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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

Light My Fire

Life scurries by us like a child who has stolen a cookie; rushes by like traffic during our commute home. It passes us during the hours we count down through our daily life. We live in a flurry of responsibilities, obligations and sometimes just functioning to make it to the next day. As I dwell in a time of year that has sorrowful significance for me, as well as the positives gained from surviving, I wonder if I’m doing it right. But don’t we all. If you’re not questioning, you’re not acknowledging. There’s not always a need to over-think, but there is a need to embrace the here and now.

No one wants to get to their death bed, no matter the timing, and wonder if they did enough. If they loved enough. Asking for do-overs and second chances. Because it comes upon us in the cycle it should.

As does the rest of our life. We don’t realize it at the time; but every move is defining who we are and what we’ll leave behind. I fear not enough are cognizant of this; including myself when I’m simply trying to get to the next day. Because it’s incredibly hard to stop and acknowledge.

I realize my introspection can be cloying; I don’t write mildly. I don’t live complacently. I’ve held the world for those who need me to, while mine lies at my feet. Conversely, I’ve had help with mine. An extra hand to keep it propped up while I rally the strength to keep it there. Those are the times when I realize we don’t get through this alone. Every person has their purpose and they come into ours like oxygen fuels fire. Quietly, subtly but with flickering, blazing outcomes.

Life is fucking hard. Let’s face it. Its trials, tribulations, rewards and gains. Losses and changes. I realize I make it all so grandiose. As though I neglect the smaller details. These thoughts come to me during the smaller moments, as much as the big ones. As I parent alone; two little boys whose life I’m inevitably shaping. While I work a job that is challenging and requires complete diligence to every detail. At night as I come home to fix dinner, clean the house, decide activities, get my kids ready for bed. Go back and forth between helping one in the bathroom (details spared) and giving the other his allergy medication because he can’t breathe through his nose. Already past bedtime and still answering question and giving hugs. The nights when I’m without them. Occupying my time, finding ways to thrive and sometimes just sitting in quiet or cleaning the house. Again.

I realize this doesn’t make me special. It makes me human. I lie awake at night and wonder if I was on my phone too much and if my kids watched too many shows. If we’ll get to later years and I’ll realize I’ve missed so much in the flurry of life. That’s just something I don’t want. We’re all going to have regrets. But if you can see them ahead of time, accept their purpose, not their misinterpreted negativity. You probably learned something. Gained something. Potentially lost when you were supposed to.

As I ramble in my typical way, no pre-defined message, I’ll say this. If nothing else, be kind. If you love someone, tell them. If you like them, make sure they know. If you want to hug someone, do it (but as I tell my son, ask first). If you’re unhappy, don’t let it swallow you whole. Do everything you can to not only survive, but to revel in all of it. Leave a trail behind that lets the world know who you are and make sure it’s someone you want to be defined as. Sometimes when you’re someone’s sunshine when skies are gray, it’s you that you’re actually shining for and it’s them you’re supplying the glow for.

We live for ourselves, but we live life for the pieces we connect. Find yourself so you can be wholly present for all those who dance in and out of our life. Sometimes staying for a while, sometimes leaving a memorable light we bask in like the fire that’s been fueled by what it needed.

Life’s going to kick us in the proverbial balls sometimes, grab it back when you have the chance.

 

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.

A Love Story. Of Sorts.

She was coming off the death of a tainted love. She rebuilt and survived and made it out; barely at times. She had seen dark days and light dance in children’s eyes. She valued others while learning not to let it consume. She realized who she was and who she would be were entirely contingent on who she wanted to be.

She found her resolve, albeit as sound as a house of cards. But it was standing. She sought joy. Pride and happiness.

Often finding wounded birds can lead to a feeling of giving unless you discover you’ve nursed back a pterodactyl.

He was boyish charm. Humor and welcome simplicity. A kindness that dwelled beneath a jaded wit and sardonic undertones. He was a diamond in the rough to a halfway lost girl. A girl who sought to care and be cared for. Sailing along on hope and compassion.

