An Open Letter to My Kids

kids

 

Dear boys,

As a mom, I know that I am your stability in this world. I keep you safe, I keep you fed and clothed and sometimes I spend too much at an arcade because picking toys you’ve won lights up your faces. I took on the responsibility of bringing you into this world and know that means seeing you through every piece of it.

As babies you never slept. Some nights I had no idea how I was going to make it the next day on one hour of sleep. I’d stare at your cherubic little face in the 2:00 a.m. quiet as we rocked and I’d beg you to please try sleeping. Close your eyes and rest and let me rest so we could start again the next day. Sometimes I got mad, sometimes I cried; there were times I found myself pleading with a two month old realizing how little that was going to do. I loved you through all of it.

As you grew and as I grew and started to realize that the opportunity I had received to stay home with you wasn’t fulfilling me, I started to question myself. What kind of mother doesn’t want to keep that opportunity to be around you at all times. Who was I to want to go back to work when I had the chance to always be the one you woke up to and played with and learned with. I selfishly worried what I had done to my career by staying home. How would I find something new and make the decision to send you to strangers every day. I worried I had failed you by staying home when I wasn’t equipped to. Feared I wasn’t teaching you enough or letting you flourish. I spent so much time feeling out of place. Uncertain where I belonged. But I loved you deeply and immensely and without fail, every second of every day.

When I re-entered the working world, I wondered if it would work. Feared I may not be able to make it all flow smoothly. How often would I be able to pick you up if you were sick. My mind raced with all the things that can happen in daycare, positive and negative. Other kids could be mean, you could get hurt. Almost worse, you could get your feelings hurt. What if the teachers looked the other way at the wrong time. All while realizing I was facing proving myself to my employer and demonstrate why I was a value, after being out of the working world for an extended period of time. I didn’t know if those two years had done any damage to my success when I already started out with hurdles ahead of me. But being successful was a must. I had to do my best for myself and for you. You were always my priority. Always my driving force.

About a year later I made an incredibly difficult life choice and put you both in a confusing, hard to explain position. You were going to have two homes. Your mom and dad would have separate time with you. I had no idea how it would all work. And looking into the faces of two children under four and attempting to explain divorce will always be one of the more difficult periods of my life. You truly had no concept of what was happening. Just that your whole world was upending. All while mine was as well. I was lost, sad and trying to find my way. Keeping my head above water and still giving you the best life. I couldn’t tell you any of this, I couldn’t talk to you about those rough moments, the tears, the ugly times. I was strong for you and remained your pillar even if I was usually crumbling and patched together with crappy glue and duct tape. You were my hearts and you were what mattered.

As my life went on, and you got older, I made some pretty stupid choices. I had some life moments that are still bewildering. More hurdles, more difficulty and more sadness. But you couldn’t see that. You couldn’t be privy to those moments because you needed to know everything would be okay. I was a crumbling façade and at times you saw my weaknesses. You saw my tears and my pain and my inability to hold it together. But I kept you safe, I kept you happy and I loved you. With all of me.

During all of this, I suddenly found myself in a position of explaining death to two kids under five. Ty, with a crayon sticking out of his ear, not really understanding why we couldn’t see Grandpa anymore. Where had he gone, why did he leave. Would he be sad now that he was all alone. I kept my composure, but let you see me sad and told you how that part of life works. Even when months later we’d drive by a cemetery and you’d ask if Grandpa was coming back some day.  In that moment, I made sure you knew that Grandpa loved you very much. That he thought the world of you and that would never change.

As time has gone on, and I’ve seen how the world can be, the good and the bad, and I try to not let you see some of my latent cynicism. I don’t want to spoil any of the world for you, while your eyes still see good and your brain still processes primarily innocence.

When kids were mean to you, Dylan, I felt a rage I’ve never felt. I hurt and I cried and I wanted to put you in a little bubble and keep you with me always. But I knew that wasn’t the best way to see you through this part of life. I restrained from finding those kids and telling them they were not nice. I didn’t call their parents and ask what the hell they were doing. I got you through it. Knowing it will happen again. It’ll happen to both of you. And I have so much to fear sending you out into this big, sometimes scary world, but if I share my fear I don’t set you up for the best life you can have. If I scare you, your fear becomes too large for your hearts and that’s not what a mom wants. That’s not how I help you flourish.

As I’ve faced more difficulties, I hold it together because that’s what I do as a person. But also what I do for you. Knowing that my strength will be what you carry with you, always. The moments you see my emotions, good or bad, are the moments that shape you. Prepare you. Show you my love. Show you love in general.

Life’s going to be a real asshole sometimes. It’s going to knock you down, only to push you back down once you brush yourself off and get back up. It might do it multiple times until you just don’t know if you can get back up. But you do. Because that’s living. That’s knowing that when you didn’t realize it, you had friends helping you back up. You had family making sure you could stay up. And bandaging the wounds from falling in the first place. Life will be unfair, it will hurt, but it will also be great, wonderful and beautiful, if you let it. I’m still figuring out how that works myself sometimes. When you’re in the dark, wandering and lost, just know the sun has to be somewhere. The light has to be in a place you’ll eventually find it. Don’t give up. It’s not who you are and it’s not who we are. Because together we are strong. Together we can find our joy and what makes us who we are.

