YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY - BY FEATURED GUEST BLOGGER AMY MCALLISTER @FINDING40
My name is Amy - but if I like you, I’m Ames - and I’m a 41 year old twice divorced (yikes - saying that still makes my toes curl a little) mom of 4. I’m also a registered nurse who recently took a contract on the Big Island of Hawaii in a desperate, last ditch effort to calm my storm and find ME again.
You see, my second divorce is still pretty fresh, a wound that still stings like a paper cut in this ocean I’m currently surrounded by. The marriage was short; it ended 5 days before our first anniversary would have been; although the relationship was honestly never solid to begin with.
Both of us had been married before and we dated off an on for 4 years prior to getting married. However, I was never the only one he was dating and though I knew this, I still found myself sticking it out through the unhealthiest relationship of my life. I made excuses for his behavior, the way he treated me and others, my tolerance of it all. I convinced myself that if I tried harder, loved louder, stayed a little longer, things would get better. I truly believed that I was the only one who saw his true heart and the relationship became a prize to win...though I’m not sure what I was hoping that meant. When things were ugly, I’d try to leave, trying to convince myself that I deserved to be happy, even though I’d forgotten what that really felt like. I was starting to find happiness in the tiniest of victories...like only fighting twice a day, or walking away once the obscenities started. But inevitably, I’d always go back...even when he wasn’t asking me. I had something to prove and I was hell bent on proving it. It wasn’t a happy life, nor was I ever genuinely happy in it. I started to worry that the damage to my kids and their views of me and stability in general would be damaged beyond repair.
I could go on and on about the atrocities of this relationship but that’s actually not the point of this post at all. The reason I write, the reason I’m in Hawaii, the focus of my life now is calming the storm that I nearly lost myself in through the course of the relationship, the marriage and the divorce. I’m not normally a chronically anxious or depressed person. I didn’t battle anxiety or a negative self image growing up. I always felt driven, determined, happy and enthusiastic about life. Until I didn’t. It was that fast. I started sinking further and further into the quicksand of what-ifs and if-onlys and I started losing faith in my ability to pull out of it.
I quit my first dream job while I was still married, in hopes of having more time and energy to fix the relationship. That didn’t work. I was blessed with ANOTHER dream job and ended up quitting about the same time I filed for divorce. Somewhere in the course of my toxic relationship, I forgot how to compartmentalize and when my heart was uneasy, my whole life crumbled too. I started looking to doctors and psychiatrists to fix me. I tried every single anti-anxiety and antidepressant on the market, only to gain 50 pounds over the course of 6 months as a side effect from it all. Well, the meds and the lifestyle. I spent every waking second in bed sobbing for weeks on end. When the meds didn’t work, I resorted to alcohol; an addiction I had been free of for 3 years at that point. I spent almost an entire month drunk and despondent and suicide started seeming like the only chance at finally quieting my mind and my heart.
I don’t like talking about that part much. I have 4 teenagers (well, 3 and an adult) and I don’t want them to know that their mom almost gave up on everything. But, I also need them to know that their mom almost gave up on everything. They need to know that there will be trials in their life that they can’t even fathom right now and they will want to quit at some point. We all have them. Sometimes the level of despondency is worse for others but we all, unfortunately, have storms. It’s life. It’s beautiful and amazing and messy and hard. For each of us.
When I started thinking about travel nursing contracts, I’d been unemployed for over 2 months. Nothing seemed like the right fit and I truly felt that if this was going to be a turning point in my life, I’d need to have a job that I was passionate about; not just a time clock to punch. But I was still being choosy, even with the traveling. I never pulled the trigger on a single application outside of Hawaii. I knew I was dreaming a little but I was also starting to catch a vision of what I needed out of my life. And working in somewhere like North Dakota in the winter wasn’t going to cut it.
It was coming up on 3 months of unemployment and no possible hope to pay any pending bills when I got the call to interview on the Big Island. I was out for a walk on a 17 degree day in Utah when the phone rang. We talked while I walked and by the time I got home, I had a job offer. I didn’t think, I simply accepted, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude that my cries were heard and that an answer had come in the 11th hour. The only hitch was that they needed me immediately...within a week...and I would be gone for Christmas. As soon as I hung up the phone I started panicking. I called my dad, told him the news and then asked if he would be willing to loan me the money to get started. Moving to Hawaii, even for 3 months isn’t cheap, and I didn’t even have enough left to buy cereal. When Ames can’t by cereal, things are getting real up in here! He agreed, giving me all the encouragement I needed to take that first step.
Of course, the hardest thing was my kids. They’re busy and independent and have an amazing father and step mom running the show. And sadly, they’re quite accustomed to their ma falling apart. Every single one of them showed pure enthusiasm and support for their mama getting her head straight. (Kids. They’re smarter than we give them credit for. I can’t wait till I grow up to be like them.) I was out of excuses and knew it was time to act.
The couple of days leading up to leaving were a whirlwind and I started letting panic and anxiety back into the picture. I doubted the decision, my ability to be apart from my kids for so long, the healing power of the islands. I wasn’t sure about any of it and I actually looked into backing out a couple of times. The moment of pure clarity came when my youngest and only daughter tagged me in an instagram post. It was a girl, standing on a mountaintop in Hawaii with the caption, “You’ll never regret the decision to move to Hawaii.” My sweet, wise and selfless 12 year old girl was pushing me towards my dreams. I can’t think about that moment without sobbing. Literally. It will be one of my life’s treasures forever.
So here I sit, at Hapuna Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m in my third week here and so passionately in love with my life right now that I get all verklempt just thinking about it. President Thomas S. Monson, the beloved prophet of the LDS church who passed away this week had a quote that I’ve made my mantra for the year:
“Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.”
Here on the big island, the winds can really blow. When you get to the higher elevations, all the trees are actually growing sideways. But they’re big and strong and immovable. I love this analogy for my life. The winds howled and the storms raged but my roots only grew deeper. There is healing power on the islands. My head is clear, my heart is light, my laugh is back and louder than ever. I don’t pray for sleep or dread the sunrise. In fact, I anxiously await each day and the new adventures that come with them.
Healing is possible. Giving yourself permission to walk away from things that hurt or deplete you is not only OK, it’s your right. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live a life you are eager for, regardless of the bumps in the road along the way. Life isn’t a series of mistakes, it’s a book full of lessons and it’s meant to be enjoyed. Another one of my favorite quotes from President Monson is “Find joy in the journey.”. That’s what this life is all about...having joy. Give yourself permission to experience all the feels and come out better for it. Set out to be the very best you can be and I promise, you’ll succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
I’m a slightly overweight Emergency Room nurse living the life of my dreams in Hawaii for a bit. I’m the mom of 3 boys and a girl and they are the best humans on the planet, in spite of me. I’m addicted to Diet Coke, have a few too many tattoos and have dreams of becoming a paid “Hiking Writer”. It’s a thing...even if I made it up.
- Looking to Closely by Fink
- Hold Back the River by James Bay
- The Great Unknown by Mighty Oaks
- Promise by Ben Howard
- A Real Thunderbolt by Paul Cook and The Chronicles
- Breathe by Lauv
- Bulletproof by Griffan Oskar
- I Know the Way Home by Galucki