You Should Go Love Yourself


I open my eyes. It’s early, but the conversations from last night wash over me like a bucket of ice cold water, jolting me awake with the sickening dread slowly leaking into my stomach. I recall the vulnerable truths that spilled from my mouth, all while fighting the urge to clam up to avoid rejection from a man I don’t think I’m ready to be rejected by, but in the light of the morning I’m afraid that I revealed too much of myself. 

Just as the panic begins to set in, the soft vibrations of his snore pull me back to the present. I look to my left and catch my breath because he’s still there. I pause for a moment to be sure I’m truly awake. He saw me and still he stayed? 

He saw me, and still, he stayed.

My heart settles into a calm, steady rhythm. Is this what safe feels like? I can’t recall a time I woke up next to someone feeling this way, but I like it, and I don’t want to leave this space yet, so I urgently grab his hand tightly to keep him there and drift back to sleep.

Two hours later, we’ve dragged ourselves from the bed and have made our way down to the restaurant attached to the hotel. We sit down and he comments on how he could see me serving at a restaurant like this one. I scan the menu and get excited to find my all-time favourite amongst the bacon & eggs, pancakes, french toast, and waffles. We order, and while we wait, we chat, take sips of our coffee, and people watch over each others shoulder. This is the natural, easy rhythm I’ve been waiting so long to settle into with someone, and realizing it makes it difficult to not grin at him like a lovesick moron. 

But as quickly as it took me to decide on my order, the mood shifts.

Our food arrives, and after a few bites, he puts his fork down, takes a breath and quietly mutters, “I haven’t been honest with you…” I cautiously look up to meet his eye to confirm what my sinking gut is telling me: this was too good to be true. My eyes dart back to my bagel and lox in my hands in an attempt to distract myself from the stark reality of this moment, but my stomach flips and I have to set the bagel down on the plate and focus my attention on keeping the first few bites from making an unwelcome reappearance.  

As I try to comprehend the scene slowly unfolding in front of me, I look over his shoulder and make eye contact with a man we had met in the hot tub on the roof patio the night before. He looks away quickly, but I don’t need more time with his eyes to know that he can tell what’s going on, and I realize in an instant that this is all happening in public. 

I’m being dumped in a restaurant attached to a hotel that serves shitty bagels and lox. 

My stomach settles, and I can feel myself already making excuses for him, ready to say, “It’s okay! I don’t care! I forgive you! I love you enough to look past this!”, but instead, the strength that had fought its way back to me after over a decade of trying to prove my worth to a man who would never see it took over, drowning his voice out and reminding me, “You are worth more than this. You deserve better.” And for the first time in a long time, I believe it. 

Before he has a chance to fully explain why he needs to end things, I find myself walking out. It didn’t matter what sort of reasoning he had come up with to soften the blow, the fact remained that he simply didn’t want to be with me. While it was a painful thing to accept, I knew ultimately that it didn’t matter because I had found someone who was happy to offer me all of the things I deserve.

Dave Grohl.

Just kidding. I’m talking about myself obviously.

In my thirty-two years of existence, I have yet to find someone, besides myself, who can offer me all of the things I believe I deserve: Someone who will brave my storms and relish my calm waters. Someone who will adventure with me but who can also sit in silence by my side. Someone who will choose me daily despite the challenges that come with me, and sees me as their best decision. Someone who will hold me close, but will also give me the space I need for growth. Someone I won’t have to try to convince to stick around. Someone who wont be reckless with my heart and instead protects it. Someone who loves me deeply and fully. And most importantly - someone who can put up with being featured on my instagram stories on a regular basis. 

That’s not to say that person doesn’t exist, I just haven’t met him yet. I’m learning to be okay with it because I now understand that the one person I have no choice but to spend my entire life with is actually enough for me. I would love to give of myself to another in the same way that I am able to give to myself, but I can’t put things on hold in hopes for it. Life isn’t going to wait until I have someone in the passengers seat before taking off. I just need to buckle up and go, and at this point in my life, I really don’t need a passenger to enjoy a good road trip. 


My nights used to feel like I was sitting in an enormous, empty, dark cave. The deep echos of my loneliness were terrifying, and at times, crippling. I didn’t feel comfortable sitting alone with myself in the quiet of the night, so I’d fill those hollow spaces with late shifts at work, endless hours of Netflix, and messages with people I barely knew (it speaks volumes that I was more comfortable talking to them than to myself). The problem was that the hollow spaces stayed hollow, because I was never filling them with anything of any value, and I realized that the only way to feel less uncomfortable in that space night after night was to become acquainted with the person I was spending every night with:

Dave Grohl.

I’m sorry. I can’t stop. It’s me. I’m talking about me.

If you’re spending time with a person you’ve just met, but all you’re doing while you’re with them is watching shows, texting other people, and flirting with weird dudes from Newfoundland to get a few extra tips while this person sits at the bar and waits for your shift to end…you’re never going to know them any better and you’re never going to get comfortable being with them. So, as crazy as it sounds, I started sitting with myself and spending time talking through things out loud as if I were conversing with another person. It started out awkward - I often found myself picking up my phone or opening my laptop to distract myself. In time though, I became someone I looked forward to spending time with, and eventually someone I loved. I could finally give myself the grace to sit and cry through the heavy moments, the encouragement to face fears I struggled to face and challenges I was intimidated by, the permission to laugh and enjoy life and even live a little recklessly while there was pressure from others to take things seriously, and the freedom to explore my own desires and passions and chase after them. Ultimately, I became the love that I always wished I had. 

So it’s as simple as this: I no longer fall asleep waiting for someone to hold me, to comfort me, to make me feel safe. Since realizing I can do all of those things for myself, my nights have become much different. Every morning when I reluctantly drag myself out of bed, I swear to myself that I’ll be in bed before 11:00, but every evening, 11:00 rolls around, and I almost always decide that I’m not ready for sleep. When the kids are asleep and the house is quiet, this is the best part of my day because I finally have a chance to reflect, dream, plan, and create. This is the part where I remember that I’m on my own and get to make all of the decisions. The part where rather than drifting to sleep beside my partner feeling safe, secure, and loved, I turn off the lamp and curl up inside my duvet, whole alone, and succumb quickly to the welcoming embrace of slumber - never concerned with which side of the bed I fall asleep in because every spot in this bed is mine. And just like my bed, every space in my life is my own right now. 

