Here’s to a New Chapter

Social media is great in many ways, but man, sometimes it sucks! Going through a breakup is one of those times I hate social media, and this time was the worst.

“We can still be friends,” he says as he’s breaking my heart weeks ago and saying he wants to move out.

I cried, “I don’t want to be your friend. I want to be your girlfriend.”

I wanted a piece of him still, even if it meant without a romantic relationship, so I agreed to be friends. I noticed how he’d pulled away suddenly and how his actions were contradicting his words, but I was so lost and confused in the center of the storm that I didn’t consciously think much about it. During the several day period where we were in the middle, in purgatory, with him still living with me after he’d said he wanted to end it, but then changing his mind and saying he wanted to keep trying, everything he was saying was telling me between the lines that he was leaving. Deep down I knew he was gone for good and that someone else had his attention already.

“If it doesn’t work out, I know you’ll be okay. You’re a strong woman.”

“You’ll find someone new who will be your forever, I’m sure of it.”

“I’m just going to focus on me and my kids,” he says, but then one breath later, “You should get out and have fun and meet new people,” and, “Be young and wild and free.”

Why? Why do I need to get out? Why do I need to meet new people? Why are you pushing me out there and then encouraging me to go party of all things? How fast are you moving with someone else to be coming at me with this stuff when you still have belongings that haven’t even been moved out of my house yet?

I’m not stupid. I may have had some serious denial going on and even been foolish for all of my hoping, but I’m definitely not stupid, and I knew exactly what these statements meant. These statements meant there was already another girl. These statements meant he didn’t want to feel guilty and if I quickly found someone else, he wouldn’t have to. I knew this was true because it was only a matter of days before there were flirty statuses going up on Facebook from him that were clearly intended for one person, and it wasn’t me. Wanting to continue with the goal of being friends and knowing it would just take some time to not be so sensitive to that stuff, I simply unfollowed him.

I pushed forward with my life without him. I started working out, I quickly found a support system of just a few friends that I could talk to and rely on, and I started focusing on the important things in my life that had nothing to do with him.

One of my most important tasks was to find a second job. I was terrified of what that could mean for me and scared that I would have to work 7 days a week. I’m a mother and my children, even though they are teenagers, still need me. I have to take care of me to take care of them and it’s hard to take care of me if I never get a day off of work.

Well, there have been some rapid changes over the last few days. One is that I got hired and start working a second job next week. The manager was very kind when I talked with him about the hours I’m looking for and what my schedule is like for my main job. He said he intends to work me 3 evenings a week and understands that I’m still hoping to get one day off a weekend so that I have one day off from both jobs and will work with me on that too.

Another change is that I actually went on a date. It was wonderful. It was with a friend I’ve known for years and he was incredibly sweet and gentlemanly. It was a lovely reminder that I’m still a woman and more than just a mom and employee, that I am desirable, and that I am wanted. I won’t go into details here, but I can say that I’m very much hoping we’ll get together again.

The last change is that yesterday when I was getting ready to start work, I thought to myself that I’m in a great mood and I’m getting over the old relationship and maybe I can look at his Facebook page without getting upset. I was immediately greeted with the confirmation of what I already knew to be true. There’s a new woman. I was taken aback. It’s not that there’s just someone new in general, because I already knew that was the case within days of him moving out, but to already be posting together and putting pictures up. . . I’ll spare you all my thoughts on this, but I will say that I realized in that moment, being friends is unnecessary. Clearly, it doesn’t matter what I think and feel to him and that’s not what friends are. I didn’t cry when I saw it. In fact, I wasn’t filled with any intense emotion (can I get an amen for healing?!), and I was proud in that moment that I wasn’t tempted to lash out at anyone. It was time to take my next big girl step and hit the unfriend button. We weren’t friends before we dated; there’s no need to be friends now. I clicked that button and smiled. Chapter closed.

Waking up today and getting everyone ready and out the door for the first day of school, I have been in an amazing mood. I’m handling my business. I’ve got my own back. I feel happy again! Finding a job took away a ginormous amount of stress. I now know that I have a plan. I know what has to happen to get our necessities covered. I also know that the activity of working another job will help my weight loss along. All of these things will make me feel better emotionally and mentally and once again, confidence will shine through. Just as I mentioned in my post The Weak Hunt the Wounded about how broken people attract more broken people, the opposite is also true. With me feeling great and confident and happy, those are also the people I will attract in my life.

