The Little Things

I was talking to a friend today about the pain I have experienced in letting go of my children over the past four years. I went from being the primary caretaker of my children to being a part time mom pretty much overnight. There was some transition but for the most part, I went from spending every day and every night with my kids to not seeing them for days at a time…not knowing where they were or what they were doing for days. It hurt me, to let go. It’s been a process, a journey and I am still working through it. My friend understood. She’s a mom. It didn’t require much explanation, really. She got it right away. I mentioned how frustrated I get when my non-mom friends give me parenting advice. I do recognize that people who don’t have children CAN actually separate themselves from the experience of actually being a parent to know what advice to give. They (the non-parent folks) are often right. But knowing what to do and actually doing it are totally different things. Feel my pain and loss and sense of isolation…the way I suddenly felt unnecessary in my children’s lives…how hard it was for me..know what that feels like and then you will know that your loving and kind advice to “accept it and stop parenting out of guilt” or “your kids are fine” and “your kids adore you, no one can take your place” while correct, is completely lost on my aching heart.

 

Why do people always try to describe things that simply cannot be understood without experiencing them? Artists, poets, writers,  and musicians dedicate their lives to trying to illustrate the feeling of falling in love, being a parent, spending a lifetime in a marriage or relationship, friendship, grief, birth, death and even divorce. All these big, giant, crazy, knock you on your knees life experiences that simply must be had to understand them. It’s the big stuff that is impossible to describe accurately, the major life events that until you have had them, you can’t really wrap your brain around them. And when you have, the people that you know who have had those experiences too become a sisterhood all on its own. Oh, your mom is dead? Yeah, sister…I get it. You are divorced, back in the work force, sharing your kids with a man you couldn’t be married to and yet must co-parent effectively with…along with his new wife? Mmmm…hmmm, yeah..sit next to me my sister and we will hold hands and know each other’s pain. Did you fall foolishly, madly, deeply in love with someone who wasn’t deserving of your love and turned out to be an asshole? Oh my, that’s a shitty life experience we share, let’s acknowledge that craptastic experience quietly and put it back where it goes, on the shelf of the things we don’t talk about because they are too dangerous. Some things you just have to do before you can really talk them with any authority. And even then, to the inexperienced your words are meaningless.

 

AH, but those of us who have been madly, deeply in love see poems like this one and it takes our breath away…it’s so right in the description.

 

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

Yes, ee cummings, yes, you totally get it. I carry your heart, it’s the tree of life, it’s the secret that nobody knows…

 

And this song that perfectly illustrates heartbreak:

 

 

Ne me quitte pas (click link to hear song)

 

 

Oh my sweet Jacgues I feel you. I feel you. Your pain is my pain.

 

I have been thinking about the little things lately and how much more they matter in the grand scheme of a lifetime.  The tiny little connections that I can grasp, that heal my soul, that carry me forward from one day to the next. I think we focus way too much on the big things (I do) and yet, it’s the day to day that matters most. And as I have been moving through my life lately, I have become suddenly, incredibly aware of the absolute brilliance of these little things.

 

Date night with my youngest at Main Event and playing the Ghostbusters Game (I hate games) and I am doing it, I am shooting all the ghosts with my laser gun and we are laughing.

 

A run alone in Central Park on a trip alone to New York City where time stopped for just a few moments and I realized, “this is who I am, a woman who travels alone to New York City and runs in Central Park alone, and goes to the theatre alone and is fine, happy, not lonely, not scared at all.”

 

My daughter and I, discussing adulthood and she is listening to me, hearing me, actually wanting my advice, that’s new, that’s cool and I remember to shut up long enough for her to speak and she does and she’s smart and I like her.

 

Walking, again in New York, with the sun on my face, the people all around me. I am present. I am seeing everything around me. I am not so lost in my own thoughts that I could be anywhere, I am actually seeing the world around me clearly. I am so alive. All of my nerve endings are pulsating and I see it all around me and I recognize how rarely I feel this way and it’s so good.

 

A talk with my son, my difficult son, where we simply communicate and understand each other for a few minutes. We just chat. It passes quickly but it’s there and I know it will there more often as he grows, as I grow into being this intense person’s mom.