She giddily confided in friends. She enjoyed the momentum and the devotion. She saw cracks in the veneer; but she realized everyone is human. She wanted the best. She wanted her moment.

He supported her during a difficult transition. He carried positive and negative in a teetering balance. He had unpolished kindness. He possessed a compartmentalized coping that seemed endearing. She could help. She’d be the solution.

She didn’t know where her darkness was creeping in from. Life had given her curveballs and lemons and she wasn’t on it enough to sort through them. She had compassion when she was weak. She could disregard the verbal blows. Truth be told; she had a lifelong skill of accepting the blame. Whether or not it was the correct direction. She saw weakness in herself and strength in the ones who could point out those flaws openly.

He had an entitlement that she wanted to understand. He accepted the bad and dwelled with it. His emotions were uncultivated and he struggled to navigate them. To filter them accordingly.

He had little verbal control of his projections.

She doubted herself. She worried. She saw eggshells and landmines and still kept going forward as carefully as possible. Apologies were the currency she was paid. But it wasn’t good to cash in anywhere. She wanted to help. To make him better. This was her place. This was her project that would give her meaning. She loved sometimes blindly.

He accepted her assistance begrudgingly while sometimes belittling her in an effort to stay the same pace. It was always peppered with love. A raw, rough-edged love that had purity at nature, but nurture had decimated. He saw no other way and his blinders made the corners tough to turn.

She saw an upswing in her life. Things were improving. But part of her was missing. It was a little piece. But she felt the wind blow threw her some days. She was chasing happiness and it was fluttering down the street like a piece of paper, barely within reach. As she’d get close; graze it with her fingertips, a gust of wind would come up again.

He was crumbling and his façade had tumbled down. He saw hurdles afoot and it was easier to blame for them being put in his way.

She was starting to wonder if she had limits. How much she was accepting and how much she should. She had so much to love to give; it was easy for it to get taken and tossed about like a water balloon. Was this what she was destined for? Would Atlas shrug at any point?

He rarely smiled. He easily lashed out with words. He felt weighed down by the world and it was easier to throw bits of it at another. He wanted to love and he had no idea how.

She started to realize how much of her was now missing. What energy her heart was spending on repair instead of growth. Her pain and sadness was outweighing her tolerance for it. She wanted to try, for she felt like a failure for not creating beauty with what she was given.

Her heart broke.

He left.

She started to rebuild. But she was rebuilding scars on scars. Bumbling along. Lost. Panicking about lost time.

He made promises.

She refused to listen.

He made more promises. Gestures of goodwill.

She started to hear. She wasn’t sure she was ready, but her heart swells usually drowned out the voice in her head.

She opened the door a crack.

He came back.

She was happy, albeit cautious. Hopeful, but jaded and skeptical. She didn’t want to be jaded. She wanted to be okay.

He started out with hope. He built with positivity. Making what should be important to survive what he actually focused on.

She had a second thought. She ignored it. Her rollercoaster was on a climb. She had gone through some dark tunnels; but she had found they did end at some point. She started to ignore the signs. There was no way this would happen again. Apologies and promises had been doled out. Words had been said.

Words. The antithesis to action.

He was slowly enveloped in a cloying darkness. An overwhelming tendency to watch things happen instead of participate. To give love weighed down by blades and sorrow. To reduce her to tears while hugging her at the same time.

Words were weapons and she’d accept the olive branch that followed while nursing her proverbial wounds. She had hope. She believed. Who would love her again? Can love be damaging in its intensity when not directed properly?

He questioned. He doubted. He ended her nights with discord and sorrow. He started her mornings with kindness and love. He was easily upset. His pain was overwhelming in his ignorance of its depths.

She believed all of it. She believed the remorse; but she believed he had the inability to see how much damage was being done by his choices. She absorbed his energy. The room could be cloying when his mind was in a dark place.

The roller coaster went up; she’d brace herself because it had to go down. Sometimes the hills were numerous and some had more coasting between.

