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.

Icarus

sun

I made a pros and cons list yesterday.

It was about me.

The cons list went to the back of the paper. The pros list had two things on it.

I thrive on being nice to people. Making them feel better. Doing anything they need. Being there at any time. Showing kindness with no end. Never expecting a return; simply doing it because seeing people happy and supported is amazing. But somewhere along the way in my life, I forgot how to give myself the same kindness. I’ve always struggled with insecurity. Not in regard to life, just me. Who I am and what people say. I have an intense personality and demeanor and I know it makes some people not a huge fan of me; yet I can’t compromise myself accordingly, nor would I. People not liking me, though, stabs right down to the middle of my soul. I find that I base my worth on what I have to offer as opposed to what I like about myself.

One thing that has always given me identity, purpose and drive was my job. I’ve had two jobs since the age of 18. One for 13+ years and the other for 2 and half. In between, I stayed home with my kids; yet found I just wasn’t cut out for it. My first job was my life. I was successful, good at it and sincerely loved the people I worked with and the customers I encountered. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them; different demographics, passions and personalities. I enjoyed every one of them, even the cranky ones.

I thought I’d be good at staying home. But I just have always felt like I wasn’t naturally inclined for kids and have had to work on that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but it’s so hard to remember how to be a kid again and see things from their perspective; at least when they’re angry or misbehaving.

My first job gave me a reason to be, even as I struggled through the strange tornado of life that was my 20s. I grew up there, earned success there and honed my skills to ones I thought I could be proud of. Already fighting the stigma of not having a degree, I had to work additionally hard; learn programs from the ground up to the point of knowing them in and out. Researching anything I didn’t know. Educating myself. Along the way, learning how to work with all different types of people, understand the business world always has its quirks; it’s which ones you’re okay having a part of your daily routine. We’re all human and aren’t perfect. Emotions don’t stay out of the workplace, regardless of what anyone says.

I built my professional life there, sometimes through trial and error. Mistakes were my stepping stones and the lessons I learned were what created positive results. I thought about work all the time, in a positive way. I worked as much as I could, at times being made to take a day off and being locked out of my email. It was how I identified myself. All while still living a life with friends and social activities.

Then I got pregnant. I was certain I would be working while on maternity leave, eager to return to work. Silly me should have known with my history of depression, I’d be slammed with a case of postpartum depression, different perspective and a confusing tornado of love for a tiny person who confused the hell out of me most times. As my maternity leave started ticking to a close, I was gripped with utter fear and mixed feelings. I had no idea how to leave this little person, all while being intensely depressed and emotional. Hormones are no joke, no matter how funny those jokes can be. So I left. I gave my six week notice, whittled down to part time and ultimately, my last day. Bittersweet, second guessed and a whole new territory of life that I had no clue what to do with.

Before I even chose to stay home, I joined a mom group. Thinking it would keep me busy, which it did. Getting my kid (eventually kids) socialized and participating in activities, which it also did. But other than being happy that my kids and I were together, I was lost. I needed to be working, the thought of which filled me with immense guilt over what that said about me as a parent. I didn’t fit in anywhere. All the moms were incredibly nice people, but as had always been the case, I had no place. No defined group, clique, whatever you want to call it. I tried, desperately, but I was so crippled with losing my identity and being uncertain of the new one, I was never fully there. They were my friends, for sure and talking to them got me through some incredibly difficult times. Yet, I never found that I was anyone but just a friend, for lack of a better description. That’s on me and no one else, for my perception of it and determination of where I stood. As for my kids, I did my best, but I was often overwhelmed, lost and unsure I was doing anything right by them.

When I started my next job, I was reinvigorated. My kids had structure in a daycare setting and I had a purpose again! I excelled at my work. I was around people, so many who were good people. I had learned from the mom group that it was up to me to simply put myself out there, never avoid being nice or kind because I thought someone might not like me nor did I need to make them best friends. Just having people in my life should be enough. Professionally, my skills were back in use and I was learning new ones. My life came crashing down around me, through my own choosing and outside circumstances and I fought to get through it. At work, though, I was almost always on. My difficulties were kept quiet on my part and I did my job with motivation and hunger to create work of which I was proud. Through anything else, it gave me identity and a place that I could still do something right and have some happiness.

And now. I fight to understand the unemployment process, try to figure out state assistance and medical insurance for myself and my kids, how I’m going to pay my bills and keep the place where I live. All of which I could fight through, surmount what’s ahead of me if I had a purpose. A place. Something that defined me. Some days I think I have the world ahead of me; opportunities and chances are endless. Then I get that rejection email from the interview I thought went well. And another. And another. It can tear you down. Piece by piece; shoot bullet holes through your pride. Interviews are never going to be objective. There’s always some aspect of emotions involved; human judgment. I’m not ashamed I stumbled over that a few times when I was hiring employees. It’s hard to separate that, and I don’t think you should. You’re getting a human being working for you; not an android. There is going to be a new type of personality you have to acclimate to the work environment in a way that best suits them. Knowing that can mean I leave an interview I was definitely qualified for, wondering if they liked me or not. If they didn’t, I want to know why. What’s wrong with me and if it can be fixed.

Nothing is definite anymore; I fear the next hurdle. What will go wrong next. I can’t relax without stability. I’m truly and utterly terrified of what’s going to happen. But it spills over to me, it spills over to my friends and loved ones. Being a single mom was hard while working, but again, I had somewhere to go. A place to throw myself into. Deal with what I saw as parenting failures. Tantrums that drove me to tears as I ran out of options to diffuse them. Now it can be incredibly overwhelming. I just want to feel as though I’m at least parenting right, but it’s incredibly easy to feel like you’re drowning. Lost in not knowing how to escape the anxiety that utter chaos of behavior can create. My kids are great kids. But they’re 4 and 5 and have had a tumultuous couple years as well.

I fear losing friends, because my depression causes me to barely hold my head up some days. Worry that my inner panic of losing those closest to me will continually project outwardly and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m in here somewhere, watching the me I’ve become and hating her. The misery, sadness, fear, mistakes and behavior. I feel like I yell to get out, to be happy and to like myself, but I can’t get through the invisible barrier keeping me back. Everything is in limbo and it’s easier to guard myself. I find happy moments in showing love to others. Doing everything I can for them. In those moments, I can see me for a second and it’s ok. It fades fast. It never occurs to me to do the same to myself because I can’t find the reason.

It’s like a twisted Icarus situation. I actually fear getting burned, so I don’t even attempt to fly. I took those wings off and locked them away to stay safe. But the ground sucks. It’s cold, and lonely and limited. I stay here and fight myself. I want to feel okay for longer than a few minutes, I want to send goofy and sassy text messages to my friends; not ones where I need support or help. I’m tired of burdening those close to me with my pain. It’s not their issue and I feel as though they need to be able to focus on any they may be experiencing. It’s one thing to be there for a friend, it’s another for that friend to bombard you with intensity. I keep a lot in to avoid being too much. Taking up too much space and making it seem as though I take priority.

I don’t expect life to be carefree. There are always problems, things blocking your way and moments to struggle through. I have periods of happiness; moments where I want to let my breath out and feel at ease. They’re just near the sun and I don’t know how to get there without getting too close.