YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL.

I stare out the picture window at the gentle, trickling water. Lush, emerald green pine trees closing in on it, with nothing but blue sky serenely peeking through the needles. Well groomed flower beds with fresh bark flank the perimeter of the house. It’s perfect, and I know I can’t have it. I’m crushed.

But also relieved.

Because I don’t know what I want. Or maybe, more accurately, I don’t know what I don’t want. I want it all. And yet, I still try to argue my husband into making an offer on the drive home.

The elusive “they,” which is a conglomeration of many writers and speakers, told me if I could dream it, I could do it, have it, be it. Just picture yourself living the life you desire, every day… think good thoughts… it’ll come. Caviar wishes and champagne dreams.

Woman, having it all.

Woman, having it all.

I’m not sure I’ve manifested anything yet, other than a major sense of FOMO frosted with desperation and lingering discontent. Although, I did pray for big boobs all through elementary school. They don’t tell you that you need to keep praying for them to stay after pumping out and breastfeeding three kids. Now I wear training bras again.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the current state of my life, but I’m so busy picturing what it could be, I often feel an emptiness billowing beneath the surface- trapped by my own constant state of yearning. Disenfranchised by all of the “successful” people, the books, the podcasts, chirping in my ear about what’s possible. Why shouldn’t I be able to bring in millions of dollars in passive income? Tim Ferriss… I simultaneously love and hate you. You’ve created a couple of insatiable monsters named Sean and Angi. 4 Hour Work Week my ass.

In spite of feeling at peace in a way that I never had before, I started a business 6 months ago. Why? Because of the pressure to perform, to hit big, to be impassioned, and to immerse myself into something/anything. To add to our family income so that we can do all the things. You know, travel the world while we churn out a few email responses each day to keep the bucks flowin.’ I won’t go into the human aversion to stillness. That’s another blog.

I’ve learned a lot from this business. And I’m grateful for all of it, but the problem with owning something is that it’s never enough. There’s always a next step. It’s like taking a test in college. Post exam, you’re totally relieved for a day or two and then you remember you have to study for the next one. That vague sense of relief gone as quickly as your celebratory beer. Nothing is going to grow itself. What are you willing to do to get there? How many followers are enough on Instagram? How many staged pictures of your faux life do you have to post to win a sale? How many new products do you need to come up with to be fresh enough to satisfy the second long attention span in today’s world? How many heart emojis are adequate to express appreciation of a comment? I don’t want to think about this shit. It feels incredibly trite and inauthentic. But, that’s the buy in, the trade off for the alleged American dream at the end of the tunnel.

The “Tim Ferris conundrum,” coupled with the infinite level of pressure to perform while simultaneously feeling like a failure, because it will literally never be enough, has turned me into a certifiable nut job. There’s always the next new thing to keep up with. What you’re left with is a desperate housewife who feels like she can’t control a damn thing, right down to her own kids, cuz can anyone??? After gaining weight from eating too much kale, because I’m 41 and that’s my life now, I went grain and sugar free for one month and then keto for 2 more weeks and weighed more afterwards than when I started. I've been doing an intense weight training program for 45 minutes per day, 5x per week for 6 months and there is literally no perceptible difference in my “progress pics.” F progress pics, btw. My baby stopped napping a year ago, and I haven’t been alone for more than a few minutes since. So, basically my body, my business, and my children have decided that I can’t be trusted with myself, and they’ll make the decisions for me from here on out.

I think this must be what a midlife crisis is. And, the kicker is that I don’t actually have a problem, aside from those 7 pounds, which are more of a nuisance than an actual problem. I don’t want to buy new pants people. Well, I do, but not bigger ones.

The real problem is me. My thoughts. My expectations. My lack of feeling in control. My unrealistic longing, and Tim Ferris. Goddamnit Tim.

I have a lovely home, in a lovely neighborhood, in a lovely town that people come to for vacation. My children are happy and healthy and relatively complication free. My husband and I are solid and in love. I’m healthy and strong and get to stay home with my 3 year old except for a random Saturday or two. My business could go away tomorrow, and we wouldn’t be worse for the wear. We eat organic food and take a cool trip each year. Life is fucking good.

