Combating feelings of failure

29. Divorced. Living with my parents. May not be able to afford a home. Don’t know where I want to live, or if I even want to stay in Michigan.

“If I stay in Michigan, am I settling? Am I a failure if I stay here? Am I a failure if I move away again and hate it? Did I cause my marriage to fail? Will my heart ever be whole again?”

All of these feelings are flooding my mind lately. I have been feeding “the bad wolf.”

BUT I have also been feeding “the good wolf.”

“Maybe I need to be surrounded by some of my best friends and parents in Michigan right now. Maybe if I were living by myself I would feel even more alone. Maybe I don’t have to have all the answers on where to live yet, and maybe I can travel a bit to figure that out. Or stay put. I don’t have to do a damn thing if I don’t want to!”

Although being here (‘here’ means being around certain people) reminds of me times that I’ve been hurt, I’m also finding new and old friendships pulling me out of despair and into a feeling of inclusion and, dare I say, home.

Detroit Red Wings!
Facts!
Dive bar in Grand Rapids!
Bowling with Crystal!
A salty dog!
Linley the snow bunny!

Chicago probably isn’t in the cards; I gave that place and experience my everything. But if I stay in Michigan, I’m not a failure. If I move away and hate it, I’m not a failure. If I move away and love it, I’m not a failure. If I ever find love again and it doesn’t pan out the way I want it to, I’m not a failure. I’m not a failure for spending thanksgiving with another family other than my own. And I’m certainly not a failure for feeling all these conflicting emotions while I’m healing my broken heart. ❤️

Media taken November 1 – 16, 2022

October

The first month being without a husband, the first full month of being away from Chicago, the beginning of losing people left and right, my body shutting down on me and my first full month of not being at peace with my current circumstances.

HOWEVER, what an exciting month it has been! AND what incredible people I have in my life—who have showed up like none other.

Here were some of my favorite memories last month, and hope this kind of support and hope continues into November.

Celebrating my best friend’s birthday at Ren Fest!
…and spending time with new friends, too!
Supporting and celebrating my friend’s tattoo shop grand opening!
Leading the way in the scariest haunted house
Veronica’s and my first RHPS!
Our third annual Witches Night Out!
Celebrating my best friend and her little one!
…and my parents watching Lin while I was away!
Reuniting with my best friend and her parents in Germany!
Saskia surprised me with the best sushi dinner!
…and the sweetest birthday brunch!
Clubbing, just like the good ole days!
Parting ways at the airport
Saying hello to my Norwegian Uncle, Kjell!
Bergen: My happy place!
Fishing for my dinner
“Getting arrested” by Kjell and his partner!
…and finally meeting his oldest son, Mangus!
Always good to reunite with Markus!
Parting ways with Kjell at 4am
Reuniting with Lin!
Handing out candy with dad!

When summer turns to fall

The past two or three weeks have dragged on and the days feel as though they’re blending together. I’ve been passed around from doctor to doctor – including a six-hour stint in the ER – to figure out whether I have kidney stones or a kidney infection, pancreatitis or gallstones. Every day I wake up feeling hungover even though I can’t drink, and have experienced similar symptoms to a UTI or kidney stones for the past 30 days or so…

On top of the health stuff, this period of limbo and transition has been extremely difficult—and eye-opening. With all the negative comes many positives, and I am grateful for the moments and people who have helped me through these past few weeks.

Enjoying the lake life with my second family
Planning a much-needed trip (this was from 2012!)
Linley gets ice cream after his grooming appointment
Reconnecting with my aunt and uncle
Finding light in the darkness
Solid music recommendations from the coolest coworkers
Hangin’ with the cutest kiddo!

As we enter my favorite month of the year, I’m going to focus on:

  • Speaking up
  • Saying no
  • Feeling empowered

Media taken September 13 – September 28, 2022

My heartwarming week in Michigan

I was in Michigan for the week and returned to Chicago yesterday evening. My week didn’t go according to plan, but it went better than expected in more ways than one.

The original plan was to meet my team on Tuesday through Thursday, with team building dinners and activities in the evenings. However, our get together was postponed to next month, but I still wanted to visit the office—as well as friends and family.

I took Monday off and spent the afternoon on the river with one of my best friends, Donna. We floated down the cascades in Ann Arbor – one of our favorite pastimes – and exchanged deep conversation and support for one another. We have both been struggling with one-sided friendships and overall relationships in general, which made our quality time even more meaningful. We used to spend every Monday or Tuesday evening together, and I can’t wait to pick that back up sometime soon. We ended the evening with some dinner and gin cocktails near my parent’s house—our go-to routine.

