Her Rapist’s Eyes

***Trigger Warning, I’m going to discuss sensitive topics including rape in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, please do not read further.****

I was conceived in a prison. That’s right, you read that correctly. My life came into existence because my mom was incarcerated (unjustly in my opinion, but that’s another story) and my biological father was a prison guard. In short, I was conceived in rape.

There was no clear, out of the blue moment I remember being told this, it’s just something I’ve known my entire life. In fact, I do remember a moment when I was 5 years old that I wanted my mother to clarify for me what the word “rape” meant. It was understandably a confusing concept to me as I barely understood where babies even came from—and the only reason I knew that was because I was a very bright child and demanded to know how my sister got into my mother’s belly when I was 4.
Rape. It’s an ugly word. It puts a bad taste in one’s mouth. If you’re like me and it’s something you’ve endured yourself, it might be a word that makes your breath quicken and your heart race. If you’re fortunate enough to never have been closely impacted by this act, even then, it’s likely a word that makes you squirm in your seat a little. It’s no easy topic, but it’s one I feel has to be talked about for many reasons. One big one is because people (yes, people, not just women, not just children, all people) that have been victimized deserve to know that it’s okay to talk about it. There is healing in talking and telling one’s story. If we as a society walk around whispering it like it’s a dirty word, it makes it that much harder for those that have suffered to find peace. It’s not the “f bomb,” it’s real life; it doesn’t need censored.
Now, my mother has never been fond of talking about that time in her life, and I understand that, but there came a point for me where I really started to question what had gone on and I wanted answers. This became especially true when I got married and my mom gave me my birth certificate and for the first time, she explained to me that I could not lose it. She told me that when paternity was established in court, my birth certificate was revised to add “him” to the father line (super confusing considering the method of my conception), but when that happened, they (whoever “they” are) also changed my last name on the birth certificate from the one I was born with to his last name. She told me that she never went through the court system to change it back since she had the original; therefore, if I lost it and had to purchase a new one, it would have his last name. This really sparked my curiosity. **In case you’re curious, I did lose it. I went to order a new one, and it does say his last name. I now have to go to court and pay a fee to have it amended.**
After that point, I started really considering finding him, but I was afraid. What all did he know about me? Did he want to know me? Did he have other kids? Did they all hate me because of my existence disrupting their lives? Would he ever face me? What if………?
When I started wondering these things, it was before the Internet was as easy to use as it is now. I started actively looking and calling phone numbers in 2002. I knew only his first and last name and a couple of states that he’d lived in over the years. I had no success, and so it was put on the back burner for a long time after that, and yet, it was always in my mind still. Thirteen years passed before I decided to try something to find him again. I paid a private investigation company to find him. I gave them the details I did have, gave my debit card info, and then waited. Within days I had an email. I was given what the company thought was his address, the names, addresses, and Facebook account links of his 3 children, and the phone number for the youngest child.
I immediately checked out his kids’ Facebook profiles in search of at least a picture of him. I couldn’t see much info, and so I started thinking about how I should reach out. Should I Facebook message them? Should I send a letter? Should I call? What should I say? And it was in that panic of not being sure of what to do that I let that info just sit for almost a year. It was only just over a week ago that I finally decided to just send off a Facebook message and see what would happen. I said:
“Hello, XXXX,
I hope you see this message in your “other” box. I’ve had your Facebook contact info for almost a year but I’ve been afraid to reach out. I’m looking for information (especially medical history) and hopefully some pictures of XXXXXX. He is my biological father, making you my half sibling. I’ve never had any real info and I’ve been nervous to ask. I don’t want you guys to shun me or shut me out. I’m extremely nervous sending this, but figure tomorrows are never promised and I might as well try. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.
Thank you.”
I sent the message knowing it would be difficult for them to see it because of the settings with messages from strangers, so when I knew the messages hadn’t been read by the time I’d left work that day, I knew I was going to use the one phone number and just call. I stopped by the liquor store and decided it was totally appropriate to have a shot of whiskey before taking a deep breath and dialing.
Two rings, “Hello?” I felt sudden panic and was shocked at someone actually answering an unknown number (I didn’t even know other people still do that these days).