I know it wont last - a time will come when I will have to share these open spaces with another and will miss this overwhelming independence. Mornings when I wont get to decide what music is played while breakfast is being devoured. Days when I will want to watch my favourite episode of The Office on Netflix again but will end up caving and watching a documentary that puts me straight to sleep. Nights when I will crave the extra space in the bed to stretch my legs and drink cheap wine, keeping myself entertained with my own ridiculous antics. 

So for now, I sleep peacefully alone, content with the understanding that my life is mine; I listen to loud, annoying pop music as I eat my bacon and eggs in the morning, I laugh hysterically at Kevin spilling the chilli for the eighty-third time, I gleefully stretch my limbs to every corner of my bed as I splash a little moscato on my blanket and drunkenly make another dumb but hilarious purchase online, because in the right time, someone will show up and distract me from these little, unimportant (but currently valued) parts of my day.

And I won’t have to grab his hand out of desperation to keep him by my side in the dawn of a new day, because when I open my eyes, he’ll already be holding mine. He will see me, and still, he’ll stay.

But until then, I see you, and I’m staying.


Be Love

“What chord did I hit? I can see that I’ve said something that’s affected you heavily, Jess.”

I looked out the window to see that the wind was pushing a pile of snow up against an old fence that was starting to bend under the dense weight. I wondered how long it would be before it would collapse.

Slowly, I turned my head towards her and unclenched my jaw, bracing myself for the tears that were threatening to make an appearance. I wasn’t used to crying in front of strangers, but she was used to strangers crying in front of her.

“I guess- I don’t know- I think- I mean..”

Shit. I had yet to utter a single sentence and my chin was already wobbling like LC’s when she and Jason split on The Hills. This was going to be rough.

“It’s just that this whole time, everyone in my life has been telling me that this was the right choice, but there has always been some doubt in the back of my mind. I have never been able to know for sure if it was because the doubt had some validity to it or if it was just another manipulation created for me to second guess myself. Hearing I did the right thing from an unbiased stranger just made me realize how little I trust myself.”


One year ago today, I left an abusive addict. It’s only now, a full year later, that I’m able to accept and admit that that’s the situation I was in and am still dealing with.

The rational side of my brain says “This isn’t him. This is the illness.” and I understand it. But the other part of my brain – the part that feels so deeply all of the fear, confusion, rage, and sorrow that he’s brought into my life – has a difficult time accepting it. Not just accepting that he has done all of it, but accepting that I allowed it. Is this weak person actually who I am? I honestly don’t know some days.

In a far less eloquent way, and with far more snot involved, I explained these feelings to my new therapist.

“Jess, this might sound harsh, but I think the emotional abuse you’ve gone through has actually brainwashed you a bit.”

Abuse was a hard word for me to come to terms with, but brainwashed? That’s a little dramatic. I think the look of confusion on my face made her laugh.

“You wear all of your feelings on your face. Has anyone ever told you that? Those are probably hard things to hear, but just let it sink in a bit. He can justify his actions because he doesn’t hit you, call you names, and put you down constantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. Stealing from you, lying to you, manipulating and emotionally blackmailing you – those are all abuse. When someone takes advantage of another person’s love, loyalty, and trust, it’s abuse. And doing that to someone over time is brainwashing. You probably believe a lot of lies about yourself that just simply aren’t true.”

She looked at the clock. 1:53. The session was almost over. She picked up a large deck of cards, held them out, and told me to pick one.

“It’s funny actually, it seems so random, but it’s always like the card picks you.”

I pulled one out from the middle, flipped it over, and read it.

“Be Love. Carve away everything that is not you and become truly who you are and love that person.”

I chuckled softly and held it up for her to read.

“See? That card definitely picked you. So this is where we start - When you think of yourself in a way that doesn’t sit right in your gut, trust that intuition and shut those thoughts down. That’s not you, it’s a lie that’s been tailored by someone who is sick and wants to stay in control.”

My mind immediately went to a screenshot of a text I had saved in my phone that I would frequently pull up whenever things were getting overwhelming:

“I see a person that doesn’t want to do something hard and is taking the easy way out.”

Wait. That’s not true at all. I’ve been fighting my way through this year every single day since I left. Yes, often I’ve had to ask for help. Often I’ve had to stop for a Netflix break just for a brief distraction. Often I’ve fallen asleep on a tear-soaked pillow feeling completely hopeless and defeated. But every morning I’ve climbed out of bed and I’ve fought. He’s wrong.

Shut it down.

I am none of the things you said I am.

My mind went to another text - one that was customized to cut deep.

“You are mentally unstable and the kids aren’t safe with you.”

I am none of the things you said I am.

“You will forever treat yourself as a victim and never know how to take responsibility for anything.”

I am none of the things you said I am.

“I have never met anyone as miserable as you.”

“You’re such an angry person.”

“You’re a bully.”

“You are so selfish.”

“You are scared.”

“You truly have the blackest heart of any person I know.”

No.

I am none of the things you said I am.

None.

The process of learning to know, trust, and love myself is a slow one, but it’s steady. The times of recognition that used to feel like fleeting moments that I could barely hold on to are becoming more discernable and palpable. Times where parts of me that were pushed down and forgotten about momentarily drive themselves back up, and rather than being afraid of letting them out there’s a peace that settles down into my stomach and reassures me that it’s real and pure. Those are the moments I remember myself.

When I throw my head back and laugh loudly at a stupid joke, unconcerned about how outrageous my cackle is, that feels like me. Joyful.

When I cry with a friend who is in pain and want nothing more than to carry the weight of her sorrow just to give heart her a break, that feels like me. Compassionate.

When I step between a terrified woman and a drunk, enraged man standing nearly a full foot taller than me and at least a hundred pounds heavier, look him dead in the eye, and tell him to walk away, that feels like me. Brave.

I am none of the things you said I am.

I am so much more.


After the session, as I was walking to my car, I noticed the wind had died down. I looked over and was surprised to see that the old fence was still upright. It felt like me.