Don’t let anything stifle you. Don’t let pain guide you in the wrong direction. Keep your beauty and I can only hope the kindness I’ve tried to instill in you. I hope that as life goes on, I can continue to be your rock and the person you know isn’t perfect, but tries her damn best at everything. I hope you’re not embarrassed of my failings and while I would never tell you this now, because I know it’s unfair, sometimes it’s you two and only you two who are the reason I get back up, brush myself off and ask “What’s next.”

Because I love you and I always will.

The Next Generation

I’m piecing this together from words I’ve said and expressed recently and it just seemed as though I’ve said so much, it was worthy of sharing.

Every damn thing we do stitches together another piece of what our life will mean to us. And what we can handle and who we want to be. You didn’t know if you could handle a situation like this, which is a generalization of life, and now you’re figuring it out. Do what you need to if you’re happy along the way. Happy is not always cut and dry or black and white. It’s intricate and edged with strange little facets.

Parenting is the one of the most difficult areas to know what you’re doing or even know if you are completely screwing up your kids for life. You find your happy moments in the good days, the days that follow the really bad ones where the simplest of improvements can turn everything around.

I got an email from Ty’s teacher this week that broke me a little. Ty, my high spirited, low attention span, impulse control lacking child who fears nothing and no one except at the most surprising moments. He’s loud and loving, forceful and kind. His heart breaks when you don’t ask if he’s okay should he trip or bump his arm or cough at the most random of moments. Wrangling his emotions is an incredibly confusing process for him and it leaves me wondering about the line of nature versus nurture. Whether I’m too kind of a parent in my soft-hearted motherly love or if I’m too stern for him to see the moments when I’m applauding a positive behavior. I spend more time disciplining him than I can rewarding him which leaves us in a paradoxical circle of not enough positive reinforcement because there’s never time and outbursts because he doesn’t get enough positive reinforcement.

He’s already been switched kindergarten classrooms due to some behavior issues (along with a few other kids). But also their inabilities to understand him. Granted, he’s a difficult kid. I love the shit out of him, but it’s so fucking hard. And I’m scared. Of his teenage years. Of his adult choices. Whether he’ll let me help when I need to or if he’ll carry my genetically shared stubborn nature, only learning lessons after the damage has been caused.

The email at hand: “…  I am emailing you today to tell you about an incident that happened during free play today. Ty was playing with a couple other students and I am not sure what happened between them, but it turned into a fight. Ty was standing over another student that was sitting in a chair and he was violently and repeatedly kicking the other student. I have written up an incident report as he was fighting. Ty knows this behavior is totally unacceptable at school. We will continue to help him follow the rules here at school. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Yes, I have questions. Why choose to use the word violently with a six year old. I realize the difference between maliciousness and child’s play, but he’s six. It’s that fine line of schools being incredibly cautious about bullies in what has become a scary world in which to send your child to school. It opens your eyes when it’s your child who may potentially be targeted not as just as the bullied, but as the bully. And as his mother, I know he’s intense, I know he lashes out, but I also know he’s charismatic and kind; perceptive and complex. The combination is confusing for even him, I think.

It’s an intricately emotional feeling when your child is making you question everything. A deep down pain that makes your brain writhe in confusion and completely unavoidable and intricate heartbreak. All while having to be the adult who should resemble the sane, stable one. You’re doing the best you can yet it doesn’t seem enough. And pieces are broken in you and you see a break in your child, which I see in both of mine in different ways. You realize they may feel the pain or the upset in life you hoped to keep from them.

On the flip side and in my completely opposite battles of two entirely different personalities I’m responsible for, Dylan was terrified to go in the Halloween store the other day. He’s terrified of everything new or uncertain. And it’s him and he’s anxious and he paces and he hugs the parking lot sign post as he screams and hysterically fidgets as adults walk by and two year olds exit the store. In one of my weakest mom moments yet, I called him a wimp after ten minutes of trying to reason with him. I realized as the words left my mouth that it was primarily driven by my own fear of what this could mean in his adult life; his fear. His trepidation. His weakness, which isn’t a weakness at all, but a personality caveat that will likely continue his positive presence as a tender soul. And I cried and told him he couldn’t live life like this and be happy. And we left and I sobbed in the car, next to Dylan full of fear, and Ty who had trotted through the store with no fear at hand. Who had come out multiple times to convince his older brother it was okay inside and he would keep him safe. I felt I had failed my child somehow. In a way I’d never identify. I’d never make mentally tangible; but that would make me doubt who I am as a mother. Because I love the shit out of my kids. Pure, unadulterated, confusing for emotional adults, raw love. And I had let my own fears allow me lose sight of how to comfort when I needed comfort instead. Parenting doesn’t inhibit selfishness. It just makes you realize how terrible it is to allow it to speak for you. In the end, I just wanted him to be okay. I wanted to take his fear and give him my bravery. The badges of honor from walking through life’s fires.

As a parent you realize sometimes it’s going to be hard and scary and tumultuous because that’s just your story. But the complexities of your story are what makes it okay later. For some of us, parent and child are just each wandering with our demons and pitfalls and positives and delights and all the other little facets that will make us stronger later.