“Hi, um, I’m not sure how to really say this, I don’t know if you’re aware of me; I’m XXXXX’s daughter.”

There was some shock on the other line and lots of “Um’s” in the middle. His son explained to me that he was indeed in shock, but aware of me and asked to call me back. I totally understood his being blindsided by this and told him to go ahead and process and call me back later.

“But wait, can you tell me really quick, is he still alive?”

“No, I’m sorry, he passed away last year.”

I cried. I started crying before I even got off the phone. I hung up and cried hard. I cried body shaking sobs over this information. I felt instant grief. Not grief over my loss as one would feel over the death of a parent he or she knew, but grief simply over this missing piece of my personal puzzle. Grief over the fact I never got to face him. I never got to ask him any questions. I never got to hear his side of the story. I never got to know if he was sorry for what he put my mother through or the impact it had on me. I never got to know if he was sorry that he never reached out to me. I never got to know if he truly understood the pebble in the pond my birth was and how much I’d suffered for HIS actions. I never got to look into his eyes and ask anything at all.

I walked back into my house after I hung up and poured another shot and then stood in the kitchen just holding it and bawling. My poor teenage boys had no real idea what was going on. My children, whom are extremely connected to me and my emotions, jumped into action and immediately came to me. My oldest hugged me tight for a few seconds while I proceeded to cry harder. When he let go and I was still standing there doing the ugly cry, my younger son then came and grabbed me with such intensity, I was surprised. He held on even tighter while whispering comfort in my ear.

I was shocked at my own reaction. I had no idea I’d feel so intensely. I had no idea it would hurt me to my very core. I had had a feeling when I was driving home from work that night that I was going to find out he had already passed away as I knew he was in his late 70’s, but I was unprepared to hear it for certain. I literally cried without stopping for more than an hour. Then, for the next several hours, I cried at the drop of a hat. And just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, my biological brother called me back.

We talked for 30 minutes and in that first phone call, I could tell that I liked him already. He was open, honest, and tender. He told me facts I’d been wanting to know my entire life. He told me that he thought that his (eww, our) father had had an affair with my mother. We discussed how even if it was consensual (a claim my mother adamantly denies, and I believe her), the law is very black and white on this topic. When being employed as a prison guard, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with an inmate. Much like a “willing” teenager with an adult, it is considered rape, and for good reason. It was then that he told me something that was incredibly dear to me; he told me that no matter what the circumstances were, he was embracing our newfound relationship and that he is there for me. I then cried some more.

That night on Facebook I wrote, “Those moments. . .those moments that knock the air from your lungs. . .the moments that punch your heart with the force of a Mack truck. . .the moments that hurt so intensely you don’t know when you’ll come up for a breath between sobs. . .I hate those life moments. I feel a MAJOR blog post coming on.” That blog post I spoke of is this here.

***

In the time that has passed since that first day, I’ve had so much on my mind. I can’t help but think about what my mother went through. My heart hurts for her. I can’t imagine it’s easy for her knowing that I’ve reached out to his family. I know that she just wants me to have peace. I can also imagine that me revealing what I’ve done to get in contact with them has probably also brought up old feelings for her.

Unfortunately, I don’t really get to know what she is thinking and feeling because we’re not very close and we don’t talk much.

Because of the situation surrounding my conception, we never bonded like normal mother and child. She remained in prison after I was born and I went off to foster care. The first 2 years of my life are something I know almost nothing about. But even once my mother was “free,” she was never really free. She endured hell and then had a child to take care of in the center of that. I love my mom, but her entire situation was damaging and had an impact on everything about me. The foundation I had in life set me up for failure–and oh boy have I failed (there are plenty of old and future blog posts about that, so I’ll skip over that here). But I don’t blame my mom. She lived through a really shitty situation and she came out of it the only way she knew how to. She chose to give me life even when the prison tried heavily to convince her to have an abortion. She kept me and later told me that it didn’t have to matter that I was conceived in such a manner, I could be just hers. Sadly, it did matter, it still does, and it will matter the rest of my life.

