Shannon and I became friends in elementary school when I moved to a tiny town called Pennsville in New Jersey. To visit Pennsville back then was to visit any other sleepy little Americana type town. Not much to do, not a lot of diversity. Everyone knew everyone. We used to complain that it was boring. But looking back it was secure. As kids we could be kids and ride our bikes and play in the woods without fear. Pennsville was a nice place for me and my family to grasp at normalcy and put down some roots. Prior to making my home in Florida, Pennsville was the longest I stayed in one spot. Shannon and I both attended Penn Beach Elementary School (the only elementary school in town) and shared several classes together. We were close friends by the time I moved away in the beginning of 6th grade. For many years, after I left, we had no contact with each other. Shannon and I were able to reconnect as adults through the gift of social media. And she describes in her words “It was like you never left.”.
It’s a true statement. There is something about those types of old friends. Regardless of the passage of time or how often or whether you’d spoken at all- you can easily and quickly reconnect. For me, my old friends are comfortable and safe. I am lucky enough to call Shannon a kindred spirit and friend. We have been able to reconnect over the phone, social media and in person a few times. When I posed a request for volunteers willing to share a piece of themself on my blog Shannon was the first one willing to help out. That is the very essence of the type of friend Shannon is. Shannon is witty and wise, funny and fierce. You can see that she loves and feels deeply for the special people in her life. I admire who she is. Though she doesn’t see it in herself, I think she’s a real badass.
So Sunday we had a little phone chat, I asked questions and the conversation flowed. I wanted to learn Shannon’s perspective on reinvention and discovering who you are and where you want to go and where you’ve been. The following is my collective of our conversation describing Shannon’s journey.
Shannon describes herself as a parentless single parent to two amazing children. This disclosure is one of the first things she reveals to me when asked to describe herself. It is a heavy statement loaded with the culmination of many of the factors that have led her journey into becoming who she is today. Because of her status, her support in many life arenas is limited. She is forced to navigate and manage independently. She shares that these lessons have imparted on her the fact that she can and will survive any challenge. Perhaps, not thriving or successful but surviving. She knows undoubtedly after losing her mother that she can and will go on in the face of any gauntlet.
Shannon is hard on herself in this respect. She doesn’t view the way she has responded to the multitude of events that unfolded in her life as success. She doesn’t credit herself for what I perceive as someone thriving despite tragedy.
We talk a little further about the way we each define success and thriving in the face of trauma. I gently insert my opinion of success being forward motion during these times and thriving being a willingness to grow from our experiences. Both which she’s accomplishing. We discuss how easily we criticize ourselves. How we hold ourselves to unreachably high standards.
Shannon described reinvention as being the best version of yourself. Knowing and allowing that better version within yourself to come out freely, without allowing others to distort or control you. Rebirthing yourself independently. Standing up and being true to your core. Starting fresh. Her personal definition has come via experiences.
The birth of her son gave her the gift of motherhood and having someone that no one could take away from her. Someone she created with love.
Leaving an unhappy marriage and getting divorced provided her with a lesson in independence. She lived alone with her children and bought and managed her own home. A stark contrast from the way that she grew up and the domestic parameters that she observed.
When her second child was born with health concerns she was taught about having faith in strangers and in medicine.
The predominant factor in Shannon’s world was the death of her mother. Shannon and her mother were extremely immeshed in each others’ lives. Facing the reality of Nevers. Never seeing her mom again. Never hearing her mom’s voice or holding her mom’s hand knocked her world off kilter. It left her angry and reeling. Yet she persisted.
When she met her current partner she describes her lesson as being allowed to own who she is and how she chooses to live. That she did not have to be subservient to anyone.
Shannon points out a shift in her perspective. When her Dad died after her mom. She was sad to lose him but felt that he was joining her mom.
My friend described a deep anger that she felt losing her mom. She was angry and frustrated at God for taking this wonderful person from her family. Though that anger has receded somewhat she has moments where her emotions seep out. Triggered by seeing children with their grandparents. Shannon often allows herself to feel her feeling in the privacy of her car. She goes into and through the feelings but doesn’t drown or wallow in them.
When I asked her if she reaches out to others she responded to me that she prefers to own her feelings with regards to grief. She prefers to keep it private because people can respond poorly with bullshit reactions. She describes those raw moments as keeping her mom and dad relevant and alive.
I am going to stop here and interrupt. Shannon and I relate often on our grief. The motherless daughters club is a lonely club. She was one of the first people who I felt really heard and understood me after my own mom died. What she described to me, the power of anger and wanting to grieve and feel and almost savor those emotions, even if they are negative and painful is so true. You relish in any way to feel a connection to the loved one you lost.
I asked Shannon is she was pursuing her dreams. To which she replied. “I don’t know what my dreams are. Having kids has always been my dream- so yes- I guess I am. My dream is small.” Shannon describes 2018 as the year she learned not to be taken advantage of, how to cut ties with certain people and redefining herself. Her goal for 2019 is to be who she is without fighting it. A proclaimed “mom” to everyone. A reference that once annoyed her she now is working on embracing. She is nurturing and caring and motherly to her core. She loves that people feel happy, safe and welcome in her home. Shannon loves kids especially. She enjoys making them feel loved. “Whereas, adults will fail you, children are just happy to be loved”, Shannon says. She is working to feel ok with being who she is without feeling shame. She is working to show herself and her children that you do not have to exist in a mold, be who you are. That you do not have to have people in your life that do not accept you. And that no one’s opinions affect your life unless you allow them to.
Now that’s a Badass Chick who I am so grateful to call friend.
Tribe, sharing the experience of others is intended to bring awareness to our connection. How all of us are rolling with the adversity of life, the joy of life. What are we able to take away and learn from our experience and the experiences of others.
Thanks for reading.