A photo from our float last summer

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in the office. I haven’t felt like myself at work in… probably ever… and being around new and some familiar faces was great. I met my boss Justin, my friend Ray, my teammate Jeff and others for the first time, and was able to see Heather and our CEO Jason in person—which hasn’t happened since 2019. My favorite coworker was William, Ray’s dog, who was my buddy the whole day!

What a good boy!

Tuesday evening was great because I grabbed dinner with Veronica, a new and quick friend from work. We both started in May and have quickly found that we have a lot in common. We both are obsessed with Whose Line, Seinfeld, Anthony Bourdaine, The Twilight Zone and so much more. We’re even going to see Whose Line live this November! It was awesome meeting Veronica in person and we’re both amazed at how quickly we’ve connected over these past couple of months.

Wednesday was just Justin and me in the office, but it was really nice because we were able to get to know each other a little better. Justin has been incredibly supportive of me – personally and professionally – and I have so much respect for him as a leader. We enjoyed a nice lunch together, and luckily he also laughed at my silly jokes throughout the day!

That evening, I was finally able to spend quality time with my brother from another mother Ter Ter B! We spent over three hours laughing, tearing up, and hugging at one of our favorite Mexican places in town. Seeing him again was much needed and even though we usually talk on the phone four or five days a week, being in each other’s arms and presence again was insurmountable.

Thursday was such a happy, heartwarming day! I worked from home but drove Linley down to his former doggy day care—his home away from home. When we moved last year, his favorite camp counselors were heartbroken to see him go, so seeing some of his favorites was fun for both Lin and me. When I scooped him up after my work day, one of his favorite employees Sam had given him/us a toy, some treats, Camp Bow Wow swag and wrote me a kind note. I teared up reading it on the way home! I love and miss that place for Lin as much as he misses it for himself.

The four of us wrapped up our day with a concert in downtown Fenton, which played all of our favorite 60s and 70s music. I absolutely loved dancing around and enjoying some vodka lemonades with my parents. It was the perfect end to a fulfilling day. ❤️

Clearly Lin enjoyed himself, too!

After work on Friday, my parents and I grabbed dinner and drinks at their favorite place in town. I enjoyed a gin watermelon drink and some vegan drunken noodles. We chatted about life and it was just nice to be with them again. Really the whole week had been nice, business and all.

What was really fun and surprising was hanging out with a coworker Ray in Ferndale (who owns our office dog!). We hopped around a few bars in the area and had a nice time together.

Saturday morning was spent with my Little Sister Aniya, who just graduated high school, and her mom Marcion, who just celebrated her 37th birthday. We grabbed breakfast in Saginaw and shared some tears and lots of laughs. I love them so much and they have truly been a second family to me. ❤️

My Aniya is all grown up!

The rest of my weekend was spent with my parents. We spent some time outdoors, watched some Twilight Zone and even shared some moments of profound conversation. As difficult as things are right now – and as confused as I may feel – I know I will be okay thanks to the support I have back home. ❤️

Chicago has “lost its magic”

Allow me to explain… and disclaimer: this is my personal experience, not a generalization of the city or Chicagoans as a whole.

During yesterday’s therapy session, I was vulnerable with Erin about my grief. Grief of my marriage/ten-year relationship coming to an end, grief of a city I’ve always wanted to live in and will be leaving soon, and grief of a life I wanted to live and share with the love of my life.

For several months, I struggled with emotionally and physically absent loved ones, manipulative and rude coworkers, a few friends who have proven to be more about status and materialism than the “warm hug” feeling I receive from my friends who live elsewhere, and not feeling a sense of community or belonging here in Chicago—despite all of my efforts. All of these situations and feelings caused me to question the validity of my marriage, my newfound friendships, and decision to move here in the first place.

When I was six years old, my mom, brother and I took the train to Chicago from Flint to see my dad who worked here at the time—as we did most weekends. I saw big city lights, lots of diverse people, the bustling streets with seemingly important and busy people heading to work and looking stylish, and heard new noises as we approached the city. I turned to my mom and said, “I’m going to live here one day.” Despite many of my favorite childhood and college memories taking place in this incredible city, it has lost all its magic.

“What does it feel like to you, Cate?” Erin asked me. “Why do you need Chicago so much?”

To which I answered, “It feels like I’m relearning that Santa isn’t real and never has been. And I guess I needed Chicago because this used to be my happy place, and I’m sad that it isn’t anymore.”

BUT the world is my happy place. The memories I’ve shared here with friends and family (including Lin of course!) can never be replaced—and nothing can ever take that away from me. I have also had incredible memories in the 24 countries I’ve visited (three of which have held addresses in) and the over 30 states I’ve explored within the US.