Through all of this though, I have a newfound respect for my mom. One of my first requests of my brother was to see pictures of “him.” I was simply curious to know what he looked like. Because I look so much like my mother, I never thought there would be any physical resemblance. Within a couple days, my brother sent me some emails with several pictures. I was totally unprepared, and when I opened an obviously old photo of his wedding, I found myself staring at a male version of my own face. It took my breath away and tears again sprang to my eyes (for like the millionth time in the last couple weeks) because I was looking at my own eyes in this old photograph. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I again thought of my mother. This woman, this incredibly strong woman, raised me as best as she could, she loved me, and she disciplined me–all while looking at a child, her child, who has her rapist’s eyes.

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***

Side note: When I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, it was meant to be about “him” and I. It’s turned into a complicated post, but more about my mom than anyone else. My mom is exactly where I get my strength from. She is where I’ve gotten my independence, my strong will, and my courage. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is a regular badass, and I’m proud to call her my mom.

Him <3

I’m feeling pretty good today. I’ve had a lot of up and down lately which has been pretty chaotic inside for me. Raising teenagers, man, let me tell ya…it is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. And of course, money stress is always…well…stressful. But all of that aside, I’ve had some really big blessings lately and I feel pretty damn lucky to be where I’m at.

When I was a scared 17 year old kid walking down the aisle to say “I do,” I knew it was a mistake. When I was immediately upset afterwards and didn’t want to leave with my new husband, I knew I’d made a bad choice. With all that I endured in the years after, I totally understood the joke about why divorce is so expensive (because it’s worth it, duh!).

divorce

I had many ups and downs in the years following and endured a few bad relationships that left me with little hope about finding “the one.” I thought that I would never get the amazing relationship I’d always hoped for.

When thinking of relationships, I always dreamed of feeling like a princess. I had dreamed of being with a man that said sweet things to me, a man that didn’t raise his voice to me (or worse), a man that connected with my children in ways that made them feel the broken inside of them was being healed, a man that would hold me tight and scare away my demons, a man that made me feel that no matter how I look, I’m the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, a man that would show me I was worthy of being loved, a man that would make me feel safe in every way. This seemed like the impossible, but I still kept trying… And then something truly amazing happened—I met Him.

*Please know that everything I say after this point may sound like a bunch of clichés strewn together, but I truly mean every word.*

Never before had I clicked so instantly and so well and on so many levels as I did with Him. He made me feel amazing from the start. His sense of humor stood out immediately upon meeting him. He clearly marches to the beat of his own drum and I’ve always loved that. He’s not afraid to be goofy and silly and for me, being the kind of person that is mostly serious and takes everything at face value, it was the total opposite of who I am. You know how they say opposites attract? That is us. There are so many things about us where we are extremely alike and there are others where we are total opposites. We complement each other well.

He also was the first to be so tender with me physically and with my heart. Of course being a man, he brought up typical flirty “man-like” topics, but he did so in a way that never made me feel belittled or like he was just hoping to hop straight into bed. On our first date, he very sweetly took my hand as we talked. He didn’t rush me, he listened to me, and at just the right moment, he leaned over and sweetly kissed me. I felt like a school girl with a crush; I was all full of butterflies inside. It was a great date, and from that night on, we were inseparable.

Let’s face it though, all relationships are good in the beginning or they wouldn’t start at all. Even for the beginning though, things with him were better than any other beginning I’d ever had. But you know what is even more awesome? Now that the honeymoon phase is fading and real life is setting in, things are still amazing.

