Be the difference

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I have always struggled. To be happy, to rise above my anxiety, to push through the difficulties of life. I mean really, who hasn’t. Everyone “copes” differently though. From my perspective looking at other people I always wonder how everyone seems to do it so flawlessly when I am falling apart. I am sure this is farthest from the truth though. I am sure that others are completely falling apart on the inside even when they seem so well put together on the outside. I am also sure there is someone looking at me thinking I am strong and have my shit all together.

I don’t though. This point and place in my life has me feeling like I am constantly trying to keep my head above the waves that relentlessly pushes in over and over again. My heart is a constant dull ache and I have never felt more alone. I tell myself daily that I can do this. I am stronger then this. When in reality I am lost. How would life look if we were all more honest about how we feel? Would we be there for each other more? Would we check in on each other more? Truthfully I don’t know if speaking it out loud would help. In our society and society’s standards I think it would push people away. We don’t know how to help others that aren’t “Okay”. Think about it.

You ask your co-worker ” How are you today?”

They respond, ” Honestly, not great.”

How do you respond. How do you handle this? In my own reality most people ignore that you didn’t give them a positive answer in the first place or they respond with a half concerned, “It will get better.” “Keep your chin up.” or ” This to shall pass.”

These to me all undermine that the person could really be going through something and need  someone to really confide in. We live in a society with staggering suicide rates, the annual age adjusted suicide rate is 13.26 per 100,000 individuals per year in the U.S. it is the second leading cause of death in young people ages 15 to 24! How are we okay with that and how do we change this?

First, I think we need to stop telling people to get over it and show them we actually care. You may not see it but what they are going through could really be hard for them.

Just because you may not understand their situation doesn’t make it any less real for them. Everyone copes and deals with things differently. It is real, and hard and painful for them. You may not have to understand it, but you can be there for them and be supportive.

 

If each one of us took a moment to be kind when we are in a hurry instead of rushing through life you never know who you could touch and make a difference for them. I don’t say all this to say I don’t have people here for me. I do and they are wonderful and I love them so much for their support and love. I say this because not everyone has that same support system. I say this because maybe just maybe we all as a whole can stop and try and see what someone else is going through. View it from their perspective so we can be there for them more in a way that will make a difference in their life.

 

Maybe, just maybe we could make a difference in someone’s life who really needs it. Lift up those who are drowning and be a light for those who feel like they are in constant darkness. Sometimes all it takes is just giving a smile, a hug or listening when no one else does. Those tiny acts of kindness could make a big change for someone.

 

Dating after 30 sucks y’all

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Y’all I just turned 33 and I am recently divorced and now single again. Not how I seen my 30’s going or you know that 10-year plan of mine I had. It would be a complete lie if I told you I haven’t been an utter mess. Throw in hormones and the fact that I think I am having a mid-life crisis and that might sum up just how insane my last 6 months have been. Thank you 2018 you have really been full of jokes this year. Now I am at single mom status and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Since that isn’t enough let’s throw in dating or thinking about dating, which is absolutely terrifying.

First of all, I haven’t dated since college and I was awful at it then too. I am an anxious mess when trying to date, I have word vomit of the mouth and I make terrible jokes to try and lighten the mood which in turns make me look like an idiot. I can own up to all of it truthfully. I know it is that bad. Here I am though, thinking about joining the dating scene though and it is NOTHING like it was 12 years ago. From what I can see that isn’t a good thing. It has progressively gotten worse. Like now when you are talking to a person they send a picture of their privates without you even having to ask?

The conversation can go from where you want to go to dinner and while waiting for a response…. “D**k Pic”, comes through your phone.
“No Sir, I would not like that for dinner. That is not even my choice for dessert!”
I am at a complete loss on how to handle this matter and actually find a person who is truly interested in getting to know each other. And truthfully what are the options here?
Going to bars to meet people…. Not for me
Dating Apps…. HUGE FAIL
Meeting people when your out and about… I am with my kids or at home
Dating Websites… Also, HUGE FAIL
Friends of friends… Oh, is that a great story (SMH)
Here is my question. What worked for you? I feel like I am looking for the lost city of Atlantis here.