I just need to let it be, take my paws out of everything and breathe easy. I need to let this be enough, to take respite in the adequacy, because while I’m busy upping my game, my kids are growing at lightning speed. The sun is shining outside, and I’m not basking.

We live in an age of possibility and if we can’t contain it, we’ll be destroyed by it. While we make vision boards and picture what could be, what is takes leave. The moment, the only time we own, no longer belongs to us, because we’re in a faraway place plotting and scheming about how to be “better.”

It’ll take some mental exertion with lots of checking in and personal accountability, but let’s flip the world the bird and want what we have while keeping our ambitions manageable. Save the daydreaming for the millennials. And Tim Ferriss.


-Angi


(I’m sorry for those of you who don’t know who Tim Ferriss is. He’s an amazing, brilliant, childless, 40 something year old man with more business savvy in his pinkie than the rest of us have in our whole bodies. He’s filthy rich, uber driven, and penned the book “The 4 Hour Workweek.” In spite of my constant jabs, he’s incredibly impressive, and I wouldn’t undo any insight I’ve gained from him. Everyone should read his books.)


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ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

A LONG DECEMBER- THE GREY AREA OF MARRIAGE.

One of the things I miss most about my 20’s is the self-centered naivety, the notion that I knew it all and whatever I decided was simply how it was, without question. I made no apologies for my spontaneous decision making, and I honestly never second guessed myself. Confidence preceded me (not necessarily a genuine self-assuredness but I certainly had myself fooled) and for the most part, I got what I wanted. As I close in on the end of my 30’s, the only thing I can say I’ve learned for sure is that nothing is black and white. The world is eternally polarized; “This is how it ought to be, This is how it is, Period.” This is what I believed for a number of years.

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Silly me.

Nothing is actually as it seems. We exist in the grey area. Perceptions and ideals with not much solid data. A million varied opinions. Everyone thinks they know everything, and everyone thinks they need to educate one another. We are all blind mice stumbling around, attempting to find a clear cut path through the darkness. The path is there, but it’s anything but obvious. This is where I find myself at age 38, living in the grey, seeking out my path in a monochromatic world where the palette is recognizable only to the colorblind.

It’s so simple to distract ourselves from the truth that lies just under the surface of our presumptuous lives. I’ve written the book on how to busy myself to the point that issues are not just swept under the rug, but the rug is superglued, stapled, and permanently affixed to the floor, preventing so much as a glimpse of the truth from showing it’s ugly face. I’m a pro at telling myself “I'm good," and actually believing it. I think it’s a gift/curse many women have become proficient in to get through the day.

When my friend asked me to contribute to this blog, she had one request- to end each post on a positive note. I think I’ve done okay, but this is not that. I can’t continue to lead readers down a path believing every day holds a valuable lesson for me or that my children go to sleep content and confident in our family unit. They aren’t made privy to details, but children are tenaciously discerning, sensing dischord without hearing a word. It’s become increasingly difficult to focus on parenting, given the current state of my relationship. Over the course of several years, but most recently and most intensely the last few months, it’s come to my attention that things are not as they seem. I’ve always had those moments where things aren’t adding up, curiosities that get instantly shut down and flipped around, leaving me asking myself if I’m nuts. “Gaslighting,” as the professionals call it. So many professionals with so many solutions. So many books and so many authors. A myriad of self-help books to teach me who I am and teach me “self-care.” “Love is a choice,” they say. “It takes hard work on both ends,” they say.

And in the end, no real change.

People think they know, boy do people know what’s best for me and my children. With whole-hearted certainty. Do they? No one knows. I felt the same about my friends’ personal situations. I've made snap judgments. I was critical, only seeing the absolutes, the decisions that clearly needed to be made, not taking into account the trickle down effect on every life involved. I thought I knew the answers. They were glaringly obvious. I feel humbled now for being so self-righteous.