In a relationship, you have to learn about the other person, and I don’t mean their favorite food or movie. I mean the things that you learn a little later on, like what makes him or her tick. When he or she is angry or upset, what does he or she need most? Close comfort? Space? Time? These are the things one starts to really learn once the honeymoon phase is over. This is where he and I are at right now. He is busy learning that if we have had a disagreement, I don’t care how upset either of us are, I still want kissed and hugged and told “I love you” and “goodnight” before we go to sleep. I’m busy learning what upsets him about the way I talk during a disagreement and that he needs space when frustrated and that it’s nothing personal against me. These things are important. And while no one likes to argue or have uncomfortable moments, I find much comfort in knowing that we have been together long enough that there are no facades. We are well aware that we each are not perfect. He knows that I get overwhelmed by noise and can’t even fake being okay when I’m overstimulated. I know that he gets overwhelmed sometimes by my constant desire to be “mushy” and intimate and needs a break from my emotional intensity. He knows that I need quiet time in my room to destress often and I know that he needs time to visit his family frequently. We are learning each other in ways that only time together can teach.

While living busy lives, both working, both having children, and both being exhausted regularly, we truly enjoy and appreciate each other. This is also a new concept for me. Never before have I felt in the middle of real life, after the honeymoon has ended, that I have been so connected to another. His smile, his eyes, his humor, his tender touch, his goofy dancing, and so much more—I can’t get enough. For the first time in my entire dating life, there are no red flags, no little nagging feelings of “is this really right?” going on in my heart and head that I’m choosing to ignore. For the first time ever, I don’t want anyone else in any way, shape, or fashion. He is everything. Everything I need, everything I want, everything I intend to keep. Forever. It’s all about Him.

Thrivin’ Survivor, That Is Me

*Repost from old blog site*

You’d think that knowing that I am strong, plus surviving some of the hardest things one could experience in life would automatically make me fearless, right? Wrong.

I’m facing a breakup. Lord knows that isn’t easy. After almost 3 years of dedication, 2 sets of children, and 1 combined household, I’m pretty much dreading “the talk” happening. How is that though? How is that so scary when I have been through so much—and survived?!

I’ve been sexually abused multiple times since I was a kid. I have had children as a teenager, gotten married a week after I turned 17 to a man that turned into a raging, abusive drug addict, and endured several years of mental, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse during that marriage. I have watched my then husband overdose, almost die, and recuperate—only to watch it happen all over again. I have battled chronic pain more than half my life that is at times crippling. I have held my infant daughter as her life support was turned off and she took her last breath, battled CPS, and pieced my life back together after meth. I have gotten through being homeless, jobless, and broke. I have battled court systems. I have battled people that wish me harm. And I have battled my own inner demons.

Nothing quite feels as terrifying as one’s husband hitting her in a rage, making her fear and know her life is in danger. Nothing feels as heartbreaking as laying one’s child on a hospital bed and turning away knowing one will never get to pick her baby up again and smell her scent, feel her warmth, nurture her at her breast, or hear her sweet cry again. Nothing is as hard as having to fight for one’s children against a government agency with a vendetta. And yet, I’ve been through all of that and survived and come out on top. I’ve not just survived, but I have thrived!

Even with that being the short list, I’m reading back over it and now sitting here wondering, how the hell am I afraid of a little breakup??? I need to just face it head on. Ready, set, go. 3, 2, 1, takeoff. Get it done, woman. There’s no way in hell that this is what suddenly breaks me! I am STRONG! I am powerful! I am woman—HEAR ME ROAR!!

The Richest Broke Chick You Could Ever Meet

I recently have allowed several things going on to stress me out and kind of takeover in my personal life. I’ve dealt with gossip, work changes, miscommunication with my lover, parenting issues, financial stress, and overall hurt feelings. I started to feel pretty chaotic inside. In this, I started writing and banging out blog posts like my life depended on it. And in that, I started to find some peace. I have been able to sort through the muddled chaos in my brain and start to make sense of it all. I have spent so much time in my head lately that’s it’s almost shocking I’ve been able to be productive with anything because thought are spinning ‘round and ‘round All. The. Time. BUT through all this thought, I’ve finally reached a good, calm place where I’ve had some realizations.