I mean I am so damn picky I doubt I will ever find a man who is worth the time for myself or my boys and with what I have seen so far, I doubt that opinion will ever change. I guess I am going to shift my mindset from finding a man to be in my life and a person to date. Instead of that being the focus, because ladies we are better than a late-night phone call when the guy “Just needs to see you.” NO, I do not need to send you pictures of my body for you to be a part of my life. I am so much more then that. I am freaking amazing person and if any man isn’t willing to get to know me to see that. Then honey, you aren’t the one for me.

My new focus is going to be me. Finding out who I really am, what I really need and who I really want to be. Becoming the absolute happiest person, I can be for myself and so I can be the best damn momma I can for my boys.

I am going to speak my truth. I am not going to put how I feel in a corner so you can be more comfortable. “No one puts baby in the corner!” I am going to say NO when I know it will hurt me in the end. I am going to learn that I don’t always have to say Yes when I am exhausted and can’t take on anything more. I am going to be stronger. I am going to learn that not everyone is really there for me when they say they are, and that is okay, because I don’t need them to be.
I am going to be weird, funny and completely myself. I am going to sing terribly along with the radio and own every moment of it. I am going to dance like the uncoordinated white girl I am and I am not going to care what anyone has to say. I am going to weigh what I weigh and never ever let someone’s opinion of me either being “thick” or skinny bother me again.
I will never change who I am to fit in or make someone happy again. I will always be true to me because the right person wouldn’t want to change a single thing about me.
Look y’all I am so far from perfect it crazy. I am a hot mess more than I ever have my shit together. I make stupid mistakes, because you know I am human. I will never deny my faults or failures but I won’t have someone make me feel bad for them either.
Here’s the thing… I love my family and friends big! I will do anything for them. I have dreams and ideas. I am smart and sometimes funny! I have wit and I am super sarcastic. I love Jesus but Jesus knows I cuss a lot. If you are a true friend to me then I am with you till the end and I will never be upset that you are busy, because I AM TOO!
If a man can’t see these things and appreciate me for every single one of them then it will never work. These amazing traits and all of the flaws are who I am. Every single one of them.
So, here I am no longer focusing on being alone. Being hurt. Being jaded. If I will every find “The One”. Instead of focusing on those things I am going to focus on ME! That’s right I am going to be my own soulmate. Being alone isn’t what I should be scared of. Being in a relationship where I am not happy or appreciated is.
I also feel that when I meet that person, my person. It won’t be a lot of work. Things will just kind of work. I know God has that out there for me somewhere.
Shine Brightly Loves,
Ashley Vancil

Struggling to Balance It All? 3 Helpful Tweaks for Moms

In a world where you are always needed and on the go, finding a way to balance life and not lose yourself is crucial. The hard part is finding a way to do that. It’s the balancing act that is key here. Allotting the right amount of time for everything that requires your attention. Being a working mother to three boys under the age of six is demanding enough. Once you add in housework, pets, cooking, doctors appointments, working out, meal planning, grocery shopping, bill paying, and giving everyone the amount of attention they need, we forget ourselves. We are drained and depleted. Most of the time running on fumes just trying to make it day to day.

Where is the joy in that?

How are we missing the big picture? We aren’t meant to live and simply survive. We need to be thriving, happy, and balanced. We miss so much when we set the cruise control button and coast through each day. A little laugh in the back seat we might have blocked out due to that phone call. The chance to dance in the kitchen with your son when his favorite song comes on because you’re cooking. Breathing in fresh air because there is no time to go outside when this pile of laundry is staring me in the face. Momma, this is no way to live! These moments are fleeting, and we are missing the best ones. I am just as guilty, but I want to find a way to change. Together, we can start a revolution.