I know now that nothing is black or white, and I need to live in reality. I need to know who I married ten years ago. I need to feel connected and safe. And if I can’t, I’m perfectly okay to go it alone. I’m not fearful of what alone looks like. My self-care workbooks have taught me about boundaries. We can make requests of our partners, but demands and ultimatums hold little value. Requests and agreements are supposedly the healthiest forms of communicating our needs. If this is true, then I have a simple request, and I’m hoping God will oblige: “Please, God, when the truth is brought to light, show me a clear-cut path.  A vision for what you know my life and the lives of my kids should look like. Please, God, give me clarity.” This is all I can ask, my urgent prayer in the midst of chaos, hurt, and confusion.

I so desperately want to live in that black and white world of fact or fiction again. Where lines are crisp. Where the simple words “yes” and “no” are true to their meaning. A world where I can trust those who have committed to honesty, and transparency, and all of the other qualities a relationship should consist of.

For now, I’ll accept my warm welcome into the rawness of a world where the rug and the broom have been banished, where I'm left to sift through the dirt and fragments of what I once thought was best left undisturbed.

-Shelley
 

 

#METOO- Using Your Voice to Conquer Shame.

**This post contains potential triggers.

I am that semi-obnoxious (maybe all the way obnoxious but I just can’t own that label completely) person who almost always sits in the first or second row. Most of the time, when I listen to a speaker, attend a class, sit in a workshop, I intentionally choose to sit in the first or second row. Despite what has often been assumed of me, it (usually) isn’t because I need attention or because I want to be the teacher’s pet. The truth of it is I have such a hard time ignoring distractions of any sort. A baby cries, a parent shushes, the heater kicks on, the guy two rows behind me relentlessly taps his pen against his notepad. All of the things. So, I sit in the front so there is less to distract me from whatever it is I am trying to learn from whoever it is that is speaking.  I have done this for as long as I can remember.

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Unfortunately for me, that is precisely where I was sitting in a room full of 14-18 year-old girls the moment I quite suddenly “remembered” the account of my experience as a victim of sexual abuse.  In the second row.

“You are all valuable. Precious,” she said.  

“You don’t have to give any more of yourself to the world than you want to. Anyone who tells you otherwise…” Fade to black.

Well first, grey, then black, then full technicolor panic.

My lungs seemed to have collapsed under what felt like the weight of a boulder suddenly pressing down on my chest. I was dying. I was certain I would never breathe again. And my stomach. Was it trying to crawl out of my body through my mouth? Or had it just dropped into my toes? There was this sensation in my head; like someone had taken a sheet of metal and sliced through my forehead and then left it there. That feeling you get if you bite on a piece of aluminum foil, or miss the food on your fork and clamp down on the metal instead of the food. But in my temples.

I hadn’t ever had a panic attack or an anxiety attack so I couldn’t make sense of all of these sensations. I just knew I had to get out of the room. I couldn’t ever make sense of the image that had just flashed in my mind while I was sitting in that room. I stumbled out into the foyer of the building and was soon met by one of the adult chaperones of our group whose name I don’t remember but the sensation of her hand stroking my back and the comfort of her presence I will never ever ever forget.

I was 16.

When I was seven, I was a victim of sexual abuse. While staying with family, my cousin and his girlfriend invited themselves into my bed and molested me; forced me to perform sexual acts with each of them. The strongest evidence I’ve ever experienced of the ferocious power of the mind, it’s ability to protect us from things we dare not face-for whatever reason, is this: I was so afraid that the words and my voice would fail me so that I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. I was so deeply convinced that I could not ever speak about what had happened that I managed to even persuade myself to believe that this never happened. I repressed this memory for nine years.

It is important for me to tell this story. To speak it out. To use my voice. For myself and possibly for someone else. Also, it is most imperative that I tell you this: I can only share this story because I am now free from the grip of shame.

I am free from it and now I know...I know that every damn dollar spent on therapy and exercise and learning how to breathe again- These were the beginning of loving myself. Knowing myself and loving me, and loving the little girl whose youthful innocence and bright shiny goodness were spoiled with the taste of narcissism and the stench of strength misused. These were the beginning of learning how to listen to her. To me. Now I know… I recognize what it sounds like and how to use it freely to shout to myself, to the world, to anyone who cares to listen that I am worth knowing and loving. Without feeling small or ashamed or unworthy, I get to take up space in the world that has been gifted to me.

