What’s in a photo???

If you glimpse at this picture, you probably see four happy, beautiful children, and two comfortable and loving parents.

In part, you are correct.

The children, they are overall, pretty happy.

The parents are in love, and the picture isn’t misleading as much as it just doesn’t tell the entire story.

The entire story is complicated at best.

The truth is we struggle, just like any other family, and especially like any other blended family.

My bonus daughter has days where she downright doesn’t like me very much. She pushes me away and makes it hard to maintain my positive energy. She’s flat out told me that she would do anything to get me out of her dad’s life as she glares at me with daggers. The next day she’s been known to tell me I’m the only one who listens when she talks. She has taken the divorce of her parents hard, and even though I came into the picture long after their marriage was over, she still sees me as a reason why they aren’t together. I guess I really can’t blame her for the anger she feels.

My daughter, on the other hand, is fiercely protective of her mother and hates seeing the negative interaction between her step-sister and her mom. She’s also done her best to keep Keith at arm’s length, perhaps protecting her heart from another loss, or perhaps unwilling to develop deep feelings for another Dad. I hate seeing my daughter push him away but after her loss…it’s part of the process.

The boys are slightly easier on us overall; they tend to keep the peace and make us laugh on most days. They have moments where they test us, but it’s more cut and dried and less daunting. In time I’ve learned this may change, it’s an ebb and flow daily.

We split custody of Keith’s two children. Two weeks with us and two weeks with their mom. The rules are vastly different at the two houses which can make for hard transitions and some challenging feelings. It’s also hard for me to see my children exposed to things I’m not ready or prepared for them to experience but we do our best to work with what we are given.

The families all get along well for the sake of the children. We openly communicate, text, talk and try to find a middle ground. For that, we are deeply blessed.

I had to learn early on that my grief and my kids’ grief can’t be understood by children who haven’t walked the journey. I can’t expect my bonus son and daughter to see the magnitude of our loss because they haven’t walked that road. Maybe I see their situation as a pretty lucky one, in juxtaposition to the alternative they have two parents who are alive, living two miles from the other, both loving them the best they can, but for them, the journey is still a crappy one. Their road has them living at two houses and dealing with bonus parents instead of just mom and dad. Split holidays, two sets of everything, and not the picture perfect family we all wish for when we have children. I’ve had to learn that we all become who we are in life-based off the roads we each individually experience. The comparison is a futile waste of our positive energy. Ultimately it’s not about who has it worse; it’s about how we walk the combined road that our challenging past placed us all on.

If I’m honest, the entire situation has taken a tremendous toll on my spirit this past year. I’ve had to learn my limitations as a mother, as a wife, and as a woman. I can’t control much of what I had hoped to control when I became a mother. In hindsight, you’d think I would have grasped that on October 9th, 2009….life is often out of our control.

I’ve had to learn to let-go.
I’ve had to learn to listen.
I’ve had to learn that being a good mother may mean different things to different children.

I’ve had to learn that I love Keith deeply regardless of the petty arguments that happen when you raise little humans, blended or not.

I’ve had to learn that when I lose sight of who I am and what I need for this life, not only do I suffer but so does every single person around me.

I am not a perfect mother.
I am not a perfect wife.
I am not a perfect business owner, writer, coach, friend, daughter, sister, or daughter-in-law.

I am who I am.

I am learning, growing, and remembering what brings me peace.

I can’t control the crazy world that I have created but I can learn to sit in the eye of its hurricane-force wind, and I can find my peace.

Like everything else, it’s up to me.

I’m returning to all the things I know balance my universe.

My fitness
My health
My personal growth
My writing
My intuition

The storm may continue to rage all around me, but I’m choosing to focus on being the very best me possible.

When I was a little girl my father would always tell me, “Michelle, life is difficult” and each year I learn how correct that statement was.

I’m not sharing this for pity or to say I have it bad because truth be told, I am blessed beyond measure.

I’m sharing to remind you that the perfect pictures don’t tell the entire story.

I’m sharing to help you remember that everyone is fighting a battle you may know nothing about, so always be kind.

I’m sharing to encourage you to keep learning and growing as you navigate whatever challenging road you walk.

Finally, I’m sharing to help you remember that if you don’t take care of you, before anything else, your spirit will age long before your body does. Take the time you need to recharge before you give all of who you are to everyone else. If you don’t take care of you, you will end up losing everything else you hold dear.

You are worth it.
Everything else can, and indeed must wait.

Goodnight world,