Everyone has skeletons in their closet and ghosts in the room, and the ones who turn a blind eye to the battles we all face stigmatize in their perfection proclamations. Leaving behind the brutally honest ones who present in a raw expression of what we battle and feel. We’re humans. Living, breathing beings who have no guide book, have no caretaker like less developed animals. Yet who says we’re not our own animalistic iteration? As feral as that makes it sound, we’re bumbling around the same confusing navigation. Some ignore that, some realize it to a fault, some fail at it and we all bounce off each other’s little bubbles and shift the placement of humanity and interaction.

It’s weird. And it’s hard when you recognize it all. When you feel it all.

And when you recognize you’re responsible for raising the next ones to continue the cycle and evolution.

A View from the Fork

I’m writing and re-writing this opening sentence, as it tends to be the springboard for the streaming rambling of my thoughts. My attempt at proper characterization of emotions is indicative of their actual definition. A gray area, written and re-written. Backspaced and re-typed.

I’m tired. I’ve said it more than people probably want to hear. I’m not entirely sure where it happened along the way. Single parenting, work, life, love; all topics that are nothing or out of the ordinary for really anyone. Yet I’m feeling swallowed whole. Somewhere along the way, I forgot who I wanted to be or at least an attempt to claim it.

I’ve spent my summer deciding to have a clear mind, yet failing. Living the same cycle I’ve lived again and again. Determined to figure out who I am and own it; no second guessing or debating with myself over my significance.

I might have a good day with my kids, but focus on the bad ones. The rough drop offs; the therapy sessions where I uncover emotions I’m proud my kids understand yet defeated in that they face them. Find someone who cares, sabotage it. Whether it be through second guessing or a brick wall around my soul I’ve pieced together somewhere over the last few years. Through my realization that my beautiful empathy has seen better days. Weathered storms that tore my sails and made me dock the boat. I’m defeated; and it sucks, for lack of eloquence in speaking.

I miss my sparkle. My sass that broke through even the most difficult of moments. I’ve referenced my laugh that carries and I know is too loud. It seems to be in a place where I make it loud in nostalgia of when it was there with little effort. A heart I bear on my sleeve, both metaphorically and literally in ink. Yet right now, it seems to be below the surface of my skin, much like the tattoo mentioned in the last sentence.

There’s nothing to pinpoint being wrong, and that creates the biggest struggle. I battle stress I used to thrive on. I have trouble feeling sufficient as a parent; yet my kids are cared for and loved and I work hard to meet their emotional and physical needs. I have someone who cares for me; which I’ve lacked as of the last couple years, yet I pick at the tiniest fissure I can find in an effort to tell myself not to get comfortable. I’m 36 and I still can’t eat freely without wondering how much I’ll gain and how I’ll feel in the morning. I resist wearing what makes me happy in an effort to cover what is currently haunting my comfort level with myself.  I have friends who are real and substantial and matter and I pull away, to hide the immensity with which I battle myself regularly.

I share this often, and now it rings true:

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

I’m staring at this fork in the road, facing my path. Large grinned cat staring at me in the form of my doubt and questioning. My vulnerability to find myself on an unknown path that could mean I find the next phase that will bring me the peace I’ve sought. My acceptance to live one day at a time with whimsy and handle adulthood with one hand tied behind my back. I honestly don’t know what’s down the other path. It feels familiar. Like I’ve taken it before, and just keep following it to come back to the cat again and realize this fork has been my landmark through my life. I just don’t choose the other path.

This isn’t one I end with resolution. One of my more rambling pieces that visualizes what I’m trying to break through. How I’m trying to find my way out of this darker place and live like the person who has put it all out there before. Thrown caution aside and embraced the potential. I’m woeful of my fear because it means I’ve let it win. I’m not the same as I was before. I was much more. Muchier. I’ve lost my muchiness and I look to go the right way to find it and keep it much safer this time.

 

Life –

 

the letter

 

What are you doing with your dash?

If you know me, you assume I mean that completely inappropriately.

But this time I don’t. A good friend helped me see the side of this thought. Good friends are your heart. Your saving grace. Your life jacket.

Your dash is the point between the beginning and the end. It’s what you see on a gravestone. Birth to death.  The date you were born to the day you reached your end point. No one likes to talk about that end point.

Death. It’s so heavy. Somber. Scary. But it’s a fact of life. Sometimes it comes early. Other times it’s late, which is quite subjective based on what we want. It’s surprising, selfish, peaceful, chaotic, and so many more adjectives than we can express or come up with words for. It inspires grief, which is a monster in itself. Pain, hurt, closure, completion.

As someone who battles depression and is fairly open about it, death is a factor in thoughts that make you want to shake its hand. Is that selfish, completely. But it’s inexplicably and painfully something that crosses the lost person’s mind.

As someone who fights and conquers life’s darker moments, I’m ready to share something I’ve alluded to. Something I’ve touched on. A piece that has been the larger half of my puzzle.

When you need saving, you look to those who have either lost the battle, this time out of perspective or additionally you seek those who want you to be here.

I’m going to share a letter from someone who just couldn’t find those moments of peace. Those life jackets. Someone I loved deeply. Who was troubled and conflicted and made mistakes.

This letter hangs with me. It stops my own choices of selfishness. Whoever loves me going forward will have to accept this as a part of me. But this is a part of my dash. This supplements my story. It saves me.

