Sharing My Journey

Sharing My Journey

In my journey so far as a single mother, I have experienced an emotional roller coaster like none I’ve ever ridden. And not just romantically–that’s actually probably the easiest part of the ride. The scariest and most difficult parts of the ride have been dealing with my self-image, managing and changing the dynamics of my friendships, and reconciling societal perspectives with my reality.

Some days, I get to a place where I want to share this experience, and other days, I don’t–mostly because I don’t want to deal with any more opinions. I also don’t like that some think I sound bitter (and in some instances, I am)–when my bitterness has waned significantly over the last two years. What’s funny is that the more I talk, the more some think I’m bitter, when in actuality, the less bitter I am, the more willing I am to talk. There was a time that the last thing I wanted to do was talk about what I was going through. And I avoided people like the plague for fear of being seen by people whose opinions I valued as a negative Nancy and bitter Betty. And then I think to myself that the bitterness that’s left should be understood–why is it even such a negative label? Emotions are what they are, so who can judge me and say and too bitter–from my perspective, it’s just as relevant to wonder if I’m bitter enough because I haven’t allowed my bitterness to permeate my decision-making as a mother. So then I began to really appreciate the people who ASKED me how I was doing and stayed around no matter what I was talking about, whether it highlighted my bitterness or not. Because they still saw me, Ranada, and still cared about me as a full person, and didn’t confine me to the box I limited my own self-image to.

There are times that I also wonder why I care what people think. And I’ve realized it’s because I’m human. Humans need to be liked, accepted, affirmed, and understood. So when I’m feeling my loneliest, it’s because I feel like the group of people who have tried to understand what my life has been like in the last two years is much smaller than the group of people I considered my friends before this ordeal began. It’s all an exercise in evaluation.

Self-evaluation, which I’ve gone above and beyond in doing for the last two years and had to realize that even though so many of the self-help articles begin and end with self-evaluation, that I was being WAY too hard on myself, and there definitely is a such thing as judging yourself too harshly.

The evaluation of the people I can truly call my village, understanding that I could not have made it to this place in my life without their support and understanding that you can’t predict who will be standing there when the dust settles. And you can only trust that God sends his encouragement through the people He chooses–over the last two years, I’ve received a good word from the most unlikeliest of places, and they were salve for my soul.

The evaluation of my previous perspectives, societal ideals, and my current reality in the context of those.

The evaluation of what happiness is to me and what role hardships have in my journey.

Evaluation.

Zora Neale Hurston’s birthday was yesterday, and one of her most well known quotes is

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Sometimes I think 2012 and 2013 were question-asking years and I’m hoping 2014 is an answer-giving year. But time will tell, huh?

So as my bitterness continues to subside, or at least I continue becoming one with it and learning to not care if people use it as a label when I’m only speaking my truth, I am kinda looking forward to sharing the lessons and emotions and outlooks from this joyful yet painful, rewarding yet taxing, fun yet hard, loving yet lonely journey as a single mother. Happy new year!

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It’s my birthday!

It’s my birthday!

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I’m spending my day doing what I seem to do best: reflecting. This is an Instagram post that is resonating with me. Everything happens for a reason, and just because your plans may not pan out, it doesn’t equal failure. Here’s to the success all around me. Happy, happy birthday to me, to me, to me! [In my Sprout/Chica Show/Sunny Side Up voice]

100 Day Reset

100 Day Reset

It’s been about 60 days since I started the 31 Day Reset. Even though I haven’t finished it, it really has helped me re-position my thinking. So as an update, I’ll share with you what I haven’t finished, and some highlights of what I did finish.

