About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Friday, April 30, 2010

Banish the word 'should'!

The dreaded word 'should' pops up in conversations more often than I like.  I hear it in conversations with family and friends.  I hear it in my various support groups of young widows, survivors of suicide and single moms.  I hear it in the loop inside my own mind and tell myself, "I shouldn't be thinking this way!"

Shoulds heard in the Survivors of Suicide support group usually sound like this:   I should have been a better wife or daughter or mother or husband or friend.  I should have paid more attention.  I should have known he/she was suffering.  

In the widows' group, I hear:  I should snap out of this.  I should date again.  I should sell the house.  I shouldn't feel so desperate.  I should be able to jump right back into the work force.  I should be able to handle being both mother and father.  

I hear my friends beating themselves up with sentences like these:  I should lose more weight.  I should buy the $50 face cream I can't really afford for the promise of looking younger.  I should eat more broccoli.  I shouldn't eat that carrot cake.  

The shoulds that really annoy me are said by others who have not walked the same path.  You should be over this by now.  You should have published those manuscripts by now.  You should move to the city. You should find a more secure job. You should stand this way so your arm fat won't show.    

Stop with the should talk!  Eliminate it from your vocabulary.  The word should is insidious by nature because it screams that you are failing, that you are 'less than'.  Less than smart, less than beautiful, less than wise, less than secure, less than healthy, less than normal!  It serves as judge and juror and points an accusing finger right back at you.

To those who struggle with their lives, who grieve, who have suffered trauma, or who walk with those who are, I encourage you to stop with the should talk. When we are desperately searching for answers, we will latch onto the world 'should' as a life saving device when it is really an anchor.

'What should be' is an unattainable mythical concept.  What is real for you is true in this moment alone.  What is true for you is true for you alone. And if someone else is ranting in your ear about all that 'should be', please stop them in mid-sentence and tell them that you don't need to hear it.  It is never rude to protect your own sanity.

There are more empowering sentences to utter like:  You are awesome.  I am so thankful to be your friend.  I am beautiful exactly as I am.  I earned these wrinkles.  I am doing the best I can.  I need more carrot cake.  I love you.  Let's drink more wine.  What arm fat?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Giving myself a pat on the back!

Today I dropped Ben off for his sixth grade class trip to Mt. Evans.  With a smile, I watched him walk away with his dad's old duffel bag tossed over his shoulder, a sleeping bag and pillow.  Yes, he made me promise to stay in the car. This he could do on his own, he said.

This may seem like a minor accomplishment but it's actually huge.  Both Briahna and Ben had severe separation anxiety after Sean's suicide.  I couldn't be out of their sight for more than minutes at a time without them freaking out that something would happen to me.  They slept in my bed for six months and then needed to sleep near me in the family room for another six months before returning to their own rooms.  It was another year before either could be away from me overnight.  Now, four years later, they are 'normal' kids who can walk away from me with only a backward glance and casual wave.  When I think of the journey we three have endured, all I want to say is, "looks like we're gonna make it"!

As parents, we all hope to raise kids who are independent, responsible and moral.  It's easy to get caught up in the fighting between siblings, the teenage (and pre-teen) attitude, the stress of daily parenting and the doubts about our parenting ability, but today I glimpsed the bigger picture.  And that bigger picture told me that I am doing a good job as an only parent.

Yes, I get worn out playing referee, lose my temper when I am too tired, and sometimes daydream about how easy my life was pre-child and pre-suicide.  But then I get these glimpses of the mini-adults I am raising and am blown away.  My daughter will suddenly have a mature conversation with me about her plans for high school or ask me about her dad's illness with a wisdom that knocks me back on my heels.  Then my son will announce that he's going to do his own laundry from now on and will walk off to a five-day class trip with a confidence that makes me proud.

