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Finding Your Best Self Podcast

My name is Tracey Lewis-Stoeckel and things haven't always gone my way. I have gone through some crazy obstacles on my road to finding happiness. Every obstacle has taught me something about myself and I want to share my story with you, and share the stories of other women who are going through or have taken themselves from crappy to happy. By sharing, I hope that we can lift up and support one another, so we can each find the positive and find our own best selves in the process.
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Now displaying: May, 2017
May 19, 2017

In Episode 2, the First 30 Days, Tracey (while suffering from a cold) talks about the first few weeks after her separation from her husband of 15 years.  In this episode she talks about dealing with the "realization" that he is seeing someone else, battling the urge to stay in bed, redefining her future, and the dreaded first date.   To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves.  You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

 

Welcome back to the Finding Your Best Self podcast.

So, the last time we “spoke” I had just left my husband of 15 years on a gray snowing December day. It was December 30th, 2008.  The kids and I moved into a cold crappy rental house that would never feel like home…we would only stay there for six months because the landlord was a drunk who liked to call me and try to extort money from me at all hours of the night.

The meeting

I had quit my job right before Christmas.  An attorney I had scheduled a free consultation with had told me that I would lose my kids because of the crazy hours that I worked (4 am to 11 pm and up to 55 hours per week).  My parents, who are the best any girl could ever ask for, had put up the deposit on what we called the “poopy brown house” as well as a retainer for a lawyer and had promised to help me out if I agreed to go back to school.

I love college!

Now, I already had a college degree. I had earned my bachelor’s degree back in 1999.  In fact, the day that I graduated from college was the day that I found out I was pregnant with my baby boy—he is almost 17 now, and I like to talk about what a cute baby he was in front of him just to bug him.  Now if you do the math on that from Episode one, you will figure out that I didn’t do college in four years, but rather my college career spanned the better part of 9 years.  I do love college!

Buh-bye law school.

After graduation, I had applied to law school which was always my goal and  I was accepted.  By then I was very pregnant, working full time and also had a business with a direct selling company that was bringing in almost as much as my corporate job. Gary liked that we were financially secure and that I was able to put up most of the down payment for the house we were buying from my side gig. He did not like the idea of me stopping all of that to go back to school or the concept of leaving him with a baby most nights to go to class.  He said no to law school.  And I probably cried about it for a minute but I let go of that dream because my focus was my family and building this life together.

Yeah! Screw him!

So, sitting with my parents in a bar after signing the lease on the poopy brown house my Mom asks me what I want to do since my degree in Sociology and Social Work had never translated to anything more than a line on my resume. Paralegal, I said.  Yeah, the next best thing to being a lawyer…but I was so disgusted by the lawyers I was talking to who wanted to help me “screw him over”.   I just wanted to be nice!  I figured maybe I would get over that and find my legal career after all.

Thanks Brian!

Late one night shortly after we had moved, while I procrastinated going to sleep in an empty bed, a commercial came on TV for a college nearby.  I called the number and set an appointment with the admissions rep.  His name was Brian and he changed the course of my life—no we didn’t fall in love at first sight or anything like that.  Jeez, people !  I went to see Brian on January 2nd, 2009.  He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up (ha, I was 36).  I told him I wanted a job that was recession proof, that I never wanted to have to worry about finding work.  He suggested I look in the paper and see what the postings were.  So I bought a Star Tribune and went home and opened up to the job ads.  There weren’t many, but under the medical section, four ads for medical assistants jumped off the page at me.  There was only one for paralegal and they asked for three years of experience.  My decision was made.  I called Brian back and January 6 th I was sitting in class, starting a journey I would not regret, learning to be a medical assistant.

Home alone.