I look forward to reclaiming this city as a staple favorite when I move—whether that be one, three, six… months from now. Tomorrow I will start by kayaking downtown with a Michigan friend, but today I need some space from her (her being Chicago, NOT my Michigan friend haha!).

As a 28-year-old young woman now, I would hug six-year-old me looking out the Amtrak at the big city, and say “You did it. And now it’s time to go on even bigger adventures.” 💛

I am grateful for…

Learning that consistency is one of the best qualities anyone can possess. My friends who have been supportive, encouraging and consistent — not just now, but always. My support system who have helped me pivot from self-deprecating thoughts and into better boundary-setting. Going on adventures in Chicago with friends, new and old. Having friends who even want to go on those adventures with me.

Walking away from people who aren’t serving me — who aren’t showing up for me physically or emotionally. Not having a relationship with certain family members who would certainly bully me and verbally abuse me because of my personal life right now. Having the courage to even stand up to/walk away from those individuals and groups of people anyway. Finding my chosen family; feeling like I belong with my friends and some of their families (e.g.: Donna’s siblings and parents).

Having the courage to move out here despite the circumstances. Finding my way back to the healthiest work environment I’ve ever experienced — albeit in a rather roundabout way. My health and my body, even though I may not love her and appreciate her everyday. My mobility and the freedom I have to explore and keep going on these fun adventures.

Linley. The fact that he is such a great travel, hiking and adventure buddy. The fact that I have him right now, when all else seems fleeting. Lin getting me out of bed and out of the house everyday; teaching me that there’s insurmountable beauty in the simplest of moments and things.

The fact that I even have things to be grateful for as my heart breaks.

Letting It Out & Letting It Go

Yesterday evening we ventured over to the AIDS Garden Chicago, memorializing the HIV epidemic and honoring those who live with the disease today.

I hadn’t had a good cry in a while, until yesterday. I’ve been putting a smile on for my new team at work, my neighbors, myself… and the tension I’d been feeling was building up to more I could handle.

Darkness covered us as we enjoyed some cheese and crackers along Lake Michigan when Juan started talking about all our good times together. Knowing that we may not have more of those times together broke me in ways I couldn’t imagine possible—and I just cried. Cried so hard and didn’t have any support from him—not even a hug. I was angry and hurt and scared and alone… until Linley comforted me. He sat right next to me and gave me a hug (yes, my small dog can give hugs!). I made me laugh so hard, and even during one of the saddest moments I’ve had in quite some time, he gave me hope that things will be okay—even if they aren’t right now.

When people say things like “animals don’t have feelings” or “animals aren’t that smart,” I wholeheartedly disagree. I was never allowed to have a dog growing up, but I’ve had my fair share of rodents, and even those little critters had personalities! But Lin is different. He’s the most intuitive fella I know. Others (Airbnb hosts, my friends, complete strangers…) even say that he knows me so well, that we’re a good pair. Even as I type this as I sit at my desk, this is how close he is:

I don’t know a better way to channel my love – and receive it – than being with this guy 💛

Media taken Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, 2022

Light in the Darkness: Chicago Riverwalk and Dog Beach Day

First and foremost: thank you to those who read my latest post and left beautiful, compassionate comments. Opening up about my mental health was scary and messy and awkward—but incredibly necessary.

It’s increasingly difficult to remain positive during personal and circumstantial times like these: yesterday’s horrific school shooting in Texas, my closest friends suffering from burnout and depression—while I’m trying to be there, suffering the same sorts of feelings, my car had to be towed a couple nights ago, leaving Juan, Linley and I stranded and taking a Lyft back home, family-related anxiety, work ramping up… But I do want to focus on the positives while acknowledging the heartaches.

Last Thursday, my friend Andrea and I took Linley on a four-mile stroll along Chicago’s infamous Riverwalk. He absolutely loves it, as do we. We spent a few hours walking, talking, laughing and ended our time together with some much-needed gelato and ice cold water.

Last Friday, I took Linley to our local dog beach (clearly our favorite spot!) and we had a great time. Lin was playing in the sand bar, pulling on his leash, whining and “talking” with the other pups… it was such a great afternoon! But the rain suddenly approached the beach—creating swirls in the water and the temperature to suddenly drop by 20° at least. Between Lin grabbing leaves from the lake and the rain on our way to the car, he was soaked!

In no way is this intended to minimize what’s going on in the United States, my friends’ lives, my life… but rather a reminder that there is hope and that I always need to find light in the darkness. 🤍

Media taken Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20, 2022

Vulnerability around my mental health

Today I wanted to take a step back and write about the current state of my mental health.

