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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Good Grief: Pass the Closure

“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an  evil.”

-J. R. R. Tolkien

I'm going to start this out by reminding you all that I am not a therapist, and as always, my blogs are based on my experiences unless otherwise mentioned. There, now that that's out of the way, let's dive right in to this one. I want to talk a little bit about the often discussed "5 Stages of Grief," and how I think they apply to the ending of a relationship. Although, it's me so you know I'm going to mix it up a bit, because let's be honest, I'm far from conventional. Also bare in mind that these stages I'm about to discuss are not necessarily in a particular order and they might vary due to the severity of the damage that has been done. 

The "It's Not Over until I Say it's Over" Stage

This stage can be a doozy if the breakup isn't mutual. You know exactly what I'm talking about, that ever-blinding ray of hope is shining so brightly in your eyes you allow your mind to continue fantasizing about things eventually working out. (It Won't). During this stage is the time where you look at old pictures and focus solely on every good memory and block out all of the negative ones. Your ex suddenly morphs into Mr/Mrs Perfect-in-Every Way. (They Aren't). This is also the stage where your friends and family will try and comfort you, give you advice, and tell you that you are too good for Mr/Mrs P. (They're Right). However, although you will hear them, it's too early for you to listen and believe them. That's ok. The length of time in this phase is likely correlated to the length of the relationship. If you're currently in this phase and reading this post consider this my warning message: Move On Immediately. (See I'm not your friend so I can get away with that shit-You're Welcome). 

The "Pajamas/Ice Cream/Alcohol Phase

Sometimes, all three at once. (You know who you are). You want a pajama day? I'll allow it. When it turns into a pajama week, we have a problem. I don't care how cute your pajamas are, you don't have any business wearing them for more than 24 hours in a row. I know I sound like a heartless bitch, I swear I'm not. (Unless you ask my ex-husband.) I am just simply telling you what I wish I would've known a decade ago. Ice cream is allowed upon necessity as long as you SWEAR to only buy one carton at a time. Frank at the supermarket check out should at least have the privilege of being mildly curious when he asks how you are. If your cart is filled with vodka, Ben & Jerry's, Snickers, Cheetos, all flavors of Milano cookies, and more vodka, you're going to give yourself away. Poor Frank. While I'm at it, about that vodka.... You have a few more phases to go before you're allowed vodka, wine, rum....I think you see where I'm going with this. (Now I'm a heartless bitch). Let me tell you the obvious reasons why. 
1. Drunk Texts
2. Drunk Phone Calls
3. Drunk "Selfies" (those will come back to bite you in the ass worse than a hangover).
4. More Drunk Texting
5. Every emotion known to man is MAGNIFIED by alcohol. (One minute you're a healthy level of sad, the next minute you're Rose in your bathtub sobbing "I'll never let go Jack...I'll never let go!" (Dude. Let Go! That ship sunk.) 
There is also one more prevalent activity that arises during this phase. Facebook Stalking (or Falking according to my best friend Kevin). This activity includes all forms of social media. This is just a part of our masochistic nature. Why we do it I'll never know, but I'll be the first to tell you I couldn't WAIT to see what my replacement looked like. (No Comment.) I want you to think about something for a minute: What good does it do you to see your Ex (Now Mr/Mrs not-so-P) happily surviving without you. (They are, if not immediately it's inevitable). Stop the insanity. Remove/block/unfriend/unfollow them in every way society allows. If you haven't already, stop reading this and do it now while you're all fired up! Delete their number AND yes the ENTIRE textersation still lingering on your mobile device. (I just called you out!) I am begging you with every ounce of my being-STOP THE MADNESS! One last thing about this, don't recruit people to do your stalking for you, that's cheating, and it makes them feel uncomfortable. (Consider this my official apology.) Thankfully this phase is also temporary and the length of time spent here is something you have a great deal of control over. Hurt is unavoidable, suffering isn't. 

