going blind, sleeping soundly, and other weird ass changes

I turned 45 the other day. It seems very old to me when I think about the number. But It’s creeped up on me slowly and I don’t mind it, I don’t mind getting older. It’s kind of nice. So for my 45th birthday, here are some thoughts on the biggest changes I have observed in getting to be a middle aged lady.

I used to worry a lot about others opinions of me. Not so much anymore. I mean it’s certainly important to me that I am a kind person. But if others don’t like me, well, at this point I realize there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it. In my younger days, I would say something dumb and obsess about it for hours, days, weeks, even years. I don’t do that anymore. I still feel embarrassed when I am clumsy. But I’m clumsy, so what? I am still appalled when I find I have been walking around with food on my face for hours, but I am fine to just laugh and wipe it off. And if someone is cold or rude to me, I pretty much roll my eyes and move on. So that’s a good thing.

But there are other changes, ones I didn’t expect and continue to surprise me.

I guess you imagine what getting older might be like and then you are in it and the changes aren’t exactly what you thought they would be. I am often caught off guard by the age on my face, in my skin. But it doesn’t scare me or freak me out the way I imagined it would.

Going blind, now that is something I am struggling with. I was reading a menu a few years ago and I wondered why it was so blurry. It was weird. I actually believed the menu itself was printed in a blurry way as some sort of hipster cool effect. I was annoyed with that menu and that hipster eatery. Someone suggested that maybe it was time for some readers. I scoffed. I have perfect vision, you fool. I do not need glasses. I have never needed glasses. My eyesight rocks.

And then it got worse.

And all the menus got blurry.

And I finally went to the eye doctor. I got glasses. And then another, stronger pair.

And then I ended up buying some readers.

And more readers, because I need them all the time now. I need about 10 pairs of those stupid readers sprinkled around the house so I can see.

I am not wearing them now. I have no idea what I am typing. Thank god I am a good typist because I cannot actually see the words I am typing.

It sucks. I mean it seriously, really sucks. I notice how much worse it’s getting.

Wrinkles, no problem.

But losing my perfect vision sucks.

When I wake up in the morning or stand up after sitting a long time I feel like the tin man and all my joints are achy and I think for a minute what it will feel like in 10 years or more. I suddenly understand why elderly people move so slowly. I can taste what that’s gonna be like and it scares me a little, just a little.

I used to have insomnia. I would stay awake for hours, watching the ceiling fan turn. Or I would get up and watch TV or read. I would finally fall asleep on the couch and wake up in a daze from lack of sleep. It was a major problem and something that caused me a lot of anxiety.

Lately, over the last few years, I cannot get my body into any sort of lying down position without falling asleep. Now, I can fall asleep in like five seconds. The harder I try to stay awake, the more quickly I fall asleep. Tonight I had an hour between parenting duties and I plopped down on the couch for an hour of netflix. I watched about four minutes of NCIS before I fell asleep. What the hell, it’s like I am a sleeping machine? It’s kinda awesome. I mean, sometimes it’s annoying in the theatre or at a movie I paid good money to see. Perhaps it’s an age thing, maybe I am just exhausted. But it’s so much better than insomnia.

Also, I am a morning person now. I used to hate morning people, with their good cheer and stupid, smiling good morning faces. My mother was a morning person and she was the most annoying morning person in the universe. When I was a teenager, she would come bouncing in my room with her good morning glow and I would imagine myself punching her in the face. But now, I get up so early that I often go running in the dark before the sun comes up. And I love the mornings. It’s my favorite time of the day. Then I go bouncing into my kid’s rooms singing my good morning song. And they hate me for it, which makes me smile even more.

Who am I? Where did the night owl go that I spent the first half of my life being? Who is this weird person taking over my body?

Oh and something else that is changing, I just cannot fight anymore. I just can’t do it. I have had a couple of brief relationships since my divorce where there were some passionate fights. I really hated it. The fighter in me is dying. I just don’t want to be that person. Fighting is yucky and I don’t don’t want anyone in my life I have to fight with. Except my kids, I still have to fight with them. It’s my job. I hate it but it’s gotta be done. Otherwise, fighters just aren’t welcome in my world anymore. I’m cool with talking things through but angry fighting, that shit just can’t happen anymore.

I am happy to report that I am way too old for that crap.

Finally, the observation of aging that continues to surprise me the most is just how much I still need my mommy. I am 45, a certified grown up and I absolutely need my mom. Maybe more now than I did before. Because she has been gone so long my perspective may be warped on this, but I long for her. That certain kind of love that only a mother can provide, or at least a mom SHOULD provide. The nice part about this “Mommy needing” observation is that it helps me get through some of these rough spots with my three kids, two of which are selfish teens. It reminds me that even though they can be real dicks sometimes, they need me. They will always need me and the love I am giving freely is incredibly important.

So that’s my list for today. Now I have to get to bed, it’s way past my ole lady bedtime.

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My mother and I, probably Spring of 1971.

Gratitude and other thoughts

I read a blog the other day that was a diatribe against the “everything happens for a reason” statements. Someone dies and people say “she is in a better place” or “God has a plan”, or “She is at peace now”. I always thought that was bullshit but the blog articulated it really well. It got me thinking.

