Pluck

In response to: Daily Prompt: Pluck

do what

 

Pluck. Mart. Mallet. Shake. Ring Touch.

These words had little or no real meaning to me in connection with each other up until this past year. But I now have a whole new understanding and appreciation for each of these words individually as well as collectively, because this year I began learning how to ring handbells. I just got home from a 4-day long bell festival.

It was hard.

It was exhausting.

It was overwhelming.

 

It was awesome.

Music, dance, and creativity have always been a part of my life. Whether performing or coaching, I have always had a need for musical creativity in my life. Last year, I realized that I was missing that musical outlet. It had been quite a few years since I had that type of musical outlet, so I was searching for something. I don’t sing, (which is best for everyone). But a good friend of mine performs with an amazing community handbell choir and we have a handbell choir at my church. So I was inspired to give it a try.

Handbell ringing has been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed learning how to play a new instrument, trying to work out the rhythms, learning the notes and the various techniques, as well as getting to know the people in our handbell choir. I wasn’t really sure I could handle festival, (actually I was pretty sure I couldn’t handle it, I have only been playing for nine months), but the other members of our choir assured me that I should give it a try. And I’m so glad I did.

For four days at festival, I learned to pluck, mart, mallet, shake, ring touch and so much more. I learned how to do one technique with one bell in one hand, and a different technique with another bell in the other hand. I learned to read music in 7/8 time, cut time, common time, 3/4 time and how to switch back and forth between them, all within the same piece of music. I learned how to follow different directors (although I do prefer my own director best). I watched individuals, small groups, large choirs, and a massed ringing of 400 people make beautiful music ringing handbells.

I learned that it didn’t matter if I can sight read perfectly (I can’t) or if I turn the page four measures too early (yup, I did that) or if I can’t master a piece in 3 hours and 45 minutes (nope, can’t do that) but that when we all play together and do our best, we make some incredible music.

Beyond the music, I learned more about the people I went to festival with. I learned about their life journeys, both past and present. They shared a little more with me about the challenges they have faced and continue to face, as well as those things that bring them great joy. I also learned that the journey of life is so much more fun when you have people to travel it with you.

I tend to be a perfectionist in all that I do. And I’m kind of hard on myself (ok, really hard on myself). But another thing that handbell ringing has taught me is that while it’s important for me to learn how to play my part well, handbell ringing is a team sport. My notes don’t sound as good in isolation as it does when they is played along with everyone else’s notes, and that when we play all together, we can make some beautiful and touching music.

Most importantly over the four days of festival, I shared time and space with some really great people. People I can laugh with about the flamingos, commiserate with about the long treks across campus – walking backwards down a hill, and giggle with about middle school humor and innuendo. People who have walked the incredible journeys of their lives, and have shared at least a part of that journey with me. People I call my friends.

Ringing handbells is hard work, but it’s so much fun. Being a perfectionist, I struggle with the fact that I am learning a new instrument and there are a lot of things I don’t know how to do … yet. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about perfection, but rather it’s about putting forth my best effort and having people there for me when I mess up to help me to find my way, both in the music, and in life.It’s about being blessed enough to have people in my life who are willing to offer that help. It’s about opening myself up to accept that help. And it’s about walking this journey of life with some cool people and maybe even making making joyful music along the way!

Blessed

IMG_3580 This is a picture that I took of the sunset last night. Yes. I am lucky enough to be so close to the water and a place where sunsets like this are fairly common occurrence. As I watched the sunset last night with some friends, I realized how truly blessed I am.

The past few years have been kind of rough. Going through a divorce is never easy. Having been through it twice it can break you, if you let it. But sometimes getting through the hard times is what allows you the distance to reflect on where you are in your life and appreciate the amazing people who are a part of your life.

I definitely have some amazing people in my life.

I have friends who have known me forever. Friends who are Facebook friends with my dad (yes – he’s on FB and I’m not). And friends who are just getting to know me (and trying to get me on FB).