The "I'm Fine" Stage

I like to call this one delusional closure or "I think I'm ready to hit up the singles bars" stage. I'm sorry precious, you're not quite there yet. Still too soon for those miniskirts and martinis ladies, or for you guys, any alcohol and Affliction t-shirts. (Those should probably be left in 2012 anyway-again, you're welcome). It's in this stage where suddenly you're beginning to realize how awesome you are but you still don't know what you deserve. It's too fragile of state to risk slip ups. Doing too much too soon can lead to being knocked on your ass. (I have bruises to prove it.) It's here where it's ever so important that you keep yourself surrounded with positive people. Find new hobbies and further develop your old ones. Run. Holy freakin crap if I could tell you to do one thing in this phase it's run! Running teaches us that our body is capable of more than our mind thinks is possible. I don't care if you've never run a day in your life-do it! Make a killer playlist, put in some headphones and pound the pavement. Developing this habit now will help you with the next stage....and you're going to need it. (Obviously if a doctor has advised you not to run then don't be a fool-walking works too, just walk fast.)  I can't tell you how long you will be in this stage, and sometimes I find this one comes around more than once usually in between the other stages. Just hang in there, I swear it gets better. (Would I lie?)

The "What Did Your Pillow Ever Do to You" Stage

This is the welcomed stage where Mr/Mrs P becomes Mr/Mrs POS. (You know that was good!) This is also the stage where songs like "Since you've been gone," "Fighter," and "Survivor," end up on your Spotify playlist. (See also, "You'll Think of Me," "Someone Like You," and my FAVORITE: drumroll please- "You Oughta Know." I'm a chick-what did you expect?!) I will be the first to tell you getting mad is good. (Can you guess what stage I'm in? Ha!) Again-I can't say this enough, you must still avoid the alcohol. Besides, you've come so far, no need to back track now! So let it out! Talk a healthy amount of crap with your friends, punch your pillow, scream at inconsiderate drivers on the freeway, (hehe), take a kickboxing class, and then punch your pillow some more. (Aren't you glad you're a runner now? Run it out.) This is the stage when you are reminded of all the shitty things Mr/Mrs POS did wrong throughout your relationship AND just how poorly you were treated at the end. Do your best to keep your anger contained to a level just below insanity or your likely to unleash a monster on your unprepared family members during Thanksgiving clean up. (Who would do such a thing?! What a psycho.) Remember that while it's completely normal to be angry, your family, friends, and co-workers didn't break up with you, the POS did, so don't take it out on them. So here's my best advice for this stage: Be angry with integrity. If you want to burn pictures/property, I can't support that because it's not my style. Remember you're actions are a reflection of you. You're the good guy in this story remember? Don't do villainous things you may or may not regret later. So to sum it up-Anger is healthy, evilness is not. Know the difference. Just don't stay here too long. Anger is an ugly color on everyone. 

The "Bring out the Booze" Phase

Also known as "acceptance." Cheers. You're over the hump and ready to get back out there! Mr/Mrs POS has morphed into Mr/Mrs Thing of the Past. Honestly, I don't think this stage means you don't occasionally reflect on your past relationship and feel "something." If your relationship had any level of longevity, in some ways that person will always be a part of you. That's just a part of life. Difficult experiences change and grow us into new and better versions of ourselves. Look at you Superstar! You survived! (I knew you would.) Break ups are one of the crappiest things we can go through. Hurt happens. Tears fall. Feathers fly. (Santa bring me a new pillow for Christmas?) When all is said and done, hearts heal, scars and all. This is a progressive stage, you will continue to move on more and more with the passing of time. Trust me, the day isn't far away where you will be able to listen to "your song" when it comes on the radio and you won't tear up, you'll be able to quote lines from your favorite movie and it won't make you cringe, and when someone mentions their name you won't need to replace all the pillows in your home. (I needed to redecorate anyway....riiiiiight.)