Rarely, we parents congratulate ourselves for handling it all---the kids, the carpools, the work, the house, the car, the social life, the homework, the kids' activities and the emotional b.s. that comes with parenting.  But we need to step back, look at the kids as others see them, and realize that we are doing it right.  We are doing the best we can for our family, on our terms every day.  When we realize that there is no family exactly like ours, therefore no need to compare, we can embrace the uniqueness that makes our quirks extra-special.

Getting tangled up in self-criticism is a waste of time and something most of us do on a regular basis, especially when it comes to parenting.  There are bumps and bruises and tears and arguments; but there are also triumphs and hugs and laughter and love.

So today I am giving myself a pat on the back for doing the best I can with our unique family circumstances and raising two amazing children on my own. In fact, I think I am doing a good job as a parent--no matter what the circumstances would have or could have been.

In a world of stress and criticism, it's important to take time to look at ourselves objectively, allow ourselves to see the big picture and give ourselves permission to celebrate all the good that we do every day.  Good job!  We all deserve a high-five, fist bump or big hug..and let's not forget it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's play time!

Being single in my 40s is so much different than being single in my 20s.  Unlike my 20 something self, I now have responsibilities like children, a mortgage and a career I actually care about.  This translates to a zero tolerance for bullshit when it comes to men or petty female competition.  I am simply too busy having a life to go out and get a love life.

All of that being said, I have come to a realization that I need to play more.  I know quite a few artists and other entrepreneurs.  One thing that they all have in common is a fierce determination to play as hard as they work.  And they do.  I marvel in how these successful busy people make time to simply have a good time.

Instead of jumping up this morning, sitting in front of my computer screen and stressing about my to-do list, I hung out with my dogs. After the kids went to school, I took Bella and Dusty into the backyard and played a quick game of catch.  I wrestled with them a bit and laughed like a kid.  Then they hung out with me while I ate breakfast and enjoyed the silence of the house.  Now they are in their usual spots with one at my feet and the other behind me on her dog bed.  And I feel good about sitting in front of the computer, conquering my to-do list and knowing I took a time out to play this morning.

I used to think taking time to exercise was my 'me time'. And it is, I suppose, but to me that's not playing.  I know it is for some people.  For me, play time equals no agenda except to have fun.  It's not about calories burned; but rather it's about laughing and lightening the load.  When the kids were little I used to play with them all the time---balancing them on my feet and pretending to be an airplane, taking them to the park and pushing them on the swings, reading them books about talking trains and other playful antics were a normal part of the day.  Now it's all so serious:  cyber-bullying talks, sex talks, swim meets, lacrosse tournaments, career days, paying bills, deadlines, carpools, marketing and aging parents.

Playtime needs to be on top of my priority list.  In fact, I think most of us adults could use some serious play time in our lives.  Remember how easy playing used to be in our 20-something days?  We need to lighten our loads, even more now when life seems so much more serious.

It is time to play more.  This doesn't mean I have acquired a tolerance for bullshit when it comes to men or petty female competition---but it does mean that I'm open for playmates as long as they know how to have fun, play fair and show up when they say they'll show up.  After all, I'm a busy 40-something with a career and kids and a life that is worth the chaos.  If you want to play with me, then being a good sport is essential.  Time to play!
                                                        Dusty, my loyal pal.

Friday, April 16, 2010

And the Phoenix Rises

I was listening to a call by Eva Gregory the other day where she talked about changing our vibrations to connect to our higher selves and to act from a place of authenticity.  I am over-simplifying the concept because I want to write about a phrase that really stood out for me.  During the call, she said, "You are not falling apart, you are coming together."  

If you read my post entitled 'Unraveled' that I wrote less than a week ago, you will know why this struck a chord with me.  "You are not falling apart, you are coming together."  Wow.  What a concept.  And it makes complete sense when I think about it.  I have had a lot of trauma in the past 4 years.  But mixed in with the trauma, the confusion and the changes I have experienced has been emotional growth, personal insights and a wisdom I never sought.  The phrase made me think that perhaps my unraveling has been necessary; sort of like a snake shedding its skin, I was shedding my past.