I have friends who have known me before I ever got married, those who have known me and supported me in varying stages of marriage and divorce, and friends who have never known any of my ex’s and just know the me I have become.

I have friends who held my babies when they were born, built snowmen with my sons when they were just kids, and friends who have become family supports to my boys as they have become amazing young men.

I have friends who stalk my blog, friends who comment and discuss my blog, and friends who are common inspirations for my blog.

As I look back on my journey of life I think about the random happenings, the twists and turns, the agonizing decisions and the split second decisions that led me to where I am now. And I wouldn’t change a second of it. Because each of those moments have made me who I am and connected me with the people who love and cherish me.

So as you read this blog take a moment to enjoy a sunset.IMG_3583

Count all of the blessings you have in your life.

Don’t forget to count the people who have touched your life.

Those who have been with you through it all and those who have just begun walking with you.

To all my friends, both new and old, I love you and thank you for sharing a sunset with me.

Redefining alone 

Every other weekend I have to see my ex husband. He brings his new girlfriend with him every time he sees me. It’s his way of proving to me that he’s moved on. It’s his way of rubbing it in my face that I’m alone and he isn’t.

But maybe alone isn’t what I think it is. A good friend of mine told me that maybe what I need to do is redefine what it means to be alone.

Dictionary.com defines alone as:

  1. Separate, apart, or isolated from others: I want to be alone. 
  2. To the exclusion of all others or all else: One cannot live by bread alone. 
  3. Unique; unequaled; unexcelled: He is alone among his peers in devotion to duty. 

In looking at definition 1, I’m certainly not alone. I’m not isolated from others. But in many ways my ex is alone. He has separated himself from his family and his friends. He keeps himself isolated and alone. I don’t. I have amazing friends and family who care for me and check in with me on a regular basis. I have people in my life that I can turn to to make me laugh, that I can depend on when I need a shoulder to cry on. I have people in my life that let me vent and that build me up when I’m down. I have good people in my life who remind me to be gentle and patient with myself.

According to the second definition I’m also not alone. My ex tried to keep me alone when we were together. He tried to control me and keep me away from others both physically and emotionally. Whenever I made a connection with someone, he would try to turn it around and keep me away from them. He made me doubt their intentions. It was actually one of the turning points in our marriage. He tried to ban me from seeing a friend I had made at work and tried to force me to choose between him and my friend. I don’t know why I refused to give up this friend but I just wouldn’t do it. It was the first time I had really said no to him about his controlling behaviors and he spiraled out of control.

As for being unique, I’m not alone in that way either. That is one of the great things I’ve learned through blogging and through connecting with people. I am divorced. I was lied to, manipulated and threatened by the man who promised to keep me safe and love me forever. But I’m not the only one. I have a strong group of women I connect with who are going through similar situations. We talk, we share, we connect and we commiserate. While unfortunate, I’m not unique in what I’m going through.

So I guess it’s not so much about redefining being alone, but defining it correctly and realizing that I am not alone. I do not currently have a significant other in my life. But my life is filled with many significant others who love me and care about me. I am not alone.

Genuine happiness

Not every happy birthday wish is genuine. Sometimes it’s just for show.

happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays. I don’t care so much about my own birthday, but I love to celebrate my friends and their birthdays.

I am a principal of a middle school. Somehow the kids and the teachers always find out about my birthday and I’m usually a pretty good sport about being sung to by the students all day long. But I remember one birthday when my ex-husband and I were still together and working at the same school and I wasn’t very gracious at all.

My ex-husband planned to surprise me with a cake in the cafeteria when I was on lunch duty and have the kids sing to me. I suspected something was going on, and rather than just go along with it, I resisted. Practically making one of my friends, the social worker at school, drag me into the cafeteria. The kids sang, we had cake, and it was great. But I was pissed about it. And I didn’t know why.