Unfortunately we live in a world where people just don't stay together anymore. That is a very sad thing but very much reality. In closing, I just want to reiterate something that has really helped me over and over again. (This is not my first rodeo ya'll.) Right after my divorce I was having a heart to heart with another single mom I really looked up to and her advice to me was burned into my very being. She said four little words to me that changed how I operate in almost every area of my life. She said, "Always act with integrity." Now at the time she was specifically referring to how I should handle a very angry, and bitter ex-husband, but I always strive to be that way in every relationship I have had. Let me tell you, I have had a couple guys do some pretty despicable things to me, they all received their belongings back the same way, washed, folded, and in one piece. For me, that's what feels right. Matter of fact you can ask my friends just how important this is to me and they will likely all think of the same story. I think I'll tell you for fun. One of the more recent relationships I was in involved my ex being here so frequently that he was allotted half of my closet. Long story short, I was under the influence when I found out about an infidelity. My influenced self proceeded to march to the closet and grab all of his clothes and throw them on the balcony. (A few even went right over, but don't worry, my neighbors were nice enough to hang them on my stairs. Humiliated much?) The night turned into a sleep over with several friends really being there for me. However no one was prepared for me to wake up, feeling sick for one thing, and I had a vague recollection of the throwing of the clothes. At 5am I carried all of the clothes back inside, and a day or two later they were all washed and folded. I don't know what a therapist would have to say about this behavior, but for me, it's just what feels right. It's immeasurably important for me to be able to look myself in the mirror and be ok with my actions. Frankly, our actions are the ONLY thing about a break up we can control! 

The reason I am able to tell you what to do and what not to do is because I have done it the hard way so many times. Seriously, my heart is still shaking it's little heart head after the last one. (Forgive me heart, I'm endlessly sorry.) Obviously, you may think I'm full of complete crap and try your luck with some Jack Daniels in the Pajama Stage. More power to you, but I'm not wrong about this. I'm just not. With all my heart I wish I could reach through this screen and hug you and make your hurt go away. I really, truly do. Hurt can be so debilitating, believe me my darlings, I know. I can't fast forward you through this process (although that would be a hell of an invention!)  or I would. It has to run it's course and it will. You absolutely will survive this if you make up your mind to do it! Be your own hero! Place your focus where it belongs, the future, not the past. Stop drowning in despair and surf the waves! I don't want to drag this out much longer because it can be so much to take in all at once, but I want to close with one last thing, but I want you to really be ready for it. Take a deep breath, center, find your zen, whatever....ready? 

You are going to be ok. Again. You are going to be OK! Last time: YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK! Get it? This hurts. This sucks. But, it's not forever, and someday my friends, you absolutely are going to be ok. In fact, you will be more than ok, you will be AMAZING! Now....who wants ice cream?

*Find me on Facebook JFox Tales*

Monday, November 18, 2013

Looking Up from Rock Bottom

Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.
-Lewis Carrol

Have you every felt that way? Stuck in a moment that may only be a very small portion of time, but to you it feels as if it will last an eternity? The harsh reality in that is if you said yes, it was likely a painful moment, because the happy moments never seem to last long enough. If you're reading this maybe you're experiencing a time like that right now, let me assure you that you are not alone. I don't know what your pain is, but I know pain, and with the exception of a visit to the chiropractor or an aggressive massage therapist, it's not enjoyable. When life seems to have left you broken and empty handed, it's imperative to guard your thoughts. In fact, I believe the length of our pain and helplessness is directly related to our mindset. As always, let's take a look into the life of JFox for explanation...

My Fresh Wound: The conclusion of a 3 year relationship with someone I loved very deeply on a level I had never experienced, who was also my best friend, we'll call him Sam (to protect the innocent). The person I said good morning and good night to every day and who knew me better than anyone on the planet, simply because he was the first person I really let know me. Although the process of closure began slightly earlier for Sam than it did for me, I wasn't even close to being prepared to find out he was already involved with someone new, and that information hurt me far worse than I imagined it would. (Destructive self-talk alert! Am I really that easy to get over? Don't EVEN go there.) The worst part about it is I didn't know how to deal with this type of break-up. You see, regardless if I was the dumper or the dumpee, I've never had a relationship end where I didn't feel a sense of relief knowing that the guy was an asshole or a loser, or something of that nature. Nope not this scenario at all. Neither of us hated the other, quite the opposite in fact, we loved each other very much. Without going into too much detail, I'll just say our relationship was geographically-challenged and call it a day. So you see, I had no justification. It's so much easier to move on from an asshole than a Sam, let me tell you.

Recent Bumps and Bruises: Backstory: I don't have a lot of friends. (There's a backstory to that too, but let's just get through one back at a time). I have two that I'd consider my "best friends" besides Sam. Within the past several months my relationships with both of them were greatly lessened due to circumstances beyond my control. It's no one's fault, it's just life.

