come out of it. I know I am a stronger person for it and my hope is by sharing my experience I can help someone else in a similar situation. These strategies help me cope and get to the other side of a panic attack. Maybe they can help you or someone you know, maybe not. But, when I’m consumed with darkness, I’m willing to try anything (well almost anything) to come back into the light.

In no particular order, here are the ways I cope:

1. Accept the feelings and go with it. When I start to panic about the panicky feelings, it compounds everything for me. I’ve learned to just ride the initial waves, letting them flow through me. I know it can’t last for ever and I can handle the uncomfortable feelings for a few minutes.

2. Monitor self-talk. This one is one of the hardest for me. I have to stop my mind from wandering and make myself stop and remind myself that I am not dying. I don’t feel good, but I am not dying.

3. Refocus. I try to find a distraction for myself that is repetitive to help my thoughts get back on track. Some ways I’ve done this are knitting/crocheting (the counting of the stitches helps calm me done), focusing on my breathing, visualizing I’m somewhere else relaxing, etc.

4.Breathe Deeply. Taking several cleansing breaths helps. I’ll take a breath, hold it and let it out slowly. It starts to calm me and helps alleviate the heaviness in my chest.

5. Shake it out. This one looks kind of silly, but it really does help me. I stand up and shake my arms and legs out. It’s like I’m getting rid of the bad energy.

6. Talk it out. I have a few good friends I can go to, who understand me and can empathize – no judgements. They remind me I’ve been in this place before and I have the strength to leave it behind again.

7. Lend a hand. When I’m focusing on someone else and helping them, I’m not focused on my own problems. Having two young daughters, who always seem to need me, helps a lot. I can’t let them down. I have to move forward. They know I have anxiety attacks; I don’t hide it from them. On the other hand, I don’t want to scare them. I focus on them. I get through the next minute, the next hour, the next day. Minute by minute until eventually I’m back to feeling like myself again.

8. Get physical. I’ll go for a walk to clear my head. Even better for me is getting sweaty – a hard run, shooting hoops in the driveway or a Just Dance marathon on the Wii.

9. Massage. My tension and stress always ends up in my neck and shoulders. Using a tennis ball in a sock or a foam roller eases that tension and helps me relax. Better yet, I enlist the hands of my eleven-year old or six-year old. Stretching my neck, rolling my shoulders and tensing the muscles as tight as I can and then relaxing them also eases the tension.

10. Keep Faith. Lately I’ve struggled with this one. I’ve doubted God’s love. I’ve questioned how He can keep track of millions and millions of people and I can barely keep track of two girls. In Matthew 17:20, it says “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you.” So despite my doubts and questions, I still pray. I don’t know if what I’m doing is the right thing or if it’ll matter in the end, but I do have that mustard seed’s worth of faith that God is somehow listening and that “I can do anything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).

Anyone else have any ideas for coping in the throes of a panic attack? I’d love to hear them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Morning’s Musings About Heaven

My youngest daughter is four – actually four and a half. The way she thinks and makes connections amazes me. This morning as we were driving along on our way to pre-school, she starts naming the various people in her life and asking me if they will still be alive when she is grown up.

“Will Daddy still be alive when I’m grown up?” “Will my sister?”

I confirm, “yes,” hopefully these people will all still be a live when she is grown up.

“Will you still be alive?” she asks.

Again, I tell her that “yes” that I hope to be still alive when she is grown up. I don’t want to mislead her as of course, you never know. I remember hearing stories that once I asked my Grandma when I was about her age if she were going to die. My Grandma reassured me that she wasn’t. Yet, that was a promise she couldn’t keep forever as 23 years later she said goodbye to me and went to meet our Father in Heaven.

My daughter is quiet a few minutes and then she asked, “You mean you’ll still be alive unless God calls you to heaven.”

“That’s true,” I reply.

She continues on, her mind always coming up with new questions. “How will he call you to heaven?” she asks.

I wish I knew I think.  I tell her “Nobody knows how or when sweetie.”

“Will He tell you?” she asks.

“Maybe. I’m not sure,” I reply. “You don’t need to worry about being called to heaven right now though,” I say.

“OK” she responds.

She seems too young to be contemplating such heavy topics. It makes me uneasy. I’m not sure why this topic makes me uncomfortable, but it does. Mortality. We all know we are going to die someday, but no one, or at least I don’t, likes to talk about it too much. How do I answer her questions without making her worry? I continue to mull it over in my mind as we continue our drive.

“Bingo! Slug bug, yellow, no tap-backs,” she calls out to me from the backseat. I smile. Sure enough a yellow VW Beetle is parked along the side of the road.

She has already moved on to other things. I guess I will too.