Over the past three years I have asked myself often if walking away from my marriage was a mistake. I try to avoid that thought pattern because I did leave and there is no turning back and I like myself so much better now than I did three years ago. I am comfortable in my skin, present, content, introspective…all the things I want to be and some things I hope to be someday and haven’t quite reached yet. So it’s good, I am good. There are lots of lingering feelings of sadness and regret and loss, I am exhausted all the time from working full time, managing a household alone, raising three kids and just living life. I struggle with watching another woman raise my kids in the home I once loved. It’s hard but I am doing it and learning and growing. In return I love who I am now, how I feel about myself and what I have managed to accomplish…on my own. I have great kids, a wonderful life.

So was it worth it?

Did everything happen for a reason?

Who gives a shit? It did happen. It is. And now I am living this life. Because it happened.

I think you can’t know things until you get to those things. The path you choose leads to discoveries. Maybe the discoveries are different than the ones you may have made had you chosen an alternate path. But I don’t want to think too much about that. It’s a waste of time and energy and frankly my time and my energy are limited.

I went on an official visit to a local University last weekend with my daughter. It was a pretty amazing experience because I didn’t visit colleges when I was a graduating senior, I went to a local Junior College. So it was cool to do that as a parent with my daughter. There were many moments of complete pure presentness over that weekend, moments of “this is amazing and I know it is and I am feeling it with all my cells”. I know three years ago I struggled a lot with that type of “being present”. If I hadn’t had so much suffering over the last three years maybe I wouldn’t be able to be fully present in moments like I am now.

But am I grateful for the pain so that I could be this fully present?

Um, no. That’s dumb.

I don’t know if three years of aging and living life might have led me to exactly this type of being present had I not gone through this shitty, hard period. You just can’t know anything about your journey until you are in it.

I have always felt this way about people who give bullshit advice.

I felt it when I was getting married and people would say, “enjoy this time before you have kids, you will miss it when it’s over”.

Or when I was pregnant and people would say, “having kids is going to change everything”.

Or “enjoy them while they are young, this time is precious.” Of course I see it now. But I couldn’t see it then, knee deep in dirty diapers and desperate for three consecutive hours of sleep.

So, I guess I am saying, you just can’t know things until you reach them and you just can’t feel things until it’s your time to feel them. Life is not some scientific equation where the goal is to solve for X.

You move through life and you go where you are heading based on the choices you make and you try to be present and happy and grateful, you try to find peace and love and a little joy along the way.

I am not grateful for pain and suffering so I could be grateful for the beauty I have in my life today.

I am simply grateful for the beauty I have in my life today.

I had one of these overwhelmingly grateful moments while I was driving home from the visit last weekend; my daughter was asleep in the car next to me. She’s always sleeping. Teenagers are always sleeping.

It’s so cute. (NOT)

So I am driving. And it’s finally sunny after a weekend of constant thunderstorms. The window is down a little and a good song is playing on the radio. I look over at her, her sweet, sleeping face and I am completely overwhelmed by the love i feel for her. It’s so much, i feel tears dripping down my face.

I have always loved her. My daughter.

But the love gets bigger. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know it would get bigger as time went on.

I suspect it will keep on getting bigger, but I won’t really know that until I get there.

It’s not bigger because she hated for me a while and i thought I might have lost her forever.

It’s just sweet, pure, beautiful, wonderful love. It’s gigantic. And I am so grateful to feel it.

And i think about my mom and I realize how much she loved me. I feel that loss for a minute. I feel deeply the missing of my mom’s unconditional love, especially now that I understand how much bigger it got for her too.

But you won’t hear me trying to explain that to people, trying to get them to understand something they can’t understand until they reach that point in their journey…if they ever do.

I don’t know if everything happens for a reason. I don’t know why people spend so much time trying to make sense of things or find meaning in pain. I have definitely tried to do that too. I don’t want to do that anymore.

I don’t know what it means.

I don’t think I care.

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My daughter and I.

Are you my Emergency Contact?

Generally, I am a passionate talker. But I am not a complainer. There is a difference. Maybe it’s more subtle than I think it is. There is definitely a difference. I don’t blame others for the state of my existence. My mom and dad made mistakes. I make mistakes. We all do. I have known some heartless people but most people don’t set out to be cruel or unkind.  I have made bad decisions and hurt people I loved. But I believe we are all human and all of us are imperfect. There are people that I can’t have in my life because their presence is toxic. But generally, I am not a grudge holder. It’s just not how I roll.

So preface this blog post with the statement that I am not looking for sympathy. I am NOT feeling sorry for myself. Oh there are days when I certainly feel sorry for myself but today isn’t one of them. Yesterday I got on the scale and saw a bigger number than I have ever seen NOT PREGNANT. I felt a little sorry for myself for a few minutes and then I moved on. I moved right onto eating a delicious bean and cheese taco and told myself it’s my happy weight. I’m happy. So I will buy bigger jeans. Oh well. I still look good. And hell…I look damn good for just shy of my 45th birthday.

So now…two paragraphs in and way too much exposition…allow me to get to the point.

I don’t have an emergency contact.

I fill out forms all the time, at work, at the doctor, for insurance. There is always the “emergency contact” line. I get to that line and I stop. I never know what to write.