Needing to redefine my life so suddenly after Sean's suicide rocked my very foundation.  Definitions I had had of myself no longer fit.  No longer a wife.  No longer a family of four.  No more "daddy's coming home" for the kids.  No more Sean.  Shaking off those roles and ideas has been hard.  I didn't want to let them go.  There is such finality in releasing a part of myself that I had embraced.  But the beauty that is nature forced me to go through the unraveling until I could unravel no more.

I am grateful for falling apart and watching everything that I once believed to be true crumble into illusion.  I am grateful because I now know my truth.  I now know who I am when the darkness comes.  I now know what it's like to be wrapped in despair and yet see the light.  It has been a painful journey.  Perhaps this is what birth is like and why babies scream once they are free.

I have said it before and will repeat it now:  I don't believe in coincidences.  I needed to hear that call the other day--my birthday of all days--so I could hear the message that I have walked the path that I have needed to walk.  When the road gets bumpy again, I will remember those words and smile because they give me hope.  "You are not falling apart, you are coming together."  Yes.  I believe I am.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Loving What Is

I have a book in my personal library that I reach for when I need a reminder to be present in the moment.  The book is called, Loving What Is by Byron Katie.  In this book, Katie asks 4 important questions about the story running through your mind about present circumstances, people, your capabilities, etc...Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it's true? How do you react, what happens, when you have that thought?  Who would you be without that thought?  
I am guilty of letting my imagination run wild with possible outcomes or scenerios instead of staying grounded in the present moment.  I know that worry is pointless.  I know that I cannot control other people or their actions.  When I ask myself those 4 questions about a particular thought that is causing me stress, the answers usually start out as "hell, ya, it's true" and transition to "well, maybe it's not as bad as I thought".  Despite the knowledge, I occasionally slip into writing fiction in my head about what people must be thinking...or the worst possible outcome of a certain situation.  I'd like to blame my profession for my active imagination, but I see it in other people as well.

My daughter is learning this lesson, too.  Because she is the daughter of a single parent who hasn't yet learned to clone herself and is a part of a very active family, she often misses certain social events with her confirmation class or swim team.  She missed one this weekend because (A) she was sick and (B) her brother had two lacrosse games over an hour's drive away from each other; but she has been told by one of her friends how "bad" she is for not going bowling on Saturday.  A story has been created--pure fiction--about her lack of commitment.  People like making up stories---a.k.a. assumptions---without knowing all of or any of the facts.

Fiction needs to be left to those of us who are professionals.  And we professionals need to keep the imagination focused on work and not our personal lives.  I realized this weekend that I had a complete fictional concept of a woman I have known for years.  In fact, I have kept myself rather aloof around this person.  I learned this weekend that I have been a complete bitch for no reason.  I was wrong.  I had written a story in my mind based on activities that happened many years ago.  Fiction!  I can admit when I was wrong and I was wrong.

So I reached for Byron Katie's book once again to bring me back to center.  And as I looked at my current situation that has brought me to my knees of late, I ask myself:  is it true? can I absolutely know that it's true? Smiling to myself, I realize that I need to channel my imagination for good, write more and worry less.  It is what it is.  And when I stumble--as we all know I will from time to time--at least I have the book close by to remind me to 'love what is'.

Friday, April 9, 2010


The great unraveling of my life has left me bare bones and nervous.  If you've been following my blog, you probably noticed that I didn't post much in March.  That's because I was using my creative energy trying to regain my footing on unstable ground.

Here's the thing:  I thought I had a good handle on being a single parent.  Okay, a reasonably good handle on it.  I was managing the juggling pretty well or at least as best as I could.  Then Ben had his surgery in January that cost us a fortune in out-of-pocket expenses followed by Briahna getting into trouble in February that resulted in us returning to counseling.  All the while, I think I'm keeping it somewhat together---as together as I can get anyway, all things considered.  But I'm not.  That's the truth.  I am not.

