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Seven Months

November 6, 2020 to June 6, 2021 — 7 months without Melissa. 🗓🗓🗓🗓🗓🗓🗓

We’re adjusting more and more each day, but I wouldn’t say it’s gotten any easier. We still miss her in ways we cannot explain, nor will my emotions usually let me talk about it anyway. ❤️

I thought today I’d share some observations I’ve had after 7 months of being a 45-year-old widower and single dad to a 13-year-old son.

It’s true that kids are incredibly resilient, and I’m so blessed to have my son to help me through this. He helps move my mind past myself and fills my heart with an incredible love and even gratitude.

I generally loathe the nighttime. I struggle with insomnia and physical restlessness, and my brain that won’t easily shut down for sleep (example: writing this out between 2:00 and 3:00 AM). I don’t fully understand it yet, but I hope to. 😴

Words matter. Terminology matters. Not just for what I SAY 🗣, but primarily for the way I THINK 🤔 and how that impacts my behavior.

Self-care is good and necessary. It is not at all close to self-indulgence, and it is kinder and gentler than self-discipline or self-denial. I have long had a negative association with the word discipline,” including the idea of self-discipline. This means that other related items, such as personal hygiene, health, exercise, diet, sleep, and more, can suffer or be sidelined because of this negative association. But reframing these items as part of a self-care routine has made a major difference for me. These are no longer things I MUST do to maintain a rigorously disciplined life; they are things that I GET to do regularly to care for my body, my mind, my emotions, my energy, etc. I have only one body and mind, and only so much time and energy, so I function best when I care for them best. Maybe your word will be different — maybe it will be self-maintenance, or maybe you’re good with self-discipline — but if you find yourself avoiding something that you feel is important, consider your words and how they affect your thoughts and attitude. A change in terminology may be just the catalyst you need. Maybe you’ll laugh at the idea that a change in terminology matters, but I challenge you to consider it and explore it for a full month. There are some really good habit exploration and establishment programs out there — I highly recommend BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits program. You can try the free 5-day challenge with no obligation and no obnoxious follow-up when the free 5-day challenge ends.

Therapy is challenging and difficult, but it is important. Once I could admit that I had experienced trauma — again, words matter — I realized how important it would be for me to seek experienced help. I got connected with a therapist who specializes in helping patients process trauma, and it’s been hugely beneficial for me. I imagine it’s somewhat like climbing a difficult mountain — it requires a significant investment of time, money, energy, focus, and dedication; there will be some scary moments when you wonder if you have what it takes to keep going; if you have the right companion (therapist), they will push you farther than you thought possible; but when you break through the clouds and get a glimpse of the summit, you realize how it’s all been worth it. I got connected with my therapist via the Better Help online platform, and our appointments are completely virtual via video, supplemented by the exchange of messages throughout the week on their private platform. I highly recommend it. Use my link to get a free week!

Normal used to be a relevant term,” but now it’s completely irrelevant, and I’ve found that to be freeing. We are no longer a normal” family. We have not AT ALL had a normal” school year. (Who has?) So we don’t have to concern ourselves with trying to appear normal because we’re not. We’re unique, and we get to decide that our uniqueness is an asset, not a hindrance.

Focus is important. As referenced above, once we acknowledge what we’re NOT, we’re free to focus on who we ARE. Once we acknowledge our limitations, such as limited time, limited energy, or limited experience, then we’re free to eliminate distractions and focus on what matters most while being able to ask for help where we need it.

Trust and reliability are paramount in relationships. If I can’t trust a person or rely on them, I don’t have to disrespect them, but I do need to set a boundary to protect me and my son. As an example, there is a place we frequent where the neighbor’s dog is an absolute threat. So whenever we’re there, I’m keeping an eye on that dog, making sure it stays on the other side of the fence. As long as that protective fence is between us, we’re good. I know comparing people to dogs isn’t the kindest analogy, but it’s what I could think of, and I think the analogy communicates well. We all have places where we instinctively protect our kids. If my instincts tell me that a person or place is not good for my son, he won’t be there. Conversely, if there’s a person or place that IS good for my son, especially if they provide something I can’t, I’ll make sure he’s there when possible. And I’m grateful for some key people who have consistently proven themselves to be trustworthy and reliable.

Words are memorable. I remember certain things that people have said to me as if there’s a tape recorder in my head. Some of those words have been utterly ridiculous, and I have to actively work to push those words aside, to forgive the person if necessary, and sometimes put up mental boundaries on what I WON’T dwell on. (“Nope. Not gonna do it.”) Some words have been incredibly encouraging or informative. I hang onto those words for strength, I recall them when I need to, and I even make notes so I can review them at key times or even supplement them with my own thoughts or experiences of when those words were helpful.

Life is short, at least on this Earth. Time goes by so quickly, and you never know what tomorrow holds. So make your words count. (I cringe now whenever I hear a couple speak poorly to one another.) Be trustworthy and reliable. Focus on who you are and what your strengths are, and don’t worry about being normal.” Get help when you need it, and from the right people — you’re usually OK putting a Band-Aid 🩹 on a minor cut, but we generally know when we need to seek medical expertise. Don’t be afraid to see the doctor. And think about your life — is what you’re doing today helping you reach where you ultimately want to be? Is the way you’re speaking to yourself helping you become the person you want to be or need to be? Make the time to invest in yourself, to care for yourself — the payoff is worth the investment.

Posted on 2021-06-06   #Boundaries     #Death     #Melissa Dunn     #Therapy     #Words  

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