As I look back on that time now, I realize that one of the hardest parts of us working together was that the person other people saw (and loved) at work, and in public, was not the person I went home to at night. Everyone thought he was so sweet and wonderful, but the man I was with at home was angry, mean and spiteful.

We were living a lie, and I think at that time in my life, I was finally starting to realize it, but I couldn’t quite identify it. I didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but our life was most definitely not perfect, in fact it was pretty miserable.

He made such a big deal about being this great guy in public that it made me feel bad about the way he acted it home. It made me doubt myself. I was mad at him that birthday because he wasn’t trying to make sure that I had a happy birthday, he was trying to look good in the eyes of other people. So the birthday gesture didn’t feel genuine. And the fact that he continued to fool people, and still does, made me mad then, and is something I still struggle with now.

Even though I was alone for my birthday, every “happy birthday” that was wished to me felt genuine. The students, the teachers, my friends, my family, my boys, all wished me a happy birthday because they wanted me to be happy. Which [even as I sit here crying as I type this] makes me realize that I am a very lucky person. And I genuinely did have a very happy birthday this year.

Loss

Divorce is more than just the loss of a spouse.

At our final court date my ex husband brought his new girlfriend, his sister and his niece. I have known his niece her whole life. I actually talked to her when her mom was pregnant. I held her as a baby. I’ve watched her grow. And for whatever it’s worth it broke my heart to see her stand before me in the courthouse and not run over and hug her. She was more mature than her 9 years of age and she stayed by her mom and her uncle knowing that it wasn’t ok to reach out to me anymore. But she also showed her age when smiled at me and waved when no one else was looking. That’s when my heart broke.
When my husband and I met we worked together. Many of his friends from work I already knew and many of my friends he already knew. When we divorced those were some of the hardest people for me to tell. They knew us when we started dating and then got married. They knew us when things seemed to be at their best. We moved to another state a few years after we married and so we didn’t see our friends from our old job all that often. So for me it was tough to tell them how bad things had gotten and that we were getting a divorce. I felt like a failure. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. My ex actually reached out to one of my good friends from when we worked together to ask her to help us reconcile. She didn’t want to get in the middle of it but by knowing both of us they were all in the middle. It was difficult and awkward for me. I think now I’ve gotten to a place with the people we knew together where I can just be me and not put them in the middle. I know which friends are his who I no longer contact. And I know which friends are mine and I know they love me for who I am.

His other friends that knew him first and only knew me through him have gone back to being his friends. I don’t know what he’s told them and can only imagine it isn’t good based in the looks they give me when they see me. But I have to remember that my friends are not calling him up and hanging out with him either. There is a separation of friendships.

As hard as it is to split friends, family is harder. Not in the sense of who supports whom but in the sense of loss. There are nieces and nephews each of us won’t see grow up. There are brother- and sister- in- laws neither of us can connect with any more. There are parent in-laws each of us has to pretend we don’t care about. For me, there is a whole network of people who used to be interwoven in my life who have been removed and now leave holes.

They always say that when you marry someone you marry their whole family. What they forget to mention is when you divorce someone you lose that family too.

The Radio

Today’s blog post idea from The Daily Post was to start a post from the first lines of the last song you heard on the radio. For the most part I listen to Boston sports talk radio so while I would enjoy writing a post about the outstanding performance of Tom Brady and Jimmy Garapalo in last nights pre-season game between the New England patriots and the Carolina panthers I don’t think that was the intention of the post. So I decided that I would intentionally put on some music when I got in the car today. I don’t really like a lot of the music on the radio, which is one of the reasons I listen to sports talk radio, and of course because I love football.

I plug my iPhone into the receiver in my car and let it shuffle and pick a song. The first song that comes up is “Show you how to love” performed by Penatonix and amazing acapella group I love. I sigh. Why are all songs on the radio about love? But the idea behind the title “show you how to love” has me intrigued in several different ways.

