Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Own your story

“Own your story”

I hear it multiple times a day. It’s a common theme these days. Look, I’m all for owning my story, and am owning it. Do I have more work to do? Of course. But that’s not why I’m writing this. I'm writing this because it isn't all rainbows and unicorns. Time doesn't make any of this easier.

Owning your story actually has a catch. You see, sometimes I have to choose which story to own...the one that is ACTUALLY mine, or the one that other people ASSUME is mine. “Own your story so people can relate with you!” I hear that all of the time, and usually think, "Ok! I can do that! People will relate and I will be a helper!" But the other day I heard "Own your story" and for the first time it made me angry. I'm not normally super negative about my story, but for some reason it triggered me. I wanted to yell "I AM, AND IT SUCKS! PLEASE STOP ASKING ME TO OWN IT! WHEN DO I GET TO STOP?" The answer is never. Ouch.

Sometimes, it's not as simple as just owning your story. In all actuality I have to weigh the lesser of two evils. If I tell my real story, there is automatic awkwardness, stammering, weird looks on faces and sometimes over-helping. Then comes the pity train, which is just awful. Anddd of course the V word - Vulnerability (my favorite and least favorite word all at the same time).  If I let people think what they want, there is judgement. Often, that feels easier to swallow because I know what they think isn’t true and I can just walk away. How do I chose to own my story, yet protect my own sanity? There are far more consequences to owning the story than not. 

With either story comes assumptions, and to be honest, I get really tired of it. I’ve honestly thought about just wearing my wedding ring again so there aren’t questions. “Where is your husband?” could simply be answered with “Away on business.” I'm just tired, people. Tired sometimes of the grossly unfair BS that life sometimes gives us all in the name of "owning your story", or some other reason people give for why bad things happen. I envy the people who just get to do normal things. I know they have BS stuff too. Just let me think other people are normal for a brief moment. I know it's not true. 

I guess my point is that owning your story sometimes just... sucks. I know God asks us to. And I do. But it still... sucks. Even five years later. It's a broken record of owning it and it being awful at the same time. Fix it Jesus. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Clarity on the idea of "letting go"

I believe that our society is often confused by the idea of letting go. Letting go does not mean settling, nor does it mean giving up. It means letting go of what your life was, what you thought it might be and all of the things that were harmful to you in that portion of life. However, it does not mean giving up your dreams, or discontinuing work towards what you want your life to be.

This is the problem with the philosophy of just "being" and letting life throw you what it will. Life will present what is good for you, but you have to work for it, so that you are ready when it comes. This is the part that many people miss, or where they jump ship. You see, working for it means doing some painful inner work so that you can "let go" of all of the junk that is weighing you down, and that is a far cry from settling. Often, it means doing physical work so that you can acquire experience and skills needed for the next level. More often than not, it requires spiritual, mental, emotional and physical work, and is the most difficult, yet most rewarding work of your life. Do you have the strength to dig deep and challenge all that you are in order to move to the next level?

Let go, but refuse to settle.

I believe that we are placed where we need to be, and that there are lessons that we must learn while there. Lessons are continually presented to us until we learn them, and will follow you no matter where you go, and dammit, learning them for the last time takes some grit. The beautiful thing is, once these lessons are learned, you suddenly see that they are stepping stone to the next level.

In the clearing stands a boxer, 
and a fighter by her trade 
and she carries the reminders of every glove that laid her down or cut her 
'til she cried out in her anger and her shame, 
I am leaving, I am leaving the anger and shame
and you better believe that the 

Stepping up with much love and clarity,


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Way Back

The way back is never what you think it will be
It isn't magical and is not automatic
It is worked for, it is bled for, it is exhausting
It is a boxing ring inside of your head, but the opponents are both you
Sometimes, it is one leap forward and then two leaps back

The fighter inside won't let you quit, but there are days that you want to
There are days that you don't want to keep moving forward, or be an adult at all
But, you do

It is not being sorry for who you have become
It is being proud that you made it through hell, for you know that it is fire that cleanses and makes one malleable
It is being shaped into someone better than you were before

It is knowing that the way back is not about a destination
It's about finding your path
It's taking leaps forward and backward while following the signs
It's recognizing when it's right and when it's not

It's about doing the very best you can with what you have
It is never going back to the past
It isn't about the way back at all
It's about living right now

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Sometimes, there are small pockets of the past that we think have been put away for good. Having artfully dismissed their existence, we have learned to keep trudging forward. One day, we realize that those pockets of past have been present all along. Even though it had been filed away, it was never completely closed, resulting in bits and pieces floating around in the brains atmosphere. The pieces are so tiny that we don't notice at first. They are easily brushed aside by the swat of a hand, or swipe of a finger. Except, one day we look at our hand, and find that there is something on it that we haven't seen in a very long time. It is almost unfamiliar - until it all comes rushing back. There is familiarity. A sense of responsibility that calls us to take all of the things out of the pockets and examine them, piece by piece. As the pieces are being examined, a new sense of understanding begins to form, and we recognize that these pockets are who we are. The pieces begin to shift, changing shape, colors and sizes, coming together not into one piece, but into many separate, but yet strangely whole pieces. We examine them individually and see facets of each pocket we had once filed away, and we deal with them differently this time. We recognize them not only for their beauty, but for their purpose in moving us forward. Having realized that they only cluttered our minds before, we decide to leave them out this time, and to see what happens next.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wait for it

It has been quite a while since my last post. It's high time that I give you an update. Since my last post, I started working at an amazing school as a music teacher.  I do not believe in coincidences, and this job is no such coincidence. I'm not sure anyone understands the connections here, as I have not expressed much except to a select few. So here goes.