Because, well, I don’t have one.

I don’t actually have an emergency contact.

For some reason this reality is like a slap in the face. It’s like that moment in that Steve Martin movie when he walks into the restaurant and asks for a table for one and a spotlight hits him and everyone grows quiet and stares at him.

That’s never happened, the whole room getting quiet and a spotlight appearing on me while I am filling out my forms in the doctor’s office but it feels a little bit like that. I always look around and wonder if anyone else knows the truth about me?

That I am that guy, the lonely guy, that pathetic sucker without an emergency fucking contact.

Ok, ok, I have lots of friends. I even have a few friends I would help hide a body for with no questions asked.

I’ve got people.

I’ve got a girlfriend but you know, we aren’t there yet…we aren’t to the “will you be my emergency contact?” phase.

Maybe someday but not yet.

I have some family, several states away. Even one or two that COULD be my emergency contact. But they aren’t actively involved in my day to day life. What on earth would they do if they got an emergency call about me? Here in Texas, thousands of miles away?

Sometimes I write down a good friend here in town. She would totally be my emergency contact. She is definitely the one I would call if I needed to hide a body.

But it always feels a little wrong. It feels like a burden that doesn’t belong to her. Sometimes I put her. I put her a lot on my kids forms but less often on mine.

And sometimes, I just make something up. Because really, I am at the doctor for cold medicine. What the hell kind of an emergency will happen in the next hour at a doctor I likely won’t ever see again? None. So I make up a fake aunt. Her name changes and so does her phone number. She’s local, my fake aunt.

But she’s there for me. In a pinch.

There is always an annoying auto pilot moment when I start to write my former spouses name. But that’s weird. And frankly, he sucks in an emergency. He would have been a crappy emergency contact when we were married. But now?

There is a part of me, a pretty big part, that wishes he could still be that for me. But that’s another blog post.

Nope.

Someday my kids will be my emergency contact. But they aren’t old enough for that. Not yet. In a few years maybe.

And don’t even get me started on the will thing, power of attorney, medical power of attorney stuff. That decision has put me into paralysis for over two years…hence the fact that I have no will. Sorry kids, if something happens to me you get to learn what probate means.

Here’s the thing, it’s not really about the emergency contact. It’s more the reality of living a life where, in a crisis, I am on my own. Since my mom died and I divorced, I have truly discovered what it means to be on my own.

(Cue music from Les Miserables)

This was something I didn’t understand the implications of a few years ago and now I understand all too well. Some days I don’t notice so much. Other days, rare days, when I feel like falling, I know I better not…cause I am screwed if I do.

The good news is that I am pretty tough.

A little clumsy, ok, a lot clumsy.

And that’s tricky in a life without an emergency contact.

Feeling it

My life fell apart three years ago. Pretty much exactly three years ago. Like today may be (I can’t remember exactly) the exact anniversary of the day I went to the store and paid good money to purchase the dynamite that I would then use to bomb the fuck out of my somewhat decent life.

Analogy being used here. I didn’t actually use dynamite.

But three years ago today or sometime this week, I made choices that would change the trajectory of my life forever. It would cause ginormous pain for my children, my former spouse, and for me.

I am not quite certain how I survived it. There were days when I didn’t think I would, the depth of my sadness was so great a burden I literally could not carry it.

It sucked.

There is still some brokenness that hasn’t healed, still some pieces of myself I haven’t recovered. That’s just the way it is.

Some days I feel angry.

Most days I am ok with it all. It is. What can I do now?

At the risk of turning into a cliché, the cool part of a completely shattered, messed up, insanely ugly, horrible life experience is the absolute depth that I feel every single moment of happiness.

GOD I feel it.

Deep down inside. It’s like a wave that goes all the way through my body and ignites all of my cells on fire.

When it happens the hairs on my arms stand up. And I get little tears in my eyes. And I feel so very grateful for that moment in time. And it’s good. It’s so fucking good.

Last week, I was sitting on the porch with my girlfriend.  I was sharing some pieces of me that I don’t often share, then she returned the favor…my tough girl opened up. And then we just sat there and we held hands. And we looked at the blue sky. It was lovely. And safe. And peaceful. And that happiness was so real. it was practically something I could touch. The feeling of happiness became a living breathing organism.

I took my kids to Fiesta Texas for my son’s birthday. It was hotter than hades. I wanted to lay down and hide in a corner from the crowds instead of riding rides and walking through the pea soup like heat. And then all the groups of teens and pre-teens came together, my little band of me and the seven kids I had brought with me to the park managed to meet up at our scheduled time. Someone suggested the “lame roller coaster”, the only one my youngest child will ride. So we ran full speed to the line. While we waited we laughed and took “selfies” and fought over who was sitting with who and in what order. And I felt it again, the living, breathing organism of complete and utter peaceful, beautiful happiness. It washed over me again. And my brain took a photo of the feeling to store for future viewing.

Then running in the park with one of my favorite people in the world last Sunday. My legs were moving and my knees didn’t hurt too much (God I am getting old). My lovely running partner and I had so much to talk about that we went almost 5 miles on a ridiculously hot morning and never skipped a beat in the conversation. As I drove away she called me because there was just one more thing she wanted to tell me and I felt it again, the simple joy of peaceful happy “yes to this moment” feeling.

