If you’ve been outside of your bedroom at all to this point in your life, you know what I know, that Life is full of Fears and Challenges. To combat those, God gave us guts and heart and brains, and it’s up to us to employ said gifts in the battle. Sometimes, though, these battles are bigger and scarier than we can fight on our own; so it’s good when you’re presented with Fears and Challenges to surround yourself with people who have overcome that which you face or who, at the very least, will listen and share as you overcome your “stuff.” That fact is one of the many reasons I joined the COFFEE chicks. The COFFEE chicks ROCK. Can I get an “Amen”? (Thank you. If you can’t yet give me that AMEN, you need to read everyone’s stuff! I’ll happily take an AMEN later, too.) We might not have it all together; we might be full of Fear about a lot of different things; we might be facing some serious Challenges. Us COFFEE chicks, though, we’re honest about these things and honestly trying to do something about them to make life better! And we are there to deliver that much-deserved “attagirl” or commiserate with each other through all the stages of the Battles of Life. That’s good stuff right there!
The heart of the COFFEE project is to bare our scary stuff in a theoretically safe spot. Since I have yet to do so, I suppose now would be an appropriate time to share my list of things that incite a near panic in my head, a churning in my gut, and a pounding in my chest. This list isn’t comprehensive by any means. It includes, however, the biggest of the Challenges and Fears I’m battling at present. I may add to or delete from this list as our project continues. Here it is:
1. U 2.0 (Project Unmarried, version 2.0) & what comes after that
2. Kicking my caffeine habit
3. Training for and completing my 1st Half Marathon in the spring
4. Writing a stellar book that I hope will serve and impact some very special people
5. Re-entering the realm of studenthood
6. Parenting two tweens and a preschooler (Co-parenting, that is)
First, I’m trudging, albeit with my head up and on straight, into U 2.0 with determination, some trepidation, excitement, and positivity. I’m 37 and about to become a single mom, which is not something I ever really believed I would be. For a long time, I recognized it as a potential necessity/reality, but I was petrified to take the step as, for a long time, a part of me really did hope that it would go the other way. And when it didn’t, I had to face some genuine, life-altering, and nearly overwhelming Fear. Talk about taking the largest, scariest bull on the planet by the horns… yeah, it was gut wrenching, and I can’t think of a time I was ever more afraid in my whole life. However, I did it. I looked that bull square in the eye, breathed a deep breath, got on, and rode the hell out of him, in fact, and guess what? I’m still hanging on tight, taking the turns and jumps as they come as best I can.
Believe me, this is so much less scary now than it was a year ago when the separation happened. As the final steps are taken to finalize the divorce, I still have to admit some Fear about U 2.0. Is it for the best? Absolutely. Is it scary? You bet. Is it exciting on some levels? Uh huh. Will I kick U 2.0’s butt? That’s the plan. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m sure I haven’t seen every scary Challenge on this front yet. I am as prepared as I can be, though, and this stinking bull’s gotta be getting tired, I think.
Beyond just dealing with the changes brought about by U 2.0 and what those mean is the realization that Life is an open book again, and I get to choose what to include in each chapter and on every single page. That’s liberating and scary all at once. Who is worthy of inclusion? What events will be detailed? How will it all turn out? What if I make another bad choice at some point in time? I’m lucky to get to make those choices; I know that. So far, I think I’m on the right track, and I love that!
I so want to tell you about some of those choices. I really, really do. I have to admit to feeling some Fear about making those choices in the first place. I’m good with them now, although some of those choices have presented some interesting and difficult Challenges. I’m presently feeling some Fear, however, about sharing those choices. I am confident in them, for sure, but there’s something real and final somehow in putting it out there. What if that jinxes things? How will people respond? I’ll get to that point soon, I believe. In the meantime, I’m just working through the Fears and trying to deal with the new Challenges as best I can, all while enjoying the chance to dictate my new story.
Second, my name is Stephany, and I LOVE(d) caffeine. It’s true. I admit it. My love affair with caffeine is long-standing and deep. At one point in time, I had a 6-8 diet Coke-a-day habit. I also had a couple of lengthy affairs with Dr. Pepper, until I realized that this love was causing my jeans to shrink. Never good. Most recently, I became involved with coffee. Admittedly, I cheated on diet Coke with coffee, and I’m not sorry at all for this. I still enjoy a good diet Coke every now and then, and I do hope someday diet Coke will forgive me for my indiscretions with coffee. I don’t really care if it doesn’t, but it would be nice to move on without any unresolved issues. Coffee, oh coffee, how I love(d) thee. You made me happy when skies were gray. Deep sigh and a fuzzy, love-hazy grin…..