 

Weeping in my seat while watching the Broadway musical Fun Home, she’s singing about the first woman she ever had sex with and she’s overwhelmed and she’s feeling in love and embarrassed and shy and scared and excited and she’s bursting with all the feelings and I am carried into the memory of that moment in my own life and the tears are just flowing and flowing. I almost let myself forget that beautiful moment, it drowned in shame,  I have wanted to destroy it. But I remember it all the way to my toes for the first time in three years, I remember how beautiful it was, how it felt  and I reclaim it, it is NOT tainted or ugly, that moment is MINE. And I own it again. The power of live theatre to change our hearts is miraculous.

 

So, it’s rambling, this post…the way my mind so often is. And I am fine with that. There are about three people who read this blog and this post is for those three people. I love them so much. They know who they are. One of the little things is the freedom to express when love exists, to be truly grateful.

 

Much healing has taken place in my body and my spirit lately and it’s pieced together by so many little things to create a life.

 

THE BEAUTIFUL (imperfect) LIFE I HAVE.

 

 

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Fun Home Actress Beth Morgan

Don’t Panic

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The Scream, by Edvard Munch

I just finished playing the lead role in a local theatrical production of a play called Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl. It was a dream role, meaty, interesting, funny, challenging…and best of all, it was age appropriate…all the things an actress wants to be able to do in her lifetime. The ridiculousness of working full time, raising children and being in a play is impossible to describe. Only people insane enough to do it can understand it. If you don’t love theatre you could never comprehend why anyone would ever do it. It’s completely dumb. And I had to do it. My kids had to do it with me and they weren’t too big on the idea, it was very hard on them. Needless to say, by opening night I was physically and emotionally exhausted. But I was still determined, dammit. And I was still in love with the theatre. I was also scared shitless.

My character only left the stage twice for 30 seconds each to change clothes. So when I walked out on stage to say the first line of the play, I was stuck there for an hour until intermssion. The same was true in Act 2. I had to sing (something I only do in the shower or along with the radio), I had to change costumes on stage, I even had to dance a little. Oh, and I also had to kiss four different people…one of them about 20 times a night, the play is all about stage kisses. I got to slap one guy four times, one slap for every five kisses. I had a fight scene where I got thrown around a little. That’s a lot of stuff to have to do in 2 hours, after working a full day, making dinner for kids, driving carpool and shit. I also had a fuck ton of lines. SO MANY LINES. The show rested on my characters shoulders. I had to keep it together. My fear could not get the best of me.

It was a lot of pressure. I became somewhat fascinated, over the five weeks of rehearsal and four and half weeks of performances, in how my body reacted to the stress. Not my mind, but my body. I am pretty self aware and rarely let my mind spill out onto the stage. Ok, well there was this one time when I had a “minor” breakdown about a costume I didn’t feel good about and said something to the costumer that I was later told went something like “I would never fuck anyone in this dress. If someone tried to fuck me while I was wearing this dress I would make them take it off me first.” I don’t recall saying it, I felt like I was simply explaining that the dress didn’t make me feel pretty but whatever, I apologized to her and we got a better dress, thank god.  Other than that one tiny moment where my mind leaked out of my mouth and went completely insane…I kept my mind pretty contained through the experience. I lost close to ten pounds through it all but that was from not eating dinner. There was absolutely no time. I let my youngest kid stay home twice during tech week because he was suddenly very fake sick (this is code for he missed the shit out of me and needed some mommy time). But generally, I was pretty impressed with how I held it together through weeks of five hours of sleep a night and enormous pressure. I even got my real job done.

I have a friend (yeah, you) who always tells me to breathe on stage. It’s totally annoying advice until you realize you aren’t actually breathing and find that when you do, it’s so much better. Oxygen is good. I learned to really breathe on stage during this show. It was very helpful. When our first preview audiences arrived, I became really interested in how my body was experiencing stage fright. I made mental notes of how it was manifesting in my body and how it related to what was going on in my mind. Opening night I was nervous, hyper focused, afraid of making a mistake and derailing the show. It didn’t happen, I was fine…not great but totally fine. I stayed in a state of rigidity the entire two hours. The next morning, I had a nice chat with myself (smacked myself around a little) about why I was there, what I hoped to gain from the experience, and what the point of it was if I was going to spend four weeks on stage terrified of making a mistake. For the second performance I went in absolutely and completely determined to have fun. I danced to great music before I left the house, I talked sweetly to myself and my family. I filled myself with happy, loving thoughts.

