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.

Stepping on My Own Feet

My pants are too small.

Some of my pants are too small.

In a size that was falling off me three years ago during another bout of starvation, deprivation and channeling the strength of my eating disorder. A look I’m admittedly wistful for when looking at pictures. A look my best friend called gross. (It’s okay, I love her because she says things like that to me).

Self-worth shouldn’t be in my clothing sizes. I’ve spent the year working out after a few years hiatus from doing so, and actually attempting to eat more than once a day, past 4:00. My Instagram feed is full of body acceptance, love yourself messages mixed in with fitness gurus who do moves I kick myself for not being able to achieve at the same skill level. This is how I try to combat this disorder that has owned my brain for 22 years. By these minimal efforts that still leave me with doubt and dislike for myself. As I dwelled this morning on my new habits likely bringing my body to its natural point; it’s set point as I approach 40 (holy fuck), I realized there hasn’t been one full day in all this time that I’ve liked my reflection. I don’t get dressed and think “I look good.” I find the flaws. The bulges. The parts I believe in my mind people make fun of. I hide the “bad” stuff. Because that’s what this disorder tells you.

I know, I write about this topic all the time. But it’s hitting me hard right now as I find myself in a balance of attempting to accept that this is me. That I have an athletic build and working out emphasizes that. That eating is something most people do throughout the day, without panic. That I may have to go up a size, which shouldn’t matter but I know people can see it. I know people are thinking I’m getting big and wondering if I’ve let myself go. It’s all incredibly exhausting in finding my worth in my appearance. When a habit is ingrained for so long, there’s no other way. You want to see the logic; the path you’re taking and how long you’re going to stay on it. But then I look in a mirror and see how pudgy and unattractive my face looks, how large my legs are and the rationale goes out the window and all I know is I don’t like myself.

I miss the unnaturally sustained gross waif I once was even as unrealistic as that might be. But I also know I wasn’t happy then, either. I still felt too big, too much and like I was taking up too much space. I could still find the flaws in the mirror. I somehow put blinders on to all of the health effects years of abusing my body have caused. Intolerance to certain foods, digestion issues, a metabolism that’s been confused for as long I can remember and that’s not even to say what additional long term effects I will see. Even correcting certain behaviors can’t eliminate what I’ve already subjected myself to. Yet, it doesn’t seem to faze me in considering a dalliance with an old friend. Because all I know is what I see in each mirror, in each reflection, when I look down, when I put on pants… I truly don’t know how to conquer this, I don’t know how to accept what I look like, and while I realize how vain and shallow that makes me sound, it’s still a disease that doesn’t let me remember that enough. An addiction that tells me I need it to be happy, yet, somehow it’s never made me happy.

And as I find myself exhibiting those familiar behaviors and experiencing those difficult thoughts, I battle with the part of me who finds it all so ridiculous. I feel uncomfortable in my own body, like I’m shrouded with an imposter that is too much of me. Yet, I know I should be grateful I’m healthy. I check for rolls when I sit, and I also know that life could be much, much worse. The part of me who hates this tries to combat it with logic and sensibility and the fight between the two can be exhausting. I know all the thoughts people might have when they read of the experiences of someone with this type of disorder. I know they’re not all positive. As I walk toward a mirror in the gym and see how wide I am, I should just be pleased that I can work out and get stronger at the gym. It just doesn’t end up working out where those motivating, self-accepting thoughts win out. I’ve danced this dance before and I keep stepping on my own feet. I’m a terrible dancer.

So here it leaves me. Buying new pants because every morning ends near tears and considering discontinuing working out and definitely scaling back on this whole eating thing. Which, the logical portion of me, that has been louder of late, understands this is just not the right way to handle things. But the me who has always found comfort in finding value in my size just can’t see through the haze that is this dysmorphia. I’d love to use body acceptance hash tags with the confidence and tenacity that others seem to possess. I’d like to believe them. But I don’t. Not enough to feel as though I’ve conquered this. All I can do is keep trying, and I suppose that has to be enough. Revel in having to shop for clothes, even though, I just don’t want to. Know that I’m keeping myself healthier than I have in a long time and my body is trying to reclaim its rightful place and shape. Hopefully, one day, those words won’t ring so hollow as I stare in the mirror and mentally circle what’s wrong. Because right now they feel like lies so I don’t go completely back off the deep end.