The image included is an actual picture of what I’m about to share. It’s raw. It definitely happened. I’m sharing this because we’re all human. Very few loved ones of suicide victims get this. Very few. But I did. And I’m sharing it. Openly. Finally.

 

“Jessica,

I’m not really sure where to begin. I’ve been wondering what to say to someone who has not only given my life purpose, a family and meaning… As I write this, I go back to memories of us, of our first date, of the late night “conversations” and it’s good. It makes me smile, and more than a little sad that I won’t be there for you in the years to come. You deserve to be happy and have someone by your side, but it won’t be me. I’ve struggled to fix my life for the last two years, and have contemplated, many times, on “checking out.” I’ve done well to hide it from everyone, but you always seemed to pick it up, when I was in one of my more pensive moods. That said, you have been the one constant that has kept me from acting on it until now. You and the kids showed me what it was like to have a family and made it easier for me to forget the past for a time. I will always love you and those boys for giving me that. Both the memories and feelings of a true family. The reason I left, the reason I’m no longer here is because I can’t get past the past. With my ex, my job, losing everything. I’ve said to you I don’t feel as though I had a purpose, which was only partly true. I lost something after the divorce, after another leaving me. Hope. Trust. A reason for being. Respect for myself or others. To this day I feel listless. Lost and can’t truly imagine a future beyond tomorrow. I used to wake up every day and feel nothing but heartache and despair. It’s what made me drink, smoke too much, lie to you and everyone else I knew. I’ve come to realize I’m living just to live. I plan, scheme, and view everything with a singular thought, myself. It’s no way to live. You are the one bright, trustworthy and unselfish part of me that still exists, and I hope that despise all of my flaws, that I was a good influence in your life as well as the boys. I love you so much, love them so much, it makes me cry to know what you will go through. I want you to know, you were always enough. You were always there for me. Stood by me, by us and for that I am forever grateful. In the end I was just to broken to fix.

I love you, Jessica, forever and always. Maybe one day we’ll see each other again. Take care of yourself and those boys and damn it, woman, you better eat!

Also, I found that shirt you were looking for, the blue sweatshirt. I’m holding it now, and god help me, it smells like you. I’m going to miss seeing your smiling face in the morning. Hugging you, catching your scent as you walk by. I’m glad I have this shirt and photos of you to look at as I drift off. It brings me peace.

I want you to have my tablet and accessories. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have left to give. I only wish I’d had more…

I love you, hun. Please forgive me.

Fred.”

 

And his dash ended there. It was a part of mine. It always will be. It shapes me. It saves me.  I’m sharing as much to honor the pain there, as much as to show how it can feel to be in that place. It happens to so many of us. I was his saving grace until I no longer could be. We find our purpose and either hang on to it or we let it pass us by.

We’re all human. Strange beings who are just trying to find the happiness.

We have to make the in between whatever we can, while we can.

 

Sweet Child O’ Mine

TY

I took a picture today. An idyllic, charming spring time portrait of a child’s whimsy. The kind of picture that you share and know becomes a moment of blue skies.

I didn’t share the photo, because it was forcing a moment. I was looking for something after struggling and it lacked substance and accuracy of the life snapshot.

As a parent, fear can be your greatest enemy. Fear of damaging the life you’re guiding and supporting. Melancholy at whether you’re doing it right; and the resounding realization that you’ll never truly know what right or wrong even mean in that role.

The child in that photo was transfixed on a popsicle; sun on his cheeks and determination in his posture. A bright spring day, which allowed kids to play outside and parents to enjoy the distraction.

The child in that photo has made me cry three times in the last week.

I know it’s possibly seen as irresponsible; potentially out of line to place blame on my child for tears. But just as my scolding can prompt hysterics in them, their interactions can sometimes bring me emotional breaks.

Children are bundles of unstable ends coming together. Forming the chapters that start the story of who they’ll be in the future. But for now they’re messy, raw, pure and kindling next to gasoline and matches.

He defies me, shows no remorse for actions, spits attitude at me with gusto and pomposity. He’s his mother’s child in his stubbornness, but hasn’t yet learned you can’t just use it in ways that don’t consider others.

And as I sit in the car, as he says he hates his brother and looks at me with intensity of disrespect, I break down. There has been minimal time I haven’t been raising my voice, or feeling exhausted or like sometimes the weight is a test I’m not sure I’ll ever stop taking.

As my parenting comes into doubt surrounding the situations, it’s very apt to bleed over to my everyday life and choices and doubting myself as a whole. Overanalyzing, mulling over as verbosely as I write.

I stared at that picture and behind it was capturing a moment I wanted to make normalcy while knowing I was merely hanging onto the pieces that gave me the heart swells. To balance the heartache at wanting to be perfect. Life metaphor, perhaps and cloying at that.

The same kid stands at the door, the door I’ve asked of them no less than fifty times to leave closed and he looks small and whimsical and pure. My heart fills and expands like a water balloon in my chest and I hug him. He tells me I’m his favorite thing. I want this to be my memento.

Moments later we hit the downswing and his impetuous actions arise that seem to be what I’m always battling and I feel the moment make me exhale with failure.

And these are our days, rushes of love from a truly kind soul that are combated by unbridled, complex emotional development at its messy worst.

