As I gingerly sit in my bed, the day after Thanksgiving, recuperating from a surgery that resulted in me parting ways with a very large fibroid that had been inhabiting my (very) personal space, causing me immeasurable pain over the past 6 months, I am able to have that precious and extremely rare "quiet time" to reflect upon my life. My children are currently under the loving care of my mother who very graciously took them for Thanksgiving (and an additional two days after that) so that I could focus on resting and letting my body heal. For this, I am incredibly grateful. I'm also in the wonderful hands of a loving and attentive man who is sweetly cooking my meals and walking my dog and tenderly scolding me every time I try to do something silly like get up and vacuum my house... Let's just say that sitting still is not in my repertoire and something I have never been especially good at. It's actually nearly physically painful for me to sit on a couch doing nothing. I start to twitch. I am more of a constantly on-the-go kind of person, full of energy and with a never ending "to do" list. I don't "do" sitting still. But, unless I want to tear my internal stitches and end up back in the hospital, it behooves me to obey the doctor's orders and just acquiesce to these few days of bedrest and make the most of them.
This unusual and somewhat awkward downtime has resulted in me reflecting on the past 14 months, thinking about what lies ahead and trying to come up with a gameplan on how to get through my "slow season" come January so that I can continue to support my two kids as a single working mom, something I've only been doing since last September and still finding my groove. We've definitely come a long way. I'm so incredibly proud of how well things are going for me and the kids, how far we've come, how much we've OVERCOME, especially considering how we've been hit with a constant stream of challenges and hiccups and obstacles this year.
The past 14 months has encompassed me leaving a ten year marriage, walking away from our big beloved home of a decade that I had put my heart and soul into creating/painting/decorating, moving into a tiny 850 sq ft cottage with my kids and our 100 lb dog, having to give up my own studio and office space and condensing everything into my now bedroom, the kids having to share a room the size of a walk in closet, enduring a never ending series of stressful divorce court dates, me being attacked by a Great Dane resulting in a debilitating ankle injury including ripped tendons and torn achilles heel that had me in crutches for weeks followed by a very painful 6 month rehabilitation process before I could even walk normally again, all the while still working full time and raising kids on my own, having our beloved dog become violently ill twice in the course of one month scaring us beyond words (he survived both incidents thanks to quick medical intervention but at a hefty cost of course!), a car accident (which was completely my fault) on my way to a divorce court date because I was crying and driving which is a bad combination in case you didn't already know that, and finishing up this crazy year with a surgery which culminates 6 months of pain and discomfort which I am more than happy to put behind me. Not to mention the daily exhaustion of being a single working mom raising two kids on her own, providing loving and attentive support in order to help my children navigate this time of transition and upheaval in their lives, providing stability and consistency for them, running my own full time business during a depressed economy in an over saturated market, and still trying to be a present friend and active member of society, all the while also trying to find time for myself amidst all the chaos.... It's definitely been a crazy 14 months.
And yet, despite all this, despite the upheaval, the speed bumps, the setbacks.... we are HAPPY. So very, very, very happy. We now live in a stable, joyful, music-filled, art-filled little cottage. We have a wonderful routine which involves daily sunset walks down to the beach. We walk everywhere we need to go, we ride bikes, we go surfing, and paddleboarding, we enjoy each other and we enjoy the sanctity of a conflict-free home, full of peace and happiness and joy. Sure, the kids drive me crazy sometimes, they still bicker like siblings do, we have homework battles on a regular basis... life is still LIFE. In all its glory, good and bad. None of that has changed. Nor should it, as it's normal and expected. But there's an aura of happiness and ease and peacefulness that is indescribably pleasant. Life is both way more simple and way more complicated all at the same time. We have less STUFF and I'm always running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but we are HAPPY. The kids don't have all the luxuries they had grown accustomed to and yet, they've adjusted quickly. We've sacrificed so much and yet, we've gained so much in return. I guess it's hard to explain but I think they've learned a lesson about being resilient and rising to the challenges of whatever life throws your way. Of doing more with less. We still have so far to go. I don't know what the future holds. I don't realistically know if I can sustain us with just my art. I certainly hope I can, but if I can't, I need a plan B. So, I'm using this time to start thinking about my plan B. I want to be prepared. I don't want to be caught off guard. I want to succeed at continuing to provide for my children, to meet their basic needs and to continue to give them the love and support they need to make the most out of the life they've been given. There's something to be said for downsizing. For going back to the basics. I feel like our brains have been reformatted, we've been given a jolt of perspective and understanding of what is truly important in life. I don't sweat the small stuff. I don't fret about THINGS. I know what's important and worth fighting for and what simply isn't worth fussing over. I've learned to say no and not take on more than I can handle. * Mostly * I've learned how to accept the help of my amazing friends, which is something I have traditionally been utterly incapable of allowing. I can unequivocally state that without the help of my friends I would have probably not emerged from this year as unscathed as I have. That I truly could not have made it. They made it possible for me to succeed and work and juggle everything. I have evolved so much this year, as a woman, as a mother, as a business owner, as a friend. I've watched my children grow in immeasurable ways. Emotionally, physically and mentally. They've definitely learned some lessons the hard way and sometimes suffered greatly due to our circumstances. But they've bounced back every time. They've gained a resilient spirit to match my own. We're a great little trio and have become a closer unit than we've ever been due to our common goal of making the most out of life, EVERY single day.
So, in this spirit of resilience, of strength and determination, I recently completed a half-sleeve tattoo to honor this past year. The basic premise behind the design is one of fortitude of character and a "never say die" approach to life. The anchor states "refuse to sink" and is surrounded by a sea, the lower half is dark and stormy and the upper half is calmer and brighter. The anchor connects both seas, providing a bridge of sorts between the hard times and the good times. Ultimately, it's your attitude that gets you through life, helps you weather the choppy waters and helps you appreciate the calmer seas. It's the one consistent thing you can rely on and, realistically, the only thing you really have any control over in life. I wanted to honor that lesson that I've learned so intimately well this past year. The sea is also a very personal source of zen for me. When I get my daily morning walk on the beach with my dog Kooper, I start off my hectic and harried day on the right foot. That dose of ocean therapy carries me through the day. The days when the kids and I can go surfing or paddleboarding are even more joyful and deeply appreciated. There is quite simply NOTHING I like more on this earth than the three of us out on the water at the same time. It's our happy place. So, this tattoo (which will eventually be added upon and work its way into a full sleeve one day) represents all that we've overcome, all that we've learned and gained and honors the ocean as a source of healing for all three of us.
Thought I'd share this with you all in the hopes that it might help anyone else going through a similar life transition. A year later, I can unequivocally state that YES, it gets better. MUCH better. :)