And then this morning, It happened again. I woke up my kids and everyone was in a good mood. We only left the house five minutes late which is a record in the summer. This summer has been filled with anxiety…me working full time and their dad having a girlfriend at home who the boys could stay with. I have struggled with my fear that they wouldn’t want to be with me because I make them get up and go to camp instead of sleeping and spending the day playing video games and swimming in the pool like they can at dad’s. We all got up and left the house. And my middle child, the one that has nearly killed me with his anger over the past three years, got out of the car and turned to me and smiled. I was saying something goofy that I say a lot this summer, “make sure you do some learnin’ today, don’t want your brain to rot out before 10th grade” and giggling. And he laughed and promised he would and then said “I love you, Mom”. It’s all still messy and he is still angry, but that “I love you” was heartfelt and sweet and light and beautiful. And the happiness washed over me again and the hair on my arms stood up, and the wetness hit my eyes and I was feeling it, all of it, all the way to my core.

So here it is. The blessing in the craptastic three years of struggle.

I feel it so much more now than I did before.

Happiness.

I can’t quite say it was worth it.

For moments of joy, bliss, peace.

I just don’t know if I could feel these moments like this, if I could really appreciate them, if I hadn’t had my life fall apart.

That’s something.

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The Fear of Being Female

My co-workers and I walked over to the dollar store around five this afternoon to get some things for an upcoming event. It was the end of the day and we were all in a good mood, talking and laughing. I am not sure when he started following us but I noticed him pretty quickly. He was leering. You know how creepy dudes leer at girls?

Oh you don’t? Well good for you sir!

Because anyone who reads this that happens to be female will understand exactly what I am talking about.

So he’s leering and I ignore him.

That’s the best thing to do, I’ve learned.

Just don’t give them any attention and whatever you do, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT.

We pay and exit the store, all three of us aware and watching and whispering.

Creepy dude is in his car now. We see his eyes on us as we cross the parking lot, I see his smile.

Back in the office, we discuss who can walk who to the car because creepy dude is still in the parking lot.

As I exit, one of my co-workers, who’s husband has arrived to drive her home, watches to be sure he doesn’t follow me out of the parking lot.

He doesn’t. I am safe.

Think I am being paranoid?

Well then you must have a penis because I can assure you this is what it’s like to be female.

This is what it’s like to be afraid of men.

I worked a phone bank on a local TV station not too long ago. We got a lot of great calls but we also got some weirdos. And then there was the guy who called over and over again, cause he wanted to talk to the blonde.

That’s me. I am the blonde.

When he finally got me on the phone, he asked me out.

I said no. He persisted. In a friendly voice I told him I was married but thank you for the nice compliment.

He pointed out that I wasn’t wearing a ring on camera.

In a sea of women working a phone bank, with me seated in the background, he managed to make out that I wasn’t wearing a ring.

He knows my name, he knows where I work, and he knows I am not wearing a ring.

Awesome.

This is it.

The fear of being female.

In 2012, 346,830 US women (and little girls) were raped.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.

I work for an organization that takes care of children who have been abused by their own families. It is horrific, the stories.

It is so prevalent in our society, an aspect of our lives, our lives as women. I have to say I’m used to it.

I have been sexually harassed at work…classic sexual harassment, like you see in the movies. It was unbelievable while it was happening. I truly could not wrap my head around it it was so scary and unreal and awful. I blamed myself, I asked myself why was I so friendly when I started this job, what did I do wrong to make it seem as though I was interested in this sort of inappropriate behavior?  I looked for ways to fix it, I tried to laugh it off until I finally got serious, went to management and they asked the perpetrator to please not do that anymore. Eventually I went to work somewhere else. It wasn’t worth the battle to sue them or whatever. I just wanted away from it, I wanted to forget it ever happened.

We, as women, are so used to being treated like vessels for men’s enjoyment that we expect to be mistreated, we prepare for it. We are on guard all the time. We are afraid.

Many successful business women will tell you that they purposefully dress in pants, pull their hair back, wear glasses, avoid heavy make-up or perfume because they want the men in the room to see them and hear them, rather than be distracted by their femaleness.

It is ridiculous that we have to do this.

But we have to do it.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am not walking around with my tail between my legs shivering in fear that a man might hurt me.

I work out. I am strong because it makes me feel strong. I walk with confidence, because I don’t intend to be a victim. And I walk with confidence cause I am a badass woman. I will kick ass if I have to.

But I am hyper aware, Hyper vigilant.

I am still afraid of men. I am cautious because life has taught me to be that way.

I have had two experiences where a man approached me with his penis out, once in a car and once at a movie theatre.

I have experienced some things I would rather not write about.

I rarely walk down a busy street without being cat called. Not that I am some crazy hot chick. I am middle aged, a mother of three. It’s so common I barely react anymore. I am used it, I ignore it. As I get older, it happens less and that makes me happy.

About a year ago, this subject became popular on twitter with #YesAllWomen as a hashtag…women seeking a voice for their fear and why that fear is justified based on their own life experiences.

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It’s bad enough that we, as women, accept the fear as just a part of being female.