Having spent the last year of my life struggling through a horrific divorce (is there really such a thing as a good divorce?) I think about needing someone to show me how to love again. I’m jaded right now. I’m hurt. I’m struggling. And I’m in that place where I don’t even want to think about love again. But that’s because what I thought was love wasn’t. So I need someone to show me how to love.

I’m also thinking about the idea of the song being about showing someone how to love me. Showing someone what I need and how to love and take care of me.

It has made me think about love again and what it means to me. Or what I want it to be this time around. At the football game last night I saw on older couple walking out of the stadium holding hands, wearing matching Brady jerseys. I love the idea of companionship and enjoying doing something together. At church I see the older couples helping each other out of the pew at the end of service.

 

For some reason old couples are who I’m looking at now. They are so sweet. Maybe that’s because I think about what it’s going to be like when I’m older and alone. Or maybe it’s because I still can’t think about being in a relationship now because I’m still so hurt and raw.

But I also have friends my age who have been married for over 17 years and are as in love today as they were when they met. I often tell them that they are my hope that there is goodness and love in the world. They ride with each other to a meeting just to spend the time together. They have special things they do for each other just because. They truly love being together. I guess that’s what I want. Someone who loves me enough to want to spend time with me and yet trusts me enough to let me spend time away from him.

I guess I need someone to show me how to love again. And maybe in the process I will be able to teach them how to love me.

The importance of the words we speak

Over the past few weeks, in several different ways, the importance of what we say to others has been a recurrent theme. I’m sure if you thought about it for a few minutes, you would remember something that someone said to you that made a difference for you. Sometimes it is the compliment that someone gives you that sticks with you, but just as often, the insult or cruel comment is the one you remember most.

Last week when I was at a principal’s conference, one of the speakers talked about the way in which we, as education professionals, talk to students and how it impacts their belief about what they can do. Children are full of hopes and dreams, and sometimes the comments we make can either spark those dreams or squash them. We need to think about how we can help them to grow simply with the words we use.

 Again this week, another administrator and I were having a conversation about optimism and being positive around students. Not the kind of Pollyanna positivity that is fake, because kids can see through that. But it is also important to not be a negative Nancy where everything is a downer. It is important for us as the adults to stay positive and try our best to help support the students we work with.

Even closer to home I had a conversation with my son the other night about hurtful words that a family member said. It wasn’t so much a direct comment made to him, but it was more of a feeling he got that he disappointed them. It was a side comment that was made that was hurtful. I know and understand that feeling. We tend to be a very sarcastic family and there is a fine line between humorous and hurtful. Sometimes it is a snarky comment that goes too far.

Or sometimes it is what is left unsaid that can be hurtful. By not telling people how you really feel and what you really think, you run the risk of them not knowing. As a parent I try to tell my boys every day how much I love them. To the point where my younger son says “I know mom, you tell me all the time.” I would rather him know and be sick of hearing me say it, then him not know, or have to guess. I try to tell them when I am proud of them and when they have done something great. I also try to tell them when I am upset or hurt by something they do. I try to do that in private so as not to hurt or embarrass them.

So today I challenge you to tell your friends, family members, spouse, or someone important to you how you feel. Tell them they are important to you. Tell them you are proud of them. Tell them they are special. Tell them what they mean to you. And know that the words you speak are important to them.

Intentional Distraction

Going through divorce is not easy. No part of it is easy. Even when you are the one asking for the divorce, it still isn’t easy.

So the day of my divorce hearing in court finally arrived (the one that actually happened after nine months of cancelled court dates for one reason or another).

I work in a junior high school so I go to work very early. Instead of taking the whole day off from work, I went into school in the morning, got the day started, went to a meeting, then left work and went to court.

There are so many meetings and discussions and sidebar conversations that happen before actually going into court that I sat in the lobby anxiously waiting my turn in court and checked my phone. Several friends sent me encouraging text messages such as:
“Hang in there.”
“Good luck.”
“Hope all goes well.”
“Let me know how it goes.”
“Take care.”
And, of course the obligatory, “Hugs”

Then I get another text, “Sorry I missed your text yesterday, Hope you enjoyed the sunny day.”