There was a time, way back when I was working on my undergraduate degree, that myself and another student missed a deadline for taking the music content test, thereby delaying our student teaching for a semester. Therefore, having no classes left to take, I did nothing but work and hang with my kiddos for a semester. Again, not a coincidence for a few reasons. My son Noah was born in the thick of my undergraduate work and some tumultuous times in my life, therefore, I felt like I never had the chance to truly bond with him. This semester gave us the time together that he and I so desperately craved. My student teaching assignments were also changed. The high school that I was supposed to go to for half of the semester could not take me any longer, and I was placed elsewhere.

The half of the semester that I was at the new high school was one of the most amazing times in my life. I met and was able to work with the choral director there, who became a mentor and friend. I also was able to work with the assistant principal on the musical, as he was the director.

Fast forward to me getting my first job. The school was in the town was where I was supposed to student teach that first half of the semester, and to make matters even creepier, was the name of the school that I had student taught the second half of the semester (which I hated and cried at everyday). I quit that job after one year, as that was the year that Rob passed away and I received an offer for a full ride to graduate school.

The next two years were filled with graduate school. I spent a lot of time with schoolwork of course, but also working through grief, and finding myself again. I had thoughts of quitting the teaching profession all together, and almost purchased a business. After a wrestle with a gut feeling, which I know to listen to, but wanted to listen to my head, I declined the offer to purchase. A few days later I randomly applied for a teaching job. It was beautifully easy to apply as they just wanted my resume and a cover letter, and not the nonsense form that you have to fill out for applications -  which has all of the information your resume already has on it. Honestly, that was probably the only reason I applied. I was done filling out applications at the time and had thrown my hands in the air. Teaching had negative connotations to me as my first year was one of the worst years of my life- first year of teaching, and my husband died. Recipe for running away from anything - let alone a profession- at lightening speed.

Wouldn't you know that I received a call the very next day asking for an interview. Surprise! Remember that high school you weren't supposed to be at in the first place and the people you met there? The assistant principal of that high school is now the principal at the one at which you are interviewing. Another surprise! Your name had been mentioned the night before in text messages between your mentor and he in the search for a music teacher.... before your application was even submitted.

Needless to say, the interview went well. I am there now, and sometimes I forget that I have been placed there. No coincidence. I am still, and will probably always struggle in some way, but each day is a little more normal, and I am less afraid of my own genius. This is my biggest struggle right now - teacher fails, when I know better and could have prevented it. It is also, reminding myself that this is not the year of teaching that was so traumatic for my family, but a new, and better place and that my profession has nothing to do with what happened in my personal life. It may seem silly to anyone else, but the brain makes connections like this after trauma, and whether or not they are unfounded does not matter.

As a side note, I read an article about finding happiness after loss the other day. I haven't been able to figure out why happiness still seems to avert me sometimes, and I realized that in the times when I am unhappy, it is because I am subconsciously trying to go back to my old life, a feat which just cannot occur. So what things change, and what things stay the same? Where is the balance? I'm working on it, and I'll let you know when I figure out.

The real question is, if I could go back, would I really want to? That's a discussion for another day.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wham Bam

Many of you know that I just returned from visiting my cousin in Hawaii. It was an amazing time, and was certainly a once in a lifetime experience. My time in Hawaii was filled with all of the things that we wanted to do while we were there, but was also a time for me to be alone (I went without the kids) and reflect. These last three years have been a whirlwind, and it is currently that time in my life that involves a lot of things changing very soon. So, some inner calm is certainly desirable. I felt the whole time that I was going to learn something while I was there. I am like that, I look for signs and meaning in everything, everywhere I go. I usually find it. It's funny because I half expected something to be "wham bam" in my face. But it didn't happen that way.

