2015 has been a year filled with life changing events and you may or may not be able to understand how I feel about all of them, but I’ll do my best to articulate my feelings.
Was it serendipity or a blessing?
: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for
: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
synonyms: happy chance, happy accident, good luck, good fortune, fortuity, providence, happy coincidence
: something that helps you or brings happiness
: a thing conducive to happiness or welfare
: something that makes a person happy or content
The greatest moment of my life will always be the moment my daughter, Alyssa, was born. Some of the emotions I felt at the second she was released from my body have no words to describe them – exhilarating, euphoric, joyful, scary, exciting, peaceful, fulfilling – they all fall short of the true feelings that spilled over in my heart. How can I adequately describe the moment when the ache and pain of not having my own child disappeared?
While holding Alyssa during those first few hours, I marveled at every detail of her tiny body. The nurses let me hold Alyssa for quite awhile before they put the drops in her eyes, so she cuddled in my arms totally content looking up at me. Life had never felt more fulfilling and satisfying. She never liked being cramped in my body and once she entered into the world, she wasn’t going to have any part of being bound tightly. She leisurely and fearlessly stretched all the way out, touched my face with her hand, and made calm little noises as her eyes seemed to look into my soul. There wasn’t any crying, just cooing noises. She was happy from the very beginning and my heart was so full of love it is a miracle that it didn’t just pop out of my chest.
In the midst of the paradise after our birthing experience, a dreadful pre-birth thought crept in…”Someday she will grow up and leave.” I don’t do well with separation, leaving, or the end of things so I pushed that thought out of my mind. Maybe by the time Alyssa did grow up and leave, I would be able to cope with it easily. As the years of life ticked by and I jumped totally into motherhood. There was always that niggling thought that Alyssa wouldn’t always live with me, but I kept it at bay so that I could enjoy life.
When Alyssa turned 20 years old, she told me to start preparing myself because she wasn’t going to live with me for much longer. Her education was almost done, so there was nothing to hold her back. She wanted to spread her wings and fly like all children do after they grow up. It’s normal to want to experience life on your own terms.
It shouldn’t have been a shock because I knew from the moment the doctor said, “You’re pregnant,” that eventually Alyssa would grow up, but I still wasn’t ready for her to leave. Wasn’t it supposed to be easily to let go? If she lived with me for the rest of my life, I would be totally fine with it. Spending time with Alyssa made me feel total happiness and it still makes me feel total happiness.
So I decided I would ramp up my online business to occupy my nights when Alyssa finally left home. It still seemed so distant in my mind. I would work during the day at my regular job and then work for myself at night…until I grew old and died. That was the plan. Dating again and definitely marrying was not in my horizon. Been there. Been terribly hurt. Not doing that again.
That was my plan.
On a regular Thursday evening in February 2013, I turned on the television and one of my favorite movies, “Pretty Woman”, was going to be shown. I plopped down in front of the computer and decided to have fun online by watching the movie with my Facebook friends. I had prepared all kinds of “Pretty Woman” movie trivia to share and was eager for the movie to start.
Facebook entry: February 16, 2013, 6:56 p.m.
Sherry Riter: In 5 minutes, Pretty Woman is coming on TV. I think I will watch it for the 5,484th time. LOL
After enjoying 15 minutes of the movie, it was time to post again to Facebook. I was going to make this fun!
Facebook entry: February 16, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
Sherry Riter: “Pretty Woman” trivia
On the movie poster, Edward’s hair is brown. In the movie it’s gray.
At 7:39 p.m. a man I had never seen post on my Facebook made a comment that had me laughing right out loud.
Brent Pope: I’d rather be kicked in the balls than watch that movie.. no offense
I hardly knew how to respond. Who was this man?! It took me a couple minutes to think of something to say.
Sherry Riter: Oh my!!!!
Sherry Riter: Why don’t you like the movie, Brent?
Brent Pope: Because I’m a guy. Enough said..lol
Sherry Riter: LOL LOL LOL That’s such a perfect answer!!! LOL
After eating lunch with “the men” for so many years, his answer made complete sense to me. It also made me laugh out loud. We kept talking online and Brent kept me laughing throughout the movie.
Brent lived very far away, but as we got to know each other a little, he started to understand all that my online work entailed. Eventually his company hired me to build their websites, set up their social media, and manage all of it which meant Brent and I kept corresponding and became friends.
Meanwhile, in my personal life…Thanks to my hard work and with the help of an excellent therapist, in October 2013 my PTSD ended. I was healed. Unfortunately, I was unable to relax in the new life I had finally attained because one week later I was laid off from my job of seven years.
I. Was. Devastated.
The search for a new job was exhausting and no matter how many jobs I kept applying for, I wasn’t getting hired. My emotions were raw. I needed to work because I had no one else to take care of me. My identity was so wrapped up in being a valuable, hardworking, productive employee, that I didn’t know how to be unemployed. Desperate for a job that would enable me to remain independent, I put more time into working at my own business while still looking for full time employment at another company.
I started feeling like I might go literally crazy. There was just too much stress in my life. Alyssa was going to move. That was now a fact. I was unemployed. That remained a fact. I would be totally alone and Alyssa would be far away. It terrified me to know she was going to be far away and I didn’t have the funds to visit her. After all the years of being a mother, wife and employee, all I was going to have to show for it was an empty bank account, two ex-husbands, and it appeared that eventually I was going to move back in with my mother.