I was still nervous. My body did all the things it had been doing. My heart raced before I walked onstage. My hands were shaky. I felt a little sick. All liquid drained from my body and giant balls of cotton filled my mouth. But the difference was palpable. My fear shifted about five minutes into the play into something else, excitement. And that’s what it became for the next four weeks. Excitement. I still felt a little panic every night, some nights hardly at all and one other night I was more physically affected when one of my friends was in the audience (yeah, you again). But generally, I discovered with this play, that I am someone who experiences panic before I walk out on stage. It’s just who I am, it’s how I do it and fighting it only makes it worse. That’s my body, it needs to process the fear. And that’s ok. I get jittery, my hands shake, the liquid drains from my body, I am sensitive to light (which is hilarious because stage lights are ultra bright), slightly sweaty, oh and I also like to burp a lot. When I don’t fight it, it’s mostly gone entirely within about five minutes on stage.

On the subject of bodies doing weird shit you don’t expect and can’t seem to control…I had lunch once with a lovely woman I dated briefly, wasn’t compatible with, and we immediately shifted into a solid friendship. We went to a local hipster pizza place. It was a sunny day, I felt great, happy, light and carefree. This was at a weird time in my life so good days were really cherished. This was one of them. We sat down and read our menus and ordered iced tea. She leaned forward to whisper something…

“That woman at the table next to us is your type.”

“What?” I said, not sure I had heard her correctly.

“That blonde over there, with the short hair…right next to you, she is totally your type.”

I knew instinctively who it was before I looked. I knew it was the woman who had devastated me about six months earlier. The woman who had left me so raw and unexpectedly humiliated. I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw her. Yep, it was her. My mood shifted immediately and I thought, “Oh yeah, she’s my type all right.”

And then something began to happen to my body. My vision blurred, my hands began to shake, my mouth went instantly dry. I tried to take a drink of my tea but my hands were shaking wildly and I couldn’t lift the glass without spilling it. My friend asked what was wrong. I think she might have even asked if I was on medication (she’s a nurse, she always diagnosed me…she also really liked my strong veins and said nurses must love drawing my blood). The knowledge that I was actually having a full blown panic attack in a public place, that it was obvious and in front of the person I had determined would never see me suffer again…was only adding to the panic. It was absolutely horrifying and surreal. It’s not like I didn’t see her all the time. I don’t know why my body decided to go bezerk in that moment. But it did.

Somehow I worked through it. I calmed down. I didn’t start puking or screaming or hyperventilating. My pride took over. No one had to call an ambulance. It was awful but I survived it and I was fine and I think we had a decent lunch in the end.

But here’s what it taught me, and here’s how it relates to the subject of theatre and stage fright…pain must be felt. It doesn’t work to do the tough girl, rigid, I am totally fine thing. The pain, the fear, the anxiety, it must be felt. Resisting it only makes it worse. I mean you can try but that body of yours will take over when you least expect it and it will force you to feel it. And it may happen at a very inconvenient time. So just feel it. Be sad. Be afraid. Be angry. Feel it, let it wash over you, and then let it go.

Over the past few months I have learned to recognize the physical manifestations of stage fright and deal with them effectively. Because of this work, I have gotten to be a pretty good actress. I was always a decent actress. But the last few productions I have been in, I have learned to use the weird shit my body does before I go on stage..to work with it and use it instead of fighting it. It allows me to continue to be present, to breath, to listen.

And those lessons apply to real life too. Because art imitates life in the most unexpected ways.

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A Favorite Moment in Stage Kiss, The Playhouse San Antonio

 

 

Distractions

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Happy New Year.

I have never thought much about those words, Happy New Year.

You say them. It means it’s a new year, go have a good one, a better one than last year. Go do all those things you have been not doing in the previous year.

Now is your chance, it’s a brand new number!

