Almost eight years ago I was finishing up my PhD while closing a law office and teaching full time as a criminal justice professor; all while trying to keep a marriage intact and raise four healthy children. Needless to say, I failed miserably. My marriage had fallen apart (he had a very stressful job as well) and I was not happy with my life. If you ask me what my priorities are I would say health, kids and marriage, finances etc… I notoriously neglect myself and my health but I am always working on it, which I guess is a start. The one area in my life that i refuse to fail, is that of my kids and helping them to achieve their best life possible. I struggle daily to make sure I can meet the challenges of parenting and have made some very difficult choices always keeping them in mind. After quitting my PhD program and law practice to become a high school teacher I have a bit more time to give but the trade off was the loss a high salary. Also after remarrying and have two beautiful new additions my health has suffered a very difficult pregnancy, caesarian and gall bladder removal. The last several years has been a roller coaster ride and I am grateful they are over. At times I wish I was on a carousel, the ups and downs are much calmer and the direction is predictable, but the again who wants to spin in circles with no true destination?
I had tried to save my marriage of 16 years. I moved across the country and we attempted to start over. I knew as soon as I moved in to my new residence, there really was no hope for the marriage. My ex did not believe in counseling and we just could not save this on our own. I had no idea where to even begin. We were just too far gone. Here I was in another state, with no family and going through a divorce with four kids. That story is for another day and I definitely need to be emotionally ready to share it, which to this day I am not. Maybe someday, who knows?
In any case, I was extremely lucky because I was able to use this horrendous (and that probably is not a strong enough word) situation to create a life which I could be proud of and that would help me meet my priorities. The key was to simplify enough to live a meaningful life but to not simplify so much that it was uncomfortable and challenging. Don’t get me wrong, when I decided to become a high school teacher I knew that I would be gone still (just not night and day), I also knew that money would be a huge challenge but I knew that I was focusing on what I believed needed to come first in my life. I was left pretty financially devastated after the divorce so not working was not an option. The sale of our house helped me get back on my feet but my credit was destroyed in the process.
Its funny, I hear stories that women in their thirties have a hard time finding a man. I found the man of my dreams instantly. We are a typical couple, we have very good days and very bad days but I know that I made the right decisions when I decided to get married again. I fell in love with a man I knew for years whom my kids adored. I know this is lucky and I count my blessings everyday. Sometimes I am in shock how opposite he is of my ex. My ex had some amazing qualities, this is not a criticism of him. He is extremely motivated and works unbelievably hard. Where my husband R works hard, his focus is different. He is extremely playful and doesn’t take life too seriously. He is definitely my best friend. Today is our anniversary, which is probably why I am opening up a little about this whole process. Where my ex-husband was a workaholic and money driven (and there is nothing wrong with hard work so please don’t take that as a criticism, my ex is a great provider) R is the opposite. He believes in quality time and not sweating the small stuff. He reminds me everyday that life is short and laughter is truly is the best medicine. He has taught me to work towards living the best life possible and what is important. Keeping up with the Jones’ family is not the way to live a good life, spending time with those you love is at least aligned with my own personal beliefs.
In the last few years I have learned that stressing over everything is one of the worst things a person can do. For me, Sundays is a day of reflection where I can find ways to simplify my life and make things better for those I love, including myself. It is a day to connect and stop worrying! My grandmother, Terry told me to give myself a time frame (10 minutes ) to worry each day and to let it go afterwards. I have been working on that but it is definitely not easy. I admit I can be a bit fixated at times. When I can let go, I have better days and I hope I can learn to let go more and more.
I have remarried and have two young kids now. I definitely did not simplify in the kids department but I truly believe I have found ways to live my dreams so I am not neglected while giving my kids the best me possible. I look at the people I love and realize many people in my family knew this lesson all along. For example a bunch of my family just went camping in the Adirondacks. This is not an expensive family vacation. It is a place to connect,smile, laugh and just be yourself with those you love. I want more of this in my life because in the end, that is what I will leave behind; smiling, laughing and showing people that they matter through the gift of me and my time and attention.
As I finish this blog, I am considering what today will bring-a very happy anniversary with the man I love, swimming with kids I adore, playing a video game with my teenage sons as a way to connect and de-cluttering different areas of my home. We just finished cleaning out the closet (the amount of coats I have collected over the years is ridiculous). Sunday for me may be simple but it is amazing and full of ways to keep my priorities in tip top condition. Now I just need to get to the gym and start on that weight loss, lol-I really shouldn’t laugh. Here is a quote I came across today, my interpretations vary depending on how I look at it, but it is what needed to be read today.
Yours in this amusement park we call life. Jennifer