Strong.

The Day I Stopped Giving A Shit What You Think

I slowly walked into the venue for my friend’s wedding reception, took a deep breath and put my sunglasses on. Relax guys, the venue was in a greenhouse, and it was an emotional ceremony, so everyone was wearing their sunglasses. It would’ve been weird if I wasn’t wearing them, alright?

Aside from a few close friends, it would be the first time seeing a lot of people from home since I had left. It would also be the first time since telling him I wanted a divorce that I’d be seeing him. Maybe a wedding wasn’t the best time for us to see each other for the first time after that conversation? Awesome, Jess, I’m really glad you chose this scenario to take a break from overthinking things.

But there I was, shades on, hoping I was looking cool as hell, but in reality, was shaking like a leaf, and grasping tightly onto my drink tickets…cause I wasn’t about to drop those little beacons of hope right about then.

The first conversation of the night started when an acquaintance walked up to me and greeted me with clear hesitation. Thank god for those sunglasses. Eye contact would’ve broken me.

“Hey! Jess! Wow, you look great! Are you….okay? Like, are you being healthy? You’re eating, right?”

Wait, what?

Then a few conversations later:

“Jess! Ohmygodiheardyouhaveaboyfriendnowisthattrue?!?!?!?!”

I’m sorry?

And then later in the evening…

“God loves you. Don’t blame Him. So many people are praying for you.”

Um. Thank you?

I think it’s safe to say those sunglasses stayed on much longer than they should have that night.

While I assumed that people would be talking about my situation, it never occurred to me that they would also be talking about me. The sudden realization that I had been the topic of discussion over tea, coffee, or wine in living rooms, dining rooms, or bars, caused a hard knot of anxiety to form in my belly that started pushing its way up my throat like a bad bout of reflux. I forced myself to take sips of my Palm Bay (I never claimed to be sophisticated) to wash down the explanations I knew I owed no one but still felt obligated to give. Many trips to the washroom were made to reapply my coral lipstick, give myself mini pep talks, and high-five myself in the mirror, but by the end of that evening I knew I had to face a question I had been avoiding to ask myself for some time:

How do you stop caring what people think when you really care what people think?


A sad discovery I’ve made recently is that my life is basically just a long series of choices made based around trying to avoid upsetting, offending, or disappointing others, but when I take a step back to look at the big picture that is my life, all I can think is, “Well, shit.”

So what was it all for? Certainly not for me. Which is completely insane, right? Please tell me I’m right. I NEED VALIDATION!

The last ten months have produced an ever-growing list of challenges, but the one that I’ve struggled with the most is focusing on making decisions based solely on what’s right for me and my kids without worrying about the speculation that surrounds every choice I make. Even after all of that effort, thinking I was making the right choices, it turned out there were some who didn’t agree.

I’ve heard rumours about myself that have made me laugh out loud (I’m a lesbian?!), I’ve heard some that have caused me to breakdown and cry in the middle of Walmart while looking for frozen burritos (I knew about the scams the whole time and made him take the fall) (I also could’ve been crying over the fact that there’s no good Mexican food in Slave Lake. It’s hard to know for sure on that one.), and I’ve heard others that have given me instant diarrhea (I’m mentally unstable, an unfit mother, and trying to pawn my kids off on my parents). Depending on the day, hearing these rumours can either make me quietly chuckle to myself or lay me out flat.

It’s been a struggle knowing how to deal with the rumours. Do I keep my head down and hope it all blows over soon? Should I yell, “FAKE NEWS” and then run away anytime someone confronts me with one? Or would it help if I just started rumours about the people talking about me? I must say, those are all very tempting options. Ultimately, I need to just accept that people are going to talk whether I like it or not, but I figure if they’re going to talk shit, they should at least get the facts. So imma lay down some cold hard facts. For shit-talk purposes. You’re welcome.

Let’s do this in list format, because if you’ve learned anything from this blog, it’s that I love a good list. Or a bad list. Just lists in general! I live for lists. Ask me to make a top five list for anything and I’ll be your lifelong friend instantly. I’m such a sucker.

Anyways.

  • Let’s just clear this one out of the way - I am not a lesbian! I did give my number to a girl one night at work though, but it was only because I was too shocked to say no, and I was secretly hoping we could be friends. She wasn’t into lists though, so we didn’t become friends. Whatever. Her loss.
  • I do not have an eating disorder. Unless eating too much bacon is categorized as one.
  •  I’m not going through a mid-life crisis. Unless eating too much bacon is categorized as one.
  • Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t wake up, find out my husband had an issue with gambling, pack my bags, and get the hell outta there. I begged, I pleaded, and I made useless, empty threats that I finally had to follow through with. Over the span of about three years, many chances were given. Too many, if you ask any of my friends/sisters.
  • No, I do not constantly crap. I’m also going to call out my son for starting this one. I HOPE YOU READ THIS SOMEDAY AND REALIZE THAT LIES HURT, LUCA.
  • I haven’t had any mental breakdowns. They’re called panic attacks. Edibles help.
  • Yes, I said edibles. Bye.  
  •  It’s true, I love Arby's. Go ahead and judge. I’ll be enjoying my beef and cheddar and living my best life while you do.
  • I’m not mad at God, but I am mad.  And don’t try to tell me it’s unhealthy to be angry. My anger is what pushes me forward most days, and has helped me be healthier and happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. If that’s too much for you to wrap your head around, just take a moment to remember that I don’t care! I’ll wait.
  • Just kidding, I wait for no one. Besides my kids. And those idiot customers who take ages to order their food. You know who you are.
  • I am dating. You can find me on Tinder. Get over it, assholes.
  • I do, in fact, write with a fist. It’s not a stunt for attention.  

There. Are you happy?

I’m happy. And for the first time in my life I understand that while my happiness shouldn’t be my number one priority, making others happy should be even less of one. So, after all of that, I can swallow the fact that some individuals won’t be thrilled about a few of the details on that list, because none of those people have to live with my choices.

Why should I keep my hair in a mom bob just because someone once told me long hair made my face look too long and skinny. Excuse me, SINCE WHEN WAS THAT A BAD THING?! So the hair grows. Cause I don’t give a shit what you think.