Still Left to Do

  • Take Myself Out on a Date – I find it interesting that I haven’t done this. Pre-baby, I did this often. I guess it just shows that I don’t carve out enough time for myself.
  • Get Rid of Stuff I Don’t Need – I have started, but I have a long way to go. I did pack up all of the baby stuff we don’t need anymore. I set an appointment with Salvation Army to come pick it up, and they didn’t come! So I guess I’ll be asking someone with an SUV to come help me. Earlier this year, I almost got my house completely organized, then I had a relapse of depression, and let it all go. So I guess it’s time to start over.
  • Remove Negative People from My Life – I have done a little of this, but it wasn’t on purpose. I have isolated myself from tons of people, so I guess now, I need to decide who I want to reach out to and who I want to leave on the peripheral.
  • Make a New Friend – I would say “no new friends,” but I’m open. I guess my first priority in terms of relationships, though, is to figure out which old friends I want to re-engage.
  • Let Go of the Past – I’m working on it, really.
  • Make a Bucket List – I have one stashed in my head–I just haven’t written it down yet.
  • Write My Own Eulogy – I imagine it will be very similar to my Ideal Life Narrative, so I’m not pressed to do this yet.
  • Create a Vision Board – I think my old vision board has become a barrier. I keep saying I will just update the old one, but maybe, just maybe, I should start from scratch. Hmm.

Of the other tasks, I really liked the day redesign that I did, and although it hasn’t become the norm yet, I am enjoying trying to make it happen. I do wake up a teensy weensy bit earlier, and I do make sure I eat SOMETHING in the morning, even if not as much as I’d like. I also have started getting a little exercise in, although not as much I really want.

Also, I’ve started back going to see my counselor, and she’s helping me on my quest to trust and believe in myself again. When I’m down on myself, we talk through why, and so far, I have had no valid reasons. I just take on guilt and blame, even when it doesn’t really belong to me. So I’ve been thankful to be able to spend my splurge money on seeing her.

Although I don’t write in it everyday, my gratitude journal has helped me alot with focusing on the good rather than the bad. I’ve even been able to let go of something that would have added to my bottom line each month but was stressing me out. I’ll pursue that when and if the spirit hits me. I’ve realized that the Lord will provide without me worrying about what I could be getting.

What’s really funny is: the day i was supposed to stop complaining for 24 hours, I ended up writing a complaint to Firestone about my mom’s experience, and it ended up being a huge misunderstanding for which I had to apologize to the person I inadvertently reported (I even sent her a card!) and to her managers for writing the note. And that caused me to stop complaining for more than 24 hours because I felt so bad. So talk about a lesson there!

And my personal mission statement has really helped me when I need a distraction or motivation to throw some negative thought out of my head. It’s kind of amazing that I can give myself a little pep. I’m glad that when I do feel powerful, I have had reasons (like this reset) to write it down so that I can look at my true-to-life words when I’m feeling down and weak.

Finally, I had to write myself a love letter, so I’ll share it with you, even though part of me doesn’t want to. But I keep realizing that I never know who I’m helping when I allow myself to be vulnerable and transparent. So here goes. Happy Sunday!

Subject: I love you.

Dear FutureMe,

Congrats on all the progress you’ve made so far! Now you have even more to be grateful for. It’s time to forge ahead. It’s time to reclaim your confidence and your passion and your “I can do it” attitude. Yes, you’ve gone through the worst part of your life, but just like the other rough patches you’ve been through, you will be better for it when it is all said and done. I know sometimes you think you are less of a woman because of your romantic failures, but please believe and know and OWN the fact that you are MORE than a woman. You are a WARRIOR and an extremely loyal, dedicated, and gifted person. Do you realize that in the worst of times, you conquered your depression, your hurt, and your bad outlook on your own life to do whatever was necessary to give Frederick everything he needed and more?? That’s powerful, young lady. Even when you didn’t want to take care of yourself, you did it anyway so that Frederick could have a strong foundation and a solid connection to his mother. Even when you despised his father, you swallowed all your hurt, anger, and sadness to try to have a cordial relationship with him for the sake of Frederick. That’s not WEAK, honey, that is STRONG.

Now, what you HAVE to do is stop owning what is NOT yours. Yes, you chose to love someone who didn’t give you that love back. But you, my darling, can’t force anyone to do anything. The horrible words that were slung at you while you were pregnant, the unwillingness to cooperate financially and physically as a co-parent, the lies, all of that—it’s not yours, and as you know after a year of trying, there’s no amount of niceness that can make a man be what he’s not. You are not responsible for his character. Got that? You’re not. And unfortunately, it took this situation for you to see his character in its fullness. And that’s ok. Because you do not regret having a beautiful, gifted, friendly, super happy child. And he’s happy! Why? Because he has you as a mother. You, who has been able to give him your all, even when you didn’t feel like the person you thought you were. You, who are still able to pour into him love and concern for his development. You, who will do any and everything it takes to see him grow into a self-sufficient, responsible young (charming–you know it!) man. YOU are the bomb.com, ma chere, even when you feel like crumbs. And that’s amazing.