When thinking of a title for this post, I wanted to start with “transparency” or “honesty,” but the word “vulnerability resonates more. Brené Brown, one of my favorite researchers and mental health advocates, says that being vulnerable – no matter how scary – is one of bravest things one can be.

Lately I’ve been struggling with current pain and past trauma. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my family members, former coworkers and friends who have hurt me deeply. The blessing and curse of being an empath (or “indigo child” if you will) is feeling so deeply. Deeper than the average person can feel. I remember every word, moment, feeling… when I have been hurt in the past. For certain friendships or working relationships, time does heal all wounds; I’m not thinking about certain people as frequently as I used to. And I understand that people grow apart, but this is different—this is people who I believe have genuinely hurt me or have taken full advantage of my kindness.

All processing past pain, I’m also coping with current depression. Depression about Chicago not being what I thought it would be, my marriage not being as strong as I’d like it to be, people here letting me down no matter how hard I’ve tried, family and friends from Michigan continuing to let me down… It’s difficult for me to not feel like a failure. I feel like I’m failing in my family’s eyes, in Juan’s eyes, in certain friends’ eyes… I feel like if I leave Chicago that I would be a failure. But is it worth staying when my depression is worsening?

Last week one of my closest friends here betrayed my trust. I continue to feel like Juan and I are growing apart, not wanting the same things of the future. I feel financially trapped and scared that I’ll never live the life I want to live. I’m afraid my family will continue to misunderstand me and never fully accept me as I am.

For the first time in my life, I truly don’t know how to move forward. I know I’ve been open about my struggles with mental health on this platform, but things feel worse this time.

Living with depression feels like living with a deep sense of hopelessness, despair and constantly feeling alone or misunderstood.

But what I really want and need to feel is a clear path forward—a light in the darkness.

Photos taken Friday, May 20, 2022

It has been a WEEK.

It’s only Tuesday and so many little odd things have gone wrong…

For starters, yesterday was my first day at my new job. After going seven weeks without working, it has been extremely hard for me to focus. My dog also kept making noise during my only real meeting of the day—mainly because our upstairs neighbors are moving out and also made a lot of noise. AND my travel Instagram account was hacked, and will likely be disabled…

I. Am. Devastated. ☹️

BUT me being me, I’m trying to find the silver lining in it all. Perhaps this is a great way for me to live in the present; not the past (not posting throwback travel photos, etc.).

Until/if I can even get this sorted out, you can find my dog at westiepoo.linley on Instagram. His account is private – for now – but he’ll follow you back, I promise!

It was a beautiful day yesterday, and here are some photos from my 6am stroll:

Photos taken Monday, May 2, 2022

New season of life

On Friday, September 24 we said hello to our Chicago home. And on Sunday, September 26 we said goodbye to our first home. What an emotional “changing seasons of life!” Seeing it empty reminded us of our first time viewing 747, and made us realize all the memories shared over the past two years. Saying hello and goodbye simultaneously is never easy, but the memories will always be cherished and it’s not a goodbye to our neighbors: simply a “see you later.” Wherever the three of us go, the house will always become a home 🏡❤️

A spectacular September in Michigan

As my last couple of weeks in the mitten come to a close, I move into my new season of life with a full heart. I was able to spend time with my best friends and although no time spent is ever enough, I’m heading to my new home with happiness and peace in my decisions. I could think that my time in Michigan was filled with “lasts,” but I’m truly elated for all of the upcoming “firsts” to be experienced with my small family unit 😌

September 1 – spending the evening with an old neighbor/friend, and our dogs

September 2 – celebrating a friend’s birthday with sushi and cocktails in Ann Arbor

September 3 – a long overdue phone call with one of my best friends from Asheville

September 4 – all-day quality time with one of my best friends and our dogs, filled with much needed conversations and exploring

September 5 – breakfast with a dear friend who instantly makes me feel at home, and floating in Ann Arbor with two friends and Linley

September 6 – a morning walk along the river

September 7 – floating down some rapids with one of my best friends, right before the storm

September 8 – spending nearly all day on the couch with Juan, watching Never Have I Ever while I worked

September 9 – Linley’s “Gotcha Day!” festivities

September 10 – we received an offer on our house and took Linley on a nice afternoon walk

September 11 – Linley’s third Doggie Splash and dinner with good friends

September 12 – our last hike at the arboretum

September 13 – morning snuggles with Juan and Linley before work and a much-needed phone call with a dear friend

September 14 – a night on the town, all on my friend Donna

September 15 – another great night with a friend in Detroit, and watching Lin run and play with his friends