Why should I not wear “winter” colours just because someone who read Colour Me Beautiful once told me I’m an “autumn”? First of all, what does that even mean? Second, I LIKE ICY BLUE OKAY? IT’S PRETTY AND I THINK I LOOK PRETTY IN IT, DAMMIT! So I’ll wear whatever colour I damn well please. Cause I don’t give a shit what you think.

Why should I censor myself on my own blog just because someone once told me I upset some poor fragile souls with my last post? Um, duh. It was supposed to upset people. It was an upsetting subject. I WAS UPSET. So I’ll continue sharing, or oversharing, or whatever you wish to call it. Cause I don’t give a shit what you think.

Why should I stay stuck in a sad, lonely marriage just because I’m afraid of disappointing people for breaking my vows? Sorry, but if you think that a piece of paper is more important than a person being valued, feeling safe, and being empowered to be the best version of themselves, then your opinion cancels itself out. Actually, I take that back. I’m not sorry. I don’t give a shit.

So, there it is.

I guess this should be the part where I write a nice conclusion that ties things all together with a powerful message telling you all to live your lives joyfully, not worrying about pleasing others, but I’m late for a date with a tall, handsome man who makes me laugh and for some reason likes the impressions I do of my kids, so just figure it out yourselves. Bye!  

I HOP U V BT

“Jessica, are you staying because you think it’s your only option?”

I was silent. It was the truth, but it had never been spoken out loud before. Though my mother doesn’t agree with me on many things, she understands me better than most.

I swallowed hard. Took a deep breath.

“Yes.”

Saying it made it real, but it didn’t make it any less terrifying. I couldn’t leave. As much as I desperately wanted to, leaving simply wasn’t an option for me.

For starters, I didn’t have a dime to my name. He had made sure of that. I was a stay-at-home mom; a full-time job there’s no money to be found in. I had no formal education, and I had a six-year gap on my resume, so even if I started looking for a job, who would hire me? And even if I did get hired, would I even make enough to support myself and my two children? I had no means of transportation, so even if I got hired, how would I get to work every day? It was completely and utterly hopeless.

More importantly, I didn’t think I could handle the shame of it all. If I wasn’t the loyal wife I had always found pride in being, who would I be? I would be the woman who left. The woman who gave up. A quitter, a failure, a liar.   

I made a vow. I remember it clearly. I thought I knew what it meant.

“For better, or for worse.”

But what if worse meant forgetting what trust feels like? What if it meant struggling to remember what it feels like to love him? What if it meant struggling to remember what it feels like to love yourself?

“For richer, for poorer.”

But what if poorer meant being over $150,000 in debt, finding an eviction notice taped to your front door, and sending your kids to school with stale soda crackers because you have no money for groceries? What if poorer meant stopping to pick up every quarter, nickel, and dime you find on the street, counting them and hiding them away, only to find them missing before you have a chance to use them to pay for your kids to go to the dentist?

“In sickness, and in health.”

But what if sickness meant a gambling addiction you couldn’t ever have been expected to be prepared for? What if that sickness becomes too much for your brain and body to handle and you suddenly find yourself dealing with your own stress-induced sickness?

“Till death do us part.”

But what if death suddenly feels like a better option than to be trapped by those vows?

Yes. That’s where I found myself. Believing that my only options were to stay, or to drive around the city until my children fell asleep in the back, then drive home, pull into the garage, and let the car run until I drifted off to sleep with them.

 

I need to take a moment to explain that I started this blog because I enjoy writing and making people laugh, but I didn’t ever plan to get this personal. The plan was to keep this part hidden. But that’s the problem. Too many of us keep this part hidden, and then believe we are alone, there’s no escape, and that we deserve to be stuck here.

The truth is that we are not alone, we are not weak, and we are not powerless. To stand up and walk away takes courage, trust me, I understand this fully. But why are we protecting those who not only refuse to protect us, but use us to protect themselves? We should be protecting each other instead.

One month ago, I met a woman late one night at work. As I was walking passed her table, she grabbed my arm, looked into my eyes, and asked me for help. She shared her story with me and I tried to share mine with her, hoping that though she fully believed she was trapped with no way out, I could convince her that she wasn’t. It breaks my heart to share that I was unable to convince her, but I went to sleep that night knowing that I did something, and woke up the next morning knowing I could do more.

I knew I had to share my story.

While it terrifies me to speak about such dark and painful parts of my life so publicly, I understand that in finding courage to share, I could be passing courage on to someone else who desperately needs it. Calling your mom and telling her you need help isn’t weak, it’s brave. Packing your bags and saying, “Enough.” isn’t selfish, it’s brave. Walking into the police station and pressing charges isn’t betrayal, it’s brave.

I hope that as you read this, you discover courage you didn’t realize you had and do something brave, with the understanding that it could completely change your life for the better.

 

“Jessica, you’re not trapped. You have options. Do you want me to come and get you and the kids?”

After I finished that conversation with my mother that night, I went to the washroom upstairs so that my kids wouldn’t hear me crying as they drew pictures together at the dining room table. After a few minutes of sobbing into a towel, a heard a faint knock on the door.

“Mom, I wrote you something.”

I looked down and saw a tiny note being slipped under the door. I picked it up and read it. “I HOP U V BT”.

“Mom, it says ‘I hope you feel better’.”

I burst out laughing. Of course I’d feel better. I had no other option. In that moment, I suddenly understood that though my title as “loyal wife” would undoubtedly be stripped away and potentially replaced with “quitter”, “failure”, and/or “liar”, the only title that mattered was “mother”. If I couldn’t leave for myself, I had to do it for them.

A week later we were gone.

I never would have believed that within a few weeks I would start handing out resumes, then soon after, start working as a server, ten years after swearing I’d never serve again. I’d never believe that within a couple of months I would register my kids and myself for school in a town I swore I’d never reside in again. I’d call you a liar if you told me that in six months I’d have saved up enough money to use as a down payment on a house someday, for a brand new laptop for myself, a family trip to Cuba, as well as a trip to the dentist. I would have thrown up if you were to tell me that eight months down the road I’d be dialling the number of a divorce lawyer, and with a shaky voice saying, “I’m not sure where to start…” 

And yet here I am.