You read that right. I used the past tense in discussing my love of coffee. From the end of September to the middle of October of this year, I had both a stomach bug and a strain of flu that caused horrible headaches and fever. It was a long month or so, and I ate and drank very little. My beloved coffee made my stomach hurt and then made the headaches worse, so I quit my coffee cold turkey. Yes, I did. And I did just fine, until last weekend. Someone I love offered me a cup, and it sounded so good… And it smelled SO good, and I couldn’t resist the urge to partake. It was an incredible cup of coffee, too. And the next day, I had some more of the good stuff, and the next day some more, and the next day… Yep. I jumped willingly right off the doggone wagon! I have decided that even though I need to totally quit, I love my coffee and need my coffee. I will, though, do my best to stick to a SINGLE cup of happiness and lovin’ each day. It’s not going to be easy, because, let’s face it, who can ever get enough happiness or lovin’? In spite of my love of and desire for the Joe, this is a Challenge I will win!
Third, I used to run. A lot. I ran track competitively, ran to clear my head, ran to relieve stress, ran to escape life’s crap, and ran just because I could. I was pretty doggone good at it, in fact. Then, late in my high school career, I hurt my knee. Four knee surgeries, a couple decades, three children, and a divorce-in-progress later, and I needed to find some healthy and effective way to deal with the stresses of Life. I began to go to the gym. I discovered a love of the weight room. There, I could kick all the butt I couldn’t kick in the real world. Someone needed punched in the face? One hour of kick-boxing or a good back and biceps workout, and life was great again. No way to say what I really, really, REALLY wanted to say because it would only make things worse? Forty-five minutes on the stair master and an abs class, and the urge to run my mouth would be gone. I love the gym. It’s one of only a couple places I know that I can take whatever’s eating me alive, lay it down and stomp on it, and walk out knowing I won and that it’s all going to be okay. It is there, too, that I rediscovered my desire to run, literally run.
(It must be noted that, figuratively speaking, I am a good runner and always have been. Tough stuff? Yep. Steph’s going to be the one heading swiftly in the other direction. That’s been me. U 2.0, though, has shown me that the head-on approach is probably a better option. SO, back to literally running…)
I hopped on the treadmill for the first time in the gym about a year ago. I couldn’t go very far at all. That made me soooo mad! I didn’t enjoy it, and I was hacked off at my inability to run like I used to run. I stuck with it, though, even though I can’t really say why, and eventually worked my way up to four miles at a time on that stupid treadmill. Something wasn’t quite right, though, about putting the miles in but going nowhere. I realized I needed to get my butt back on the street. (Wait. That didn’t come out right. You know what I mean.) So I grabbed the ipod, laced up my New Balance and hit the pavement for the first time in a VERY long time, and it was such a rush! I’m not the natural I used to be, but it gets a little easier every time; I want to keep running for a long time.
After reading about two of my heroes (and fellow COFFEE chicks, Tanya & Patresa) and their running conquests, I wanted to celebrate running and realized with an odd clarity that I had to go for it. I secretly decided I would try to accomplish something similar to what they had, but I didn’t want to tell anyone. What if I couldn’t run that far or that fast? What if I never even ran a race again? People would think I was a quitter, a loser, incapable, or worse! GASP! Something I read one day on Patresa’s facebook wall changed all that. Right now, I can’t recall exactly what it was that I read, although I remember it had to do with some outstanding performance/accomplishment on the road. It was in that moment I knew I couldn’t keep what I wanted to do a secret. If I did, I had an automatic OUT, one that I was quite sure I would take. SO, I hit the web and found out that there is a half-marathon in April in one of my favorite places in the whole world, Lawrence, KS, and I decided that race was the perfect opportunity to just do it! One very large, raspy and ragged breath breath in, then the shaky exhale… yeah, scary crap! So I clicked on “register here,” and did it, before I could talk myself out of it. I’m not sure what was going on in my head at that moment, but for some reason, I proceeded to announce what I’d done on facebook to the world. I still don’t know why I did this. The only thing I can think of is that I knew deep down that it would be the only way I could keep the Fear at bay. If it’s OUT THERE, I can’t go back on it later and undo it! Sick, isn’t it? Guess what happened after I did this? P & T (love you gals!) agreed to tackle this one with me! So, if you’re free this coming April 17th, get your butt to Lawrence and cheer us on! I have a long way to go, of course, but with P & T as my guides and in my corner, I’ll get there, no matter how much Fear tries to keep my running shoes in the closet…
Fourth, the book… A real Challenge, a HUGE, scary, I’m-gonna-hurl-just-thinking-about-it Challenge… I’m petrified enough of and yet emotionally invested enough in this project at this point that I don’t think I’m ready to even talk in “public” about this one. Pray some big prayers on my behalf and also for the brave women I’ve asked to help me get this ball rolling. These women have stories that need to be told, and I feel nudged, check that- SHOVED, to tell those stories. Who knows where this will go? This is one that, in spite the Fear, I’m going to tackle with some gusto and purely from the heart. These women and their men deserve it. I’ll keep you posted, I promise.