There was a day when we went on a pontoon out to the sand bar. It was a going away party for my cousin's husband, who ironically couldn't be there. The captain of the pontoon brought a paddleboard with him which turned out to be the hit of the day with the kids. I decided to try my hand at it as well. I was told that it was difficult to paddleboard, due to keeping balance on a board on the water and paddling at the same time. Naturally, my determined self stood up on the board, got the paddle and began paddling. I felt like I was doing very well, and was comfortable on the board. All of a sudden I realized I could no longer hear the voices of anyone in our group... really no sound at all, except that of the ocean. I turned myself around, and was shocked at how far out I had paddled without even realizing it. I had a moment of panic as I saw how small the pontoon was on the horizon. I was on a small board in the middle of the ocean, with a paddle and no lifejacket. Thankfully, I was able to focus and calm myself and began paddling toward the pontoon/sand bar. This time, the water that so easily brought me out, was not so easy to paddle against. There were times when I felt I wasn't moving at all, and times when the water was shifting me another way. I paddled for quite sometime without getting very far. It was then that I heard an inner voice that said, "If you can't make it back on your own two feet, get down on your knees." I paddled standing up a few more times, because I am stubborn like that. Then I grinned, and lowered to my knees, (thank the powers that be for good balance) and situated myself. I began paddling. Let me tell you, it was so much easier and faster that way. It may seem silly to some, but I believe that this was my lesson while I was in paradise.

Sometimes, we get out too far and can't find our way back on our own two feet. It is then that getting on our knees (aka praying) that bring us back easier and faster. Lesson learned. I'd still like a wham bam in my face sign with bright shiny flashing lights, but I've come to realize that it doesn't typically happen that way. Signs and meanings are subtle. You have to learn to listen, but listening is only the first step - it's the action that gets you there safely.

See that person way in the distance. That's me. And I hadn't turned around yet.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wikky wikky

Hi ya'll.Today is a special day. This would have been my late husbands 40th birthday. Oh the party I was planning. He would have hated this birthday, but would have loved every second of the party with all of his greatest friends and family. Wave hello to him today and sing him a raucous happy birthday if you would.

Today, I bring to you many things that have crossed my mind over the past few years, and especially over the last few months. For those of you that are not aware, I just completed graduate school. I graduated with two masters degrees and a hell of a GPA. I am very proud of all that I worked so hard for. In that time, I was able to start my healing process, because although graduate work is certainly difficult, school is my comfort zone -  it is what I do and what I am good at. So going back to school served many purposes, to further my career and be able to provide more for my family as I am now the sole bread-winner, to do what I love in order to be able to get over many personal hurdles, and to provide a sense of stability after our world was turned upside down.

Here is where it gets tricky. There are so many well-meaning people that think they know what I am thinking, what I am feeling, or what I deal with on a daily basis. Sadly, not many people know who I really am. I get a lot of head tilts with the sad. "How are you's". I know that some people think that I went to school to run and hide from what was going on in my life, and that now is the hard time because I have to be a "real" adult now. And that every decision that I make has everything to do with my broken heart, and that I somehow cannot be trusted to make a good decision because of what happened to me. Let's rewind for a minute. Errrrrrrtt. (that's the rewinding sound).

1. I am a widow. But that does not define who I am. That is something that happened to me, but I am still me, and I am the same me that I have always been.
2. I have always been driven. I have always been a high achiever when I really wanted something. This has nothing to do with the death of my husband. It has everything to do with how my creator made me.
3. It is disrespectful to think that I would choose to do anything foolish because I am "distraught" in your opinion. Of course I miss Rob, and it has been horrible to have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. But I did it and will keep doing it.
4. Please give credit where it is due, not by praising me for a job well done, but by trusting in my ability to make a "grown up" decision. I'm 32 and I have been living the "grown up" life for quite some time now, as well as going to school and kicking its tail.
4. Just because you wouldn't or can't do something does not mean that I won't or can't. My life decisions are mine. If I want input I will ask. And even if I ask and you give it, it does not mean I will do what you want me to do. We all know that.
5. My life isn't divided in a BC and AD timeline. Stop acting like it is. It is not the same of course, but is yours the same as it was yesterday? Please stop trying to define who I am personally by circumstances in my life beyond my control.
6. I am not a child. I have children. I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a friend, I am many many other things. But I am NOT a child. Please do not treat me like one. Take off the white gloves.

I am definitely not saying that I want to forget what happened in my life. I never ever will, nor would I ever want to. What I am asking is for people to stop trying to put widows or others that have experienced loss in a bubble of "the poor widow that must weep all day long and can't fend for herself". I KNOW that I am not the only one that has ever felt this way after a loss. I however may be the only one with enough balls to voice it. If you take nothing else from this, please remember this - People are still people no matter what life hands them, and deserve to be treated as people, and respected as such. 

Life is beautiful, even after loss. It is. It is different. But different isn't always bad. At some point, everyone will have to deal with loss on some level. Just as the journey through loss progresses, so should the treatment of that loss. 

I love you all and am so glad to share my thoughts with you. I truly understand that people care, and want to help. I do. Trust me on that. I am as intuitive as it gets. I suppose I just want to tell you how it is on the other side, how it feels on my end sometimes, and that feeling boxed in or smothered is not a pleasant feeling. Being cognizant of how you approach people and what you say to them can make all the difference. Sometimes, a little hug and "I believe in you" goes a very, very long way.

Thank you for digging down to the nitty gritty of all that is so often overlooked in our society. If you could not already tell, my heart is for changing social injustices, and I believe the treatment and care of those who have lost loved ones is one such injustice.

Much love. What a long, strange trip it's been.

Danelle aka Ruby