In a world where you are always needed and on the go, finding a way to balance mom life and not lose yourself is crucial

When my first son was born, I set out to be a supermom. To do it all and be it all. I didn’t need help from anyone because I was his mother and “I got this.” Well, let me tell you what…we need to drop that charade. Where did the “it takes a village” mentality go? When families all helped each other, and that wasn’t considered a weakness but a way of life.

Fast forward almost seven years, add two more kids, and I’m begging someone to help a momma out! I don’t want to do it all and be it all. I want to enjoy the moments I am missing while trying to be the Pinterest mom, the keeper of the house, and just hold it all together. I want to find a way to balance these things and end each day feeling uplifted and not drained. Feeling like I put into the universe what I want to get back. How?

How do we do this, ladies?

First, I think stepping back and evaluating our situation is crucial. What bothers you the most? Where do you feel like you need the most change? What do you want to see more of and less of? Let’s be honest here; I would love to see fewer dishes and laundry, but that isn’t going to happen. I can, however, include my boys in that time and make moments while focusing on necessary tasks. It takes some patience and creativity, but I can teach them how to do chores and find a way to make it fun. Make it a game and a time where everyone can come and spend time together. Will it take longer at first? Sure, it will. After a while though, when everyone learns it, you will be saving time and making more time for the important things.

Next, we need to learn to not fret on the small things! They will still be there later, and, if we are honest, the messy playroom isn’t hurting anyone. This is such a hard one for me and my need for everything to be a certain way all the time. I am quickly realizing how much life I am missing when I am hyperfocused on tidiness. So, let’s make a pact to stop stressing about the things that don’t deserve our stress. Breathe, put on your tennis shoes, and get away from it all. Find a way to make memories with the ones you love. Including yourself! This doesn’t have to be lavish plans that cost a fortune. Go to the park, find some woods to hike and explore, go to the gym with your husband, and last but certainly not least, take a long shower or bath. Even if the kids are outside the door (or sitting on the bathroom floor) on their tablets. Take what you can get here.

I don’t want to do it all and be it all. I want to enjoy the moments I’m missing while trying to be the Pinterest mom, the keeper of the house, and just hold it all together.

This one might be the most important for myself and the hardest. Don’t compare  yourself to other mommas, and don’t be so hard on yourself. We live in a social media society which can be wonderful but can also be detrimental if we allow it. Instead, let’s use it as a chance to get ideas, lift each other up, and be empowered. Each and every one of us is so different and that’s the way it was meant to be! How boring would it be if we were all the same? Self-reflection and self-doubt are some hard pills to swallow. What if we began to see ourselves the way our kids do? The way our partners do? Man, that would be a game changer. Viewing ourselves in a positive way is important, so let’s do it! Each day work a little harder to find the positive in you. Be a little less negative. Doubt yourself a little less than you did the day before and embrace each moment. Make each day count and make loving yourself a top priority.

These little changes aren’t going to make all the responsibilities go away.

They aren’t going to make you any less needed. We are in this role of life because we were placed here. But, these subtle changes can help you in how you approach each day and how you feel when it ends and it’s time for bed. Let’s shift our perspective and find life more rewarding. Let’s be aware and present so that we don’t miss the little things—the important things.