This morning I looked Ben in the eye and had to say no to him participating in something he loves.  We just can't do it.  And I feel as if the unraveling itself has stopped and left me with an empty spool.  I cannot help but feel that I let my kids down somewhere along the line...that I have let myself down.

Sean died 4 years ago.  I admit I had been arrogant at the time in thinking I would have my life together and be fabulously fantastic by the time the 5th anniversary of death day rolled around.  Well...that dreaded anniversary date is six weeks away and I am fabulously f*#*!d.

I don't know where the time went, but I do know I wasn't idling away.  I was home schooling my daughter who had severe anxiety attacks for 2 1/2 years.  I was building a foundation for my business.  I was keeping the kids in a routine while they healed from the loss of their dad.  But as this anniversary date approaches, I feel anxiety for how much I had wanted to accomplish by now.  I wonder if it's time to give up the house.  I cringe at my bank balance.  I cling to faith that we'll make it even as doubt whispers that there is no way we can rebound from this.

I hate this feeling of letting the kids down along the way.  They have already had so much disappointment in their young lives and I don't want to add to it.  Hell, the same goes for me.  Maybe this time of year--six weeks before the anniversary of Sean's suicide--will always be a measuring stick of sorts for me.  They have been so far.  Of course my birthday falls into this same six week pattern so it may be a combination.  Either way, I look at where I wanted to be by this 5 year mark and feel angry that I'm not there yet.  Angry not with Sean or with outside circumstances, but angry with myself for falling short.

Happiness used to be an easy state-of-being for me.  And, no, it's not a simple thing to correct.  There is no 'snapping out of it' or waking up and saying 'I will be happy today no matter what'.  For the most part, I can be happy with my friends or goofing with the kids.  It is the moments at the end of the day when I am alone with my burdens that I no longer smile, when the act of smiling seems more like a forced event than a natural occurrence and when I feel the true meaning of loneliness.

Single parenting is not something I signed up for.  All those plans Sean and I made together, all those dreams we had of watching our children grow up...well, those unraveled, too.  And despite how it may sound, I am not complaining.  Life is what it is and right now mine has worn me out.  I know what I am capable of, yet am annoyed with myself for not achieving it all yet.  I know what I can handle, and am sick of people saying "God never gives you more than you can handle".  I get it.  But I say enough!

So here I sit surrounded by the shredded yarn of my life and realize there is nothing left to unravel.  There are no strings left to pull.  I need to untangle myself and figure out what to create from the mess.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stars in My Eyes

There are certain people in my life that I return to over and over, despite distance or time or a disagreement.  It's like they have a gravitational pull that cannot be resisted.  No matter what, we eventually end up back in each other's orbit.

The intimacies of friendship intrigue me.  I have a friend who I have known since kindergarten.  Over the course of our 41 years on this planet, we have experienced first heart break together, dragged each other from college parties, and watched each other get married.  She stood beside me as I scattered my husband's ashes to the wind.  I listened to her cry after her divorce.  And then we had a few years where we went our separate ways and didn't speak for many months.  But like the moon's effect on the tide, we are once again in rhythm.  

I recently spoke with a Lakota native who talked about the star pattern on a quilt she had made.  She said that the Lakota believe we are the middle star after we pass away, with three stars in front of us representing three generations ahead and three stars after us being three generations yet to come.  I realize that the Lakota woman was speaking more about relatives than friendships, but the concept touched my heart.  It made me think of the people who are in my life now, those who I have let go and those I have yet to know.

To me, friends are like family.  In a way, I often believe my friends know me better than my family.  I believe it was a line from 'Grey's Anatomy' that said that as we grow up and move in the world, we choose our own tribe.

Breaking gravitational pull from the more negative people isn't quite as easy to navigate, but that's a story for another blog post on another day.  I'll call that one, "caught in an astroid shower"; but for now let's celebrate all the stars in our lives, the ones who shine in the darkness and bring us hope when we feel lost in space, the stars who guide us to the place we feel safe.
                                                    Lakota Star blanket taken from starquilts.com/starborn.htm