So I was in school. Which meant that I had to get my kids up and on the bus every morning and then get myself out to class, and then get back to be there for them when they got home.  In those early days,  Gary didn’t always come to get the kids when he was supposed to. There was at least one time when he forgot completely…did not meet them at the bus, and my seven-year-old had to break into the house through a sliding glass door that didn’t lock right (very reassuring for the single Mom living in the poopy brown house in the boondocks, let me tell ya).

If you’re happy and you know it…

From the outside, I was doing just fine.  All of my friends were so proud of me.  And when my kids were home or awake, I am sure I looked happy.  I refused to bury my nose in school books while they were home and just tried to be normal.  But when they went to bed, and my homework was done…the darkness would close in and I would cry myself to sleep.  On days that I didn’t have class and they were in school, I would stay in my pajamas until a half hour before the bus came, then frantically shower and get made up so they would see that everything was fine.  On the weekend that they went with their Dad (and spent it at Carol’s even though her own husband didn’t know yet that his marriage was over) I just stayed in bed all weekend.

Don’t wallow…start online dating!

I was living a double life…or a life, and a half-life or something…  And I knew it couldn’t last.  So I told myself that I could wallow for a full 30 days.  I signed up for a dating website.  I had really strange online conversations with a few guys and then spent a weekend that the kids were away chatting with one guy in particular.  And on the 30th day, I went on a date.

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And we’re back.

Epic mistake #376

Okay, now in the long list of epic mistakes that I have made in my life, this won’t even rank in the top 10. But holy crap, what a mistake that was.  Don’t get me wrong, he was sweet.  And probably one of the most normal guys that I have dated, especially from online dating.  He was very cute.  Very very cute.  Only just a little bit boring.  And he had a fantastic body.  Nothing terrified me more than being with someone new after 18 years with one man.  So, of course… I slept with him on the first date. (twice)  It was pretty terrible (both times) and I had to shove him out the door with moments to spare before my kids were dropped off the next morning.  Afterwards… He called!  We set a date for later that week…and then he vanished off the face of the earth.  We will talk more about dating in another episode but if you have ever read the book “He’s just not that into you”, you know exactly what I did and how I rationalized his tragic disappearance.  I’ll tell ya later!

To get a copy of the book and see for yourself what I did…Order He’s Just Not That Into You on Amazon now!

The up-down

So, with that out of the way, I felt better. I had lost about 40 lbs over the past few months since my life imploded (and Gary found it, ha ha) and I was looking pretty good. So much so in fact, that when Gary came to get the kids one night as I was preparing for a date with a new online guy he gave me the up-down.  You know, the look you up, and then look you down again up-down?  We joked about something (things hadn’t really gotten ugly yet) and I asked him if he was ever going to apologize to me for ruining my life.  He asked me if I was ever going to thank him—because he said he had never seen me so happy.  Thank him!  Can you believe that crap?  Thank him…but yeah, I guess I was kind of happy.  I loved my classes and was making new friends.  I had just started a part time job that I could  just work when he had the kids and I had made a couple new friends there too. My date that night was taking me to a fancy place for dinner…  I kind of laughed and told him the thank you cards were being embossed.  I still wanted him to apologize.  He was still an ass.

And slowly I started putting one foot in front of the other.

That relationship didn’t work, because he said I was “not damaged enough” for him—we stayed friends.  I had met the two girls who would be the kind of friends who would help a girl move.  Twice.  They are my best friends to this day.  I still have that part time job.  I still love it.  The building blocks of the new foundation were laid.  I was starting to feel like I was going to be okay.  I wouldn’t stay feeling that way…but I would feel that way again, eventually.  A story for another time.  Until then.

May 18, 2017

In this first episode of the Finding Your Best Self podcast Tracey shares the beginning of her personal story of divorce and the obstacles she faced starting over as a single Mom.  To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves.  You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Episode 1

Hello and welcome to the Finding Your Best Self blog/podcast. If you have not done so already please go back and read/listen to the preview episode for my disclaimer about how I am not a licensed professional and I am speaking to you because I have been through some shit and not because I have a degree in something important or some credential as the authority of anything.  Now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you who I am, why I started this blog/podcast, and why I feel like I have a right to talk about this stuff.  Oh, but first, this is a podcast about adult subject matter, and there may be adult language.