So guess what. Because I love you (did you realize by now that this is a love letter??), I want to tell you this. LET IT GO. Let go of all the self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-ridicule. It’s time to move forward and follow the yellow brick road. The last road you were on was school bus yellow–you had to travel that road to get to your destiny. None of it was a mistake, dear heart. All of it happened for you to morph into an even better version of yourself. You thought you were something before?? Well guess what, now you’ve added to your testimony. You thought you were helping people before? Look how many more people you will be able to help when you show them how you bounce back and excel even after adversity. All the love and care you give to Frederick, give it to you too. I swear you deserve it. You are not less than–you are more than. You can still have everything you have always dreamed of. You can still make magic. You probably have even more magic now. You are not the sum of the bad times. You are the sum of the accomplishments you have already achieved and will continue to achieve, the family that has had your back throughout your journey, the friends who have hung in there with you, the triumphs you have experienced on the other side of every hump.

You move mountains. Keep fighting through whatever mountains will come your way. With God, anything is possible. And you know that because you have seen it over and over again in your life. Never believe that anything you have done trumps what God put in your heart. You have always been a dreamer of big dreams who wakes up and puts feet to every one of them. You can do this. You deserve this. You were made for this.

Never let anyone make you feel like you’re not worthy of honoring yourself. You have a right to your feelings. You have a right to put yourself first. You do not have to play nice with everyone no matter what. Capisce? Do what makes YOU feel good about yourself and your future and your child’s future. If it stresses you out, let it go. If it keeps you up at night, let it go. If you’re crying and it’s not worth one tear, let it go. And give all that crap to God, and don’t wonder if He’s gonna do you justice. You already know He is, so stop worrying about things you can’t control!

I hope this letter finds you in a brand new, loving, positive, promising place in your life, where you wake up with happy thoughts and new ideas and a fresh outlook on the day ahead of you. Leave the past in the past, and know in your heart that your future is #winning. And live today like the star you are.

I love you for all you are today, all you have been throughout your life, and the wonderfulness you will be in your future.

Love,
Your Past Self on July 3, 2013

31 Days of Thanksgiving (Part 1 of 3)

31 Days of Thanksgiving (Part 1 of 3)

On November 1, I decided to join a Facebook Thanksgiving challenge, where I would post daily what I’m thankful for. Yes, I know November has only 30 days–it is my birth month, yanno :), but I chose 31 days because I turned 31 years old this year. I’ll post these in three installments since 31 is a bit much for one post. So here’s the first part of a rundown of the many many things I’m grateful for.

  1. I’m thankful for my healthy, juicy, alert son!
  2. I’m thankful for my love for math and research (and my capacity to understand it) and a job that leverages that love and uses it to help communities across the country.
  3. I’m thankful to be a homeowner. Even though the market slammed me, it’s nice to have my special place. And I’m thankful to have newfound motivation (FDT) to get it organized and redecorated!
  4. I’m thankful for a mom (Mary Robinson) who loves and supports me through it all. And I’m thankful to be closer to her than ever before as I understand more and more each day what it is to be a mom. I thank her for giving me a stellar example to follow.
  5. I’m thankful for my culinary skills. Did some cooking this weekend and I have to pat myself on the back. And I have to give shouts out to my parents, my granddaddy, and my Aunt Sweet for teaching me how to fill my belly with yumminess.
  6. I’m thankful that to vote, all I had to do was make sure my information was accurate, then get in my car and drive to my precinct and push a few buttons–NOT pay a poll tax, take a literacy test, walk for miles, get spit on, or put myself or my family in harm’s way. Exercise your right!
  7. I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had as an AKA. Over the last 13 years, I have (and continue to) learned lessons (a slew of them), made lifelong friends, amped up my community service efforts, road tripped, partied, had fun, and developed my leadership skills by putting them to the test. No one could believe I let anyone tell me what to do for a whole semester, but it was so worth it. 🙂
  8. I’m thankful to have too many clothes vs. not enough. I’m in the process of making more room for my growing baby, and I’m just grateful to have had more than I need and to have looked good in it. 🙂
  9. I’m thankful for a world full of adventures and culture. Although I’ve had to significantly decrease my mileage, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in several states across the country as well as six countries (seven if you count driving through Luxembourg). And I live vicariously through my friends. I collect postcards and magnets, and my fridge is covered with postcards from other countries from my friends’ travels too. (The latest from this year come from Vee‘s trip to Australia, Mallory‘s trip to Ghana, and Paula‘s trip to Jerusalem.) How blessed we are to see what the world has to offer and to have a safe place to come back to!
  10. I’m thankful for my family. I couldn’t ask for a better support system. They are crazy when I can’t be, positive and encouraging when I’m sad, and always funny. And they take care of me any chance they get. ♥ ♥ ♥
  11. I thank GOD for the truth. What’s done in the dark will always come to the light, and I thank Him for personal growth and the development of my patience and trust in God’s plans.