I am busy and exhausted. I am lonely at times, terrified at times, and I am stressed most of the time.

But I am also growing and thriving. I am excited at times, content at times, and thanks to the courage my son handed me that night, I am feeling better most of the time.

Thanks for sticking around. There’ll be more to come…

Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving?!

Jennifer Garner, you lied to me. 

Today I'm 31. I've officially been in my thirties for one full year, and I'm still not a big time magazine editor, I'm still not a tough bitch, and I still have yet to successfully convince a group of strangers to do the Thriller dance with me at a club. Also, I still don't know the Thriller dance. And where the hell is Mark Ruffalo?! Isn't he supposed to be my boyfriend by now? This is very upsetting.

I walked into my thirties with the very best of intentions and the highest of expectations. 30 was the year I'd work out the kinks. 30 was the year I'd figure my shit out. 30 was the year I'd be happy. Hell, I even made a list of goals for my year thinking that if I were able to check each one off, I'd finally start feeling a sense of balance and happiness. 

You want to see the list, don't you? Fine. Here, I'll show you. Be prepared to be more inspired than when you stumble upon Jillian Harris' instagram page. 

12 goals for 30:

  • Get a tattoo.
  • Find a pen pal.
  • Start learning French.
  • Start a journal for both kids.
  • Complete at least two rounds of bbg.
  • Contact birth family.
  • Take a creative writing course.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Volunteer at the library.
  • Make a will.
  • Start a monthly dinner club.
  • Go on a road trip.

And here's how things went:

  • Got a tattoo! 
  • Found not one, but FIVE pen pals! Hashtag WINNING! 
  • Started learning French! Then stopped! I don't know why!
  • Started a journal for both kids! Haven't written in it for three months but that's okay because I never specified how often I'm supposed to be writing in it! Success!
  • Completed 1.75 rounds of BBG! Then lost 20 lbs thanks to stressed-induced gall bladder issues! Clothes look great on me now, so let's just round that up to two full rounds! Hooray for health! 
  • Thought about contacting my birth mother for about 8 seconds one time and then panicked and moved on! Maybe next year! Or maybe I'll panic again! Who knows! I do! I'll definitely panic!
  • No creative writing course, BUT I started this blog! It counts, because I say so! 
  • Took no cooking classes! Didn't even look into one! But I did sign up for the business administration course at the college where I'm living now! So does that count? Hey! I make the rules! I say yes!
  • One day at the library here I kindly told a group of young boys to stop staring out the window at the peace officer getting his ass handed to him by a drunk guy outside! I'm pretty sure that counts as volunteer work since none of the staff were stepping up to the plate! You're welcome for my service! 
  • Definitely forgot about making a will until I spent three days in the hospital being forced to fast (gallbladder issues) and thought I was going to starve to death! Sorry kids! You almost got nothing! 
  • No dinner club, but I did get a job as a server! Close enough! 
  • Does separating from my husband and moving across the province to live with my parents count as a road trip? Cause that happened! Okay! Road trip it is!

So, clearly life went exactly as I had hoped when I initially came up with those goals. (If you didn't pick up on that blatant sarcasm, I think it's time you took a long, hard look at yourself and finally admit that you need to pay more attention to Jeffery when you watch Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I'm not upset, just disappointed.)

All jokes aside, this year was undoubtedly my most challenging. I was forced to uproot myself from a life I had felt secure in, and make some choices I knew I'd be judged and possibly even alienated for. I ended up having to defend myself for things I never expected I'd have to defend myself for to people I never expected I'd have to defend myself to. I had to come to terms with letting people down. This may come as a surprise, but I'm a bit of a people pleaser and disappointing the people in my life was not an easy thing to reconcile myself with. 

But I did it. And despite it all, I am happy. 

Wait. I'm happy? I'm happy! I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. 

Six months ago I was a heaping mess of sadness and confusion. I was lonely and broken, and felt like the only control I had in my life was the level of cleanliness of my house. (My house was immaculate, by the way. #humblebrag) Think of that scene in Arrested Development where George Michael is walking down the street to the Charlie Brown song after getting dumped by Egg. I mean An. Is that how her name is spelt? Who cares. Anyways, that was me. Minus the Charlie Brown song. Plus some sobbing. Plus two kids following me around because I couldn't just go moping down a street and leave my kids at home by themselves. You get the idea.

But through all of the sorrow, confusion, and fear, I discovered so much more about life and about myself than I think I would have without the pain. And ultimately, these discoveries were far better than checking off some to do list for my year. Though, let's just be clear, it's a damn good list if I do say so myself. Feel free to use it. Except maybe don't contact my birth family. That would be weird. 

So, what were some of the discoveries I made, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask? Don't care. My blog. I'm sharing. 

I discovered that I was wrong about laughing always being a better alternative to crying. Sometimes the only thing that'll help (besides getting day drunk on white wine with your girl gang) is to cry until your voice is gone and your eyes are swollen. I never thought I'd say it, but sometimes laughing is for chumps.

I discovered that cheese can be baked into a giant crisp that you can break off, dip into guacamole, and eat as a chip. And that you'll get super constipated if you eat it. The more you know! 

I discovered that even in the darkest, emptiest moments of life, it is possible to find the good, and I'm pretty dang good at finding the good. Even after experiencing betrayal, my ability to trust in the genuine goodness of others does not waver. 

I discovered that giving up does not necessarily equal failure. Sometimes, when a book is dragging and you find you are having to force yourself to turn the page and keep reading, it's okay to dramatically slam it down on the table or drop kick it or whatever, and say "No more! Time for a better book!" In some cases, giving up can actually mean success, as long as you find a better book. Excuse me as I quickly high five myself for that stellar metaphor I just came up with. Yeah!

I discovered that lightening can temporarily blind you. People might think you're being dramatic when it happens and you start shouting about it, but it's only because they've been fortunate enough to have never experienced it themselves. Just trust me on this one.

I discovered that too many ice capps can give me diarrhea. As does stress. You've been warned.

