The decade of my thirties can best be described as…turbulent. Struggling to get pregnant, I had two devastating miscarriages each followed by two beautifully healthy pregnancies which turned into two perfectly adorable, chubby, round-faced baby boys. In addition, I went through a torrential divorce, put my sons in daycare after years of being a full-time stay-at-home mother and re-entered the workforce after a nearly five-year hiatus. I fell in love with a wonderful man post-divorce, began to plan a future with him and then grieved violently when he passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack one chilly March morning in 2018.

Life was…rough. Then it was beautiful. Then it was rough again. It was a tumultuous raging storm followed by rainbows and butterflies for what felt like each year of that infamous decade in my thirties. The seasons ebbed and flowed from the pit of despair to the heights of ecstasy like the angry ocean waves crashing against the shore….at times, during hurricane season. Come to think of it, there was very little smooth-sailing, easy-breezy, uneventful seasons in my thirties. It was either the highest of highs…or the lowest of lows. Feast or famine. Like a manic-depressive riding the roller coaster of life, just waiting for the next big drop, which always seemed to be coupled with a long, slow, evolutionary rise to the top. I guess it is true what they say: There is balance in everything. Life itself being no exception.

Based on this most defining phase of my life, I spent many a long, sleepless night contemplating the lessons learned, roles played, and sheer level of entertainment that defined my very personal life. I feel these lessons can apply at any point in a person’s life, but I never would have arrived at them had it not been for the mountains and valleys I was blessed to traverse. (And no, I did not always see the valleys as blessings, but now that I am on the other side, I definitely do regard them as such).

I would not be the person I am today had it not been for the monumental events that shaped my very essence as a wife, mother, divorcee’, daughter, career gal, Christian, lover, friend and…woman.

1) Divorce is not the end of the world.

I thought at one time hearing those dreaded four words, I want a divorce would kill me. They did not (they made me want to kill my husband). Yet, they did not kill me. In fact, hearing those fateful words made me dig deep down into the recesses of my soul and rely on my faith and family in a way I never had. I learned the invaluable lessons of resilience, overcoming fear and humbling grace. I learned that every heartbreaking end ignites a beautiful new beginning. I was re-born through the process of divorce. God mercifully took the ashes of destruction and brought forth beauty and regeneration beyond my wildest imagination.

2) Travel refreshes the soul.

There is something extraordinarily liberating and rejuvenating about travel. Never before seen sights, experiencing new cultures, food, entertainment, shopping, all the firsts that come with travel are one of the greatest highlights of life. If you have the means, I highly recommend taking a trip with someone special or even solo. It could be just what you need to put to bed that big decision, accept that unexpected life change or simply rejuvenate your tired soul from the daily monotony of life.

3) Not everyone is meant for me.

I used to be bothered by others’ negative impressions of me. It killed me when someone was upset with me. I now realize there are far too many souls on earth that do count; so why the heck would I waste time on those that do not? I no longer have the desire to force relationships. I may be too much for some or not enough for others; but if unapologetically being exactly who I am helps to weed out the inauthentic relationships in my life, I see it as a bountiful blessing and am beyond grateful for the life-changing knowledge.

4) Forgiveness is a gift to myself.

There comes a time in life when someone gutturally wounds your soul. You feel such strong emotion it is all you can do to be in the same room without wanting to rip their face off. I gradually started to realize I was allowing that intense anger, righteous rage and unhealed emotion destroy me more than the person in question ever did. I did not want to forgive. Yet, I knew for my own peace I had to forgive (a little wine and a lot of prayer go a long way). Once you feel that forgiveness toward another, the peace that follows will undoubtedly replace the original hurt ten-fold.

5) Life is full of rejection.

Each rejection is a springboard to change course, reinvent or perfect your unique heart’s desire. Writing is my self-proclaimed spirit language. I have had numerous people tell me how relatable, humorous and inspiring they find my posts, encouraging me to write a book like it is just a simple check off my daily to-do list. Little do these well-meaning fans know, I have thrust an inestimable number of essays into the great cosmic abyss of publications, magazines and blogs. It takes a lot to keep submitting, knowing the chances of my pieces landing in the hands of an appreciative editor are slim. One day, I believe my dream will come true. This is simply the honing stage and without it, I would no doubt take the achievement of my literary ambition for granted. Thus, I vow to see rejection as redirection and wait patiently (not patiently) for my big break to come, in His perfect time and not my own.

6) “You don’t find love. Love finds you”.

My seven year-old son made this statement. Like the wise-beyond-years young Yoda he is, he spouted it to me at the exact time I needed to hear it. I have searched my whole life for that perfect, romantic, beyond the storybook love.