This year I struggled with the words. I said them, multiple times. Texted them. Emailed them. But I didn’t really mean them. I felt a bit like new year’s is a crock, some arbitrary date on a calendar that people use as a milestone to make a bunch of plans for their lives that they can and should make on any day of the year. You wanna quit smoking or lose weight, just do it. Stop picking some meaningless date for yourself that ends up creating disappointment and sadness when you can’t find the motivation to continue after a few weeks.  (Also, it makes the park I run at really crowded and it’s annoying.)

Don’t get me wrong. I have my share of ugly shit that needs a New Year’s Fucking Resolution to fix. But I am not foolish enough to believe that I will walk through the magical door of a new year and suddenly accomplish all my goals. I am, unfortunately, aware that the only thing holding me back from all that I want to be and become is ME. I am the problem. I can fix it all and I am not doing it because I don’t really want to badly enough.

It’s hard. To fix my shit. It’s hard to work through the pain I am holding onto, the anger, the fear…all the things that are keeping me from being the person I want to be.

I have the secret. It’s me.

I don’t do what needs to be done because I don’t want to. This truth is so hard to swallow because it is…well, really hard to swallow. And I don’t wanna. It’s yucky and unappealing.

So instead, I distract myself.

With busy. With projects. With love. With stuff and shopping for more stuff. With social media. With taking care of other people. With criticizing or finding fault in others.

I go, and go, and go.

Because what will happen if I sit still long enough to feel what I need to feel, to think about what I need to think about, to grieve, to settle, to accept, to heal?

It’s too scary.

Let me just get on Facebook one more time.

Let me just accuse my x-husband of bad behavior and obsess over what a dick he is to avoid accepting the reality of post divorce life and the struggles of co-parenting.

Let me work more hours.

Let me buy a new car.

Let me watch more TV or read more books.

Let me overly care for the people I love and do things they can absolutely do themselves and probably should do themselves.

Let me hate that person who wronged me and hope they have a terrible life.

Let me have another glass of wine, or another cocktail.

Let me go shopping and buy some clothes I don’t need and can’t fit in my closet.

I’m not alone in this behavior. It’s quite common. All addiction, I think, is rooted in escapism and avoidance of pain or reality.

I see all the folks on the book of FAKENESS (also known as the BOOK OF MAKING PEOPLE FEEL BAD ABOUT THEIR LIVES BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS HAVING MORE FUN THAN YOU ARE or THE BOOK OF WAYS TO HURT PEOPLE WE ONCE LOVED) who are obsessed with hating the government and beating on Obama and his “muslim ways”…anything to avoid dealing with their own shit.

The problem is the government.

The problem is the way other people drive.

The problem is the stupid people.

The problem is this or that or the other thing.

The problem is my crappy childhood.

The problem is my X or worse, my husband, wife or partner.

Anything to avoid the truth.

Anything to avoid getting real with yourself.

I went for a walk yesterday on New Year’s Day. I felt too shitty to run so I went to my local park and walked five miles. I had planned to make some new year’s day calls to family and friends while I walked.

God forbid I should just simply walk.

It was really cold which is rare for South Texas and the park was nearly empty. About a mile into the walk my phone died. I guess I hadn’t charged it overnight like I thought I had.

So I walked, alone, for four more miles.

I have been alone a lot this week. More than I think I have ever been alone in my life. I am a solitary creature and have always craved alone time. But this has been a very alone week, even for me.

Some weird thing came over me on that walk, some might call it a light bulb moment or whatever.

But I realized just how deeply distracted I keep myself to avoid being present. I’ve known for a while that I needed to work on being present when I am in conversation with others.  It’s something I took into therapy three years ago and have worked hard on, being present in rooms full of people or in one on one conversations. I have improved greatly on this problem.

Yay ME!

But being present with myself?

Nah, I have got some serious work on that. And frankly, the realization that I am distracting myself to death to avoid it, is kind of significant. I didn’t know I was doing that.

So I suppose my new year’s resolution is to be more aware of my tendency to distract myself. To tune out those distractions and spend time undistracted and see what happens, what comes up, where I go when I don’t have anything external controlling my thoughts and actions.

That’s a good one to work on. I can totally do that.

Happy New Year, and I mean this time.

 

 

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.

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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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.