And you too. Just in case you need a gentle reminder, can I say this? Encourage you with this hard-won truth…?

You get to take up space in the world.

No one has the right to enter that space without your permission.

You get to use your voice to say, “No” or “Yes” or “Me too” or if you want, to say nothing at all until you are ready.

I hope this is not your story.

But, there is a one in four chance that it is.

This reality breaks my heart. That so many of us have been violated in a way that strips the soul’s soil of nutrients; uproots the potential of life, of self-love, of hope and worth. This thought brings me to the deepest sadness and the hottest of rages I think I am capable of feeling.

And yet…

There is HOPE.

Can you hear it? It's a growing army-choir of truth-telling hope angels. Amongst the clamor of the worst the world has to offer, there is a crescendo of voices being found and raised. In every shouting, whispering, squeaking out through fear and tears, “ME TOO.”

There is HOPE.

Because my story is still being written. Your story. Our collective story. We are writing them now. The middles, the ends, the beginnings, we are the authors. The thieves, the violators, they stole a page, a chapter even. But WE write the next page. We decide when it is written and where and with whom.

Have you ever noticed that the moment we say the thing out loud, call it what it is, that it loses power? The thing we could never say because “How could I even?”  But then we do. In the moment it's strange to even hear ourselves saying the words, but then it's done and we get to move on to the next part. The healing of the wound. The moving through to moving passed to moving on. All because we SAY THE THING.

So, yes. #METOO

-Tawni

LEARNING AND HEALING THROUGH THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP.

As women, our relationships with our mothers will be among the most important of our lifetimes. Good or bad, getting to know your mother, and who she is as a woman, will offer tremendous insight into who you are. The relationship starts in the womb and never ends. My love for my children, which I learned through observing my mother’s love for me, will continue for generations to come.  

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with my mom. As a therapist and an instructor, I learned early on the importance of dissecting, understanding, and feeling the emotions that come from looking at such significant relationships. My mother and I have been through life together and I have learned much along the way. For the most part, there are general phases in the evolution of the mother-daughter relationship. Each is complicated, holding much truth to learn and grow from.

Phase one- Mom the superhero. She can do all, be all, and is seemingly perfect while doing so. No matter what your relationship is like, good or bad, there have been times when she was and is a superhero. My mother left a very privileged life in India, casting off her role as a stay at home mom with domestic help, to working full time by day and attending paralegal school by night. She cooked every evening and cleaned each weekend, trying to manage all of our (my two siblings, myself, and my father) temperaments and life events. She gave us the most comfortable life she could so we wouldn’t ever feel sad about leaving our home and lifestyle in India. It wasn’t until long after this phase that I finally realized the magnitude of the sacrifices she made for our family.

Individuation is imperative for young women. It usually begins during the angst of our teenage years, continuing until we isolate our own identities, outside of our mothers. It’s often turbulent and rife with resentment. We aren’t eager to own our similarities during this phase.

Simultaneous to individuation, we experience the inevitable moment of realization that our moms are flawed. I recall feeling crushed the first time I comprehended that my mom was human and thus imperfect. I was older, yet still unable to process the feelings that came with the harshness of that reality. I then did what I think a lot of us are guilty of- laid blame. It’s easy to judge during this stage because it offers a sense of control. I was trying to find a balance between knowing that my mom is amazing and imperfect, at once. Eventually, I realized that we share many of the same issues. At some point during this stage, we may realize that our mothers are often right, especially when it comes to judging other people’s characters. We learn very quickly that she knows what she is talking about, yet we need to experience this in our own time and our own way so that we can have first-hand knowledge to pass down to the next generation. Who in turn will ignore all of our wisdom, too? This phase is confusing, to say the least, but the phase that follows, for some of us, brings a lot of clarity.

Most of us eventually have our own children. Talk about realizing very quickly how valuable Mom is! I remember the first night home from the hospital after having my son, sitting in a rocking chair, feeding him for the third time that evening. My thoughts were not on this tiny little miracle in front of me, or the lack of sleep, but instead with my mother, appreciating everything she had to go through with all of us. The years of not really getting it came together, the sacrifices she made were realized through my own. Finally, I understood why she had to be a superhero and why she was imperfect while trying.