But what makes me crazy, what makes me want to scream from the rooftops, is that men truly do not get it.

Certainly some men do. Perhaps it’s changing, perhaps society is becoming more educated and less willing to accept such awful behavior. Perhaps men are beginning to recognize that women don’t know the difference between “harmless” cat calling or leering and the men who will follow you home and rape you or assault you or even kill you.

We don’t know the difference because to us, there is no difference.

This is one of those blog posts that has no place to go, no ending or resolution.

It’s just a rant.

I guess I can make myself feel better by sitting my sons down and telling them why it’s up to them to change it, to make it better by being better.

I can teach my daughter to be hyper vigilant, to walk with confidence, to stay fit and healthy so she can always fight back if she has to.

But I can’t take away the simple reality that fear of men is unfortunate and justifiable.

The fear is just a part of being female.

Pride

I left the theatre last Sunday with a strange feeling. I walked to my car, loaded with costumes and flowers and other “backstage” stuff that I had accumulated over two weeks of being ultra focused on a play I was doing. Once I settled into my car, I took a deep breathe and relaxed for a few minutes before ever putting the key in the ignition. I just sat there.

Feeling.

I felt happy, for sure.

The play had gone well. The audience had really responded. I felt connected to my character, to the other characters.

I had given an authentic performance. My castmates had done beautiful work.

We put on a really good play.

I was proud of myself.

And I knew in that moment that I had never felt what I was feeling before.

I was proud of myself.

I am 44 years old and I have never sat back and just felt proud of myself.

How is that possible?

That’s kinda sad.

Why? Have I never done anything to be proud of before?

And driving along I searched back through my life’s accomplishments, projects I had managed, other plays I have been in, events I was in charge of. Yes, I have done good work before. Definitely.

But at the end of the project I simply moved on.

I may have thought about what I could have done better or what I would change if I did a similar project in the future.

If someone said, great work, I might have smiled and said thank you but internally I would have quickly discounted the compliment.

I think I may have breathed a sigh of relief and thought to myself, “well that didn’t suck, thank GOD.”

But I do not believe that I have ever spent even one minute in my 44 years simply patting myself on the back.

It boggles my mind how very true that statement is.

It makes me wonder if it’s a me thing, this inability to reward myself for a job well done, or a societal thing, or a female thing, or simply an insecurity thing?

Is there anything wrong with feeling proud of yourself?

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Pride is bad.

Humility is good.

I think it’s a deep rooted belief. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.

We are taught not to be prideful. We are taught that pride separates us from God, from love.

But what does pride actually mean?

“a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements”

That doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

Allowing yourself to feel pleasure at the end of a job well done shouldn’t be a bad thing.

And it isn’t.

It wasn’t.

As I drove home, I allowed myself to feel proud, to feel pleasure at having dreamed of a project, of going out and making it come true, and then having it be something beautiful and good.

Together with the other people on the team, we did a beautiful and good piece of theatre. I am proud of us.

It’s unbelievable that I have never allowed myself to feel a little pride before.

And I did it. All the way home. That 20 minutes, I danced, cried a little, giggled a little, marveled a little that we did it, I DID IT.

Then I got home and walked in the house.

Into three barking dogs, three needing kids, a sink full of dishes, seven loads of laundry and a lot of other “real life” crap.

Nope, nothing bad happened when I let myself feel proud. Life went on.

The Dog I Killed

I was driving my kids to a weekend at the beach, my car was filled with four boys. It was pretty late on a Friday night and we were almost there. That last stretch of road is pretty dark, a two lane Texas highway without a lot of activity except the occasional condo or beach house and a lot of travelers all headed to the same place. The kids were quiet (finally) and music was playing and I was feeling good…relieved to have almost made it to my destination after a long workday, hours spent packing and a nearly three hour drive.

And there it was.

Tan.

The color of my favorite dog. My Evaleen.

I saw it maybe 1 second before the impact. But it hit, hard. And then it was gone.

My entire body reacted to it. I drove about 5 more seconds before I really understood what had happened and then I pulled over, got out of the car, looked under the car. Did I actually think it was still under the car somehow? What was I looking for?

I started to shake and cry a little. The kids pounded me with questions.

“What happened?”

“Are you ok?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Did we hit something?”

I responded, “yes, I think we hit a dog” and I really started to cry now. I got back in the car and drove back.

Is that what you do? Do you drive back and search? We hit that dog, or whatever it was (because by now my brain was talking me into believing it hadn’t been a dog, I didn’t want it to be a dog, I wanted it to be something else, something less loved and cherished, something wild or rabid) we hit that dog hard. It couldn’t have survived.

I drove back and looked. But I didn’t get out of the car. It was very late. On a very dark stretch of highway, with cars coming along fast. I looked. I saw nothing.

So I turned around again and continued on my journey.

But the heavy feeling, the “I killed a dog” feeling didn’t leave me.

I carried it along, to the condo, as we unpacked the car, as we waited for the other car to arrive and got all nine kids settled.

Yes, I take 9 kids to the beach alone. I am crazy like that. 5 of them are practically grown ups. Anyway.

So, alone…I sat on a bench outside the condo drinking my wine and thinking about that dog.