Now to many outsiders, this may not seem like a "Rock Bottom," but I assure you my life has plenty of other struggles that don't merit mentioning. However, it is the above mentioned recent occurrences that finally broke me. What's truly amazing about that is that I can specifically think of at least 3 other times in my life where I thought I was in a Rock Bottom state and they don't compare to how I felt just a few weeks ago.

I relied heavily on these three people to keep my head above water when I needed comfort, a laugh, or to feel loved and valued. (Co-dependent much?) The people that I had chosen to depend on in so many ways were no longer available to me as they had been before. In some ways I had never felt more alone. There were a few nights where I held my phone and just stared at it, waiting for who knows what and just let the tears fall. I wanted to call Sam and discuss my lack of communication with my friends, and I wanted to call my friends and grieve over my loss of Sam. Even as I type this I am instantly flooded with hurt because it is so easy to put myself back in those moments. Those forever second moments. Sleep was a constant struggle, because without those comfortable and familiar outlets I allowed myself to internalize everything. My mind was on overdrive and my thoughts affected my mood and attitude. The good news is, this wasn't abnormal behavior for me, and I recognized it pretty quickly. I spent one full day in pajamas forgetting to eat because I had no appetite. One full day of off and on tears and release. One full day of crying to anyone who would listen.
   "Jocelyn, pity party of one, your couch is now ready."
   "Thank you what are the specials tonight?"
   "Tonight the chef's specials are a grilled heart shish-ka-bob with a demi whine glaze and a generous portion of bruised ego. For dessert, a break-up √† flamb√© with a scoop of rocky road. Can I offer you drink while you wait?"
   "Sure, I'll have one of each."

So what changed? I didn't gorilla glue my heart back together over night, but I decided to stop the torture. You can read more about that specific process here, right now I want to explain the outcome. In short, I changed my mindset. I thought about every time I had every been hurt and how I always handled it improperly. I realized that for a forever long second I felt like everything had been taken from me, (which is an extreme exaggeration to say the least, but you know how pity parties go), and I gathered I had a few options... I could continue this pity party for awhile, been there done that, have a drawer full of t-shirts. I could attempt to stuff the pain down by finding a male replacement, old habits die hard. I could attempt to numb the pain in several different ways, which usually backfire and lead to drunken phone calls you don't remember having and texts messages you can't unsend. Or, I could accept it for exactly what it is, without an explanation or an acceptable and valid reason, I am in this moment. So I did just that. I stopped asking why, because frankly, I don't think the why exists yet. Sometimes we don't get our whys for a long time, (a forever second). But those un-known whys now, are life's "Ah HA!" moments later. I realized God or the universe (whatever higher power you choose to believe in), was trying to teach me something. I was supposed to feel alone simply because I wasn't comfortable with it. I knew right then, I had work to do.

So, I changed my focus. For the past seven days every time I thought of Sam and felt that horrible feeling like someone is squeezing your insides (and appears to be getting stronger with each heart ache), I made myself think two positive thoughts immediately. Sounds like some sort of cheesy advice from a sitcom therapist, but that's what I did. I refused to allow myself to take a step back without taking two steps forward. Every time I wanted to cry over what I had lost, I made myself think about everything I still have. You want to know what else I did? I made myself mentally list all my strengths, gifts and things I like about myself. For some people, that is a task they do daily, (sometimes I'm amazed with how much people like themselves "bathroom mirror selfie"). For me, it's life's greatest challenge. I used to think I was just extremely humble and that's why it was so difficult for me to accept a compliment. I have discovered that was not the case, but that's a whole other blog entirely.

As my mindset began to change, so did things around me. I found I had people in my life supporting me and cheering me on that I didn't even realize cared so much. I thought about what I wanted my life to be, and what I really wanted to do. Over the past seven days I can't even begin to list everything beautiful that has happened to me, but I want to tell you about the first thing that happened that gave me peace and comfort in knowing I was going to be ok.

