How many times in our lives do we as women "lose ourselves"? Because our hearts are so dramatically geared toward serving others and taking care of those we love, we are more prone to this pitfall. There comes a point where push comes to shove, and we *need* that inner-knowledge to make crucial life decisions... but will it be there when we need it most? Proverbs 2 discusses the importance of God's wisdom, and how we protect our hearts and lives with His word. "Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you." Proverbs 2:11
Leaving my home and my family for southeastern Louisiana (Fort Polk) in 2004, I never looked back. I wanted to be everything *he* needed me to be. From entertaining his friends, cooking breakfast lunch and dinner, creating romantic opportunities, even ironing his uniforms... I worked to make his life better with my every waking moment. I spent so much of my married life taking care of my husband and all his needs that I had a hard time even figuring out what I wanted when I came out of that marriage.
I can remember so vividly sitting at a restaurant, not even knowing what to order, because he normally ordered for me, and I cried. Love did strange things to me when it was with the wrong person. It was in that moment, staring at that menu, that I knew things had to change. Now I had three little hearts depending on me to be strong enough for them to make this transition work, and to figure out how to take care of ourselves.
In the two years to come, I would face challenges I had feared for my entire life. Things I never, ever wanted to happen... did. It was terrifying and invigorating at the same time, because with each challenge, I overcame it. I didn't do it perfectly, though.... there was a steep learning curve involved. Sometimes I wouldn't even leave the house for days on end, just strong enough to tend to the needs of my three tiny children, all in diapers and drinking bottles. Sterilize, fill, change, repeat.
It was during that time that I learned to take care of myself, and where my limits are both physically and emotionally.
The question I field most often from anyone who gets to know me is, "How do you do it?!?!"
There isn't any formula for success, per se, but there is a principle that helps me to stagger through the rough days and skip through the good ones. Finding clear boundaries and figuring out what little things I love that I can enjoy every day.
As far as boundaries go, it's all about finding who cares for and nurtures my spirit. People that I don't have to hide myself around. Feeling completely at ease. This also involves *strictly limiting* the time I have to spend around people who can be harmful, and to dating as well. I've only noticed the latter recently. I'm still figuring that one out, to be honest.
As far as the little things, for me, it's a cup of coffee with cream and sugar and flavored creamer (horrible for you, I know), a hot bath with candles, having dinner on my good china (and outside if possible), a square of Ghiradelli chocolate, cajun food, group hugs from my boys, reading, cleaning with my iPod at full blast, a big pot of tea and one of my favorite movies that I can watch over and over again, girls night at my house with my dearest friends (who have never made me feel like a threat just because I am single), a new pair of shoes, ironing my clothes to perfection, watching the trees and sky outside my living room window.... and so many others. I put this list on a note on my bedroom door for a time when I was having a really rough month, and it made all the difference. When bad things happen that I cannot change, I simply pick a couple things from the list and try to focus on them intently, trying not to let my mind wander.
I've had to find my "center". Through two years of trial and error, trying to figure out this 'single mom thing' on my own, I have slowly defined what works for me. How much time to allocate to dating? How much time should I spend at home alone with the kiddos? How much money can I spend on a gym membership? How much time should I spend on couponing? How many people should I keep in confidence? How many friends can I have over for playgroup? How many hobbies can I have? How many classes should I take? I've gradually found a happy medium, a "center".
My "secret weapon", though, is my friends. I have some pretty great friends, willing to sit and hear me cry about whatever mess I've gotten myself into and kindly shush me with their wisdom. When I really lose it, and can't see perspective, they put me in my place (gracefully) and tell me to remember God in the equation. Is there ANYTHING He doesn't see or understand? Human nature can't be relied on, but GOD can. No matter how unstable my life or my circumstances may be, God is not. He's my rock and my comforter.
What do you do that helps you to find your "center", single mom or not?