5 and 1

Forgive me. This is going to be long, personal, and full of pain.

It’s been five years. Anyone that knows me probably knows exactly what happened five years ago today. Anyone that’s read this blog has seen me allude to the events of that time in my life.

April 6, 2011. I came home after picking up my then-husband from work, to be greeted shortly thereafter by a police officer and representative from DCFS (Department of Child and Family Services in Illinois). We were only told there was an investigation, and that he had to leave the house. I was to take both children to the child advocacy center the next day for questioning. At the time, my son had just turned 14, and my daughter just 11.

We were given no information. Don’t ask questions, they said.

In the events of the following 48 hours, I found out my daughter had disclosed abuse at the hands of her father. I was in a fog. I was in denial. I was hurt. But nothing prepared me for the pain to follow.

Two days later, they came and took my children and placed them into a foster home. So much I won’t go into now. I could write a book. Yes, I made some mistakes. I panicked. And for those that don’t know, you aren’t allowed to make choices, or God forbid mistakes, when DCFS is involved. (So how, then, do children die at the hands of abusive parents, even when DCFS has been called to investigate? Don’t even get me started on THAT!)

DISCLOSURE: To avoid any accusations, and in the interest of full disclosure, I have to state that he still claims his innocence, and was acquitted of all charges by a jury.

This is one of my character flaws at times. No matter what I have been through or what it has caused me, I will always give somebody the benefit of the doubt, even if they don’t deserve it. I will always treat people with kindness. I will always do the right thing as best as I can. I will say, whole-heartedly, I believe everything my daughter said. I have seen too much pain, been through too much with her, to feel any other way.

When all hell broke loose, there was a time I clung to whatever I could. Whatever was left. The only thing I knew. That which I was comfortable with. I quickly realized though that I had to leave that comfort zone. I knew I was going to face challenges. But it was time to do what needed done.

For the past 5 years, I have struggled. Trying to figure out how or where I went wrong. Feelings of intense pain. Guilt. Feelings of acceptance. Forgiveness. Finding joy and happiness where there seems to be nothing but hurt and sadness.

Only during the past year have I really felt like I’ve moved past it. I realized over the course of the year that I never truly processed the pain. The divorce. I did what I had to do. I pushed through and accomplished what I needed to do for my daughter. I went from a stay-at-home mom, to a full-time working mom, supporting myself. And right back into Mom mode, having to work through everything with my daughter.

Let me tell you, as a parent, there is no greater pain than seeing the intense pain of your child. I didn’t have time for myself. I spent two solid years worrying and hurting for her.

But this past year was different. She is doing fantastic, all things considered. And I’ve been able to take care of myself. And find what truly makes me happy.

In running, I have found an outlet. A stress relief. A time for myself. A few months ago, it occurred to me that I started running almost to the day of the events of 2011. My first run this time around was on April 5, 2015. Maybe I knew. I needed to revisit that outlet.

You see, I started running back in 2012 also. Before my daughter moved back home. And even after, she was in school during the week, and I worked weekend nights, so I had a lot of time on my hands during the weekdays. After I changed jobs, however, things were more difficult. Scheduling was more complicated. I was working a regular day job, and adjusting to a new schedule.

But this time, it was different. I was focused more on improving myself. Taking care of myself. And through that process, I learned about myself. I learned to love and accept myself, first and foremost. Faults and all. I learned to care less what other people think. To stay true to myself. I know the right people will love and accept me for who I am, regardless of my faults and failures.

I know we are all unique and different in our own way. I found running to be a great outlet for me, as I know several other people have. But I also know it’s not for everyone. What’s important, is that you find something. Especially when you are going through a stressful, painful time. Whether it’s swimming, running, biking. Or even non-fitness related, like art. Painting, photography (which also helped me immensely), drawing. Something. I don’t expect everyone to follow the same path, make the same choices as I have. I only ask for support for my choices. And I, likewise, will support anyone in the choices they feel best for themselves.

Running also helped me to cope with being alone, when I had no one to turn to, no one to lean on. Before all my friends and family get on me about that statement, I know I had people, to an extent. But it’s different. When the one person you had to talk to every day, about everything, is suddenly out of your life, there is no other person you feel you can talk to. Not every day. At least not for me. I had to find a way to cope. To fill that void. For a long time, even though I seemingly had all the time in the world, I still had none. So much driving to visits. Working. Court. Counseling. It seemed to be never ending. But there always came a time, when I needed something to fill my time.