News flash: It does not exist. What does exist is a partner that will appreciate and encourage me, delight in my imperfections, strive to grow with me and remain faithful until one of us dies. I may be ninety-seven years young, flirting with my nursing home roomie’s boyfriend (only because I have dementia and apparently so does he); but I will one day find that love and hold onto it like there is no tomorrow (and at ninety-seven, that is a very real possibility).

7) I can’t change others.

I have used the silent pleading, all-out yelling, reverse psychology and any other treatment you can imagine to get desired results. They all failed. I have learned what I will accept in a relationship. If it is something I cannot accept, the relationship will never work. On the contrary, if there is chemistry, passion, friendship, and an integral spiritual connection, I can overlook a lot of flaws. I can deal with the occasional tardiness (with good excuse), wanting to hang out with his buddies sans me (perfect opportunity for me to do the same) and a host of other minor irritants. If he is right for me, I will not desire to change him. I will accept him and we can make changes together: healthy, lasting, relationship-enhancing and heavenly-inspired changes.

8) Jealousy makes an ass out of you and me. (So, maybe that is ASSuming).

Nevertheless, jealousy always makes an ass out of someone. Nine times out of ten, that someone has been me. It was not until recently I decided that if a partner gives me reason to be jealous, he is likely not right for me in the first place. If I get jealous on my own, I delve into the reasons why. Is it an insecurity in myself (Bingo!) or something he is doing purposely to make me feel this way? If the relationship is meant to last, a partner will listen to your causes for concern and alter his behavior. If he is unwilling to listen and make changes, he probably isn’t the dude for you.

9) Self-love opens the door to Real Love.

My ex-husband touted this when we went through our divorce. I thought it was the most idiotic thing he ever said. I now realize that while he had no friggin’ clue what it meant, the statement does emit a very precious truth. If you do not arrive at a place of self-love, respect and forgiveness, you cannot possibly give this to others. It is only when you fill your heart with love that you can you share it with others in a healthy, mature and lasting relationship. I can honestly say I love myself more now than ever. Being that I am the only sure part of any relationship, I will continue to grow, nurture and feed this healed, healthy and beautiful version of myself until my dying day.

10) I am only as happy as I choose to be.

If you wait to be happy until you meet that special someone, have the dream baby, finish the degree or whatever the next step is, you will never be happy. I went through three miscarriages, one divorce, one death of a fiancé and numerous relationships afterward to try and numb the pain I didn’t properly deal with (which….Surprise! only created more pain). Yet, even in those times of heartache, there were streams of sunlight faithfully shining through the darkness. If you can be happy in the midst of trials, you will be the richest person on earth. Life will never go according to plan; but maybe there is an even better plan, and the strength you gain from hardship will no doubt explode into a glorious outcome beyond your wildest dreams. I know this, I have lived it.

No matter what season of life you are currently treading, the one constant take-away is that it will change. The pain and torment will evolve in to much-desired joy, allowing for a growth within that is only available to those stretched by the journey of life coupled with the hands of time. As difficult as it may be to simply ride the tide, it does seem to become easier with time. When you have experienced life as I have, the perspective that develops is truly a gift. A treasured gift which allows one to navigate with grace, wisdom and an inexplicable peace, knowing that all things will gloriously work out in the end.

As happy as I am to have experienced the joys of my infamous Thirties Journey (I could write a novel on those ten years alone), I am anxiously anticipating what my Fabulous Forties will bring. Will this decade be fraught with the same whirlwind roller coaster-esque madness that ensued during my thirties? Or, will they be a decade of calm, peaceful, tranquility; the opposite of the raging storm from last decade? Either way, I know my faith will sustain me, my friends will enable me, my family will continue to support and encourage me and I will no doubt have a story with ten (or more) lessons learned from the next decade. I cannot wait to see what those lessons will be. Yet, I do not wish to rush the future. The present is no doubt a gift that I want to savor, enjoy and daily experience to the absolute fullest!

Amannda Maphies has always gone by Manndi; and yes, it has two n’s. It is actually a perfect moniker for her as she’sa bit (more than a bit) zany, wacky, crazy and loves nothing more than to laugh at herself and share that laughter with others. Manndi works fulltime at the UMKC School of Pharmacy, has two boys, William (10) and Waylan (8). She loves to write so she recently started posting on Facebook about her daily adventures about everything from being a single mom of two wild and crazy boys to dating after divorce, to more serious topics such as the loss of a loved one and suicide awareness. She trie to infuse humor, relatability and a touch of inspiration into each of her pieces. One day, she will compile them for a memoir of her life. Manndi’s life motto is ‘live a life you would want to read about’ and she strives everyday to reach others with her words. She feels that you are only as happy as you choose to be and she CHOOSES happiness over all other emotions. She is honored to be featured in a publication named ‘Positively Positive’ because that is truly how she strives to live life.

Image courtesy of Nicholas Swatz.