But as I sat there I realized it wasn’t just that dog I was thinking about, I was also thinking about another dog I had hit, years and years earlier. In 1988. Another Spring Break. My senior year in high school. We had travelled to Arkansas to go camping. The trip had been somewhat of a disaster. Seven teenagers camping without an adult to remind them to pack things like enough food or proper equipment. But we had a ridiculously good time. As only teens can do. We danced in the rain, we fought, we laughed, we got drunk and slept outside under the moon. We were all filthy when we hit the road that night, covered in mud and bug bites and stinking of campfire. My car was filled with four boys.

Notice the similarity here? Spring Break? Four Boys?

Weird.

That dog was black. And I was the only one awake. Again, I was the only one who saw what happened. I turned around that time too. Again, I saw nothing. I never found the dog.

As I sat there thinking about that dog, in the year 2015, I was steeped in memories of the other dog and of that trip and of that time in my life and I was back into my 17 year old body and I was feeling things and thinking about things I hadn’t thought of in years and years. I was overwhelmed with memory and thought and emotion. I was feeling the pain and the pleasure of a time in my life that had been gone for almost thirty years.

And it occurred to me, and here is the point of this blog…

Circumstances can trigger an association with something completely unrelated that bring you right back to another time, to another experience that is related but yet not related. Sometimes we realize it and sometimes we don’t.

And it occurred to be me how much conflict is caused by these associations.

Your partner says or does something that triggers something that happened previously and you react with that previous experience in mind. You respond to an innocent set of words or actions with a body of memory that have nothing to do with what’s happening in the moment.

Something completely unrelated. You respond to your partner or friend or boss or a complete stranger through the filter of another association, you punish them for something they were never a part of.

God, we do that lot.

We humans.

It makes complete sense. But I think we have to stop doing it.

I think it gets in the way of love.

I suspect that a big part of our journey in life is to stop doing that. To become aware of the present moment so clearly that old associations aren’t allowed to cloud it.

I am suddenly hyper aware of these associations since that night. I am aware of how much they infect today with yesterday.

I recognize the danger in them.

How they steal our joy.

I want every tiny bit of joy I can get.

I don’t want to give any of it away to the past anymore.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

In a few weeks, it will be eight years since you left us. Not by your own choice. I am certain you didn’t drift off peacefully but rather went kicking and screaming and fighting into the other realm…wherever and whatever that is. I bet you were pissed. To die. Knowing you, I am sure you were pissed.

So I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I’ve always thought of you but lately,  I have been thinking about you in a new way, a more peaceful way, reflective I suppose.

You know when you cook something and you can’t really taste it? You are too in it. The ingredients are too much a part of you and when you taste it, it’s always the same, you don’t notice the taste of it. You have to call someone into the room to taste it and tell you what’s missing?

Yeah, I am comparing grief to cooking. It’s a stretch, I know. That’s how my brain works. I blame you.

But losing you was too much for me to understand. I certainly felt the loss. Every single day. Some days I felt it so much, I was so in it…I couldn’t grasp what I was feeling. I couldn’t “taste” the loss…it was so much a part of me.

But lately, I have been grasping, deeply, the loss of you.

I have been needing.

Something.

You.

Only you.

Only the thing which you possess.

Stay with me and I will try to illustrate exactly what I am trying to say.

There is a thing that a good mom provides.

Now, let’s be honest. You weren’t always a “great mom”. You made some mistakes. Some of your mistakes were gigantic. I am not mad at you. I am 44 years old. I get your journey, your imperfections, and I forgive you completely. I know you did your best. I know it with all of my heart.

But here is why I know, now, eight years later that you were truly a good mom.

Because I need a soft place. I need a place where I will always be welcome. Where I can go, and be comforted, loved, cared for. I need to go to a place where I can crawl up, rest my head, pour out my heart, let down my defenses and just be. I need that thing. That place. That comfort. That safeness. That acceptance.

I need that love.

That only a mother can provide.

(Maybe Dad’s provide that too but that hasn’t been my experience.)

I will be ok, Mom.

You made me strong. I will survive without it. I will. Absolutely.

But I miss it. I miss that “thing” that you provided…that I didn’t even know you were giving me.

I was too in it when you died. I couldn’t “taste” it. Back to the cooking analogy again.

But I taste it now. I feel it now.

That loss. That need that cannot be filled.

For my mom.

Mine. My place. My safe place.

Because giving that to your kids is what defines a good mom.

Not whether you volunteer at the PTA, or cook from scratch, or breastfeed, or never lose your temper, or remember to sign permission slips, or are always emotionally or physically available, or never ignore your kids when you should be paying attention, or all the other the other things we moms put pressure on ourselves to accomplish and label ourselves failures for not doing.

It’s really this. This thing. This impossible to describe thing even when using a bad cooking analogy.

This mom thing.

This safe place. This comfort. This acceptance. This soft place where you are welcomed and loved and supported.

Your place.

Your mom.

Yours.

I miss that.

Eight years later.

That’s what I miss most.

Your will had a note to me. Apologizing. For your mistakes. It pissed me off at the time because I wasn’t holding grudges and it made me crazy that you actually thought you had to apologize. Still. After so many years.

So I wanted to write and say, thank you for being a good mom.

You were a very good mom.

