The air this morning is crisp and breezy, and I sit here snuggled up in sweat pants, messy, un-showered hair, a long-sleeved shirt with Jack Johnson Pandora playing and a cup of green tea by my side, I feel myself enjoying this rare moment of stillness. I chatted with my sister on the drive back from taking Tanner to pre-pre school this morning, which had seemed like forever since we’ve caught up. We both are so busy with work and life that our phone chats get shorter and fewer, but when we catch up it’s just like yesterday. It felt good to gossip and laugh and tell stories of what’s going on in our lives.

I sit here and I realize I haven’t had a day “off” in what feels like a year. Post Koru Retreat chaos still lingers as I have to catch up on a few more Instagram posts and thank you notes, but they can wait one more second while I sit here and do something for myself – write and be still and do “nothing”.

There’s a certain kind of zen about feeling a cool ocean breeze blow through my house after picking up Tanner’s toys that scattered the living room, and as I sit here, it feels good to be alone, in the quiet {besides Tracy Chapman who is currently serenading me}, and reflect on just how far I’ve come this year. Often people say that, and are just trying to cover their tracks and pretend to fill a void that’s still there. But not this time. I sit here and for the most part, genuinely feel at peace with the trials and tribulations I’ve been through {there always seems to be a few surprises that continue to pop up, catch me off guard, and cause headache, but overall, things finally seem to be on the upswing; knock on wood, of course.}

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Don’t get me wrong, life as a single mom to a two year old is HARD. It’s exhausting and at times really lonely despite the constant go-go-go chaos of toddler life. Dating is hard. Cooking is hard. Cleaning is hard. Finishing any type of project is hard. Finances are hard. Patience is hard. Never getting a break is hard. Balancing friendships with those without kids is hard. Feeling “normal” is hard. Doing anything for myself is practically nonexistent, and, therefore, hard. Being alone to celebrate personal and professional victories is hard…I could go on and on, clearly, as it’s easy to get caught up in everything I don’t have and feel sorry myself. But the difficult and humbling moments come and go, up and down like a roller coaster, and it’s in the moments I feel down that I have to remind myself that this too shall pass. This, right here, is just a moment, and with moments come experiences, and with experiences come growth. With growth comes new doors opening, and past ones closing. It’s then and there that minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years…and I sit here and think, holy shit – I’m making it. As I write this my eyes start to well up as I feel proud how I’ve managed to keep it all together with grace and strength, yet still can’t help but feel somewhat embarrassed and ashamed about the things I’ve been through, and still often fear the past and future, and how they intertwine and will continue affect T & I and those around us.

My ten year high school reunion is coming up, and I keep getting random texts and phone calls and Facebook messages asking if I’m going. Spending all four years of high school in student government and ASB, I never thought I’d be sitting here saying “No, I’m not planning to go.” I thought I’d be marching up the career ladder, proud to show off the fancy corporate executive I became, or tell stories about how I’ve traveled the world, or be arm and arm with a Ken doll husband talking about our white picket fence. Now, I don’t really feel like putting out a ‘Hey! My world’s been rocked, and my life is a daily combo of the unknown + single mama life!” PSA to my hometown and the riff-raff judgey-mcjudgersons spying on my social media trying to piece together my current situation.

Ten years ago I would have told myself you can do anything, anywhere, so go get it. Did I see the world? Kind of – I studied abroad in New Zealand, and it changed my life forever, in every way for the better. I traveled to Aruba, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Jackson Hole, Park City, and tons of other towns and states along the way. Did I climb up the corporate ladder? Sort of…Maybe not literally in a fancy suit and heels, but I started an entry-level internship with Marriott in Park City that lead me to scoring my dream event job with Marriott Marquis in downtown San Diego; hotel life allowed me to meet my ex-husband, who convinced me that moving to South Florida would give us a better life with more financial freedom opportunities; the gypsy in me didn’t question a new adventure for a second, so I put in my two-weeks notice to every sort of comfort I’d created post-college in my 401k corporate hospitality job and followed his lead. We started two businesses, and traveled non-stop, living very fortunately, and I was always beyond grateful for the opportunities we had. But something began to go missing – a depth to it. A gratitude for each other and for moments. A togetherness. As I started to realize that, I wasn’t sure how to fix it – everyone says a marriage is work, and that’s for sure…it’s a lot of that. It takes compromise and communication, and I realized that our life was constantly in motion, never allowing time for that.

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Then one day, I cried as I realized my period was a week late and I had a positive pregnancy test. Most people cry because they’re excited and have been trying to have a baby for awhile. Most people cry because they’re excited to share the news with their parter, their families, and excited to have their lives change. I was TERRIFIED. I never really had that maternal instinct inside me; that “calling” to be a mom. I literally wrote in my vows that before I met T’s dad I figured I’d be 30+ with two golden retrievers, living near the coast or the mountains just focusing on myself and a prosperous career.