The Beginning of the Story

When I was 21 years old I married my best friend. We had dated for three years at that point  but we were friends in high school before that.  He was in the Navy so I did the military wife thing and moved across the country to start a life with the man I loved.  I married my Prince Charming and I expected my fairy tale to unfold before me.  There were bumps in the road, marriage is hard.  It isn’t 50-50 like I expected, it’s 100-100 and my husband was selfish as was I back then, and I was insecure and maybe had some issues with control as a result.  Living halfway across the country from my family and every one of my friends was harder than I ever imagined.  We survived those first three years (well, I will talk more about how mistaken I was about that another time).  Things got easier after the Navy and seven years after we married we welcomed a baby boy, we moved into our own home in a smallish town, I was running a business full time so I could quit my corporate job and be home with my son and life was good.  A couple of years later we welcomed a beautiful baby girl.  My business was thriving, my heart was full, and if you asked me, my life was pure perfection.

The fairy “tail”.

Being a Mom to these two cutie pies was more than I could have ever imagined, and I loved working for myself and making a home for the love of my life. We moved into a bigger better house in a new town, and I thought that I had achieved the fairy tale.  Seriously…the dream home, the good life.  The economy took a bit of a digger and I started doing daycare in our new home and I loved spending my day with clients who doled out hugs and kisses all day.  Then I injured my back and started living a life with chronic pain. I had to scale back my business.  I eventually had to close my daycare and watch the babies, that I had raised, go to other daycares.   I could no longer do the things I wanted to do with my own kids.  I was in constant pain unless I was medicated, and popping narcotics is just not something you can do with two small children.  And I was sooo depressed!!

Eventually, I worked through it, and I got stronger…but there was always something different after that.  My husband  had grown distant and moody—our sex life was nonexistent.  But he was still my best friend.  And I worked to try to be happy with this changed version of my life.

Parenting rocks!

I loved being a Mom. These kids are the best things that I have ever done and they bring joy into my life every single day.  And he was an okay Dad.  He was just okay, and I am not saying that to be mean, it just is what it is.  He liked to sit and snuggle the kids in front of the TV, feed them a bottle, and he would watch movies with them…and… yeah, he was a great couch Dad.    He wasn’t the Dad who would have a tea party or throw a ball…I didn’t realize to what extent that was true until later But you know what?  It didn’t matter, he was good enough because I was a great Mom and together we were good parents and had really great kids.

I had closed my business at some point because he no longer was supportive of it and with a back injury, there was so much I couldn’t do on my own .  I really believe it is impossible to be successful in something if your partner is against it.  And I wanted him to be happy.   It was all I wanted…for my family to be truly happy.

Reconnecting.  Or was I?

By that time I was working a full-time job in a convenience store.  It was long hours and I missed my kids, but my relationship seemed to be good  again.  I set up a night out with some good friends. It was three couples. We went to see a comedian and then out for drinks. It was so much fun and I was so excited that my love and I were reconnecting—he even joked with the other guys that if he didn’t screw it up, that he would be “getting some”.  As we walked through downtown one of the guys said: “Don’t screw it up “Gary” (not his real name).   When the evening was over and it was time to go home, my friend, let’s call her “Carol” and my husband were nowhere to be found.  I went looking for them, and I found them.

Yep, you probably already guessed, it.  I found them in a stall in the lady’s bathroom locked in a passionate embrace.  It didn’t occur to me at that moment, but it  was obviously not the first time they had been in that position.  Oh wait, let’s rewind just a bit… (insert flashback music here) I said we were out with other couples, which is true, (yeah, she was married too) but I left out one key point.  The woman in the bathroom, the one with one leg wrapped around my husband was more than just my good friend.  She was also my children’s daycare provider someone I trusted with my most precious people…someone I would have and did trust with everything I had.