It’s been a long road for me over the last year, and figuring out how to focus on positive things instead of my trials has been key. I still have my moments when I just don’t understand various aspects of my life, but at the end of the day, I have to hold on to (and remind myself of) my belief that everything happens for a reason and that God’s plan is perfect.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Corinthians 4:17

Back to My New Reality

Back to My New Reality

Wednesday, I wrote this long post updating you readers to my progress on my goals. Well, I lost it thanks to the stupid WordPress new post page that doesn’t autosave, so I learned a lesson–never write a post there. Go through my dashboard no matter what, where I can see “Draft saved at 2:07:38 pm.” without even moving my eyes.

The nonbeliever of coincidences, though, I decided that something about that post wasn’t supposed to be seen by the masses. I don’t know what. But no worries because today, I’m starting with a fresh slate, and I’m not going to try to rewrite that long juicy post I wrote Wednesday. 🙂 That being said, here goes!

Frederick on his first day of daycare. His smiles make my heart flutter!

My little family and I made it through our first week of a “new reality.” Frederick started daycare Monday, and I started work Wednesday. And Smokie is just dealing with whatever comes his way. I must say, although I felt a slight tinge of guilt every time I dropped him off and at least once through the day, and although I’ve never been a huge fan of routine, this new reality seems like it will do wonders for all three of us. Except for last night, Frederick sleeps soundly through the night except the two times he needs to eat. And actually twice this week, he only got up once to eat. So even though I could stand an eensy weensy bit more sleep, I definitely can’t complain because I got more sleep this past week than ever before (at night). I also had a good week of pumping milk–now I just have to make sure I don’t make the common mistake of not staying in routine this weekend and messing with my supply! Also, Im getting the hang of being productive in my home. Gasp! I’m not quite at doing a load of laundry every day, but I don’t have clothes spilling out of hampers like before when I was washing clothes when I was getting low on underwear, lol. It’ll be even better when I get over my dislike of folding clothes. 🙂 I have my morning and night routines almost downpat. After I pick up Frederick in the evenings, I cook or heat up leftovers, clean the kitchen (which includes first washing all of Frederick’s bottles of the day and then whatever dishes I used when I cooked and ate), get my lunch ready for the next day, get Frederick’s bottles ready for the next day, give him a bath, take my own bath (which includes my newest face and hair routines), iron our clothes (gasp!! I’m sure my dad would hesitate to believe this one!), feed him, and lay him down. Now, the order in which I do all of that depends on my baby and his sleepiness and/or fretfulness, but so far routine has been my friend. [Note: I also read to him if he’s awake long enough, and I always sing to him in the tub and whenever elsethe mood hits me!]

Mommy’s first day back at work
It’s finally Friday! Home after a full week. We made it!

