This post has been bouncing around in my head for a few days, and I think I'm ready to blurt it out finally....
It might end up being a bunch of rambling, but hey, I'm good at that!
Most of you know my history, but if you don't, here's the shortened version:
Marriage #1 lasted from August 1999 until October 2004 (3 kids).
Short-term relationship in Spring/Summer 2005 resulted in the 4th kid.
Marriage #2 lasted from March 2006 until May 2009 physically, with the divorce not being final until January 2011 (5th kid).
Before my first marriage, I spent most of my adult life bouncing from one relationship to the next with little to no time in between. See how history has continued to repeat itself?
When Jeff and I split in May 2009, I knew that the marriage was over and that there was no going back. We had been on shaky ground for a long time, and I was done at that point. We had split and reconciled many times in the short time that we were married - but that was it. I was done.
I spent a lot of time alone after Jeff and I split. And for probably the first time in my life, I used that time to really look at myself. I admit that I went into a deep depression - probably deeper than even my closest friends really realize. I was miserable. I had failed at two marriages and ended up with five kids with three different fathers - who in their right mind does that?
I did. And looking back now, I know how it happened. I was so desperate to be with someone - to have someone love me - that I grasped at anything or anyone that I could find.
But I didn't like myself. In fact, I hated myself. I wasn't happy, and I was looking for someone else to make me be that way.
Guess what? That doesn't work.
I don't know when I had the "aha moment" and realized that I wasn't happy with myself. I don't know that it was a "moment" - but maybe it was a gradual realization as I endlessly analyzed every detail of my life. A close friend was going through a lengthy breakup of his relationship during this period and as I tried to counsel him on it, I kept telling him that he had to find his "happy place" - that he had to be happy with himself before he jumped into another relationship (which he was considering at that point).
For once, I listened to myself. I think as I talked to him, I realized that I had been doing what he was doing - I wasn't happy with myself, and was looking elsewhere for that happiness.
The ironic part about all of this is that as I was coming to this realization, I was losing everything around me. I lost my house, my van, almost lost my kids, had no money, no job, nothing. I had to suck up my pride and get some assistance to get a place to live and to get a vehicle, and then I started working on getting my daycare up and running again. I was starting to feel better about myself, because I finally felt like I was getting somewhere.
So I put myself out there and I started dating. Nothing serious, just a date here and there. It was fun, but none of them felt "right".
Then Jeff died, and I was thrown into a whirlwind of emotions that I had no idea existed. I was an emotional wreck. I mean, really, he was my ex-husband. We had been separated for nearly 2 years but only divorced for 20 days when he died. I had no idea how extreme the emotional rollercoaster would be - and I realized again that I wasn't ready to be with anyone else. I was still not happy with myself. So I stopped dating anyone and continued to work on myself. I started training for the half-marathon, and as I got into better physical shape I could feel my emotional well-being improving at the same time.
I had been told by so many people that I would never accomplish something like that race. I wasn't sure if I could do it. But I did it - and it felt like a turning point in my life. If I could do a half-marathon for the first time at the age of 40, after having 5 kids and a total hip replacement, I felt like I could pretty much do anything.
Financially, things started to fall into place as well. Not many people know this, but Daniel and I both receive survivor benefits through Social Security - I knew that Daniel would, but I had no idea that I would qualify as well.
(Let me stop right here and point out that on the Social Security website, it indicates that "If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. (You would not have to meet this length-of-marriage rule if you are caring for a child under age 16 or disabled who is getting benefits on the record of your former spouse. The child must be your former spouse's natural or legally adopted child.)" Yes, I have to point that out, as there have been some people who have not been happy that I receive benefits since we were divorced - but as a dear friend says to me, "it is what it is".)
Anyway, with the financial weight of the world off of my shoulders, it has given me the freedom to be able to do things for myself. I've been able to go on some trips and to buy a dependable vehicle and to get some bills paid off. I've been able to do more things for the kids and be able to spend more time with them without having to worry about working.
As things have started to fall into place, friends have suggested that I start dating. So I did - or attempted to - but for whatever reason those attempts never worked. I finally just decided that I wasn't going to do it. I was alone, but you know what? I was ok with that.
I was happy with myself. I didn't need someone else to make me happy.
And then I met The Dude. Totally unexpected. Wasn't looking for him, but there he was....and is.
He and I talk. A lot. About everything and about nothing. In fact, he's cheering me on while I write this, and although he has an idea of the topic, he doesn't know the details - he's encouraging me to say what I need to say, in contrast to people in my past who basically told me to just keep my mouth shut and not talk about my feelings.
I never thought that I would find anyone who would be even remotely willing to "jump in" like he has - and he surprises me more and more every day. He was over here tonight and the kids were fired up (putting it mildly) and he didn't even flinch. In fact, he helped referee a couple of fights in between eating dinner, fixing my printer (yay!), and engaging in some roughhousing with me and the kids.
While I thought that I would be terrified to get into another relationship, I'm not. I'm comfortable. This is a good thing. I'm happy. For the first time in a very very long time, I can honestly say that I am happy. I am happy with myself, I'm happy with my life, and I'm happy in a relationship.
And for all of this to happen, all I had to do was find my happy place, enjoy it a bit, and then open the door.