 

I’m so freaking blessed! I’m scared shitless financially because…well…money! I know, I know, money isn’t everything…blah, blah, blah. You’re right, it’s not. But money is how we survive. I need it to keep my house, maintain and run my vehicle so I can get to the place where I earn my money, feed my children, provide all the supplies for daily living my family needs like clothes, toiletries, and household products, and the list goes on. In these recent financial troubles, I’ve started to become overwhelmed with stress. It was all I could think about. I go to bed with it, I wake up with it, and I even sleep with it. Have you ever been so stressed that it follows you into your dreams and ruins any chance you have of getting quality sleep? I’m so familiar.

 

Then, please add in teenagers. ‘Nough said there.

 

Then also add in drama. I don’t even want to go there, but y’all can imagine that with everything else, this did NOT need to be added to my plate, especially to have an impact on my relationship or to hear negative things said about me when I’m trying so freaking hard in life.

 

Anyway, I’m straying from my point here, so please keep following along.

 

I’m blessed. While all of this garbage is going on, at the end of the day, I climb into my cozy bed next to the love of my life. When I found this man, let me tell ya, I knew pretty much from the get-go that there was no way in hell I was ever going to willingly let him go. He’s everything I could have ever hoped for and dreamed of. We are both extremely busy so often the only time we get together is when we are falling into bed exhausted, but those moments are the highlight of my days. Taking a few minutes to talk and laugh and just enjoy each other’s company is a priority. He shows me he loves me through his touch every single day. He gives me affection even when I’m feeling taken over with the crazy. He soothes the chaos in my heart and mind when he pulls me close, kisses me tenderly, and reassures me that he loves me. How many people go to bed lonely and without that? Too many. When I crawl into my bed at night, it’s with a roof over my head, it’s after having eaten dinner, and it’s with knowing my children are safe and sound in other rooms of the house. How many people are lacking those basic needs? How many people don’t even have a room or a bed to go to? Who am I to be stressed out and letting my worries rob me of my joy and blessings?! I may struggle, but I’m never losing this fight, so why do I let my worry take me to places I’d never really have to see?

 

I recently wrote a blog where I touched on one having the ability to control his or her emotions and feelings, and I’m touching on it again here because it’s SO important. Not only am I hurting myself when I let the stress take over, but I hurt those around me. My lover feels when I’m stressed and upset and naturally, it makes him stressed and upset. The same goes for my kids. We are in sync. They feel my intense emotions and it rubs off on them too.

 

It took me several days of feeling like a sourpuss and letting my brain constantly roam every nook and cranny of my stress and hurt to remember and truly realize what damage I’m doing here—and that I can control it! Of course part of me is embarrassed because I’ve had some outbursts and meltdowns and others have been able to witness this, but I’m just as human as anyone else. So, I’ve had an outburst or two, but that doesn’t define me. It’s never too late to decide to pull out of that poor me mindset and change up my thinking, and so that’s what I’m doing.

 

I have to count change for gas money to get to next payday. My daughter has to use an old blue backpack for school until I can replace her broken one next payday. We will have to make creative meals from what we have in the kitchen before I can grocery shop on next payday. I’m super broke and payday is still a week away. But you know what, friends? I’m the richest woman in the world.

Anger

Anger…It’s an emotion we all feel at one time or another. But what we do with it is what is important. As an emotional person, I’m pretty familiar with feeling emotion intensely—including anger, but I have to actively fight against letting intense emotion consume me.