I found myself curled up in the bathroom, three positive pregnancy sticks by my side, crying next to a bottle of champagne that I didn’t felt right opening anymore because I was so nervous and scared since I was on birth control and didn’t expect to get pregnant. {it was Christmas Eve // I was the first of my friends // I lived cross country from my immediate family // I’d never been a “kid person”.} I called my sister and my best friend immediately. They were shocked because they knew I was feeling a void in my marriage, an emptiness not living in California, and questioning who I was and who I wanted to be. 

Fast forward a bit – when T was 6-months old, we shocked both our families with the news we were moving to a coastal North County San Diego town that neither of them had heard of. We had/have no family there/here, no jobs based there/here, no idea where we were going to live – but we were doing it. At the time I didn’t realize that this was our hail mary for our marriage. It was what I needed to feel like something in our lives was finally for me and for us as a team. It was the only hope I (turns out we) had that things could get better; that we could get back to us. Along the way I think I was so focused on feeling like myself again, I put that in front of who we were as a team. I let feeling neglected as a partner leave me somewhat checked out to be a more emotionally supportive person and wife. I was just…tired. Really, really burnt out and tired of feeling alone, even when surrounded by people.

I didn’t realize it the past 6 years, but my life had become less of mine and more of everyone else’s. We lived in South Florida, with friends from T’s dad’s past, his family, his job, his…everything. I kind of always felt like a prop and it was his life I was just living in, but am grateful for what I learned along the way and the business opportunities we/I created. However, as soon as we moved to California, I felt a zest inside me again. I felt like Shelley. But I also felt like the old us from Park City. Shortly that faded, and he began to travel more for work, and we began to disconnect again. I “understood” because he was the bread winner for our family, and I was okay with the sacrifices we were both making to make our situation work. I always said I was grateful to be back in California so knew it meant he had to travel more, and accepted that. But the distance between us grew greater, and something just didn’t feel right. When the holidays came and went last year, it was clear to ourselves and our families that something deeper was going on, and that something was seriously affecting our marriage.

I began to lean on my friends for advice and guidance, and after talking to my other mama friends, I assured myself that this was normal – the first year post-baby is HARD; we were all facing the same challenges. It’s exhausting; it takes a lot, from both. I was extremely grateful for the support and love from my in-laws and the bond I felt with my sister-in-laws especially. 

I felt like I was doing most the parenting on my own, and began to resent my then husband for it. He was doing the financial providing on his own, and resented me for it. His job entitles a lot of travel, which began to be a bigger perk than coming home – clean sheets, no baby crying, room service, hotel bars and fancy dinners..life on the road became more desirable and less chaotic than a “nag” at home and a baby that required a different kind of work. I knew in my heart I no longer was being a “good” wife when he came home, because I was exhausted.

He’d come back from a business trip, I’d be tired. He’d go surfing and go to Crossfit, and I’d continue being a mom, just as much when he was gone. It was hard for me to “let go” as a parent and with a baby who breastfed on demand and my past struggles with milk supply/not ever being able to pump, so I’ll be the first to admit I should’ve made the effort to plan more date nights and breaks for myself. I look back now and admit of course there were things I wish I did differently; things I wish I said, things I wish I didn’t say…events I wish I said yes too, or events he didn’t go alone to. But I went with my gut as a mom first, and I don’t think I’d change that.

My biggest problem as a partner was the fact that I got so used to parenting my way — we both became stressed out and frustrated, and one day, after sleeping on the couch became a regular thing {hi, I should’ve known something was up; okay, I did, but who wants to admit that…} he decided enough was enough and told me he wanted a divorce — after seeming like a stranger for months leading up to that moment — but I still was never expecting to hear those words, ever. But deep down would be lying if I felt (and still sometimes feel) like a lot of it was my fault. No one prepares you for the emotions, rawness, and heartache that circles your life throughout a divorce. No one.
I think as a woman, you always have that intuition when things aren’t right, but no matter how much you “know,” you’re still never quite prepared. Like someone who smokes for 50 years; you know smoking can kill you, but are never ready for the day a call comes saying lung cancer is present…

Even amongst the difficulties last year, I had never questioned our marriage was over. I never stopped believing that we could get through that hump. I never thought I’d ever be cheated on for becoming “boring” because I became a mom. I never thought breastfeeding and co-sleeping would be an excuse for why I wasn’t “myself” anymore. I never thought I’d be so fragile-minded as a mom, so sensitive, and at times, over controlling. I never thought I’d be capable of feeling unloved; capable of having a failure of a marriage; capable of feeling like my whole world was crumbling. Yet that’s what the word divorce does to you — it rocks every ounce of your core. Your being. Your soul. Your body. Your life…. You question everything about your past, and everything about your future. You doubt yourself, you blame yourself, you feel sad and numb and sick. You feel like your world will never be the same, and you blame yourself for ruining your family. You worry for your children growing up “normal”; you worry your broken home and sob over the thought of split holidays being a nightmare. I remember thinking HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THIS?! How do I go on alone? I’m just a mom now….I gave up EVERYTHING.

and I’ll never forget how in the blink of an eye, we’d become strangers who began to co-parent and co-function the best we could.