I discovered that happiness is a choice. Even when it feels like life has stripped away every reason to smile, there are still tiny joys waiting to be found. You just need to want to find them. It could be a mug with a boy beaver saying "hot dam, nice timbits" to a girl beaver. Or one of your best pals strutting into work with a vented leather jacket with a goofy grin on his face. Or a "hey there" that ends up being so much more than just a "hey there". There's good everywhere. Find it. Hold on to it. Never let it go. 

I discovered that love is the brave choice. Whether it's allowing yourself to be loved when you don't feel worthy, choosing to love someone else when you're afraid of walking away heartbroken, or just loving yourself when you feel like you're unlovable. It can all be terrifying. But it's worth it. Dive in. 

Last one, and then I'm going to go eat eggs benedict, because if there's one thing that can pull me away from writing, it's breakfast. Or Netflix. Or work. Or my kids. Well...now you know why it's been a while. 

I discovered that I'm too hard on myself. So this year I'm taking the pressure off and just giving myself just two goals to strive for. 

2 Goals for 31:

  • Savour the good moments.
  • Strengthen in the bad moments.

Actually, no. There's a third. 

  • Learn the Thriller dance and successfully convince a group of strangers to do it with me at a club. 

Happy birthday me! Thanks me! You're welcome me.

The Title Is The Hardest Part And That's Saying A Lot Because This Post Took Me A Month To Write

Let's make a list of things we're good at. I'll start:

- unclogging shower drains without gagging
- doing squats and reading simultaneously
- pretending not to see my son punch my daughter in the stomach
- captioning photos on Instagram
- eating a whole large pizza in one sitting
- harmonizing along to all of Regina Spector's songs
- being uncomfortable at social events
- glaring at dogs
- eavesdropping in on teenage girls conversations about boys and then mentally giving them advice and then mentally giving myself a high five for giving those girls really solid advice

Okay, now it's your turn. Oh, you're not writing this? Well never mind then.

Now let's make a list of all the things we suck at. I'll go first because like we just established, you don't get a turn. Here I go:

- seeking and/or embracing change

That's it. That's my list. I'm good at literally everything else.

Fine, I'll admit that I'm not good at absolutely everything, but let's just pretend that's the only thing on the list to make this a simple segue into today's topic: Change.

I just got full body chills when I typed that. Not because it was powerful, but because change scares me almost as much as zombies and probably a little more than Chucky and that scary ass kid from Pet Cemetery.

Don't get me wrong - I understand that change is healthy and that to resist it could keep me from doing some incredible things in my life. As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in my old bedroom in my parents home, where I now live, with my two kids, at thirty...believe me, I fully recognize that change needs to occur in my own life. Immediately. Probably yesterday. Let's just stick with immediately so I don't start crying.

It just scares the shit out of me. That's all. I mean, not literally, but you knew that, right? I've only pooped my pants once, and that wasn't because of change, it was because of the laxatives my doctor gave me after I had my son. Glad we cleared that up. Moving along.

Lately I've been in awe of how fearlessly several friends have been facing the changes in their lives. I've started to notice a trend amongst the ones who seem truly happy: they not only face the changes, they tenderly embrace them.

I've always allowed change to come to me, thinking that some unknown force (God, is that you?! Can you hear me???? We'll talk about this later.) was in charge and would simply lead or maybe aggressively push me down the path I was destined to walk.

What a friggen joke. I've clearly been doing this all wrong. What the hell was I thinking?! As I've spent my life living day to day, never thinking about positive modifications I could be making in my life in order to succeed and get the most out of my life, things have spiraled into pure chaos. Wow. I cannot get over how dumb I was to think that would work. No wonder I'm so scared of change.

It's like I've been riding a roller coaster over and over and trying to take it all in stride when the ride breaks down while I'm upside down, when I get hit in the face with a bird like friggin' Fabio, or while I'm getting barfed on by one of those asshole kids from The Sandlot. I'm now realizing that in all that time I could have just climbed out, walked over to the food stand, and bought a corn dog. I should have just bought a corn dog. Having diarrhea would've been so much better than having a shattered nose and being called "bird face" for the rest of my life.

When I wrote that analogy, it initially made so much sense. But every time I read it over, it makes less sense. It's like repeating a random word over and over until it sounds bizarre and you're like "WHO THE HECK CAME UP WITH THAT SERIES OF NOISES TO MAKE A WORD?!" Say "lists" twenty times. You'll see what I mean. Whatever, I'm keeping it in here because I laugh every time I imagine a bird flying into Fabio's face. Tell me you're not laughing. You aren't? Well I don't know who you are, but you're clearly in the wrong place. Go on, Buddy, you’re free now. Go on, Buddy! Get! Goooo! Get out of here! Don’t you understand?! Get! I don’t want you anymore! (Bonus points for you if you figured out the Air Bud reference.)

I'm sorry, where was I? Oh right. Change. *shudder*

So I have a close friend. Very close. Let's just say I've French braided her hair before, and the feeling of hair between my fingers makes me dry heave. So yeah, we're basically sisters. (My sisters are all rolling their eyes right now because I've unquestionably never braided any of their hair in my entire life.) Anyways, this friend of mine is going through a time of transition right now. She's decided to leave her job, a job she's incredibly good at, comfortable with, and where she has developed close relationships with her co-workers. Maybe even hair-braiding close. Though I, along with her other pals and supporters, understand that she's headed towards bigger and better things, I'm sure there's people from the outside looking in who would think she's crazy to leave such a great job. But those idiots don't matter, do they?

She didn't choose good. She chose greatness. How fortunate am I to have friends that double as role models? My point is, though this change is undoubtedly going to be challenging, intimidating, and emotional, she's choosing it because good and easy simply aren't enough for her. And they shouldn't be. For anyone.

Lights, a relatively unknown Canadian artist, sings in one of her only moderately catchy songs, "Nothing gives easy, easy gives nothing." Every time I hear it, it makes me cry like that guy on that one episode of Intervention. (You know what guy I'm talking about.) because I get it. Lights may have a stupid name (seriously, she changed her name to Lights. Look it up.), but she has blessed us Canadians with a little golden nugget of truth: Easy is fine. But easy also gets you nowhere. It's become alarmingly clear that avoiding big changes, fearing failure, and accepting the unremarkable...aka choosing easy has left me with not much to account for in my life.