There are the days where I just wonder if I’m fucking up the whole damn thing. Days where I realize there could be moments of this I reflect on when it’s been five, ten, twenty years and I won’t know the lessons until then. Moments where I hope I’m not the only one; that I’m not the roost cause and/or precipitant of what’s happening. Whether for the environment I provide; the selfish moments. If my hurdles have become theirs by default. The moments where I sit and absorb the moment and just feel helpless.

I want the knowledge that he is one of my favorite things be enough to make everything okay. The sage advice “this too shall pass” is slightly inaccurate. Because parenting doesn’t pass. That’s the best part of it. It’s always a part of you. You fight the fight together and come out on the other side hopefully as beautiful humans.

Your favorite things are sometimes your favorites because they’re not only unique to you; but also because they take more work to get and the reward is having them. Your favorite things are the pictures that are left behind. Childhood memories of bright blue skies.

 

Snippets…

Because by sharing pieces of my book, it’ll encourage me to keep going, here’s a snippet from my timeline entry style book that’s needed to take this long to write, but hopefully I’ll finish some day.

September 8, 2013

The call lasted for hours. The grape juice and vodkas I’d downed helped the process. But it was also because I was talking to someone I’d known forever for the first time. We were oxygen and fire. Feeding off each other. Ebbing and flowing. As is the way of the world; the digital playground of the internet had unearthed him. He was striking in looks. To me. His eyes. They held the world even in photos. Deeply. Dangerously I’d realize. His age a concern, but it seemed to be the path I took. Youth. At least when you were my age it seemed to be. Still in his 20s, even if nearly out.

I had no idea what I was looking for when conversation began over quick exchanges through the system’s limited abilities. Until we traded numbers and could converse on end. I was looking for something I’d lost. I’d left a marriage. I was one of those. No one plans for it. But as the world turns; and humanity evolves, we could be fickle or rather more in tune with changing together or apart.

I hated to be alone. Still. All these years later and I thrived on interaction. Touch. Caring.

We talked about work; made sarcastic jokes about whether we were each being catfished. And hours later, we realized we should probably hang up. We said goodbye and I floated for the rest of the night. There was electricity and something that was reaching me, whether preying on my vulnerability and lack of identity or simply meeting a longed for need.

We were going to meet. In three days. And it would all change forever. Indelibly.

My Book. It’s Probably Time.

I’ve been planning to write a book since I was, oh, 13. I’ve been told I should write since I was that age. And I genuinely love writing and it’s something I will always admit I know is a strong personal skill.

I just haven’t that drive to actually finish one. But I also had no idea how much fodder my life would give me for writing essentially a loose autobiography. If you know me well, you know I have stories for days, all true. All stories a great writer possibly couldn’t even make up. I feel like  now is when I need to write. So I’m looking for the push, the motivation to continue what I’ve started.

So I’m posting the beginning of the book I’ve finally started. The book I hope to finish. It could be next year; it could be 6 months from now. But I want to finish this. I’m looking for feedback. Would you continue reading this as a book? Does this draw you in? Should I hang up my keyboard and learn how to knit? Let me know. All opinions appreciated. And thank you for reading. :)

Here goes…

The moral of the story is that you might know where you’re going, but that doesn’t mean you know where you’re headed.

Because really. If you hear the moral first, you’ll search for the meaning as opposed to having it handed to you at end without time to process it.

But I digress. You’re here for a story. Mine.

February 20 2014

I stood at the back door. Smoke wafting out into the yard.  Clouds rolled by. There’s a beauty and a sadness to clouds gliding through the sky. Things change. Life changes. Nothing stays the same. At our base, kinetic energy will keep us going.

You never know the real story. You can hear it. Tell it. But living it is so much different. You don’t get to choose your own ending, until after the fact. By going forward.

We met online, as is our age and times. As more and more gravitate towards that questionable picture as opposed to deciphering body language as you interact with someone face to face for the first time. Basing judgment, applying gut decisions to some words and the perception that person has chosen for you via photo use.

He was younger than me. They all seemingly were. But he was different. There’s a magnetism in love that’s necessary for it to survive, but can also cause combustion should the draw be too strong.

There was no nervousness that first night. As is the way of online meetings, we’d already spoken on the phone and via text multiple times. I strolled in, sat down, we started talking and by the end of the night made out for an hour in a parking lot. He had me then. He owned my feelings. And I his.

But you don’t want to hear that part first. Let’s go back a little further.

June 10 1996

“Hey. Mind if I sit here for a bit?” I asked this guy with dark eyes and dark hair who appealed to me immediately.

I was at a party I wasn’t supposed to be at, with my best friend; doing what teenagers do. Getting drunk and doing things we knew our parents would be appalled at. A guy had been following me around, so I found my target. My savior. Sitting in his little Ford Ranger, listening to music and smoking a joint.

“Yeah, I do mind. Why are you in my truck?” he asked.

“I’m just trying to avoid this guy who has been following me around.”

“So you assume my truck is cool to sit in?”

Oh this guy was an asshole. I needed to know more. (Logical thought, right?)