Parks and Puppies

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As another birthday passes, I tend to have high hopes in that this is the year I get my shit together. Sometimes I feel like I have most of it at least contained, but for a good portion of the time, it’s still the same uphill battle. My well-earned façade is great at first glance, yet it masks more than anyone would guess on some days. It’s like shutting a bunch of puppies in a room together. If you’re outside, it’s just a closed door. But inside it’s probably one big mess.

I’ve finally, after 20 years, figured out how to manage my eating disorder. The one that has made me hate myself every day I look in a mirror; throw tantrums over how my pants fit and essentially decimates the rest of the day. It’s exhausting to live in constant dislike for everything you see when you look down. To wage mental abuse for how I’m shaped. I’ve longed for (and had) bones extruding, knowing that’s not my body type. I feel massive guilt if I’ve crossed any food boundaries. Yet, within the last year, I’ve reached a point where I’ve been able to move past some of that. I eat meals, and sometimes I even let myself eat before noon. I’ve learned to be okay with what size I wear and if certain pants don’t fit, to just not wear them. These are huge strides for me that have taken so much work; so much rationalization and constant, unending dedication to preserving my self-worth.

There are trade-offs, though, as none of this is without negotiation with the thoughts that linger. These allowances are all as long as I continue working out. So I’m still striking deals with myself, but they’re healthier than striking the deal to avoid food to make up for any I’ve allowed. Yet I still find times where it would be easier to be waif thin; going against my athletic pre-disposition. Making sure I work out, so I can eat still feels like a compromise with my disorder and at times it’s just exhausting. I don’t just work out to stay “thin” or to eat, I do appreciate how strong it makes me feel and the progress I can see myself make. But the caveats are still there, latent because of how I’m wired.

Despite my affinity for working out and desperation to just accept who I am, I find myself sabotaging it consistently with poor outlets and vices that quiet my brain. These vices tend to negate any hard work or effort I make to stay healthy and be happy with myself and go against the thoughts demonstrated in the above rambling. Therein lies the crazy circle that is my brain. It’s like an amusement park. A really lame one. Where the rides are all broken. Every week I set new goals, or measures of moderation. Every week I slip far away from those intentions and set new goals for the next week. Excuses, rationalization, promises, etc. are all my tools of holding off another week on making those difficult choices to limit myself.

As the above starts to crumble, my depression sets in further, like fish hooks, curving back in which makes them much more difficult to remove. The smallest things trigger my anxiety and dark feelings and it compounds in that same little amusement park. Suddenly it all feels out of control, unsettled, like happiness is too far reaching of a goal and the rollercoaster is stuck at the top and none of us have safety restraints on.

Now, at this age, that usual, familiar cycle is wearing out but beyond that, now I feel like I’m too old to ride this ride. Yet I can’t shut it off and it’s often going too fast to jump off. Even as much as I champion for acceptance of mental illness and struggles, I still lambaste myself for experiencing them at times. Why can’t I get myself under control, why does self-harm have to cross my mind as an option. Will I be 60 years old and experiencing suicidal ideation? I sometimes want to just stomp my feet, and say it’s not fair because I truly don’t know what else to do to manage it.

I certainly don’t intend this to sound self-absorbed or whiny; more in that when I’m struggling, I really struggle. I’ve done such an okay job of managing it and learning the best ways to do so, that if I’m crumbling, it’s been a long time coming. My mental health collapses are now cumulative potentially due to ways I handle it, but also because I’ve learned to be strong through so much, I let less break me until I just don’t have any other idea how to maintain my composure.

This is probably the most selfish thing I’ve written in my blogs; the most juvenile and elementary. But I just want things to be fucking easy and maintain that smooth flow for longer than the blink of an eye. While I understand that things aren’t all bad. I do have positives in my life, things I’m appreciative for and treasure. But mental illness and strife just doesn’t allow you to experience those. You’re too busy surviving invisible monsters who just don’t know how to stay under the bed.