Love,
Your daughter

Getting Old is Awesome

Hey, got you with that title, didn’t I?

Ok, so getting old isn’t really awesome overall. My back hurts, I have a muffin top, “the girls” sag too much and my energy is lower than it used to be. For someone like me, who stays in constant motion, that’s hard.

But generally, there are some things about growing older that make all those things worthwhile.

As I reflected back on the year, as we all tend to do…I discovered that I’ve actually learned a lot…that I kinda like what I have learned…I discovered some good things over this past year, my 44th and the beginning of my 45th.

So, here is my list of the TOP TEN THINGS I LOVE ABOUT GETTING OLD:

10) I don’t have time for that shit.

You know the shit I am talking about…the gossip…the cattiness…the negativity.

Not only do I not have time for it, I am no longer afraid to say it. I have reached the ripe old age of,

“Hey, ms. negative gossip girl over there…just shut the fuck up, ok?”

Drama, you like a little bit of that drama? Then I want nothing to do with you. Bye bye.

I don’t gossip. I don’t support gossip.

I don’t have time for that shit.

9) I feel better when I exercise.

I used to see exercise as a necessary evil, something I did to stay skinny and strong but not something I really enjoyed.

I am not sure if I would go so far as to say I enjoy it, but I am certain that I feel better when I exercise. And now, after ten years of running I can definitely say it’s something I need.

I think everyone should find some form of exercise and stick to it and they will likely realize they feel better when they exercise too.

8) I really don’t like getting drunk.

I have spent some time as a party girl. Then I spent some time completely sober, trying to figure out why I always had to be the drunkest, loudest, funnest person in the room. Now, I drink when I feel like it. And since going back to drinking, I have been drunk… never sloppy disgusting puke drunk…but rather drunk enough to not drive and to feel like hell the next day, probably five times.

I don’t like it. It’s really not all that fun while it’s happening. And I feel crappy the next day, mentally and physically. Drinking too much, even a little too much, is depressing.

For 2015, I am going to avoid getting drunk. Not because I have to but because I want to.  I really don’t like how it makes me feel.

7) Everyone has imperfections.

The more people I know, the more I realize that all of us are struggling to be happy, to be present, to be at peace. I think life gets significantly more clear, easier, when you realize that. All humans are flawed. I am more drawn to the seekers, the people who are striving to find the sweet spot of joy in the present moment. I prefer those people to the ones avoiding pain by sitting in their lazy-boys watching TV all day. But all of us, almost all anyway, are doing the best we can with what we have.

6) I really like sex.

Yeah, you weren’t expecting that were you? But seriously, I like sex. Not with just anyone. But I like it. A lot. I really like sex with someone I love, I like it even more with someone I trust. But sex is a beautiful expression of love, it’s fun, and when I find my lifetime partner, they are gonna have to like sex too. I need a partner that is comfortable with their sexual selves. Cause, I like sex. And that is perfectly healthy and good and nothing to be ashamed of. (I used to think there was something weird about that, loving sex and not being afraid to say I love it, I was wrong…it’s good.)

5) I am unusually forgiving.

I have seen some ugly shit in my life so far. And I really don’t hold grudges. I forgive easily and completely. I don’t even need an apology to forgive. I have “learned to accept the apology I never received.” My therapist says this trait worries her a bit because she wants me to forgive for my own mental health, while holding onto the truth of a person, or a situation, etc…and I hear this and know it’s true. There are all sorts of reasons that I am this way, all this childhood crap. But it’s who I am. I am forgiving. Once I let go of something, I let it go. Forever.

On the flip side, I have discovered there is only one thing I find truly unforgivable.

Intentional cruelty.

People who set out to be purposefully cruel. Those people. I will not forgive them. Or perhaps forgive isn’t the right word. I have no trouble holding onto the truth of those people.

I have known exactly four of those people, possibly five, in my lifetime.

I have a place in my soul where my love for these four resides. It’s locked tight. I have thrown away the key.

Those people, the four, I have learned so much from them. They taught me to be more careful. They taught me to listen to my instincts.

Letting go of the injustice and frustration and anger, is difficult but certainly not impossible.

I want nothing to do with them. Ever again. They are dead to me. I didn’t know I was like that.

I am.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, I disagree. I think the road to hell is paved with bad intentions.

Bad intentions people can kiss my grits.

4) I am a happy person.

Reading this blog, it might seem like the opposite is true. But it’s more likely that I write from pain. When I am happy, which is a LOT of the time, I am too busy being happy to write about it…although sometimes I do. But being happy, peaceful, laughter, joy, these are my absolute favorite things. I want more of this in my life in 2015. Life isn’t a bowl of cherry’s…blah, blah, blah…but generally being happy comes naturally to me. I love to make other people happy. I love to be fun, to have fun, to feel joy. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of life and forget your fundamental self. I forget what a free spirit I am. I am going to try not to forget again.

3) Parenting is the hardest and most important thing I will ever do.

God, I love my kids. I mean, I love, love, love them. I don’t need to explain this to other parents. They get it.

I found a greeting card recently that said on the outside “being a parent” and then on the inside it said “is like being pecked to death by chickens”. The picture was really hilarious.

When I paid for it, the woman behind the counter said, “it’s our most popular card.”