He left.

Repeat the process. Repeat it again. Go up the hills, hurtle down at nearly a 90 degree angle. Get off the ride. Get right back on.

He questioned. He doubted. He spread frenetic bursts of insecurity and word-whipped someone already lying down.

The coaster was running on a rusty wheels. She agonized and continued buying tickets to ride and wondered if she’d ever be able to just sit on the bench and eat some cotton candy.

He made promises. He pleaded. And interspersed it with lashings and pain and love that he couldn’t process or apply. He pledged; he backslid; he apologized and then was quick to anger.

He left.

She realized she was gone, too. Missing. Somewhere along the ride, she wasn’t even sure who had been present. She wasn’t sure where the rest of her went. She wanted to believe there was good. That she hadn’t caused this. That she could make better choices. She was lonely. Lost. She doubted herself; wallowed.

Her house of cards had fallen long ago. She was still finding the rest of them that had floated away along with that same bit of happiness she’d never stop chasing.

 

Photo Takers

2015-01-17 11.21.05

Photos capture memories. They isolate a moment in time, almost as future proof that those 5 seconds existed. Photos will own the heart of those who see them. That may mean the swell of your heart at the warmth of that passing piece of the greater collage of your life. It can cause your heart to strain against the scars of previous breaks; to be reminded of the pain of that day, or simply to be reminded of someone or something no longer appearing in your photos. Your heart can beat faster with anger and anxiety at the sight of a much deeper story gone untold, or simply seeing another person in pain.

But have you ever gone further? Looked at a photo and looked beyond it. Tried to find the reflection of the person taking the photo in someone’s glasses, and their part of that day. The mystery of who took the photo and what part they played. What happened to the subjects of the photo before and after that moment in time was captured. A photo of a couple; do you look beyond what you see at first glance. Do you look at their eyes, notice pain or love. Maybe the photo was taken by their child interrupting a fight with fear for their parents love fading and they pulled it together in that moment only to fall apart later. The pure, raw beauty of a family with a new child, oblivious to the snapshot of their joy being recorded. The pain in a man’s eyes who has lost his way, not noticeable to anyone else than those who knew him and could see beyond the smiles of himself and those he loved. A child laughing, the epitome of simplicity in finding happiness.

I take a lot of flak from time to for my number of selfies. And while I can agree that some selfies are overdone, to me they’re always more. The advent of the forward facing camera was my saving grace in capturing emotions. I’m not going to lie, there have been some shallow ones taken on my part. To see if I really am pretty. To see what other people see when they look at me. Or just because I’m having a good hair day. Emotionally though my selfies have projected a smirk in response to someone’s sense of humor; conveying desire for another person; shown my annoyance with a situation. My selfies have been a cry for help, only visible in my eyes which tend to say far more than I ever could. Some of the photos I’ve taken of myself have been gut wrenching to see again. Knowing what happened right before that; what’s gone and what’s left and how much pain I was in at that moment, that day.

My last 18 months have seen so many moments captured purely in photos of myself. A photo taken during a deep depression where I just needed to find my way. A photo taken when someone has made me happy; feel joy. A moment when I did feel pretty; felt like enough. As mentioned in previous writing, it’s not exactly been a delightful existence this past year and a half. I’ve experienced a divorce, wrought with emotion and involving two young children whose lives were briefly turned upside down. Which meant holding it together for them. Walking against the wind, smiling the entire time even if forced or completely and totally inaccurate for what I was feeling. I’ve seen debt so severe, there were days I wasn’t sure we’d keep a place to live and when, in order for my kids to eat, I had to limit what I did. Having your best friend buy you groceries is both an amazing and devastating feeling; a reminder that you’re a 33 year old mother of two, who can’t even properly provide for her children. The death of two loved ones; whom I loved in very different ways. The deaths also much different; one an end of an era and the other proof that while you can love a broken soul, you can’t save them and you can’t keep them here if their connection to this plane is non-existent. I felt grief that tore me apart inside. Pain so intense I sometimes could only sit and look at the wall and not move. But the whole while, I needed to function. I needed to be a parent, alone. The stress of the two hours of week nights at times would take me down to either complete numbness or monumental breakdown by the time I sat down for the night. No one could know except those I told. I needed to present a strong front. I faltered some times, embarrassingly. It makes me angry that I’m embarrassed because we’re human. Feelings are something taken for granted and emotions dismissed as weakness. While I stand strong on my opinion on that, I also know I can’t change societal stigmas, and even while fighting against them, I have to comply to fit in and not make others uncomfortable. These life experiences are merely just the tip of what this past year and a half has been like. I’m not sure I would have the time or dedication to pinpoint them all, at least right now. All of this while fighting the same depression, anxiety, panic attacks and multiple forms of self-destruction I’m prone to, simply because I’m so used to pain, it’s nothing to cause myself more.