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And we’re back…

So my good friend slash daycare provider and my husband were making out in the stall of a public bathroom. Yes, very classy.  If you have ever experienced a moment like that…you know that the primary emotion is one of pure shock.  And in that moment I lied to myself.  I saw what I saw and I told myself I didn’t see it.   I nearly convinced myself that she must have been getting sick and that he was in there with her to help.  Like he was holding her hair or something.  What a great guy…  But wait, why were the toes of their shoes together.  Why did they jump when I came in?  Why did he run?   On the way to the car he tried to pull me aside to talk about what I saw in the bathroom and I told him I was sure it was nothing, that I trusted him.  I told him cheerfully (yup, cuz bitches be crazy) that if I couldn’t trust him, we were done…so of course, I trusted him. The rest of the night was kind of a blur and he didn’t come home with me but instead chose HER couch while I carried my babies out to the car and went home alone.

When he walked in the next morning, before I had even admitted to myself what I had seen and denied seeing, out of my mouth came the words, “How’s your conscience this morning?”    He felt terrible, he said.  It was a one-time  thing he said, brought on by alcohol he said. He wanted to work it out. He told me that he would do anything to work it out.   And because I denied even to myself what I knew to be truth, I felt like I had dodged a bullet.  I would work harder too, we would still have our happily ever after.  I believed it.

It was over already…

But it was over already. Two weeks later, in the middle of a birthday party I had thrown for him,  that he wanted a divorce.   I begged him to try counseling, to see a doctor (because I thought he was on drugs or had gone crazy) , and to please reconsider.  I tried to get him to talk about “why” he would do this to our family only to find out that he had a long list of things he hated about me, and that he had been waiting for, what he called, the right time, for me to be financially secure enough that he could pull the plug on our marriage.  That was enough for me.

Whatever I felt that we had and I knew our marriage had issues…but we had been best friends at that point for almost TWENTY years.  I thought we were unbreakable, but obviously,  nothing that I believed we had had really existed  .  He asked me to leave (well at first he wanted me to stay—but we will talk about that another time) and when he wouldn’t stop yelling at me…remember he never yelled before that birthday party…I started to fear for what all of this would do to the kids.

So I left.  I left without most of my belongings, again a topic for another time, but not without my kids.  I packed up my babies, then 7 and 5.  We left our big beautiful home, the home our dreams were supposed to flourish in, and on a dark gray snowy slushy December day in Minnesota, I left those dreams behind.

It took you “how long” to get divorced?

Nearly three years later after and –a custody evaluation and several days  (including Valentine’s day—oh sweet irony)  the judge granted us a divorce and granted me sole custody of our children.  I really…I know super naïve Tracey, thought that would be the end of it.  I would be so mistaken.  But I can’t tell you all of it at once…it would ruin the suspense!

I don’t want yo pity…

Now I don’t tell you this story so that you will feel sorry for me. Please don’t, because I don’t feel sorry for myself.  And I never really did—well after those first 30 days anyway.  While I got plenty of comedic mileage out of the fact that my husband left me for the daycare lady, it is what it is.  The real meat of the story comes in the tidbits of things that happened in the months to follow.  Like when he essentially kidnapped our children, my first date after being with the same man for 18 years (dating is terrifying!!), and trying to convince our friends that they didn’t have to choose between us.  I will share many of those moments with you and help you see why they were just stepping stones, helping me on my journey to finding my best self.   And my hope is that if you have obstacles in your life that you are facing, that you will share them with me, so we can work through them together…and I promise that it won’t always be so heavy.  You have to find a little humor in this crazy life. Please, if you have feedback or questions or want to propose a topic for a future episode, go to FindingYourBestSelf.com/contact and send me a message.  I would LOVE to hear from you.  Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey.  Until next time!

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