Each time I write one of these darker pieces, I sometimes leave it unresolved. Other times I throw around magic fairy dust and claim I’m going to start living and stop fearing. This one, though, leaves me neutral. I’m admittedly struggling with my age and again, wondering if this is how I’ll continue through life. Stumbling, surviving and managing instead of thriving and enjoying the vibrancy that’s often dulled. What do you do when you feel as though you’re too old to be broken? There are paths I haven’t taken in life I’m starting to realize I may never get to and suddenly I face accepting my story. There’s been so much time spent learning from the last hurdle that the next one is upon me before I get to enjoy walking a road with no interruptions. As I get older I start to wonder if I bartered my happiness and levity in some unknown deal that has been wiped from my memory. That’s extreme, I know. But these are all the only ways I can truly express what goes through my mind during these bouts.

On this one, I really am lost currently. How do I find inner peace and learn to navigate depression and everything else in a way that I am able to find joy again. It’s there in little ways; my kids, a joke, that one moment where I’m okay with me. I’m striving for it to be there without interruption. For it to be easy. I know I can never be too old for any of the issues I face; but I do kind of wish I could “grow out of it.” It’s the part they don’t tell you, or at least broadcast as much. We’re stuck with these brains, and we can do all the work in the world and find progress and really apply therapy the best way possible. But we’re still all wired in that one finite way that certain aspects will find little flexibility and that’s not something we can grow out of. I’m seeking a balance and I desperately hope I find it before I age another year.

36 Candles

We all get a little introspective as our birthday approaches, right? Or maybe that’s just me. It’s just a day, after all. 24 hours. The sun rises and sets and we do what we do on any other day that isn’t reminiscent of the day we arrived.  Mad, confused, our warmth disturbed. A familiar place where we developed gone. Welcomed into the arms of those who created us.

It’s that day that it begins. We won’t know until much later how significant it is. What we’ve been handed in life. We plod our way through first steps; first day of school. That moment when we realize our complexities are growing; that our choices have rewards and consequences. The choices become more and more significant as we age.

Our personalities grow, some of us stumble. Make harmful choices. We realize how scary life is; the dangers the world hides. The fragility in our being becomes so painfully obvious. Hopefully we get to the point where we find the glimmers, the friends, simple beauty and what makes our heart swell in our chest. What gives us the warmth that overwhelms in all-encompassing moments and the giddiness in our souls. The pieces we use to keep us whole when we could easily break in our humanity.

I’ve spent parts of my life wondering what the hell I’m doing. Parts feeling every emotion feasible. Struggling, thriving, stumbling and just being. I’m old enough that perceptively and characteristically I should have it all in place. Yet I continue to find that I’m starting over. Making mistakes and taking a step backward all while leaping forward in strength. I’m a parent who doubts my child-rearing abilities. I’m a friend who consistently hopes I’m doing enough. A human who feels like I’m not sure my significance in the bigger picture, yet finding the moments when I can smile and feel okay for the time being.

I’m not old, but I’m starting to reach the point where I’m not technically “young.” I worry that I’ll never not feel selfish in doubting who I am, given that I’m here and for that I should be grateful. My intensity can be cloying, my weirdness puzzling, possible a deterrent. When I love, which is freely and often, I split open my heart and leave it on the table knowing it can be easily knocked aside. My company can be thrilling, intoxicating and also calming and kind. I fight my demons and satiate my vices. Sometimes clarity comes to me in the moments I eschew distractions and escapes and I realize I’m really just trying to be someone I’m proud of, yet I’m disappointed when I worry I’ve come too far to get there, or rather, maintain it.

We’re all the same, foundationally. Body parts, feelings, interactions, and our own choices to do with that bundle of person that was what came together as we grew in that one place where it was hardest to hurt us. Each of us has love to give, and in some cases sadly disregard in favor of toxicity and venom. We’re an unpredictable being with autonomy we can use or abuse.

I’ve reached the point where the little things have to matter. What are seemingly blips that can carry significance when we reflect. What made us smile; what inspired a gut laugh that carried over the room. When our hearts are touched unexpectedly and momentarily. Love lost is still love possessed even if it runs its course or ends bitterly. What was once there is what was supposed to be as we piece together the progression to our next mile marker. There are things that surprise us when we’re low that can be seemingly innocuous. The hug that healed; the anger that expressed turmoil and discontent, yet also healed at the same time. Who we have in our life, whether it’s groups of varying personalities or those few who know us and who are like us or are our complementary opposites. Those we’ve chosen to have in our life and reciprocally choose to remain. Who sees us through the dark days, delights in the bright, silly times. Those who can handle our intensity if we’ve been given that proclivity. The simple kindness of others that isn’t shown in grand gestures, but honest ways that define our presence to them. The forgiveness of children when they tell you they love you, moments after you feel as though you’ve failed. Still in the pure points of their life where the complications haven’t increased or become so affecting of them. Birthdays ahead and mountains to climb, to fall from, to stop mid-way out of breath.