I replied, “of course it is, I am not the first person to be pecked to death by chickens” and we laughed.

Parenting is nothing like being pecked to death by chickens. But it is hard. Because of the love. Because it matters so much.

The desire to give your children all they need to grow up and be reasonably productive human beings who love you and forgive you for your mistakes is pretty overwhelming.

It’s hard. I don’t think anything is harder or more important.

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” Jackie Kennedy

I believe she is correct. Completely.

That pressure is enormous.

And worth it.

Peck me again, little chicks.

Keep on pecking. I can take it.

2) I know what my issues are.

I used to think I was needy. I was actually just insecure, but more on that later.

I was in a marriage, with a good man. A kind man. A stable man.

Who wasn’t in love with me.

My need for his love, for connection, for passion, nearly destroyed me.

And it caused me to believe I was incredibly needy and impossible to satisfy.

Since the separation, over two years ago, I have made a wonderful discovery.

I am not needy, after all.

I don’t mind being alone. I enjoy my own company. I don’t scare easily. I can travel alone. I can go to the movies, dinner, the theatre alone.

I have some other issues. But neediness isn’t one of them.

But my real issues, the ones that are problematic, that keep creeping back into every relationship…I know what they are.

I can be secretive when I feel controlled.

I can easily slip away, into my head and become unreachable.

I default to anger, always, when I am not actually angry but hurt. Certain situations can shift me into super scary rage. That’s a problem. A major one to work on. It doesn’t happen much any more but it’s still there.

And there are others, issues.

Being this age, being where I am right now in my life, it’s absolutely fantastic that I know myself this well, understand myself and my triggers and patterns.

Doing something about it…I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I will. But the self-knowledge is there, the accuracy without judgment is new…a reflection of age, I suspect.

1) I am enough.

Parents who did their best but couldn’t give what their children what they needed, failed relationships, difficult children…these things can break you down, make you feel less than.

Somewhere in the past year or so I started to recognize the truth.

I am enough.

I am lovely.

Imperfect.

I talk too much.

Passionate.

Smart.

Difficult.

Withdrawn.

Funny.

Sexy.

Silly.

I am all of these things.

Good things.

Not so good things.

The sum of all of my parts is this:

I am enough.

And honestly, that’s the very best part of growing older…recognizing the truth of your enoughness.

It’s peaceful when you embrace it. Even if it slips away in some moment of depression.

It’s still there, the truth. And I will take every wrinkle in order to feel that.

Happy New Year.

On being a mom

I tell each of my kids that they are my favorite.

They know it. It’s something we laugh about. They enjoy it. And they know I say it to the other two.

Each one of them is my favorite.

My little one is my favorite to cuddle with, to chat with, to just hang out and play legos or Rat-a-tat-cat with.

My oldest, my girl, is my favorite to go shopping with, to watch movies with, to get our nails done and to have long conversations about life and relationship dynamics and friendship and surviving high school.

And my middle child, my mirror, my intense one…who was intense to be pregnant with, was an intense little baby, an incredibly willful toddler and now is a teenager…two years ago I might have secretly admitted that he actually was my favorite. I get him, in a way I don’t get the other two. We speak the same unspoken language. Or we did. Or maybe we still do, but I don’t want to speak the language he is speaking now.

The language of truth.

The language of hate.

My mirror hates me.

He has been angry since the divorce.

As he gets bigger, so does his anger.

As he gets smarter, so does his ability to verbalize the complexity of his anger.

He doesn’t want to come to my house.

He doesn’t want to live in two houses.

He wants to stay at Dad’s.

He hates my house.

And he makes everyone else miserable when he is here. Increasingly so.

Oh the things he says to me. It’s horrifying.

Unbelievable.

Unless you are a parent, then you know. Cause this is the part of parenting you can’t comprehend until you live it. No one warns you about this part.

The way a child can break your heart, in a way no one else can. Your children are a piece of you, they live inside you. It just is that way. And when they push hard enough, they can destroy you from the inside out.

And it’s hard.

A few days ago, when I was, once again, having the “please don’t talk to me that way, it’s disrespectful and it’s not ok” conversation for the 300th time he responded with:

“I hate it here, I don’t want to be here.”

And I said, “where do you want to be?”

“At dad’s, I want to be at Dad’s.”

And for the first time in over 2 years, I said ok.

And I took him back to his dad’s.

Where he stayed. Where he is now. I guess where he’ll be. Hopefully not forever, but possibly.

The other two assure me they aren’t going anywhere. They are fractured without their brother. But they promise me they won’t follow him. I hope they won’t.

There is a line in the play August Osage County where Barbara says, “Thank God we can’t tell the future, we could never get out of bed.” I think it’s certainly true of parenting. If you knew, in advance, how deeply you would love your children and how dangerous that love can be when your children hurt you…often purposely, would you do it?

Would you be a mom?

As I write this, with a heavy heart, the answer is still yes.

Absolutely yes.

Without a doubt, yes.

And when my favorite child is ready to come back, I will be here with open arms. To continue loving him up close.

Right now, I have to love him from a distance. Because that’s what he wants from me. It’s what he needs. I know he loves me. So I will wait.

That’s what being a mom is.

IMG_6314

A hug from my boy.