 

I’m a brooder when I’m angry. I sit and think about it and turn it over and under and around in my brain. I tend to let that anger bubble and boil until it’s threatening to boil over. I feel my heart race and my breath quicken and the tension in my chest increase. I want to scream. I want to throw things. I want to RAGE. The uncontrolled me would do those things and hand out “fuck you’s” like candy on Halloween. Unfortunately (or fortunately I suppose), I’m a grownup and that’s not what gets to happen. So I sit and think…

 

I’ve learned in recent years and even blogged about it that I can control my emotion. It’s not easy. It takes much work. But it’s possible. So as I sit here at my desk at work and think about it, I contemplate my reaction. What made me feel so intensely? Why am I taking it so personally? What is the next step? How do I keep my feelings from making it worse? How do I process it in a way that allows me to truly let it go without getting in anyone’s face or making good relationships go sour? The details are private, but I can say that I refuse to let anger control my life. I write to process. I pray and give it to God. I breathe deeply and concentrate on inhaling peace and exhaling hurt. It works. Sometimes it only works for a moment, but then I repeat the process until I’m calm again.

 

I will never be able to get away from being the incredibly emotional person that I am. It’s firmly woven into my DNA. But I can choose to not let it define me and definitely not let it rule me. I make my life choices, not my emotions.

Growing Pains

What do you do when life gets a little messy and you start to fall apart and that starts to have an impact on the people around you…? Well, if you’re like me, you start to write. So here I am, ready to ramble because I feel if I don’t let it all out, I might explode. Or implode. Either way, the consequences of that can be devastating.

 

I have a lot on my plate in life. Those that know me personally know that. Those that know me intimately know that sometimes I don’t handle it very well. But what can I say, I’m human. I work full time (out of town, so add travel time to my full plate), I have 3 teenage children that can be a handful as they struggle with some normal issues and some extreme issues depending on the kid we talk about, I have a shit ton of bills and financial stress, I have an ex-husband that doesn’t pay a penny in child support and I honestly don’t think he ever will, I lack a support system from my family (though, side note, the support from those I do have close to me is pretty freaking amazing, especially since they choose their relationship with me), I struggle with anxiety and depression frequently, and a hundred other things I could list here. My point is, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning and I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes I’m needy. Sometimes I’m emotional. Sometimes I require more love and attention from those close to me.

 

I seem to be in a growth spurt lately, and let me tell ya, I feel the growing pains. Like a child, it hurts, I cry, I accomplish, I laugh, I fall down, I get up, and it all repeats. Growing is hard. I’ve learned many important life lessons in the last year and a half and I’ve lost many “friends” and have had my heart stung through these lessons and losses. I’ve been used. I’ve been ignored. I’ve been treated badly. I’ve felt the crushing weight of stress. I’ve been scared. And through all of this, I’ve had to learn how to care for myself. I cannot put others’ needs before my own needs. I definitely cannot allow the poor choices of others to impact me to the point of me breaking. I’ve had to learn to depend on myself, even for emotional support. It’s been intense. It’s been painful. And in some ways, it’s been fulfilling. I’ve been learning and I’m still breathing and I keep moving forward. I’m succeeding, even through the changes. That’s what life is all about anyway, right?

Happy???

Happiness…

 

What is it? Why are so many people searching for it and yet it remains elusive? What is the key to it? I’ve been thinking about these questions lately, not only for how it relates to my own life, but for those around me too.

 

I’ve been searching desperately for happiness since I was a teenager. Back then, I searched in all the wrong areas—some of which I continued with for many years. I searched for it through my friends and their poor choices. I searched for it with my body and the affection of boys. I searched for it high and low and had an intense longing to feel this happy that everyone speaks of. It was nowhere to be found though.

 

I spent the years of my 20’s still searching for happiness as I struggled with so much more than most even know of. While dealing with my abusive husband, while taking care of little ones I had so close together, while crying alone with no friends and no support and hating myself, I continued to desperately seek happiness. I desired it so much that while drowning in the misery of my life circumstances, I sought it out with my physician in the form of an antidepressant, then a different antidepressant, then another one, and then with anti-anxiety meds too. Do you know that antidepressants do not equal happy? Most people realize this, but when I was a desperate young woman clinging to the hope of feeling better, I did not. In my naïve state, I also did not realize that there weren’t any drugs in the world that could fix my life circumstances and the impact they had on my health and well-being.

