Choose to Thrive, Not just Survive

At some point today after removing my PJ uniform, taking a shower for the first time in two or three days, and putting on real clothes, and by real clothes I mean respectable workout pants and a Calvin Klein long sleeve, I styled my naturally wavy hair that I recently dyed to match my natural hair color, dabbed on a bit of mascara,  and applied a small bit of concealer. Not because I feel I need to wear make up, because I don’t most days. Today I felt peace and ease with myself and it was just enough to feel good and embrace my authentic natural self.

I walked outside to check on the boys, felt the crisp air and sunshine and realized for the first time in maybe ever I am striding towards thriving, not just surviving.

I have chosen to live, really live, enjoy the present, and take actual steps towards my big dreams. 

To value and be thankful for this moment and the life I have built. In spite of the days that can be hard with the kids, remote learning consuming our weekdays, outside factors of our country’s unrest and a global pandemic both heavy on my heart, the grief bombs of losing my mom and my late husband Jake ambushing my mind unexpectedly, and then just the day to day of being a mom and running a household while navigating the roller coaster of social isolation from Covid 19.

Today I started to reflect on my journey. The almost 3 years leading up to this moment after my life fell apart. How did I get here? Because God I never thought I would and I kicked and screamed on the way like a toddler in a grocery store.

Truth is, I’m not sure I’ve ever truly thrived in my life, just survived. Before the loss of Jake, I was content with the hustle. The hustle of trying to please everyone. Trying to be the model teacher, the supportive police wife, the just right friend without giving too much of my heart away, the perfect daughter, and create an image of having it all together while I was drowning inside with anxiety, self loathing, and a belief that I wasn’t ever going to be enough of all these ideals I had created in my head.

I never offered myself grace. I never truly believed I was enough. And I needed accomplishments and others to make me feel worth anything.

When Jake was killed, I crumbled. He was my rock. He believed in me wholeheartedly. He loved me exactly how I was and he was the only one who I allowed to ever see me completely. Vulnerable and authentic. And in my mind, I perceived that as he loved in spite of my flaws. See I even interpreted that as negative. That I was imperfect and flawed and he would be the only one who would ever accept me for who I was. So when he was shot dead, so was my self worth, my entire foundation.

I continued to live life from a survival perspective. Most the time minute by minute. And I can honestly tell you this was ugly most of the time. I was surviving now without my self worth that I placed in Jake. It didn’t exist within me and never had.

My therapist and I worked on processing my grief. And then the heavy work began. My work. Diving into what I believed about myself. And over time I realized that I looked for my worth in others. I had placed it my worth within Jake for 16 years and after his death, I tried to find it in others. My family, friends, other widows, and the community. My inherent need to please others fueled my anxiety because I felt I always fell short. I tried to fit into social norms and I never did. I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

As I tried to learn to love myself, I met an amazing man that loved me for me. And I tried to push the responsibility of building my self worth onto him. Which needless to say caused friction. Because self worth is just that. It must come from your self. Joe pushes me to be me. And sometimes he pushes hard and lets be honest, I push hard back. Because sometimes I push back because I just don’t like to be pushed, no other reason required. Because let’s face it. Self work is hard. It’s so much easier to try and find an external fix instead of looking into your soul and finding it within.

Through the combination of my hard work and his tough love, I have learned that I am lovable, valuable, and enough. Not because he is a rare gem like I believed Jake to be of possessing the talent of loving an unlovable person, but because I have found that strength, value, and worth within.

Two great men have inspired me to uncover this woman and to love her they way they did and do. I have inspired myself too. I have put in the hard work, dug deep, and took steps each day to survive. I have learned to embrace my own quirks, weaknesses, strengths, successes, failures, and be who I am.

To follow my dreams, courageously move through the fear of failure, and live in this moment. And that comes from within me. I am worthy, I am lovable, I deserve grace, and I am enough.

I am so grateful for this change of heart to thrive, not only survive. Even though there will be ups and downs, I will set my sights on thriving from now on.