I've never wanted an extravagant life. I've always wanted simple. My problem is that I've been confusing simple with mediocre. For so long I thought I was living a simple life, but I'm seeing now that by shrugging off dreams that intimidated me, I've been doing myself no favors and have been living the most mediocre version of my life possible.

Maybe by finally choosing to embrace change, I'm finally choosing to be in control. By allowing the elements to drag me around, believing that was "fate", I've only managed to end up muddy, scraped, and bruised. And slightly sad. But it's nothing a brownie can't fix.

It might be time for me to get up, and just start moving my feet forward, because as long as I'm moving, I am in control of the direction I'm heading in. Sounds like control to me. Choosing change may be choosing the risky path at times, but if I'm walking into it, I can always turn around and find my way back, which is far less terrifying than the swamps I've woken up in and had to navigate my way through in the past.

So fuck good. I'm too good for good. I'm choosing great. I'm choosing success. I'm choosing change. Because I'm choosing me.

I don't care if that's a cheesy way to end this. I'm choosing it. So suck on that, life.

Support Your Local Girl Gang!

We need to talk about the importance of having good girlfriends. Because it is important.

If you're nodding your head and saying, "Yasss girlfriend!", please stop saying yasss, that trend has come and gone. I'm only telling you this out of love. Now go and text a girlfriend to see how she's doing and stop wasting your time reading something you already know (unless you're a personal friend of mine, then stick around cause I need your support. Thanks, I love you. Let's get coffee later.).

If you're rolling your eyes and thinking, "I just don't like girls.", then this is for you. I need you to stop acting like an arrogant white person at a black lives matter rally for a couple minutes and just listen. It's not as hard as you think. If my kids can do it, so can you. I believe in you. Kind of. Okay, not at all. Prove me wrong.

Let me start by saying that I'm not here to bash men, or say that guys and girls can't be friends. If your best friend is a guy, that's great! I'm happy for you! You just need to be warned that if he's not gay, he is probably in love with you and will eventually want his d s'd. (Mother, if you're reading this, I'm sorry, this is just the reality of the times we live in.) So there's that. Good luck girl. I hope you've got a back up girl gang to help you through it.

Now that we've got that cleared up, let's discuss why girlfriends are so great.

For starters, there are conversations that a woman can have with a girlfriend that she couldn't have with a man (without making him really uncomfortable). Believe me when I say women are gross. Sometimes we are grosser than men, probably because our bodies do grosser things than men's bodies do. You want to argue that point? I have two words for you: mucus plug. Bye.

In my personal experience, guys generally don't want to hear about your cabbage farts now that you're on that low-carb diet, or the pain of tweezing those three black nipple hairs on your left boob, or that time you pooped while giving birth to your daughter. You know who wants to talk about that stuff? I do. And so has every single woman I've ever drank too much wine with, as well as the women I've bonded with in the sanitary products aisle while searching for panty liners. Yeah, I said it and I'll say it again. Panty. Liners. Is that really more cringeworthy than bloody panties? I didn't think so. Moving on.

You know why women like talking about that stuff? It's because the second you cross that line, woman to woman, you're a lesbian. No, wait, what? That's not how that works at all. What I meant to say was the second you cross that line, you suddenly just see each other as human beings rather than the bitchy, back-stabby airheads we are portrayed as. You just get each other.

Here's a perfect example: Last year I was at a friends birthday and there was a pretty large group of girls that I didn't know, or that I only barely knew. When I'm surrounded by people I don't know well, I usually either sit quietly on the sidelines and just listen to what everyone else has to say, or panic and just let the verbal diarrhea flow (the latter generally happens when wine is involved).

A few hours into the party, the friend hosting the party was telling us all about this guy she had reconnected with after years of not seeing each other, and how sweet and nice he was being to her. Without thinking, I blurted out, "YOU KNOW HE JUST WANTS YOU TO SUCK HIS DICK RIGHT?" like an animal. Though I immediately wanted a do-over to instead say, "Oh wow, he sounds like a real catch!" I quickly looked around the room and realized that one girl had practically rolled off her seat from laughing so hard at my statement. Right then, we made eye contact and I knew in an instant we'd be friends.

Turns out I was wrong. She's a bitch and we are now mortal enemies.

Just kidding. I was right and she's now one of the most amazing, supportive, badass friends I've ever had, plus one of the individuals that pushed me to start this blog. So basically, without my being a disgusting pig, you'd probably continue hanging out with all those guy friends and wondering why you feel so hollow and empty inside. You're welcome.

That story brings me to the reason why girlfriends are so undeniably the best:

We are stronger together.

If you're upset right now because you're a man, and you think men are stronger together and how dare I not include you because you're a feminist too but you feel like you constantly need to prove yourself as one because you're a man...just shut up. You don't have to be a part of everything. Pull up your manties and go trim your chest hair or something. Let us have this moment damnit!

Over the last two months, I've been going through a bit of a crisis in my life. By bit, I mean major. No big deal. I'm not crying about it or anything. Oh wait, nope, I totally am. Mentally, emotionally, and physically (because my brain turns stress into actual physical illness, yay!), I've been left feeling completely tapped out and every day is a struggle. Please feel sorry for me, my life is the saddest.

Just kidding, you don't have to feel sorry for me, because I've got a secret weapon: Mother f**kin girlfriends, ya'll!

People who know about what's going on in my life keep telling me that they admire my strength, that they don't know how I keep it together day by day. Though it is true that I am a strong person, I'm not entirely certain I would have the strength to make the difficult decisions I've been faced with without a dozen amazing women standing behind me saying "you can do this" then slapping me on the ass like a football coach.

Honestly though, these women have given me the strength I've needed by doing things no man would ever do for me. They pull me in for long, strong hugs that weirdly make me feel safe (I'm not a hug person. Surprised? Didn't think so.). They brag about me to other people right in front of me, reminding me that I am strong, intelligent, funny, beautiful, and important. They send me screenshots of the scene in The Office where Kevin spills his chili everywhere, because they know I'll laugh out loud at it. They read between the lines in an instagram caption and bring me coffee, because they knew I needed it more than likes. They push me to do the things I love when I can barely get myself out of bed. Like write. This blog. I can't emphasize how little I had to do with this finally coming together. They practically grabbed my hand and started scribbling words in a notebook to give me a push start. Seriously, if you hate it, blame them. They did this.