 

Over time, much of my situation got better. I left the abusive husband, I left the town and bad friends I’d gotten into trouble with immediately after my marriage ended, and I moved back to the safety of my hometown. But guess what? I still wasn’t feeling happy. Don’t worry though, this one is really a happy story (no pun intended) and a breakthrough was in the making…

 

*****

 

Don’t get me wrong, I had moments I felt happy when my life was really hard. My children obviously were something to feel happy about. I would occasionally have friends to talk to too and that made me feel happy. But overall, miserable would be a much more accurate adjective for my life through my 20’s.

 

The breakthrough…

 

A pivotal moment in my life was when I decided to go back to school (for the 3rd time) and…I succeeded! I had tried twice previously and stopped going. The first time I began college, I was already enrolled and waiting to begin when my daughter passed away. I thought that I could still do it, but I was wrong and couldn’t handle it. The second time I went back, I managed to succeed one semester and was onto my second when I finally had the guts to leave my husband. The downfall of that was that my entire life fell apart at first, including my attempt at college. So understandably, I was incredibly scared to try again. I feared failure more than anything for several reasons (other blog posts will happen later to describe those events). Taking the step to get back into college was scary. Two years later when I finished that last class and knew my degree was coming, I was on top of the world! I had endured working full time, a breakup, the daily life of being a mom, and so much more, but I still did it. That coming on the heels of having to get myself out of a very large hole that I’d dug myself into without any support or help from anyone else (again, as I referenced in my very first blog post, there will come a time I’m ready to write about that, but that time is not here yet) made me feel like I was on top of the world. I was starting to make something of myself finally in my late 20’s!

 

Would you like to guess what came about with that success? That’s right—happiness! It was my first step in adulthood that I was truly proud of and could share with everyone. I finally felt like I was worthy in this world. I finally felt like I could contribute to society instead of feeling like I was a problem. For the first time, I finally felt like I was more than a teen mom, more than a screw up, more than just someone for my family to gossip about and look down their noses upon. It was truly joyous for me.

 

After that came more baby steps to being a better person. I continued working, I improved many areas of my life through hard work and dedication, and then came a pivotal moment…I learned that I am more in control of my own emotions, thoughts, and feelings than I could have ever guessed.

 

I have a dear friend that told me one day that I could indeed control my feelings. I was shocked and thought she was maybe being a little self-righteous as she was explaining that it was something she works on with herself. She talked about training one’s thoughts and redirecting oneself when the mind turns to negative thinking. I thought she was crazy. Now…I wonder how many people think I’m crazy when I talk about the same thing—because it works!

 

As my life has changed as time has gone on and I’ve gained some wisdom with age, I’ve also become even more independent and self-sufficient. I’ve worked on controlling the negativity in my head and that’s something I continue to work on daily. When I get weighted down with thoughts that aren’t positive, I remind myself that that’s not where my focus should be. It’s constant redirection. In that focus on positivity, I’ve made much personal growth.

 

When I went through a break-up a year ago and began to struggle severely financially, I didn’t cry about it, I didn’t take to Facebook to whine about it, and I didn’t expect someone to fix it for me. I went out and got a second job. I worked my tail off to get myself into a better financial state and was able to quit the second job. I felt so good knowing I could depend on myself and take care of my own needs. I felt…you guessed it—happy!

 

I’m not without struggles now. I have normal stress just like anyone else. I deal with financial issues, teenagers, household stress, and hurts. I just choose to put my focus on my blessings. I’ve taught myself (with the help of others) how to be happy.

 

So let me share this; if you’re longing for happiness, it’s not something you will magically find. It’s definitely not something that you can purchase. And it’s not even something you find in someone else. We each hold happy inside of us. It’s each person’s job to pull it out of him or herself, and it starts with deciding…I’m happy.