Originally written and posted on The Grit and Grace Project. *updated version*

A Letter to my younger Self

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Ashley,

No one ever really warns you of the crazy amount of pain you will feel in your life. They talk about how fast time goes, how you will miss these moments and the amazing experiences you will go through. They tell you about how you hold the key to your future and only you can decide where it takes you. What they don’t tell you is about the variables that play into your future, your decisions and ultimately the crushing disappointments from others. All of these thing will seem debilitating at times. You will literally feel like you can’t take another breathe or endure one more day. People you love with all your heart will disappoint you, break you and tear you down. However, each time they do, you won’t see the part where you get stronger. At first you probably won’t feel that change either. It is happening though! With each heartache and loss. You are growing stronger. Stronger in your spirit, your soul and you mind. Over time you learn coping mechanisms. Some will be healthy and some won’t. The amazing thing here is that as you grow and learn. You become a little wiser. The unhealthy coping mechanisms seem to become less and you root yourself into healthier choices that get you through. My dear you will learn that the people you thought cared most, didn’t. That’s okay though because you will see the people who have always cared will always be there. They will be there to lift you. When walking seems impossible, they are praying for you, loving you and cheering you on. Your tribe of friends will become smaller but they will be precious. I wish I could tell you that you won’t experience pain. I wish I could tell you the tears will be limited and smiles abundant. But, what is one without the other? You will love fiercely and be disappointed. You will be gifted with some of the most amazing gifts God could ever give you. You will be inspired by people you never thought you would meet and you my love will inspire others. Yes, you will be hurt and disappointed. You will suffer great losses. You will learn so many different ways to deal with and handle grief. Just know you always come out stronger. Learning from each experience. Having more grace then you did before and loving harder then you ever thought possible. Ashley, it won’t be easy. You will disappoint yourself more than you ever knew possible. But you will also learn to forgive yourself. Trust the process. Life is not always beautiful, but it is a beautiful ride!

 

Love you,

Ashley

Today I Will

 

img_9467I have spent the past few months wondering. Why? What did I do? How do I fix this? Where did I go wrong? Who am I? What do I do now? The thing is I could dwell on these questions for the rest of my life. And I would get absolutely no where. Today I choose not to question. I choose happiness and promises of a new day. I choose to put self doubt to the side.

Today I choose Psalms 139:14

“I Praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works: my soul knows it very well.”

 

So today I arose to your word and my devotion.

I choose to meditate and pray instead of worry.

I worked out and set my steps in your word and promises.

I fed myself a healthy meal.

I watched the sunrise in your promise for a new day.

 

I will set my sights on you. I will trust the process and allow the pain, hurt and healing that will come with it. Today I will to forgive. Today I will lean on you when I feel weak. I know I make mistakes and fall short. But today I choose to lean on your promise, Lord.

 

Thank you for your blessings even when they are hard to see.

Today I will push forward.

 

Light and Love,

Ashley

 

In the wilderness

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11 years ago I had my first big loss. I lost my Grandma, my momma’s mom. It was awful. Losing her was bad enough but the way it happened was very traumatic. After her loss I dug deep into drinking, partying and pills. A few months after that we discovered that my Step-Daddy, the man who raised me had Stage 4 Esophageal cancer. I lived away at college and would go home every few months to visit and find him getting worse each time. I never dealt with the grief or pain like my mom and sister did living it with him day in and day out. I just drank more. I worked two jobs, went to school full-time and when my head wasn’t completely in that; I would drink more. Take a few more pills. Party with my friends and keep a huge smile on my face. I was Strong, I was going places.

My Daddy was diagnosed in June of 2007. He weighed 250 pounds and was a happy, healthy and amazing man. He passed away June 8, 2008 weighing 98 pounds. He was still amazing but cancer took the rest from him. The next few years looking back are still a blur. I hated God for taking him from us, I pushed everyone away and either ruined or almost ruined every relationship I had with anyone. Family, friends, my fiancé. I drank constantly. I would drink before work, sometime while on my lunch break and every evening. I didn’t need a special holiday, time of day or reason. I drank so I wouldn’t feel.

I am not telling you any of that for sympathy. I am telling you this to tell you a different side of my story. Isn’t it crazy that a human being can accomplish soooo damn much but can also be some of the weakest beings there are. I never worked through any of that grief. I never walked through the steps and slowly began to heal. 10 years later and I am just now taking the steps to try and walk through those losses.

I still battle alcoholism. And I have only ever said those actual words to a few people in my life. I thought I had a hold on it until I didn’t.