Last Sunday ranked pretty highly on my list of the most painful days of my life. However Sunday night, (or early Monday morning if you want to be technical), was when I started changing my mindset.  Backstory: I started this blog over a year ago when I realized I really had been through some shit, and survived. I knew I needed to share my story with people, because if I could help just one person then all my pain, struggles, and hurts weren't for nothing. I didn't yet realize what that meant for my life or how huge of a roll it would play. Monday morning a friend of mine that I had met about a year ago sent me a text. (The beautiful irony- we met because both of our significant others live in the same town. I knew his girlfriend and she asked if I would bring him with me the next time I visited. After several 10 hour round-trips you get to know a person pretty well, and he is a great person.) We hadn't seen or really even talked to each other in a very long time. He had no idea what had been progressing in my life that week or the previous few months. He simply texted me about a photo shoot. (Yes, yes, I'm a jack of all trades, master of none-for now). I was excited for the opportunity to do something positive that I enjoy, but the conversation didn't end there. He said several things that really woke me up and got my ass off of the pity party couch (I passed on dessert just FYI). He told me he had never met someone like me, that I was rare. He told me that he had learned a lot from me and that I helped him become a better version of himself.  I was floored. I looked up-I may have been flat on my face at Rock Bottom five minutes ago, but I was up to my knees now. He then told me that diamonds are made under intense pressure and are in turn, indestructible. That I am the way I am because of what I've been through, not despite it.

You see, he didn't know my pain. He didn't know he would say exactly what I needed to hear, but God did. The next 48 hours were incredible. My wheels began turning and I began to see with such clarity the path laid out before me. In fact, I had been casually walking that path already, I was just too blind to really see the full potential. For years I have had people tell me over and over, "You're one of the strongest people I know," and truthfully I thought it was complete crap. Not in the aspect of them not believing that to be true, but that they didn't know how often I broke down and cried. I didn't feel strong in the least, I just survived like everyone else, and that wasn't enough to make a difference to anyone. However, he said three words that really impacted my life, he said, "You helped me." There was power in that! Yes, I'm broken! Yes, I've failed repeatedly! Yes, my heart aches for a lost love! Yes, I've been dealt a few shitty hands! Yes, I make mistakes! Yes, I still struggle! But, by God I helped someone! Those words lit a fire that won't burn out. Like I said, I could not begin to list every other positive thing that has taken place since I received those texts from him, but I was consistently reaffirmed of two things; A: I was going to be ok. B: I was finally, (finaaaaaaaaallyyyyyyy), on the right track. I have the right people in my life that need to be here and I have everything I need to be happy already inside of me.

Basically it comes down to this, I had to be broken. It was necessary. I needed a mouth full of gravel from the bottom of all the Rock Bottoms to wake me up. Even as I sit here now it occurs to me, I didn't lose everything. Sam isn't gone, he isn't mine, but he never really was. The ways he changed my life are still relevant, hurt doesn't erase that. As for my friends, they are still my friends. Perhaps we don't talk every day, but maybe that's so I can hear my own thoughts more often. Sometimes when we hurt it's just easier to stay in that place. Growth is hard.
   "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." -Albert Einstein (It shouldn't take a genius to figure that out, but in this case....)
The only way we can overcome our struggles is by truly seeking what we are supposed to learn from them. Make your hurt have a purpose as I am doing. I could really have two very different attitudes right now. I could say, "that was the hardest, worst, and most painful week of my life to date," or "that was the best week for my future." You see Rock Bottom isn't a negative thing, not in the least! As I have begun to claw and climb my way back up it is so completely obvious that for me, I had to experience that feeling. I had to be desperate. I had to go through every single emotion I experienced, and feel that lowest low for a forever second. If I hadn't, how could I help those down there? I couldn't, not really, I wouldn't be able to completely understand your pain. Like I said, everyone has different situations that got them there, but the journey back up from the bottom isn't much different. Let's make the climb together shall we?

Check back soon for my next blog-The Three R's to a Better Life.
*Find me on Facebook, JFox Tales: Life in the Fox Hole*

Monday, November 11, 2013

Masochism Hurts so Good

"Well maybe I'm a masochist, I try to run, but I don't want to ever leave." -Skylar Grey

In regards to human habits, one of the worst has to be masochism. I have said it before and I'll say it again, "Life is HARD!" It's so hard, and right when you think things are looking brighter you get knocked down again. However that's not the topic I want to discuss directly. So, I'm just going to dive right in....

You're deep in it. The struggle, whatever it is feels massive, unbearable, and horribly overwhelming. You're consumed, either by hurt or hardship, both maybe. You check the time, it's exactly one minute since you last looked and relief hasn't showed it's lovely face. It's that moment right there where this topic begins, and as I love doing, I will use my experience to elaborate and you can join the journey if you wish.