I grew up in a small town in southern Michigan. High school is a field of landmines, mixed with prizes for those who avoid them. I’m not sure I ever found my spot; my niche. I liked everyone, had a mix of friends, and a mix of people I just knew. (Well, everyone knew everyone, to be fair.) Guys didn’t give me a second look, and I floated from group to group. When I was 15, I had decided that everyone else was having sex, I needed to take care of that step. When I want something, I go after it. So I met a guy at a neighboring school, had a two month relationship with him and succeeded at losing my virginity. Perhaps going into a relationship even that early on, based on who would pay attention to me and who would do what I needed is how I stumbled my way through future love and lust.

If anything, this night. This is when my adulthood started to form and take shape. I had grown up an only child, with very few rules. But this night. I can’t even tell you how the argument started. All I knew was that there was a party, and I suddenly had developed this new life, new friends. I was actually being independent. It was a different shift from how I had grown up though. I think it scared my parents who were never sure they wanted to be parents. They loved me, but had me late in life and I think parenthood was an afterthought. There was just this new human in their lives and they had to care for it. So when I reached a point where I was suddenly beyond being identified by how they knew me as their child and grasp for my own autonomy, it was met with resistance.

She told me not to go. But I’d never been grounded and it’s not as though I’d listen if I were. That she’d take my keys if I want. I laughed, because I knew there was never any way she’d get them. I stormed out that front door to my friend’s car, got in, my mom yelling behind me. Off to the party we went.

It was in someone’s backyard/farm. Partying next to a cornfield, as is small town life. Trucks parked in the yard, teenagers drinking, yelling, smoking and making out. Parties were exhilarating and I think that’s probably how I ended up chasing any high I could get later. That thrill. I lost my best friend among the group pretty early on, so just wandered. Talked and drank. This guy started following me around, and I humored him, though I had no interest. But he paid attention to me and I didn’t know how to say no.

And that’s how I ended up in that truck.

“You have a lighter?” I asked.

He pulled out a zippo, lit my cigarette, “How long are you planning on sitting in here?” he asked.

“Why do you want me to get out of your truck so badly?”

“I didn’t ask you to get in here.”

By that point, the other guy had found me. He came up to the passenger window and leaned in, “Hey, there you are. What are you doing? Are you with this guy?”

“Yes, he’s giving me a ride home later,” I said, looking over at this guy next to me whose name I hadn’t even gotten yet.

“She’s right. She’s with me.” He answered as he looked toward the guy leaning in his truck window, drunken confusion on his face.

I smiled. This was going to go the way I wanted. I would have this guy. His initial resistance just made me pursue it more.

“I’m Jessica,” I said, leaning in towards him.

“I’m a Giant Douchebag.”

Okay. He didn’t really say that. Not to get ahead of myself here, but he may as well have. Once I got his name, I should have second guessed my pursuit. Since his parents were apparently tripping balls on acid or huffing whip-its when they named him, he earned the moniker of Jocko. He went by his middle name, Ashley. A choice between mocking comments flung his way throughout school and just plain getting his ass kicked in high school by bullies.

As the night went on and he exuded his dirty, caustic charm I was smitten. In a teenage, needy way. I was someone who had very little experience with attention from boys, but craved it immensely. As we laid in the front yard, making out, I wanted to keep him. I wanted him to want me and I wanted him to own me. He finally did drive me home, and I just didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to leave this bubble of excitement, new experiences and the rush of lust. So we pulled over. Into a church parking lot. And proceeded to use his truck as a bed and desecrate the holy parking lot. Well on my way to embracing sexual freedom and embracing my choice to do what I wanted with my body. Oh, and also my propensity to sleep with jerks.

He dropped me off in my driveway, over two hours past my usual curfew. Said he’d see me soon and would call me the next day. I floated into the house, high on a combination of alcohol, weed and sex. I barely heard the words my mom spoke. Tersely and angrily. I drifted off to sleep that night, with immediate clinginess and relationship dreams enveloping me.

June 13, 1996

“No, he’ll totally be here. He promised he’d come over tonight, I told him I wanted him to meet my friends.”

I very rarely had friends over, and was not only excited to have people over, as though I was suddenly accepted and moderately popular. But there was very little to do at my house, out in the middle of the country. I had already given the brief tour and awkwardly tried to figure out how exactly having people over worked. All the while waiting on this guy. This magical, mysterious guy who had yet to follow through on his word and made me doubt my overall appeal. I had no idea how to navigate a relationship and simply made it my life. Three days in. As my anxiety grew over the embarrassment that he may not show up, despite my bragging him up to my friends.

They waited, patiently, somewhat mockingly. And waited. But they were teenagers and time is full of things to do as a teenager and waiting for a deadbeat to show up wasn’t exactly on their list of things that sounded exciting.  They asked if I wanted to just go hang out with them, but I resisted. I had to wait. He was going to show up. They could go. But if I left and he showed up, he might never talk to me again or like me. I would wait. I said goodbye to them and apologized for wasting their time. Inside I was feeling anxious to the point of not being able to sit still. Panic and self-doubt was taking over in a way I hadn’t experienced before yet would only come to know all too well. I fought back tears as the night got darker and the phone stayed quiet. I wondered what I had done wrong and if maybe he was with another girl, or if I just wasn’t interesting enough. I hadn’t been around enough to know what being used for sex was like, so that thought didn’t even enter my mind. I went to bed and hoped the next day would be different.

June 14, 1996

“Well, I didn’t think I’d actually said for sure I’d come over, and I was hanging out with James. We smoked and then we had to go pick up something at his aunt’s. Then I just forgot.”