I'm tired of women hating other women. I'm sick of hearing women say "most of my friends are guys because being friends with girls is too hard." Listen, friendship with anyone is hard. It's not a woman thing, it's a human thing. The only reason women struggle with friendships so much is because we are told that's how it's supposed to be by outside sources who don't know shit about real friendship. Tabloid magazines aren't real. Mean Girls wasn't real. The Bachelor is wonderful and hysterical, but it's not real. Stop using those things as reference guides.

It can be as simple as this: Support and love the women in your life and they will do the same for you. Work out with them, drink wine and be too honest with them, go out dancing and turn down creepy men with them then get some Burger King with them, laugh and cry with them. I swear to you that your life will be so much fuller when you do. And grosser. So much grosser.

So go find a lonely girl who needs a friend, talk to her, love her, strengthen her and repeat. Eventually you won't know how you survived without her.

Am I Over Thinking This? I'm Definitely Over Thinking This.

Hi! My name is Jess and I'm afraid of failure!

"I'm going to start a blog." is a claim I've been making since 2009. My problem is that I've been either too busy, too insecure about my writing skills, too stressed about those two hotdogs I ate at Costco in one sitting that one time, too sad about that depressing Grey's Anatomy episode, too tired, too poor, too constipated.....too full of excuses to get my flat mom bum in gear and start writing. I'm beginning to think that there's a deeper reason behind all of my excuses.

I know I can write, so that clearly isn't the issue. I think I can find interesting, relatable topics to write about. I think that finally tackling something I've wanted to do for a long time would teach my kids to do the same. I think I could bring joy into peoples lives. To simply make myself happy by doing this would be enough for me.

Obviously there are plenty of things that could go right with me starting a blog. The problem is that there are also a lot of things that could go wrong. Before you start asking yourself, "What could possibly go wrong with this weirdo writing a blog aside from nobody reading it?", I'll just give you a list of some very likely scenarios that could result from my blogging:

- writing you're instead of your and my mortal enemy (you know who you are) correcting me in the comments.
- being randomly pied in the face by a reader because they're pissed off about that one time I wrote about The Big Bang Theory being the worst sitcom in the history of television.
- accidentally posting nude photos of myself on the blog because I don't understand how the iCloud works, inspiring People's magazine to do a "Top 100 Grossest Bodies On The Planet" issue featuring my body on the cover.
- saying something that gets completely misinterpreted by a reader and then suddenly having a disturbingly large following by the KKK.
- going to a blog conference and discovering that striped t-shirts are no longer in style.
- spending so much time blogging that I forget that I actually have children and let them starve to death. That one is dark, I know....I listen to way too many true crime podcasts.
- I get discovered by my personal hero, Kelly Oxford, and we become best friends, and my real best friend murders Kelly in a fit of jealous rage.
- my computer literate grandpa discovers my blog and after seeing how much I use the word "damn" sends out a prayer chain email to the rest of my family members.*

That's a very small part of a giant list of potential horrors that I might have set into motion by starting this damn blog (sorry Grandpa).

Mostly though, when I stop to think of what the real issue is, the truth is that I am afraid of failure. I am worried that after all of the people who have encouraged me to try it, they'll realize that perhaps they shouldn't have pushed so hard. Maybe I'll get comments advising me to not quit my day job (jokes on those guys though, cause I don't have one! How embarrassing for them!). Maybe my friends will stop posting links on their Facebook accounts because they don't want the world to know that  they're pals with an unfunny hack. Maybe I'll discover that I really am only good at cooking meals my kids won't eat, organizing closets, and pulling hair out of drains without gagging - just a few examples from a long list of pointless skills that would never get me hired for any job on the planet.

But.

Today a friend posted a photo on instagram, and in the caption it read: "It's pretty easy to self judge when you're the only one listening, but whenever I talk to myself the way I would to a friend, the words are much kinder and full of grace." When I read that, I threw myself on my bed and wept, because 1. I have been told that I am dramatic (which I find kind of rude, but whatever), and 2. I realized that I've been terribly hard on myself.

Never would I set out to make a friend feel like their dreams weren't valid or reachable. I would be beyond disappointed in myself if because of my words, a friend would doubt their potential greatness and allow herself to shrink. How can I call myself a good friend when I can't even encourage the one person I know best to try?
I guess now is as good a time as ever to start treating myself as I would a close friend, so just give me a second while I give myself a pep talk...

Hey gurl. What are you crying about now? Stop it. You can do this. You're funny and creative, and you're super pretty despite that chipped tooth, and I'm pretty sure you could kick through a brick wall from all the squats you can do. Seriously though, about this blog: you need to stop talking to yourself all day long and start sharing your thoughts with the world. You make me laugh every time you talk to me in the mirror, so I can't see why you wouldn't make other people happy with your writing! Trust me, they're going to love it! I know you doubt yourself, but I've got your back. And even if you fail, you will pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going, cause your mom didn't raise you to be a lil' cry baby bitch. Okay? Okay. I'm gonna go find some chocolate to eat.

Okay, wow. I feel so much better. Thanks me! You're welcome me! High five! Good times.

So, friends, family, strangers, kkk members (just kidding, YOU DON'T BELONG HERE) welcome to my blog. Be prepared for the odd story with no lesson to learn at the end, lists with titles such as: Ways To Show Love If You Hate Hugging and The Top Ten Worst Family Secrets My Son Has Revealed To Strangers, and maybe a rant or two or ten thousand...I can get really worked up so it's hard to put a number on it. Hopefully though, some laughs and happiness will come from this because honestly, life can suck and sometimes laughing is a better alternative to crying. I could be wrong about that though. I'm not an emotions professor or anything.

Thanks for reading. I'm gonna go eat a bagel now (#4 on Ways To Show Love If You Hate Hugging).

* When I wrote this a few months ago, my grandpa was still alive, but has sadly since passed. I almost left it out of my final draft, but changed my mind last minute. Rest in peace, Grandpa, please don't judge me from heaven. I'm a good person, I swear.