It’s been eight years at the end of this month that I’ll have been a single mom. Anyone who has gone through a divorce will know that it’s a couple of years of pure hell on earth. Ripping at the seams of the very fibres of your core values and beliefs, or the clash thereof.
I can remember being gifted the opportunity to attended this week long program called Choices which hailed originally out of Houston Texas, but had two satélite host cities here in Canada, Calgary AB and Abbotsford, BC.
The program ran every month but I waited until the very last month I could use the credits, to go. It never seemed like the right time until one day, my life was falling apart and I was no longer able to hold my life together.
In high school, I remember going through a training camp for provincial volleyball and my coach Randy said something that fused itself to my being. It eventually became not only a strength, but one of my greatest weaknesses. I can say that I still struggle with this concept in some way shape or form.
We were running drills and plays, over and over again – to a point where exhaustion was setting in but we had yet to get it right. He was frustrated and delivered these words “practice doesn’t make perfect!!! PERFECT practice makes perfect!!!” We could keep practicing until we were exhausted but it won’t do any good. Slow down, do it right once, do it right twice, three times etc – Until it became a habit. It was only till we got it right and was able to do it consistently, that it was PERFECT. To me it was kind of like trying. There is no try, there is either do or don’t. Each time we adjust until we get it right. So in essence we needed to stop what we were doing over and over again and expecting different results.
That made perfect sense to me. I can remember hearing these words and they kind of rocked my world for a little bit. But eventually I used this mantra in every aspect of my life that I could. Including my relationships and my expectations of them. I was kind of an all-or-nothing, competitive-type chick and because if it, have been called many things such as intimidating my whole life. Playing the game was fun sure, but the real joy was the flow a team had with the utlimate results that followed – a win. It’s not until someone understands my why’s and gets to know me, they see I’m nothing of the sort. I’m just black and white or a “Go hard or go home” type gal. Laziness annoys me. Two faced people drive me wild and those who can’t live out the words they spew forth kind of invokes my less then nice side. In my age I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm and keep my mouth shut, that it unless it involves my kids. It’s then I can get demanding and intimidating. All I ask is that people mean what they say and say what they mean and know the difference.
“If your not going to play the game, then sub yourself off.” Yup- True story. I used those exact words once to a man…..🤷
While the initial impression comes off somewhat harsh, I can honestly say, given the circumstances at the time they were appropriate. If I applied the devilish details, many would agree. At least I thought so and I still do…. Well, Kind of. I could have had a better delivery. Tact wasn’t my strong point, or should I say, still isn’t.
Expectations of another human being can really break a relationship, but I don’t think it’s wrong to have them either. I expect respect in return for respect, value for value, worth for worth, and loyalty for loyalty. I don’t expect perfection but I do expect honesty. In fact I prefer knowing that someone has had a journey that they too have learned life the hard way and had to adjust their course accordingly.
Forgive and be forgiven.
I can remember entering the dating phase either organically or via online (which I never liked) and laughing because I joked about these 10 questions I asked all my dates. Much like a safety course, there was a pass/fail rate of 80% percent, but the first three were go or no-go type questions, sudden death game changers. Honestly if I had to revisit the list again and apply it, I’d add a few more.
I think this approach is what attracted many potential men into my life. I was funny. I was smart. I took life seriously. However, more times than not, for whatever reason, the initial dating phase didn’t pan out and ended because one of my rules were being compromised. I’ve had these same individuals message me again for a second chance because what they didn’t understand to be true at the time, they understood now. Few got this second chance simply because when we’re dealing with precious cargo of your life and your kids life, it’s hard to trust again.
It was at this point in my life where I was so broken hearted, disappointed and confused in life, that I attended Choices. The last man I had dated, was a man who of them all, held values and principles to a much higher standard than I did, being ex-military.
He had just recently left the military after serving for 17 years in the PPCLI regiment (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry). During his last tour in Afghanistan, his wife had left him and took his children to live with another man who served as a truck driver in the military. Needless to say, this didn’t go over well. And yet, to be apart of his struggle and to see the torn convictions he struggled with will never leave my memory and impacts how I approach my current life today.
He ended up leaving the military and three years later we met over ChristianMingle.com. Here I thought my questions were direct and with purpose, turns out, I was the one to be answering the tough questions, and apparently, I passed. He did find humour in my 10 questions and understood their importance once I explained them. I think it amused him and he wasn’t afraid to let me in on his thoughts and opinions. I’d say we both were asking the same things, only mine was a much more round-a-bout way. I respected that about him.