I was accepting of this answer, he was probably right. Maybe I misunderstood. And who was I to assume I was going to take priority. I was just glad he had called me. I wanted to see him as soon as possible, he was all I could think about. He was dominating my mind, distracting my thoughts. I didn’t know what was normal and what I should be feeling. I’d had one other boyfriend and that was for a specific reason.

I realized I’d just thought of him as my boyfriend. This full immersion trend would follow me for large majority of my life. All in. Investing my entire self in a guy. Forgetting who I was and molding myself to be available. Perfect. Wanted.
We made plans to hang out the next day. I was working for the summer, part-time, so had to work with my schedule and his. I was giddy to see this boy. And that would be eventually be the trend that damaged me.

Circus Fires

I had sent my blog into hibernation for professional reasons. I’m too raw to be taken seriously if any of my words might be misinterpreted. Glossed over. I could be seen as weak, when in reality, I know the strength I tenaciously hang on to every day. My blog was serving a therapeutic service and I had reached a point where some parts of my life had taken an upturn. Where I was getting back on level playing ground. But as someone who openly struggles with depression and other illnesses; but fights in a healthy way. Making it simply a character trait that I don’t let become a character flaw; I’m never done maintaining a balance of trying to stay okay.

I have a tendency to fight on the surface. Still practicing coping behaviors long set-in that have never truly been conducive to actual healing. Never created true acceptance of myself and the emotions my sensitive mind experiences on a daily basis. The ebbs and flows of self-doubt mixed with pride in continuing positively. Never letting my pain or my difficulties be apparent to others. Because I aim to serve as that positivity to others. To bring them happiness; brighten their day, even if clouds hang over my head. My intention is that it simply appears that I’m basking in the sun on a clear day. I carry an empathetic nature that means that I’m genuine in any support I offer to loved ones; friends and even strangers; but in turn it also means that I feel all of their emotions. It’s why I can be there, because I’m not just offering encouragement, I’m understanding their sadness, pain, anger, etc. and wading through it with them. Offering my help in ways that I’ve used to navigate the monstrous hurdles I tackle on a regular basis.

I simply love other people. I think everyone can be amazing in their own way. I see the good in anyone who might have even a sliver of good in them. My personal faith in appreciating others and knowing that I can bring them positivity is what allows me to accept a part of me when I don’t always embrace the whole package. When I doubt many aspects of who I am. Choices I’ve made. How I’ve ended up here. I find failure in feeling as though I’m not liked. And if we want to go all psycho-babble on it, I know that ties back to early school days when I wasn’t as welcomed into the fold of small town life. Kids who knew each other because their parents knew each other. I was always different. Always a beacon of complexity. I know it relates to being an only child. I’m as strong as I am because of the loneliness of never having a sibling. But it’s also made me struggle to accept being alone. Being okay with just me.
I get through my days sometimes feeling okay. But knowing I’m more than likely going to try to escape from my brain at day’s end, when in reality I should be feeling the brunt of it so I know how to get up the next day. I’m going to divert my feelings to other thoughts, other behaviors that allow me to not really feel any of what I should be taking on. I have my shit together, yet somehow I’m regularly falling apart. Some days I want that crystal ball that shows me that I’m going to have long-term peace eventually. Life will be simple. There won’t be mountains to climb; but rather hills to walk over without getting out of breath. I want to momentarily jump ahead to my kids being adults so I can flat out ask them if I was a good parent. If they knew I loved them every day and I was always so sorry that some days I just didn’t know how to parent like other people. I want to survey everyone who’s ever been in my life and find out what they really thought of me. If all the time I thought I was being kind. Being supportive and understanding. Self-sacrificing. If I really was actually just cloying. Too sensitive. If I shared too much, if I wasn’t enough. And before anyone says that’s not what I should be doing to base my worth, I know. But it’s who I am. I find my worth in being a value to others.

Perhaps that’s been my mistake all along. Maybe I’ve never asked myself those questions. Really and truly listened to the answers. Truly been there for myself first in order to be the best personal support I can be. I seek an escape on a regular basis. When it’s just me, I escape from myself. I escape from that person we’re all supposed to be with during out most private and raw times. Being alone with our thoughts and letting them wash over so we learn how to swim through them to shore is what makes us grow. I think ultimately, I’m just terrified. That everything I need to sort out is going to hit me like some of the pain I’ve felt. The grief I’ve worked through. The poor choices that have created utter rock bottom feelings. I feel so much, I’m kind of tired of it. But I’ve ultimately created my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I know that I’ve tucked so much away for later; that eventually, I’m going to stop my temporary coping behaviors; being positive instead of letting some negativity happen quietly and it’s going to be difficult. Self-accepting. As intense as a circus fire.