Totally random. Totally off the point. Totally made me smile. It made me think about the other “stuff” going on in life. Like the nice weather we were having and the fact that I have awesome friends who were thinking of me.

After several meetings between the lawyers and getting everything signed and agreed upon before going into court, it is finally our turn. It goes about as smoothly as it can for a divorce.

I’m feeling emotionally beat up and exhausted. I head back to work and get myself ready to finish up the day.

As the day is ending, a friend from work comes to see me and ask how everything went that day. I start to explain, then stop and say, “I got the most random text from your husband today while I was waiting at court.”

My friend breaks out into a huge, mischievous smile. “What did he say?”

“It was just totally random, replying to my text from yesterday and talking about the weather. It caught me off guard, and made me laugh.”

“Perfect. We planned it that way. Thought you could use the distraction.”

And then I smiled too. My friends are awesome. They think about me enough to intentionally distract me on one of the most difficult days of my life. They intentionally plan to send me a random text to take my mind off of the seriousness of the situation.

Divorce is still not easy. Even now that it is over, it is not easy. But my friends and the amazing people in my life make it a little easier by helping me focus on the good “stuff” that is going on in my life.

Safe place

In the midst of my divorce last year, when I had realized it was bad, but hadn’t quite figured out what to do about it, I had a few friends at work who I could talk to and trust. I still didn’t fully explain everything to them at the time because it was too hard to admit all of it, but they knew that things at home were rough and that I was having a hard time.

One of my friends who was always very kind and supportive of me and knew some of the basics of what was going on at home happened to walk past me in the hallway. He could tell just by looking at me that something was wrong.

He stopped me and asked, “Is everything ok?”

I put on a smile, like I always did, said “yes” but shook my head “no” as my eyes welled up with tears and my hands began shaking.

He knew I couldn’t get into the details in the hallway at school, so he didn’t push me, he just said, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Half as a joke and half because I was terrified about going home that night I replied, “Can me and my boys stay at your house if we need a safe place to go?”

Immediately, without hesitation, he answered, “Of course.”

 

The next morning, he came to find me. He said he went home to his spouse and without going into detail about what was going on with me, he asked his spouse if my sons and I could stay at their house if we needed to. His spouse, who hadn’t even met my children or me yet said, “I’ll go make the beds.” No questions, no complaints, just support.

They probably never even thought twice about the offer for us to stay with them, but I did. I thought about it all the time. I thought about it when I was truly scared that I would have no place to keep my sons and myself safe. I thought about it when the thought of going home gave me anxiety attacks so powerful that I couldn’t breathe.  I thought about it when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that conversation was a turning point for me. Just knowing that I had a safe place to go (one my ex-husband didn’t know about and wouldn’t suspect) made me that much stronger. I had reached a point in my marriage that I knew that things couldn’t go on like they were, but I didn’t know how to change them or how to get out. I had been afraid that if I confronted him he wouldn’t leave, or he wouldn’t let me leave. And if we did manage to leave, I didn’t know where we could go.

Admitting to someone else that I might need a safe place to be to get away from my husband – the man who was supposed to love and protect me – made me realize I needed to do something about it, and soon. So that night I went home and packed an emergency bag for my two sons and me. I packed a toiletries bag and some school/ work clothes, pajamas and play clothes. I put the bag in the trunk of my car, knowing that we now had a safe place to go if we needed it.

We never needed to stay at their house. My husband did leave when I confronted him. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But I survived, and I am stronger for it.

I am in a different place now, both physically and emotionally. And because of my amazing friends, I know that I still have a safe place to go when I need it. Now it is more of an emotionally safe place than a physically safe place, but everybody needs a safe place to go sometimes.

Where is your safe place?