Oh, hello heartache, I almost forgot you were there. Interesting, you have new weapons of mass destruction with you this time. How kind of you to show up bearing gifts. Honestly, there is no preparation for heartache, I don't care who you are. Alright, so we've discussed my previous issues of the'd think my heart would have disowned me by now. "You freaking moron, you did this to us again?" Yes, I'm afraid so, my sincerest apologies. Yesterday, was an all new low in a few ways, but guess what, I lived. It's a miracle, I know.

Now for my point, I swear I'm getting to it. Do me a favor, (you didn't know this was an interactive blog did you?), think of a time when you've been knocked down and try and relate to the next part in your own way.

Is it just me, or does hurt intensify when the sun goes down? Especially when you are horizontal, maybe I should find a way to sleep standing up. However in the meantime, I'll have to deal with this type of scenario. Last night I woke up at the all to familiar hour of 3 am. Of course thoughts of my current hurt and heartache were right there at the surface, unavoidable, and devastating. This is where the choice to increase the suffering with masochistic thoughts or to focus on healthy things comes into play. I spent a sickening hour creating imaginary scenarios in my mind, torturing my mind, heart, and soul with a destructive attitude. I created images that didn't exist anywhere but in my mind, thinking the worst and allowed myself to suffer. Why? This is unfortunately a habit. I know I am not alone in this. Destructive thinking is practically an epidemic. It's scary really, I mean as if heartache isn't bad enough, I had to make myself physically ill in the process. Just wow.

Does any of this sound familiar? Of course it does, we are so hard on ourselves. Nine times out of ten it's just easier to beat ourselves up than to take time to really try and understand why something happened. Especially after you have spent time trying to understand and are left without resolution. Truth: Sometimes understanding isn't necessary. However, accepting the situation for exactly what it is, and nothing more than that is absolutely necessary.

So, how did my night pan out? After an hour of masochistic behavior I had enough. Thoughts are powerful! They can be used for good or evil. I didn't get much more sleep last night, however, I spent 4am to 6am a lot differently. I changed my focus entirely. Basically, I told myself I needed to find the bright side which usually comes so easily to me, I think most of the people in my life would vouch for that. I honestly came up empty handed at first. I folded that hand and drew new cards. I started envisioning my future. My children's futures. The kind of example I want to be to them. I envisioned the new car with power steering I will have someday. I envisioned trips with my girls and all of the memories we will make. I saw my future self the way I want to be, strong, healthy, confident, and happy. Then I just started making a mental list of steps to get there. Baby steps, but still steps. I forced myself to think as many positive thoughts as it took until I found peace. I took charge of my thoughts and stopped torturing myself. It was unbelievably liberating!

Now don't misunderstand. The hurt isn't done just because you vow to take charge of your thoughts. When severe hurt happens it's like you're out in the ocean with a very flimsy floatation device. Waves are inevitable. Up and down, up and down, and you feel every ripple through that thin plastic. You'll hear a song and choke on some salt water, or see a photo that flips your raft right over. Pain in life is unavoidable. However, I do believe we have some say in the length of time and the level of the suffering. Attitude and positive thinking will change your life. I am so glad I figured this out this time around, because the me from a few years ago would've "enjoyed" a lot more masochism. Let's be honest, choking on salt water isn't fun for anyone. I know if I focus on maintaining control of my thoughts, soon my measly floaty will be upgraded to a little row boat, and so on until I'm sailing in style on a yacht with a Mai Tai, little umbrella and all!

Honestly, it does not matter what your hardship is, positive thinking will greatly and immediately improve your situation. On the contrary, masochism will extend and intensify your pain, so just don't do it! So simple right?

As for me, I'm no less awesome than I was day before yesterday, and I'm slightly less awesome than I will be tomorrow. Nothing that happens to me changes that. So, you don't even have to ask if I'm ok, because you now know the answer. Absolutely, I am undoubtably more than ok. Failure, rejection, and heartache happen, but they don't define us. Not unless you allow them to. When the time is right, the bright side will show itself, until then, you better believe I'm envisioning that yacht, and the best Mai Tai I've ever had....