I’m getting older, yet sometimes I still feel like I’m not an adult. Both in carefree and sometimes precarious ways. And honestly, while sometimes I second guess it, I also own it. When I seek perspective, I don’t want to regret my depression because it makes me really focus on what makes me happy. It makes me respect my strength and my tenacity to not just give up. I don’t want to negate previous loves, because they’ve given me pieces that have shown me joy, pain, confusion, and moments I never could have predicted, both good and bad. I don’t want to fear being alone because it’s how I know who I am and what will fulfill me in a positive way, should it ever come my way again. I want people to know I appreciate them, I want my friends and family to know I love them. I want my children to know they mean the world to me and I’ll do everything I can to express all of that openly. I hope to continue finding the smallest moments instead of seeking out the monumental occurrences. I hope to continue diminishing the insecurity that has eaten up so much of previous years and embrace what matters. I want people to know they’re important, and I want to make myself important to me.

Anecdotally, my son has this trait where literally every time he’s using the bathroom, he tells me he loves me. This is my high strung, bundle of fire child who never stops moving. For some reason, when he’s in the moment of doing something we all do, and has to stop, his thoughts come to him and he expresses it. And as weird as that analogy is, it’s endearing. Humanity has those things we’ve all decided are taboo, what we don’t discuss, but we all know we do it. But those little things are what make us the same. I certainly don’t plan to yell to everyone in my life that I love them from the bathroom, but it’s the idea. When you slow down, let your thoughts come to you, express them. Take advantage of those chances you have to appreciate what you have, and by whom you’re surrounded.

Most of all, who you are and who you want to be, each time you blow out the candles.

 

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.

 

Straight Talk

I’m terrified of being happy.

I enjoy thriving and feeling as though I know who I am. That I know myself. That I can be on my own and be awesome. I can drive home from work and there are no thoughts of going home to any discord. I can be me; I can realize how lucky I am to even have the life I have.

I’m grateful for who I am. I’ve gotten through so many hurdles you can read about below. And I’m here and I’m still me and I’ve gained strength I didn’t know I needed. But I don’t know what else I’m going to need it for. When that shoe drops, where will I be and how will I catch it.

As I get older; I accept myself. I enjoy my positives and it gives me a skip in my step; or rather a swagger in my heels. My humility is what keeps me from projecting that in a negative way. I realize we’re all just bumping into each other and some of us stick and some of us bounce off, leaving bruises behind. We encounter relationships, friendships, baffling interactions. Humorous situations and harsh experiences. Baffling moments.

Those times when you laugh to hide the pinging of your heart; the sinking of your stomach. The moment when you realize levity has been interrupted. At that point, you decide how this is going to shape you and how you’re going to realize your autonomy is your greatest weapon. You decide how life affects you and you can roll with it or you can be rolled over by it. And in the same vein, you feel deep down a thrill of what is actually unadulterated joy. What can simply be the way you’re supposed to be at your best. Knowing you can always be better, but you have less distance to travel.

I’m a little scared of being happy.

The fear of being happy is because it feels fantastic.

Hedonism is the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

And you know what? That’s a pretty damn good way to live. Because it applies everywhere. You aim to succeed in every area, because success feels good. And that includes being a decent person.

I now know these phases of being happy are what make me who I ultimately am supposed to be. That I can look at these times during the points when the other shoe has dropped. I can find the happiness in otherwise bittersweet times of my life. I can know that when I come through the other side, I’ve gained more of myself from the experience.

I’m not afraid of being happy.

I can use this energy to surpass obstacles. I can feel okay expressing this despite the fear that I’m ultimately creating a universal rift that will jinx me.

Because I’ve done enough; experienced those moments that cumulatively form who I want to be. I know the low points are simply times when I’m building my personal armory. The positive moments are what keep me fighting. What keep me living with a smile.

I’m going to be happy as long as I can. And that has to be enough.

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.