Fifth, studenthood… What the heck am I even thinking? For Pete’s sake, it took me nearly a decade and right around 200 credits to complete my bachelor’s degree. Four years later, I did the master’s thing, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Now, only two years into the new gig, being a teacher, and the possibility of more school is staring me straight in the face. What to do? I have no idea. So many Challenges exist where more school is concerned – money, time, logistics, and many more… Yet so many opportunities could show up… While I feel like this is something I need to do, it’s not a Challenge I’m quite ready to face. A decision will have to be made in the near future on this subject, but for now I’m simply trying to deal with the Fear enough to even think it through clearly!
Sixth, and finally, parenting tweens and a preschooler… I love being a Mom. I’m not afraid of my kids, although I suppose there are days that I probably should be! I have great kids; I really do. I’m proud of them, they do very well at school, and they’re good-hearted. The biggest Challenge of parenting tweens today, though, is navigating the hormonal changes and the pre-teen ‘tude, in my case TIMES TWO. I imagine I was hormonal and had some attitude when I was younger. Alright, I know I was and did. I don’t remember experiencing those things, though, until I was well into middle school and high school. My kids are in the fourth and fifth grades, for goodness’ sake! The drama is shocking, and the influences on these kids, which I feel an almost compulsive need to combat 24-7, are staggering and often disgusting.
As U 2.0 rolls out, I find that parenting is becoming more difficult, more complicated, as well. Before U 2.0, I was the primary influence on the kids for many reasons, and I imagined having some element of control in regard to who they were becoming. (I’m honest. I said I “imagined” this. In truth, I’ve always done the best I can and prayed like a maniac that it would stick!) Now, though, that they are actually experiencing another influence in larger doses, in the person of their father, I find that I’m more full of Fear about who they will become. Is it the need to control things? Yes, most likely. Is it knowing about that influence (which isn’t all bad, mind you) and that it’s quite different from mine? Yes, absolutely. Co-parenting is a Challenge, a real, and BIG, and scary one. I don’t yet know how this is going to be or how it will go just yet, but I know that I must and WILL face my Fears about it and tackle this Challenge eyes-open, head-on, for the good of the kids. They are worth it!
You might read my list and think, “eh, not so bad,” and that’s okay. One thing that’s been reaffirmed through my COFFEE experience thus far is that we ALL have our “stuff,” our own lists of Fears to face and Challenges to tackle. I don’t know about you, but I’m surprised and comforted each time I read a post. Each of the COFFEE chicks is unique, funny, amazing, talented, accomplished, and, in spite of all that, each has their “stuff.” I’m in awe of these women, for real. They’re the POO. Fact. They encourage and uplift me on a daily basis. They really do. When faced with Fears and/or Challenges, I often think of these women. That thought gives me the push I need when I don’t want to deal with the scary stuff. It makes me do that thing I know I should do to make progress even when I don’t want to do it.
I’m lucky. I am. I have “stuff,” for sure. BUT, I have great kids. I have amazing parental units. I have a super brother. I have a bestie who I could call at any moment for any reason, and she’d cross the country to be there for me. I have awesome peeps and PLANS. I am loved. And I have these Chicks to share with and care with and dare with. What could be better? Another Amen, please? AMEN.