We weren’t together for very long, 4-5 months, when his ex, after seeing that he was moving on, decided to put in for a transfer to Halifax as she was still enlisted in the military. This would have included the relocation of his children as well and naturally the beginning of the end of what would be “us” as he had to follow his children. I would have done the same. I won’t get into more detail as it’s not only my story to tell, and even though we didn’t work out, I still hold a deep appreciation for what he showed me about life. I share this because it’s is an example that we ALL are bound to the consequences of our choices. Men AND women. There is so much male bashing that we females need to take some of the responsibility for some of societies seriously broken backbone. In fact, I’d say it’s 50/50 split. There are some true assholes out there, but we women can really be top-notch wenches as well. This is still relevant in my life for many reasons that I don’t know that I’ll share other than the fact, life is about things greater than ourselves. In a world where we celebrate and uplift the self to the point of demigods, only to find constant devestation and broken hearts and homes. When we question the why’s of our societal problems, we stand there dumbfounded and confused because everything is done in the name of pursuing our immediate “happiness.” We justify our choices with phrases like “kids are resilient, they’ll get over it” and suddenly we find an epidemic going around and we point fingers everywhere except towards our own actions and self. There can be no honour or “sacrifice” made when serving one’s self. And most certainly our children take notice and act out, often to the masses.
This man had opened my world up and busted my little bubble in which I thought I knew. He was smart and educated, but not like most men I had dated before. I was an educated woman, but not like this. He could give me history and political backgrounds to any given country…. Me? I had to work hard at trying to remember who my mayor was. Shameful, I know. In turn I relaxed his world, I gave him humour and I held him accountable. I do remember finding humour in watching him order a coffee from Starbucks in his own mug because he’ll be damned if anyone saw him walking around with that hippie cup in his hand. Makes laugh now thinking about it. Or how about when we ate at “Chopped Leaf.” He would keep his gaze down so as not to be recognized in yet another “hippie” environmental establishment, there wasn’t enough meat or potatoes to put him at ease. He did however like the Middle Eastern restaurant that has become my kids favourite over the years. He was not comfortable with many of the patrons who attended there but the food seemed to out weigh his comfort level as he frequently attended there many times over.
He wasn’t a perfect man, and I learned alot about the life of a young/seasoned soldier, but he was honest and real. It was breathtakingly refreshing. It’s hard to move on from there and it’s hard to accept anything less from that point forward.
So instead I decided to take from it lessons learned and educate myself. Life now had some questions to be answered. Trust me when I said, he educated me on somethings I wasn’t aware of and yet was finding more and more relevant with every news story and life event. (See: https://justjennel.com/2016/10/26/through-the-smartphone-looking-glass/ and https://justjennel.com/2019/10/02/jezebel/
That was the last man I ever dated. It would have been five years ago this past spring. It wasn’t a bad break up. There was much more to the picture than I’m letting on but in the end it’s good. About ever six months or so he checks in with a “tell me your ok.” I respond and then it’s another six months or so before my phone beeps again. There have been three times he’s broken silence. Once when he found out I went to India, then again when he found out why. To which those 10 questions were nothing in comparison. Then lastly when he found out I went to Panama alone with my daughter. His mom must update him as she’s still my friend on Facebook. He has nothing to do with social media. Not now. Not ever.
After that there where some stragglers here and there but no one could give me the same kind of character strengths, or ideals or values. I can’t quite out my finger on it, but the truth is, I decided to stop dating all together. I believed that one day, I’ll meet someone organically and it’ll just …. happen. Besides, I had my kids to raise.
Sounds simple right? But actually somewhere in there, underneath the smile, or even the understanding of the harsh realities of life, I struggled, on multiple levels. I struggled deeply with yet another set back. Even though I knew that I wasn’t willing to compromise on what I was wanting. It did however get me angry and then I got bitter. Not towards anyone in particular but life in general. I needed to fix that. It wasn’t me.
Life wasn’t fair. I was tired of fighting for what was right. I was exhausted from being alone. I was exhausted from doing the right thing. For once I wanted to be selfish and like everyone else do what ever I wanted when I wanted. I wanted everyone else to do what I wanted – but deep down, I couldn’t. It wasn’t about me. It was always about my kids and what I’m teaching them as they grow up.
So again, at this point, I was done with being tired. I was done with feeling sorry for myself. I was done with dating and expectations.
So I FINALLY went to choices.
I can honeslty say it was one of the best and worst times of my life. A year later I went on to coach as well, completing the whole process in terms of receiving a “certification.”
The picture you see above was what I came up with through a process with the leaders to act as my reminder to myself when life became overwhelming or I began allow what scared me in life, to dictate my actions, or rather in-actions.
Being scared is a part of life. But fear can cripple us and debilitate to us to such a point, we become the walking dead. It’s only a matter of time.
I found this piece a paper tonight tucked in a box that had been packed away. I’d fallen into that trap about perfection. The need for perfect practice makes for perfect parenting…. Or being the perfect mom, Or…. Or…. Or…
I’ve never viewed myself as a perfectionist until one day a friend of mine said to me “your a perfectionist” needing to have everything just so. I can remember rebuffing her with “no no no, I’m NOT a perfectionist. I’m far from perfect.”
To which she responded “that’s exactly what a perfectionist would say.”
There we go again. Another realism that made me stop and relax. It’s okay to not have it all together. I can only do the best that I can with the tools that I have. The point is to do my best. Not to be perfect.
I’m not a mistake. I have purpose. I am useful. I have been given a skill and responsibility. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I HAVE responsibilities and it’s my job to teach them that they too are fearfully and wonderfully made.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).