Hopeless and depressed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Life was black. I got sick of hearing about “hope” and “faith” from everyone. One day when someone said, “Do you think you are better than everyone else and shouldn’t suffer?” I thought I was going to totally lose it. Of course I’m not better, but my life up to that point had been many years of horrible things happening to me one right after the next. Wasn’t I ever going to get some relief?
By the way, just in case you consider saying something along those lines of “Do you think you are better than everyone else and shouldn’t suffer?” to someone who is feeling completely worthless and at the end of their rope, I would suggest you not say it. Those words will not inspire or bring comfort. Instead they cast a shaming tone on your emotions – feelings that you should not feel ashamed to feel!
At this point I wasn’t just depressed, I was terrified. Having just newly healed from all those years of PTSD, my new unemployed life was almost more than I could cope with and I didn’t have a money tree growing in the backyard that would solve my problem.
Being alone with Bella and Turtle day after day helped calm my terrified emotions. In the evenings, Alyssa would come home from work and tell me everything would eventually be okay. It took time, but the “I am totally lost” feelings brought on by my unemployed state started to level out and I began to have more rational thoughts. Without the shackles of PTSD weighing me down, I started to feel a sense of freedom. It was such a strange experience being “normal” again and yet it was all so new to me.
I stayed inside my home all the time. I only shopped for food and occasionally visited my mom. My pajamas became my daily apparel. Because I was only self-employed and worked online at home, I had time to watch the sunrise and set, feel the healing comfort of a loving pet, enjoy time with Alyssa, build up my business online, and get to know people who read my blog or connected with me on Twitter and Facebook. I found comfort in those friendships and enjoyed feeling productive with my online employment.
In a way, I finally gave up trying to control every aspect my future. Obviously, I couldn’t control the future. I was only able to do the best I could to shape my life into a future that brought me happiness.
You can only control your reaction and attitude about events that happen to you.
Alyssa finished her education and started looking for a job far away in the place of her dreams. At the same time, Brent and I were still just friends and he showed no signs of wanting to have a relationship that was more than friends. The more time we spent together, the more I noticed that my heart started acting like a fool.
Then it happened…I was still only self-employed when Alyssa found a fantastic job and moved…very, very, very far away. I fell to pieces.
Yes, I was happy that my child had grown up to be an independent, accomplished woman, but my role as her mother completely changed and it was devastatingly sad for me. The “Empty Nest Syndrome” is not just a phrase – it is an overwhelming feeling. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and hide from the world.
By the time Alyssa moved, Brent had moved to Virginia. He became a good friend and tried his best to keep me from crying by happily dragging me around here and there to “get me out of the house” which was the LAST thing I wanted to do! We started spending a lot of time together and one day I realized I had fallen in love with Brent. It was a terrible realization! I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with him or anyone! I knew he was going to move away soon to be close to his family and I was just his friend. When he finally left, I would have a broken heart because I had been so foolish to fall in love again. The pain would be double! I would still be missing Alyssa so much that I couldn’t hardly bear it and I would miss Brent. What a terrible mess I had gotten myself into!
I started to calculate how long it would take before my money ran out and when I would move in with my mother.
Just when I thought I had everything about my life figured out, I got a job.
I am extremely under employed, but at least I have a job. It had been so long since I was employed outside my home that it totally shook me. I had to wear “real” clothes during the day instead of pajamas, pack my lunch, drive to a business each morning where I worked and talked to people “face-to-face” all day, then at the end of the day I would drive back home where I collapsed with exhaustion. Missing Alyssa so badly and not being able to cry during the day while at work wore me completely out. The only place I could cry was in the restroom and even there I couldn’t just sob freely. Holding back an ocean of tears all day could be an Olympic event.
After a few weeks of working at the new job, I was still somewhat disoriented and frazzled. One night I thought about my life and felt extreme gratitude that I would be able stay in my own home. Each night I found comfort in my peace-filled home where I often cried myself to sleep.
That’s when I pretty much disappeared from my blog, Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else on the Internet. I was hurting too badly. Talking about Alyssa being gone was too painful to discuss and talking about Brent would have been an invasion of his privacy. Plus, I didn’t believe he was going to be around permanently, so I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of the whole world by pining of unrequited love.
I was sure that Brent was going to end our relationship soon and only loved me like a really, really good friend, so I was trying to brace myself for the pain that his absence would cause. Instead, one evening he calmly told me he didn’t want to live a day without me in his life and that he loved me more than he could express. Then, much to my complete surprise, Brent asked me to share the rest of this life and marry him.
I was so shocked. Had I really been misreading his feelings so badly? Obviously, yes.
Unbeknownst to me, Brent had called Alyssa earlier that day and asked her permission to marry me. She was thrilled! I was so touched at his thoughtfulness when he told me what he had done and that Alyssa gave her blessing.
My tears didn’t stop. Instead they seemed to double. I cried because I continued missing Alyssa and I cried because I was so grateful that my love was reciprocated by Brent.
Through the happy and sad tears, I was thrown into preparing for our wedding. Everything from getting the license, sewing the dress, making the shoes, creating the favors, designing and making the decorations, ordering the cake, to preparing the food, and burning the music on CD’s…the list just went on and on. Since we saw no reason to have a long engagement, we decided to just hurry and get married. At my age, taking my sweet time isn’t always a good idea. Ha! So I had to hurry with all the happy wedding preparations through all the sad empty nest feelings.
That was not easy.
Instead of trying to cram all the rest of the story into this one blog post, I will have to continue it in the next one. I’ll include lots of pictures to help tell the story and show you my wedding. I’m just a bit tired now and have to go to work in the morning.
Sorry to leave you hanging.