I have learned so much about myself and my capacity to cope and move forward since I had my baby (and especially since my mom left us in Atlanta to get back to her reality). My baby really is an amazing miracle from above, and he has made all the difference in my life. I can’t focus too long on what I don’t like or have when I can just look at him and know that I’m blessed to have him. And although I know being a mom isn’t easy, I also know that God will provide for my son. After a long, tough pregnancy, I’m ready for this new journey. I look forward to seeing Frederick come into his personality even more, to seeing him and helping him learn, to waking up to his smiles (and mean mugs), to kissing him before he goes to sleep at night, to exposing him to the great things this world has to offer. I don’t look forward to not being able to shield him from all of life’s hurts and pains, but I do look forward in joining my mom in more of the experiences of motherhood.

And because music is one of my emotional outlets, here are some tunes for ya.

As soon as I stop worrying
Worrying how the story ends
I let go and I let God
Let God have His way
That’s when things start happening
I’ll stop looking at back then
I let go and I’ll let God have His way

One week down, a lifetime to go! Happy Friday!

Counting down

Counting down

19 days and counting. I’m full term (and sorry, I haven’t taken any pics of the 37 week belly yet!), which means if this little guy comes early, he should be a-ok developmentally.

This was a pretty rough week, but I’m feeling better and more positive. I get really overwhelmed and really down in the dumps at times, but as usual, prayer and long conversations with my mom and text messages from my pastor go a long way. Of course, it doesn’t help that people keep telling me they want this baby to come early–not like a few days, but weeks. Maybe women who have solid, nearby support systems like early babies, I don’t know, but him coming close to his due date is what I need but no one seems to really want to get that. And it’s not that I think I can control when he comes–I know I can’t, but I don’t like when people just disregard what I’ve said I need. Why not understand that I must need the time if I’m saying I’m ok with spending 3 more weeks with my physical ailments just so I can get as much stuff as I can done. Hopefully, my baby is feeling me and not all the people who mean well but need to understand that their excitement and rush are not well-received. Besides, I don’t know how I’d do with being a mama of a Taurus. But Gemini? Exciting times ahead, lol.

I see progress in my house, but Lordy, there’s a long way to go. Transitioning from an almost carefree, always-on-the-move, safe enough for me and Smokie lifestyle to a baby-centric, organized, secure one is definitely going to be a long-term process, but there are some things that I really need to happen before I bring Butterbean home from the hospital. And even more than that, my last day at work is not until May 29, so I really would like the ability to let my brain chill (or at least try!) just for a couple days before I go through the biggest physical challenge/emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever had. Is that too much to ask? My doctor and I talked this morning during my appointment just about what I want, and it almost threw me off because that’s almost never a topic of discussion. What I want. Not what I think is the easiest route or what will make other people feel comfortable or what I can do to bridge gaps or to make things run smoothly. Just simply what does Ranada want. And she told me that it is okay to be selfish in these last weeks and through my labor and delivery because this process of having a baby is about me and what I need to get through it. It’ll be stressful enough without me letting other people encroach on what I need right now. And what I need is support, period. I need to feel like I’m not doing this alone. I want to know that I can count on people without begging them for help. And if you can’t give any of that, just leave me alone till July (or just leave me alone, period, if that’s an option). It’s funny because I keep getting disappointed because despite my mom’s constant warnings not to have expectations, of course I have them (and I’m trying my best to stop!) and they’re not met. My ma says my problem is that I expect from people what I would do in a situation, and I can’t do that because they’re not me–they’re them. And that sucks. I want to scream at people, Hey, I’m pregnant every day. Not just Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon. I’m emotionally burdened almost everyday. The stuff I need done are ongoing projects. I don’t know why I should keep asking people to help me. So I don’t unless it is a single specific task because I understand that I’m just not a priority, and that’s just is what it is because people have their own lives and things to deal with. But because I can’t make myself keep asking people over and over if they’re going to help me, especially in this final stretch, I end up frustrated and overwhelmed as usual because I feel alone, and my parents aren’t here yet. And it makes me resent my “persona” that I’m a strong person who never lets anything get me down and who seems to be able to handle and do anything. Ok, compliment, I guess, but I’m human. But whatever I guess. It is what it is.