There is a final phase, one that I am terrified to dwell on; the loss of my mother, my first love. I am still very blessed to have her here with me and hope that you are too. For those who have experienced that loss, all of my love to you. I can only imagine the devastation that comes with losing the one person (assuming you had a healthy relationship) you know will always put your well being first.

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Whether your mom is with you or you meet elsewhere one day, it is never too late to learn more about her, and in doing so, yourself. No matter where your relationship is at this time, I encourage you to explore, dissect, understand, and feel all of the emotions that come from such a valuable dynamic.

Every mother has moments of breaking down or doubting herself, experiencing darkness and pulling through for her children. Her coping with vulnerabilities may not have been perfect, but she tried and still tries. You can learn so much about who you are through her. How do you cope with darkness? What are your vulnerabilities? How do you handle them? Do you consider vulnerability to be an imperfection? If you are truly honest with yourself you will find parallels, maybe even your reflection in the mirror of your own mother. Learning, accepting, and working through these parallels and reflections will offer empowerment and healing, making you a better version of yourself. Another catalyst for healing is forgiveness.

As flawed beings, our mothers will continue to make mistakes. Now, as a mother myself, the ease of parenting mistakes is ever so real. I am imperfect, and I hope my children grant me the forgiveness, grace, and understanding that I am learning to give my own mother. I encourage you to work toward forgiveness for your mother. How can we forgive ourselves if we cannot forgive those whom we are a part of? Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean forgetting, just letting go of the pain that may haunt your mind, body, and soul; no matter how small or how big the pain feels, releasing it offers healing. When we heal ourselves, we invariably heal future generations.

Those feelings of being unappreciated and overlooked are known intimately by your mother. I am guilty of doing this to my Mom even now. I try to take the time to thank her for all of the sacrifices she has made- past, present, and future. It’s easy to take for granted that she will always be there, forgetting to extend our constant love, appreciation, and kindness. There is another great lesson here for us as well- to be proud of everything we go through as mamas. We need to raise our heads high and say, “Yes! We did that, and that, and that, and that!” We often make ourselves invisible, putting our heads down and pushing through. We love our families, put forth so much effort, and would die for them. Even when we feel that we are doing everything wrong, we have to remind ourselves of that perseverance and unconditional love. So much is right. So, raise your glasses mamas and toast your mom and yourself, celebrating one another, the good, the bad, and everything in-between.

P.S. Mom, my love for you will transcend time, space, and everything else in-between. Thank you for teaching me, for being the best role model and superhero a girl could wish for

-Nayantara

 

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NAYANTARA

As a young child, my parents left India to come to the United States. They sacraficed a very comfortable life because they had a vision for their children's futures, one in which we had the opportunities to pursue our passions.

True to my parents desire for me, I've Followed my heart and my passion to be of service to others, becoming a part time instructor of Counseling at my local State University, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm also a wife and a mother to two amazing children, a seven year old boy and five year old girl. My latest adventure is to work towards my Yoga Instructor license, sharing my love for yoga and helping others to transform themselves and their lives through it. I can feel that my years of experience being a therapist, along with my journey of being a Yogi, is setting me up to be a student first and then a teacher. I hope to share my journey, learning with you and through you along the way.

 

RABID COYOTES AND THE ART OF MAKING NEW FRIENDS.

I remember in vivid detail the first time I succumbed to peer pressure. At the tender age of seven, I was told by a new “friend” that I was to march across the playground to my existing BFF, Emily, and inform her she would no longer be holding the position of my numero uno.  I recall feeling queasy, completely aware of and saddened by what this would do to sweet Emily. I desperately wanted out of the predicament.

I walked sheepishly over to the balance beam she played on, my schoolmate bully following, prodding me like a baby calf on the way to the slaughterhouse.  She hovered over us with a twinkle in her eye as I proceeded to rip the precious heart from my kindred spirit and smite out any remaining chance of reconciliation.  