So, my friends, things are good! I’m onto a new chapter and new adventures and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Here’s to a new page turned!

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I Lost Him, But I Found Me

When he first told me he was leaving, I was understandably devastated. I couldn’t believe it and was in total shock. It hurt deeply and every day since has hurt. I didn’t think I could live without him. But (and it’s a really big but), I’m doing it! I’m healing a little one day at a time. Where my heart has been pained, I see it sting a little less every day. Where I once couldn’t imagine life without him, I’m getting used to the idea of it. Where I thought I couldn’t be happy without him, I woke up happy today. I wanna cheer! I want to get up and do a happy dance because I didn’t feel strong initially and it took me only a short time to be able to see that I am indeed strong.

You see, I felt like when I was losing him, I was losing me too. Who am I without him? Who am I as just Niki, and not B’s girlfriend? How and what is my life by myself? You know what though? I’m still losing him, but I’m actually finding me! I can’t emphasize this point enough, but keep reading because I’m going to tell y’all how.

So since this all started, I’ve been talking to a few friends about my heartache. One day, one said, “You know what helps? Running.”

I laughed it off and said, “Have you ever seen a picture of me? I’m not going running.”

He assured me, anyone can do it. He gave me the name of an app that even beginners can do. I downloaded the app but then left it for days without doing anything about it. I was being swallowed up by my hurts and just didn’t care about starting. That was on top of my normal issues that get in the way of exercise (especially something hard on my joints). I struggle with chronic pain, I have a busy life, and let’s face it, I’m just really good at making excuses. The idea stayed in the back of my mind though. I even mentioned it to one of my dearest girlfriends (who happens to LOVE fitness and exercise). So on Saturday morning, when I texted her about the anxiety that seems to come in waves right now, she immediately followed up with telling me to get my tennis shoes on and get my booty outside. She told me to use it as fuel, to go until I can’t breathe, and put all of that negative energy to use. So you know what I did? I put on my tennis shoes! She offered to put her kids in a jogging stroller and go with me, so that’s what we did. It may not seem like much, and I definitely didn’t start with jogging, but we power walked 2 miles with much of it being uphill. When we got back, I literally had sweat running. Wanna know something else? It felt so good!!

I kept myself fairly busy the rest of the day and tried to focus on anything other than letting my brain go into overdrive about what I can’t change. I had a planned date on Saturday night with another girlfriend and was happy to get out and do that. Unfortunately, that meant not getting much sleep, and the sleep I did get was poor. But you know what I did when I woke up Sunday morning and could feel sadness and loneliness seeping in? Yep, you guessed it! I put on my tennis shoes! Without my friend this time, I took the dogs around the block, dropped them back off at home, and then did that same 2 mile loop. I pushed myself hard. I got home again covered in sweat and feeling on top of the world.

I went inside and went to get in the shower and paused to look in the mirror. I looked at how red my face was and how my hair was wet from sweat. I looked at my deflating belly that is already noticeably smaller with my breakup weight loss. I stood there and appreciated myself for the first time in I can’t even tell y’all how long. I saw beauty in my face where I’d forgotten it was once there. I saw attractiveness in my body where for several months I’d just been able to see fat. Where my self-esteem had once plummeted dangerously low, I saw and felt my worth for the first time looking in the mirror that day.

In this recent heartache, I’ve had more time on my hands. I’m not rushing anything to spend time with a partner, so I have time to focus. I’ve started lovingly taken care of myself. I take great care in the little things that I’ve previously not done as often or done hastily. I’m taking the time to shave my legs with care, to take good care of my feet, brushing my teeth, washing my body, moisturizing my face, lotioning my skin. Most of these things are obviously things I was doing, but doing them now is different. It’s with love and affection for myself. It’s done slowly and well. All of this is with new exercise and good water intake. I’m not consuming soda (okay, well except for that night out drinking hehe). I’m not consuming junk food. My initial weight loss was from stress, but hey, since it’s started, now I’m going to take it and run with it (literally as I haven’t yet started to actually jog, but I promise, I’m getting there). I deserve to be well cared for and there’s no one better to do it than me.