For a while I focused on scrapbooking. I can’t do it anymore. It was good at first, when I didn’t have my kids, it gave me something to focus on them. But now, I can’t go back. That’s part of my moving on. I still have all the photos, all the memories, when I’m ready to relive those moments. But for now, that part of me is gone. So the focus became fitness. And running. The one thing that has always been there for me in some way.

Part of me can’t believe I’ve actually stuck with it for an entire year. But that’s part of my growth. It’s become a part of who I am. And I can’t imagine it any other way.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve learned so much. Not only loving myself, but I’ve learned to be alone and love that too. I always said I’d like to find someone else, but I was perfectly ok and happy doing things on my own. But now, 5 years later, I feel like I can finally accept the fact that I don’t have to. I never thought I could be this happy. But I’ve found a place. A sweet spot. And I love every bit and piece of my life. I’m happier than I ever thought possible.

So here’s to several more years. Of running and racing. Living and loving. Healthy. Happy.

Pain, Grief and Acceptance

Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do. ~Brené Brown

Last month, I wrote a post on my birthday about learning to finally love myself. You can read that here. But I’m not perfect.

I love myself for all that I am. I really do. And I accept myself. But it’s a constant battle. Every day is something. Almost daily, I look in the mirror and see the body of the person I was 100 pounds ago. I know that’s not me any more, but that’s still what I see.

Almost daily, I find myself constantly wanting to ask “Why?”. I know I’m a wonderful person, inside and out. And it’s what’s on the inside that matters more than anything. But I still wonder.

It’s a daily thought process of mine, reminding myself that I’m perfect just the way I am. Even though I’m not perfect, far from it. But I constantly see all my mistakes, all my imperfections, and I wonder if that’s what everyone else sees too?

Fall is a very hard time for me. My absolute favorite season, but it bears so many negative reminders. My birthday. Every year for the past 5 years I’m reminded that I don’t have someone to take me to dinner and celebrate. My divorce was finalized in October 3 years ago, another reminder of my failures. And this year a friend posted that they are celebrating 20 years, they were married in 1995, as was I. I don’t think I ever allowed myself to grieve that, given all the other circumstances distracting me. October also marks the anniversary of my ex’s trial, another painful reminder. And through it all, I’m reminded of how strong I’ve had to stay. Carrying so much on my shoulders.

I know I’m strong. I know I’m independent. I know I’m beautiful. But I constantly have to remind myself of these things. And of what I’m capable of. Physically and mentally.

I just applied to go back to college to work towards a bachelor’s degree. Something I’ve always thought of, and never done. I often wonder if part of my desire stems from wanting to be better. Feeling like I’m not good enough. As if some degree will make me a better person. (It won’t, I know that. I’m going back because it’s something I’ve always wanted. Again, proof for myself that I’m capable.)

Like running. I run because I can. I prove to myself regularly that I’m capable. That my body can accomplish far more than I give it credit for.

All these things weigh on me daily. And I just keep pushing through. And trying to remain positive and smile.

And then today happened. Earlier this month, I actually paid a photographer to take photos of myself and my kids. It was more for me, truth be told, but I really wanted pictures with my kids also. It’s been almost 10 years since I had photos of me with them (and of course my ex was in those too). It was money I didn’t really have to spend, but I did it for me.

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And today I got the previews. It was all I could do to keep from tearing up at work. Looking at those photos and seeing me for the beautiful person I am. And accepting what I see. Seeing me still smiling after all I’ve been through. And happy.

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And I’m once again reminded of why I love photography so much in the first place. I always wanted to give others that feeling of being proud of who they are. And showing that love and beauty through the lens. And this is also why I advocate for everyone to get in front of the camera! It’s so important, to do it for your family, but most importantly, for yourself. Especially as women and moms. We get so caught up in everyone else, that we forget about ourselves.

So thank you so much, Scarlett. For making me feel beautiful. And worthy. And reminding me exactly what I’m made of. And that yes, I AM enough. I will treasure these photos always.