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At that precise moment, I became (punch to every mother’s gut) a follower. This single event set the stage for the rest of my formative years. This bully, acting under the guise of friendship, remained in my life for far too long. As in any abusive relationship, my self-confidence was repeatedly shattered, convincing me that she was a necessity in my life, serving as the only link to the super cool clique every girl wanted to be a part of (or so I believed).  Her specialty was shaming me amongst our peers, as my parents had a relatively humble home and weren’t the owners of any luxury vehicles. My position on the bottom rung of that shiny ladder was solidified through high school.  I was 20 before I finally shook her like an old dirty coat.  

Flash forward to my mid-30s. I’m not known for a warm inviting smile. The fact that I keep a straight face most of the time has commonly led people to make negative assumptions about my personal character. My “resting bitch face” has proven to be very effective in the art of “how to not make new friends.”  I’ve sufficiently managed to keep prospective friends at arm’s length, maintaining the sentiment that I just don’t need them, they require more than I have to offer.

Well, my theory was just plain wrong. I became acutely aware of this a few years ago when my middle daughter started school. I would see other moms at pick up time (looking fabulous in their active wear) and feel instantly intimidated by the daily small talk they’d engage in. “They must all go way back,” I thought, “longtime friends with established play-groups.”  I instantly labeled myself an outsider and was resigned to waiting in the car until the moment before the bell rang.  I made assumptions, stereotyping these innocent, possibly kind-hearted women, all in the name of self-preservation. After all, what could we have in common? My kids eat frozen corn dogs and I don’t even have a Facebook account. I don’t remember connecting with anyone for most of that school year and, consequently, neither did my daughter.  I became aware that my social issues and standoff attitude were directly affecting her potential friendships. I knew I had to man up and force myself to dive headfirst into a cesspool brimming with every variety of female shark known to science, all sharp-toothed and anxious to rip me to shreds.

As it turns out, it wasn’t all bad, my daughter made a great friend and so did I, and that meeting has led me into contributing to this very website.

In hindsight, all these social struggles seem so unnecessary. I’ve done a lot of reflecting trying to figure out what about the seven-year-old me made a good candidate for being pushed around.  I had no obvious reason for having low self-worth. My mom had always modeled social  confidence and taught me, “it’s none of your business what anyone  thinks about you.”  Maybe it’s just a simple human tendency to desire to be part of a pack. But, some children simply lack the good judgement required to choose the right pack to run with. Unfortunately (as my father always reminded me), you are who you hang out with. And, I got myself into plenty of trouble throughout the years, along with my pack. Damnit, why didn’t I recognize my parents' wisdom sooner?

I want my daughter to decide for herself whom she will call “friend”.  I’m doing my best to help her grow in confidence while also humbly accepting personal failure. I also need for her to understand (in eight-year-old terms) that if a peer pushes her into something she’s uncomfortable with or makes her feel shameful, she is under no obligation to continue that relationship. Friends will no doubt disappoint at times, and that is okay, but there needs to be a threshold. More importantly, I’m trying to teach her to trust her instincts in determining the difference between genuine and phony. She doesn’t necessarily have to be a leader, but she also needn’t be a follower, she can just be exactly who she is. While insisting she be kind to everyone, she is given the right to decide what qualities are important in a friend and whether or not she will invest in that personal relationship because any worthwhile friendship requires a sizable investment on both ends.

It’s a learning curve for the both of us. I’ve met some pretty great women lately. As hard as it may be to trust they are women and not rabid coyotes, I am making investments. Some of these ladies are cynical and jaded, like me. We share a common perspective and love to hate the same things. I find comfort around them because I know I’m understood. And some are refreshingly positive and sweet, seeming never to have a sarcastic thought. This I find fascinating as my mind is proficient in all things negative and social assumptions are as natural, for me, as breathing air. I am learning from them how to assume the best of others, and I have yet to be disappointed. Finding good people has taken me far too long, but I do believe I’ve arrived. I’m hopeful that my daughter is observing what healthy relationships look like and will also choose to surround herself with authentic humans who have her best interests at heart.

-Shelley