And now, I face finding a new job. Another new start and a new beginning. In a job market that’s tough as nails and I come at having only had three jobs in my life (the first for 13+ years and only ended due to my decision to stay home with my children, which was job 2). I may fake some of my bravado and cockiness; but I know that my skill set is expansive and rich. I excel at my strong suits. But due to starting my career directly out of high school; that piece of paper, the degree they all require isn’t there. As always, I try to find the positives in this. This is another new start. A chance to begin a different version of my life. One that will hold new images in those photos taken. New emotions in my infamous selfies. So when my glasses break, as they did today, and I have to figure out how to get new ones, can I really complain? Have I earned the right to bitch about what are seemingly miniscule blips in a grander roller coaster of what has been my life? Maybe I’m just not comfortable complaining. Even with what I’ve been through, I still question whether I’m justified in wallowing or even making these situations a big deal. Things could always be worse. There are people fighting much larger and more painful battles than I am. I wonder if I overemphasized first world problems just simply because my emotions are as grand as my personality.

I bounce along, chipper and smiling even despite facing yet another hurdle. I can dedicate time to my writing, take on some volunteer positions and utilize my time the best way possible. I can find the entire silver cloud and not just the linings. Truth be told, though, I’m still facing the remnants of the past, additionally. There are still memories that can take me back to the pain, the bittersweet times, happiness and complete defeat I’ve felt which just accumulates on what’s ahead. Photos that remind me what happened that specific day which cause me to relive those moments, clear as day, in my head. Over and over again. There’s a last call I’ll never forget. The pain of seeing someone gone while still there and knowing my life was about to change drastically. Seeing a photo of an old house and remembering the days where I was able to find enough goldfish crackers that I could have some, too. Guilt in days where I simply have to turn on the tv so I can keep my kids entertained. Sadly, there are times I falter in keeping it together. Where I can’t help but fall apart in utter fear of what’s happening and what else could possibly happen. Paralyzed by the realization that I have no choice but to keep pushing against that wind I’m seemingly always walking against. At some point the weather has to change is all I can tell myself. I can find the positives in these difficult experiences, whether they’re simply lessons learned to apply to my future to knowing I served a purpose in someone’s life that will never be forgotten. I meant something. I was a mom, a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a professional and a bundle of energy and determination that has the raw force to drive me forward when I can’t.

There are going to be thousands of photos in my life, even metaphorically. They don’t necessarily have to be onscreen or saved anywhere to have their effect. If someone catches a moment of sadness, their reflection in those glasses will remind me that while I hurt, I had support. Pure joy can be seen in the selfies I’ve taken with my memory. Progress in that framed image of two happy children who have love and while some day will have to face every emotion possible and situations possibly even worse that what I’ve seen; have parents who try to ensure they don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes. What brings me the most happiness in life, though, are the photos of others and my place in their brief snapshot. A photo of a friend with happiness in their eyes, simply because they knew I was there, unfailingly and unconditionally. The picture memory of a hug that saves someone from crumpling. If I take anything away from all of this, it’s that in the end, you have to smile, put those rabbit ears up behind your life and say cheese.