He slept on the couch the night he told me it was over, and I packed a bag for Tanner and me, and flew home two days later to be with my family after realizing this was a terribly toxic situation to have Tanner around, and we were just going in circles of me bawling and begging and pleading we could work it out for the unit of our family. I didn’t want to “run away,” from the situation, but he said there was nothing I could do to change his mind. He was done. He didn’t want to go to counseling. He didn’t want to try to “date” me to bring back our spark. Zip, zero, nada…divorce with a capital D. I went home for a week, and when I got back, he packed a bag, took his valuables, and went to stay with his cousin an hour away. I didn’t realize it then, but he would never come back to live with us again. That was January. The work traveling continued on and off pretty steadily for the next few months, and after a couple months, I was told infidelity had been going on throughout the past year. Boom. That one truth rocked me yet set me free. “People may forget exactly what you said, but never how you made them feel.”

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It sounds crazy, but being told the depth of the cheating was the answer I needed to pick myself up off the floor and patch up the broken pieces of myself. I finally felt like oh my god, it all makes sense. For the first time in years I had closure to why things had felt like such a mess. I knew the intuitions I had were making me insecure, a mess, and not myself, and I wouldn’t wish that feeling upon any woman, wife, or mother. Even the fellow cheaters. I meannnnn…that’s a tough one 😹

Obviously I went on a crazy social media stalking binge to try to find our who the home wrecker(s) are/were. Some of my suspicions ended up being true, which I’m pretty sure was my worst nightmare. I listened to Katy Perry’s “By the Grace of God” literally 49857 times. I took down every picture, went to a divorce worksop for women, called a mediator, and set up our first meeting. All of a sudden there we were, strangers to one another, in a tiny office filing paperwork and a petition for a divorce and custody. It was one of the most emotional days of my entire life. I’m pretty sure I cried 12948723 gallons of tears and left feeling like a piece of shattered glass. I lost almost 15 pounds the first few months of the divorce process, worked out constantly, and could barely eat. Those were the only things I could control in my life besides the kind of mother I was to T, and working out, best friends, family, and music were the only things that got me through the days.

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Now I sit here —- I sit here as we finished out last mediation meeting this summer. I sit here as it’s almost been one whole year since that day in January. I sit here as our final divorce day with the California courts approaches. I sit here and I still get emotional. Not because I miss my failed marriage necessarily (although some days I miss the comfort of familiarity and a partnership, of course – and the best friend I used to have and know…) but because I can’t believe what divorce does to you, your family, and your relationships. I watched friends around me disappear because they didn’t know what to say, and didn’t know how to treat me. Yet I watched other friendships completely blossom, as they knew they didn’t have to say anything, but they just had to be there for me. I’ve watched once rocky relationships with my in-laws turn more incredibly supportive and heartfelt than I ever imagined. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that strong women’s hearts go out to you when you’re struggling. When you’ve been through a divorce, you often have a special bond that allows you to be open, be raw, be vulnerable with one another. I’m so grateful for my mother-in-law and sister-in-laws for being here for me when I needed it most. and I’m also grateful for T’s dad and I trying to co-parent the best we can, and for the support I receive as a mother. No one writes a book on this stuff {okay, they probably do, but who has time to read with a toddler 24/7}. I’ve watched a once checked-out dad bond with our son and enjoy their alone time together, which was hard for me to give when we were married. I’ve learned I have to let go, and at the end of the day always know I just constantly do the best I can as a person, a friend, a co-parent, a daughter…as Shelley.

I watched myself completely hit rock bottom, crumble, feel nothing — to now climb back up, find myself again, and feel happiness, peace, and gratitude. I feel thankful for what I went through because it’s shaped SO much of the me I am today. I’m healthy and happy and a really, really great mom. I put more energy and effort into those around me than ever, and I’m finally learning to do the same for myself. 

So I get emotional because I’ve realized my strengths, my weaknesses, and because I’m pushed every day to new limits because of challenges, opportunities, and changes. Sure, some days are stressful, some days are sad, and some days are challenging….but now my son and I have found a new normal, a new beginning, and a new adventure – as much as we can right now. For the most part, we’re surrounded by amazing people, energy, and love. So I get emotional now because of that; feeling humble and grateful that we’ve been given a second chance for “normal.”

Tom Petty “Free Falling” just started to play on my Pandora, and as one of my favorite songs, it couldn’t be more symbolic to my life. My past year. and this moment right now….I may have been free falling the past year, scared not knowing where I was going to land, but now it feels good to be lost in the right direction. and now Adele is singing “Hello”, and if that isn’t an effing sign of my past and my life, then I don’t know what is. xx

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Thank you so much to @nobleandrews and @atoasttobeauty for the incredible photoshoot that reminded me who I am as a woman – strong, beautiful, and capable of following my dreams and achieving them.   

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2 Comments on “Reflection {this is absolutely terrifying to post}

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