I lost him, but it’s giving me the chance to find me and make the changes that should have been made a long time ago. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m dedicated to this new self-care thing. It’s about time that I seek no love but my own. So hello, me, I’ve missed you.

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I Am More Than My Cleavage

I Am More Than My Cleavage? Seriously?! What kind of world do we live in that I feel the need to write a blog with that title?

In order to truly explain my thought process and feelings behind all this, I must give you some background info. As a teenager, like many confused kids, I had attention issues. Hell, I still do (I mean, hello, I write a blog—pay attention to me! Haha). My attention issues then were different though. Yes, I was that girl that fooled around with the boys before my peers did. As a young woman with large breasts and a curvy body, developed long before I knew what to do with it, it was easy to discover how I could get the attention that I craved.

When I moved to my small town, the place I now call home, I was just beginning to really act out. I desperately wanted to fit in and be one of the Cool Kids. I wanted to be liked and paid attention to. I was a mere 13 years old, but thought of myself as a grown up. It only took a month or two to not only catch the attention of some of the popular boys, but also to make myself ostracized. I realized after it was too late that I was the girl the boys wanted, the girl the girls hated, and the girl no one wanted to be publicly associated with. I wasn’t understood and I didn’t know how to behave any differently.

I struggled with this stuff my entire youth. It was a constant fight inside myself between wanting to be paid attention to and wanting with all of my aching teenage heart to not be an outcast. I wanted to be liked for who I was inside my tender soul, but I kept searching for it with my cleavage.

Now to fast forward many years, many heartaches, many milestones, and much personal growth, I’m no longer that broken girl. But you know what? Society is. We live in this era of everything being sexual, insane beauty standards constantly in our faces, and the most casual attitude of sex that our nation has ever seen. Teenagers (along with the adults, of course) are exchanging naked selfies, even fast food commercials use sex to sell, no one bats an eye at casual sex and “friends with benefits”,  and we push birth control on 12 year olds. Along with all of this, women seem to be seen in general as sex objects and nothing more. When one is lusting after the barely dressed woman on the cover of Cosmo, he or she is not thinking about who that woman is, what matters to her, or what she has going on in her life—he or she is thinking about how great her breasts look or how amazing those thighs are, et cetera. This objectification doesn’t just go for those we see on television, on magazine covers, or in online ads. It spills over into how we see women in real life. In fact, that statement right there, “real life”, shows just how deep this goes. Those women, photoshopped, covered in makeup, and in glossy print everywhere you look—they’re still real women.  They still have feelings, goals, family, struggles, and triumphs that have nothing to do with the image you see on those screens or magazine covers.

While writing this, I decided to do some quick research about how many ads the typical American sees in a day because it’s relevant to my point on what we as Americans are seeing without even realizing it on a daily basis. There are no hard and fast numbers, but many sources estimate that the number of daily ads we see can reach into the thousands. Think about it, every time you log onto Pandora, every time you pass a city bus, check out at the grocery store, sit in front of your TV, get on Facebook, play a mobile game, flip through a magazine in a waiting room, step in front of a television in Wal-Mart, shop online, walk down the cereal aisle, drive through town, use the Internet to help your children with homework, and even getting into an elevator in bigger cities—your eyes are bombarded with advertisements. Thousands of images every day flood into your brain whether you realize it or not, and many of these are using edited images of “sexy” women. According to mediaed.org, it is thought that only around 8% of an ad’s message is consciously received into the mind. So much info is being put into our minds, and while we may not realize it, that data soaks into our brains anyway.  **If you’re curious about the info on advertisements, please check the mediaed.org link at the bottom of this. There is a ton of info in their pdf about sexual images, consumerism, and specifically women and girls and how they are used and manipulated in the media. It’s quite eye opening.**

But I’m straying from my point here. When we are teaching those in society through this constant onslaught of images that women are to be lusted after, that deeply ingrained, unconscious act cannot be compartmentalized into just viewing women in media this way. It becomes how our youth sees their female peers. It is how grown men see their coworkers. It is how old men see younger generations of women (side note, did you know the number two most searched porn term online in America is “teen”, second only to MILF? That’s a whole different blog to be written but helps to show how much our current youth are in danger with this). It is even how us women now tend to see each other and ourselves. As human beings, our eyes take in how others look and our bodies and brains are stimulated accordingly. Without having guarded hearts and trained minds, we unconsciously objectify others based on these standards in America, and I have recently had much personal experience to remind me of this.