If you’ve read this, rad. If you’ve read this far; let me state I’m not a shrinking violet. I’m the softest thick-skinned person you might find. My surface is jaded and scarred, but the important parts of me are there. The kindness and compassion are purely genuine. I strive for self-improvement and can take criticisms with grace and acceptance. Anything I reference about the storm that’s in the distance for me; will simply be isolated showers. I’m not going to implode or go off the rails. I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m personally responsible in any ways I tackle chaos, particularly internal. I’m simply stating that sometimes I’m sadder than I let on. Completely unsure if I’m succeeding. I am okay with being this open, but I do fear judgement. That I’ll be seen as a mess if my words aren’t treated carefully. If people haven’t taken the time to accept pure and utter humanity. That we’re all fragile beings. I simply choose to bare it because it’s how I improve. It’s how I present the best person I can to everyone whose life I get the honor of being a part of. Because I value you all, it’s just that I accept that I don’t necessarily value myself. Which I probably should by now. I probably should have years ago. And if I demonstrate anything to my kids, I hope it’s that. If I create an impression in anyone’s life, I hope it’s positive.

You all matter.

 

Friends

I was going to write one of my long novel updates, which I know you all love… But then I had a point to make. Friends are the shit, you guys. If nothing else, having a support system of even one close friend can make you smile, save your life, and tell you that your shoes don’t match your outfit. Having a huge group rocks, too. Never take for granted how truly important and unconditionally caring friendships are. Sure, we all want love (for the most part). A companion with whom we’re in love. That person could be your best friend, but you still have to have those other ones.

Who you met in 3rd Grade, who you met last week at Starbucks or on an online dating site (weird, who does those anyway ) or at your best friend’s wedding three years ago. Friends are going to hold your hand after a death, smack you when you’re dumb (metaphorically, of course) and love that you said “that’s what she said” no less than 10 times in 20 minutes. Love your friends, you guys. And don’t forget, they’re there for you, but reciprocation is the greatest gift of friendship.

Listen as much as you talk. (Which means I listen A LOT.) Hug them randomly. If they’re cool with it. If they’re not, wait until they’re drunk. They’ll never know. If you can tell they’re feeling crappy, ask them why, or at the very least, do the “you got something on your shirt” trick. (Come on, who doesn’t laugh at that?) If they’re laughing, tell them you enjoy their laughter.

Romantic partner compliments are amazing, they’re loving, sassy, hopefully dirty and special. But friend compliments can be as simple as thanking your friend for replacing the toilet paper in your bathroom after dropping the kids off at the pool after a rough night of Taco Bell. Friend compliments mean that even though you know they’ll always be there, you have respect for that. You know you’d miss it if it was gone. Tell your friends you love them (genuinely). (A true master can do it sarcastically in way that almost seems insulting, but is actually amazing.)

Just saying. Love your friends. Because then they’ll love theirs. See where I’m going with this?

Peace. Rock out your Monday night. Tuesday could be a whole new bag of tricks.

Rabbit Trails

Every time I start thinking about writing, I start with one subject and hop to another, and merge to something off the wall, and so on. You’ve all read my rambling. This post was intended to start out as my proclamation to finally follow through with a lifelong dream of writing a book. Or two. Or more. Then I started thinking about why I was writing. Someone whom I’ve lost used to joke that my head was full of rabbit trails. I was constantly following different ones. And that’s precisely how I work.

Which led me to thinking of writing this post about this year. This cock monkey of a year. I’d apologize for offending there, but this year has done it’s fair share of disrespect. I’m allowed something. 2014. Seriously. I’m a free thinker, open to all possibilities and genuinely believe in energies, visions, etc. But this year has made me question everything I’ve ever done. Anything I’ll ever do going forward. Loss, pain, heartache, confusion, complete and utter depression. Along with happiness, friends who should have given up and didn’t, meeting new people who bring more to my life. It’s just all been mixed with emotions I’ve never experienced, in all my 30 or so years. Well, that’s a lie. Emotions I’ve previously avoided. They’ve been there from time to time. I’ve done all I can to avoid them. But they were in fact mixed with ones I’d like to avoid feeling again.

With a realization, that through one set of wise words; that no one is responsible for keeping me in check, but myself. My choices, my reactions and my coping are all innate to my ways of thinking. I do dumb things. I do smart things. I’m a genuinely nice person with an incredible lack of willpower at times who simply wants to enjoy life. Hedonism isn’t necessarily conducive to all aspects of adulthood, though. So you have to face that grown up bullshit that some people choose to embrace, and some choose to disregard, misunderstand or handle flippantly.

But how do yo find that balance between being who you are and who you think you should be. Not to mention that added pressure of realizing that regardless of what anyone wants to think, they’re going to base that decision heavily on the perspective of everyone but themselves.

There have been times this year where I’ve been so completely downtrodden, so tackled by life, and I should have just sat down and gave up. But I couldn’t. All I could do at that point was put on a smile, and as Winston Churchill proclaimed, if you’re going through hell, keep going. There’s got to be an end point somewhere, right? And if not, hey, maybe you run into the devil and he turns out to be a pretty cool guy who is just misunderstood.

What is my first book going to be about? Without an official outline, I can say it’ll be about a girl. A girl and her life. The choices she’s made, the situation she finds herself in. The seriously preposterous stuff she’s gotten herself into. And where reality, wishes and perspective’s lines start to blur.

I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons in order to stay in a good place. I have children who need a sane mother, who can maintain stability for their advancement and proper growth. All the while I’m trying to grow up as well. Life can kind of force that you on you, even if you think you’re there, sometimes reminders come from left field, that nope, not quite. And the question is, faced with forks in the road and detours on the trip, which path do you take.

The key is whether your gut, your heart or your head took you there. Because those three very rarely work together without ongoing disagreement.

Until next time…..