Today,  I am walking through a different kind of grief and loss. I am going through divorce. The difference is that the man I am losing isn’t dying. Just our marriage is. So here I am trying to figure this grief thing out still and now I have to grieve a situation that I still have to deal with everyday. And trying to do it sober has been a challenge. While out of town for work I relapsed into “Just having  good time.” Until it wasn’t. What is scary is I have no idea where I was, how I got there or what happened. The last memory I do have was taking shots and laughing at a bar. It is terrifying and opened my eyes to a lot. Including the fact that when the drunk wore off and the shame kicked in. The pain I was feeling hit me even harder.

Grief is a crazy thing and so is pain. I am so far from figuring it out I won’t even begin to try. All I can say is that I know I am going to have to walk through it this time. I can’t depend on anyone else to help me or do that for me. No substance, person or thing can get me through this.

What I do know is that as I take on this wild trail through the wilderness God will be there for me. With open arms and a whole lot of Grace to lead me down this bumpy path. I think that is just what he intended. For us humans to make the mistakes, feel the pain and trek through the unknown. Then and only then do we realize just how much we need him and truly lean on him in all our needs.

This will take time. More time then I want I am sure, but God does have a sense of humor. He knows I am not a patient person. I also believe he has something amazing for me waiting. In his time, I can’t wait to see what that is.

 

Journal Entry 1 of an unknown crazy amount.

Ashley

You can divorce with Grace

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“I’m goin’ through the Big D and don’t mean Dallas.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were as catchy as this 1990’s Country Song? Well, let me tell you it’s not. I am sure that if you have been through this you will also agree. I am struggling in so many different ways that I didn’t even know were possible. The hurt, pain, guilt, failures… absolutely every single one from my entire life are going through my mind. Not just what pertains to my divorce process. ALL OF IT. Where I first went wrong in life. What made me the way I am. I should have done this differently when I was 13 with that one “boyfriend”.

Isn’t it crazy how we use our minds against ourselves? It’s insane to me the stuff that has come back to me and that I am having to sort through on top of everything else. But, in away it is also freeing. I am working through things I never did. I am recognizing what truly means the most to me, who I am and what I need out of this crazy life.

“I never got married thinking it would ever end.” Something I also keep going back to and I am sure anyone who has went through divorce has said that in some form or another. I mean who wants to see what use to be the love of their life come to an end. To have that story end and not end Happily Ever After? Y’all life isn’t a fairy tale. It’s so damn hard. We go through so many hurts, trials, painful situations and the thing is everyone handles them so differently. I think that is where the difference begins.

In how we handle the situations we are given. If we pull closer to the ones we love the most in those times or if we push them away. It’s always a slow process. The distance grows between you and before you know it your are in different mindsets, places of life and become complete strangers. What I am learning in this process isn’t how we got here but how to handle it all now.

After all I could always sort through the past, the what ifs and I should have done this. The past is the past though. His faults and my faults no longer need to be brought up and thrown in the others face. Now it’s how we handle the moment. Showing our children that even in hard times you should always treat other people with love and respect.

I want to greet each and everyday with Grace. Grace for myself, Grace for my children’s father, Grace for the pain I feel and will continue to have to work through. So from this point on I will remind myself.

I am enough.

I am worthy.

I deserve to get back just as much as I give.

I am not broken.

I do not need to keep apologizing.

I will forgive myself.

My boys are my reason for life and I am and will always put them first. I want them to grow up knowing how to treat people, how to deal with life’s hiccups and that they deserve nothing but the best. They will never be used as leverage. They are the center of their fathers and my life.

If you too find yourself in a similar situation then remember to approach it with grace, love and kindness. After all we should always treat others that way no matter what the situation.

If this is you then my heart and love are with you. I know how it feels. We will build ourselves back up together. One brick at a time. Never forget to…

“Always trust that still small voice in your head that says this is my limit.” -Dr. Zoe Shaw Sometimes that voice knows better then our heart.

 

Love and Light,

Ashley