I have been struggling the last several months with having gone through a breakup of a serious relationship and all that goes with that. I’ve had loneliness and a desire to be accepted and wanted by others. In some ways, bits of that broken teenage girl in me crept back to the surface, and that allowed me to put my guard down without realizing it. Unlike when I was a kid though, we have this wonderful thing called social media these days. It often gives a false sense of connectedness with others, and it also gives many people the guts to say things online that wouldn’t be said face to face. I could give several examples of this, but to save face and space to this already very long post, I’m going to just give one example of how outrageous this objectification has become, and it has an impact.

The one incident that punched me in the gut emotionally and I knew would result in this very blog post with this exact title happened around two months ago. Like most, I have a Facebook account and almost 300 “friends” on it. Also like most women, I change my profile picture on it often. I use a little app on my phone to make pretty edited pictures that make the perfect size for a “pro pic”. One day, I changed my picture without thinking about the unintentional cleavage that was showing. Remember, long gone are my days of wanting to draw people in with my breasts, but because they are large, cleavage happens sometimes regardless. I was leaving work when I suddenly got an instant message from a male friend that threw me off. I wasn’t on Facebook at the moment and wasn’t even aware yet of the comments on my new profile picture, but all it took was one friend to comment about my cleavage on this picture before there were suddenly a small handful of comments about my breasts. What was worse though was the message from my “friend”. One word. Boobies.

I had no idea what it meant when the Facebook message texted my phone. I honestly thought it was an accident. I got online to inquire about it. I opened up my messages, and sure enough, it was the one word and then a selfie of him.

Me: Boobies?

Him: Yeah, I like them.

Him: *shirtless selfie*

Him: Where’s my pic now? You always show your boobs hanging out. Let ’em loose.

I was appalled and so very hurt. I had previously thought this guy was kinda cute and had known we had stuff in common, so I was actually pleased that he messaged me at first. But I was not happy that he felt it was okay to not just bring up such ugly subject matter so boldly, but to talk to me as if I wasn’t even a normal human being deserving of respect. I was ashamed even though I’d done nothing to ask for this kind of treatment. I was deeply hurt that he talked to me like this completely unsolicited and without an ounce of respect–especially when it was the first time he’d ever initiated conversation with me.

Me: There’s websites for that ya know.

Him: Yeah, but why online if it’s local?

I teared up reading his messages. I was thoroughly blown away. In an instant, I was that hurting young woman that wanted to be one of the Cool Kids so badly, but I was also the adult I am now and knew that no matter what I was feeling, I was NOT going to allow this to continue.

Me: Because I’m more than just my cleavage.

Him: Yeah, you got an ass too.

Me: *Closes Facebook*

I realized that I felt shame before I had even done anything. There was embarrassment that had lived there inside me so long. Humiliation from acts so long ago that caused me to still feel that hurt as a grown woman. But he didn’t get what he wanted, and I kept my dignity. I honestly meant what I said. I AM more than my cleavage. Whether it was intentional or accidental, cleavage did not give him permission to completely disregard the fact that I am a woman with feelings. I have lived and succeeded through major struggles, I have experienced great joys, I have beautiful children that think I’m the most important person on earth, and I have been hurt badly, loved madly, and helped others gladly. I am a woman, not an object! Even though it’s taken me a while longer in life to discover it, I am worthy of love, tenderness, and respect. I. Am. More. Than. My. Cleavage.

Resources

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2292582/Most-popular-porn-site-search-terms-revealed-Americans-favour-MILF-Syrians-like-aunt.html

https://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/241/studyguide_241.pdf

http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=medialiteracy&page=fastfacts