Earlier this week, my cousin Kesha reached out as she’s been great about doing over the last 8 months because she’s starting to get worried about me being at home alone. So last night, she and her brother and friend came over to help with my cable connections, but of course because I know nothing about TVs, one wasn’t able to be hooked up because I have to go back to the store and get equipment that I didn’t know I needed when I went to the store by myself. I think that’s funny though. The look on all their faces when I said I’ve never had TVs upstairs was hilarious. They were all like well what do you do?????? I really am not all that keen on having this one in my room (and I’m fighting not feeling like it’s a sign that it’s still not hooked up) because I just really want it for the weeks after I have him that I’m pretty sure I won’t feel like going up and down my staircase.

Anywho, (that was a tangent, huh?) I am really looking forward to my daddy coming because he’s an organization specialist, and that’s my biggest house (and car) need. Having stuff where it has a place so I won’t be tripping over stuff or throwing stuff in random spots because I didn’t have room where it needed to go. And frankly, making my house look like a home and not a storage bin, which is kinda what it’s been since I bought it since I haven’t spend major quality time there until now. My house has unfortunately been like a hotel to me. Before I had a baby in my belly, I went there to check on Smokie, feed and play with him, and to sleep at night. Besides that, I didn’t spend any real time there so I never really made it a home. And so I’ve had to take 4 almost 5 years of accumulated random stuff and put it somewhere, whether in the trash or in a box or in a designated space. And with my energy levels and physical restraints, it just hasn’t been an easy task. But I truly can see progress, so that’s a blessing! And like I said, my dad is coming so hopefully, when he leaves, I’ll really be able to breathe and feel like I’m not bringing my baby into a hazard zone.

I’m also excited that he’s coming just because he’s my daddy and always makes me feel important to him. I don’t have to wonder if he’s going to say screw it and leave if he doesn’t agree with me about something or if I ask for one more thing. And I don’t have to wonder what’s too much to ask because he’s my dad, and he’s always treated me like I matter. And I like his cooking, so I’m hoping I can get a couple meals out of him on top of the organizing, lol. Last week, I was craving some oatmeal, toast, and bacon–Rickey style. I don’t know why his tastes so much different than mine, but it does!

I’m also excited about him coming (and don’t tell him this part) because it makes the time between now and my mom getting here seem a little shorter. He’s filling some of that space. And if I go into labor while he’s here, I will be happy I have one of my parents to be with me in the hospital. <Flashback to him in the hospital with me in 1999. Car accident. Sigh.> Back to my ma, though–she’s really been my main artery to not crashing and burning since October, and I really just feel like I need her here with me. Which makes me feel a little demanding sometimes because I know she’s dealing with so much, but I really need her. She has been who I can call and just say I feel like I’m drowning and she’ll remind me of whatever I need to get me floating again. She has been the one to make me know that although I’m in Atlanta and feel isolated that in the grand scheme, I’m not because she’s thinking and caring about me and how I’m doing. So I can’t imagine going through this without here hopefully holding my hands and not screaming at me for holding my breath instead of breathing, lol.

I can’t believe I have 19 days or less before I am holding my little stinker in my arms. I can’t wait to stare at him and to kiss him and to say hey little dude that’s been playing soccer with my organs, nice to finally see your whole face and not the part you didn’t hide in the ultrasound! I wonder how big he’s going to be. One of my friends had her baby a couple days ago, and her little boy was a whopping 10 lbs 4 oz. WHOA NELLY! And I wonder if he’s going to be testy since I’ve been not so calm and collected while carrying him. (Babysitting nightmare much??? Ooops.) But maybe since he’s been the true anchor keeping me up in a sea of angst and discontent, he’ll come out the yin to my yang, lol. Not yelling all the time since hopefully, he has already witnessed how much mommy likes her quiet time, lol. Ok, I know, wishful thinking. But you never know!

Now, I’m rambling. I’m just happy it’s Friday, and I’m happy that I have been marking things off my to do list and that I can see a dot of light as I’m looking for the end of the tunnel. It’s going to be a long journey once he gets here, but first I need to conquer this one. I can say that at this moment, I’m proud of how strong I can be even though I don’t want to have to be so strong, and I’m proud of myself for coming this far. And I’ll be a proud somebody when I see this little boy in the flesh. Happy Friday!
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