letter to a friend

I heard the struggle in your voice today and I can’t stop feeling your pain and wishing I could carry it for you. I heard you doubt everything about yourself and I wanted nothing more than to wrap you in my arms and hold you close; whispering sweet nothings that are everything amazing about you, into your ears of self judgment.

It’s hard to wake up every day and feel like life is not behaving exactly as you would like it to; that you are not being who you know yourself to be. And it’s really super easy and convenient to get mad about that. It actually propels you for a bit, but not always in the right direction. At some point (sometimes sooner, sometimes later, in my experience) the anger runs out simply because of pure exhaustion, and then that pesky fear biatch sets in and it takes everything to a whole new level of “I CAN’T DO THIS.” Crazy thing is, though, you can, and you do every single day…it’s just hard to see ourselves clearly sometimes. Especially when we are hell bent on believing we suck.

I wish you could see all the beautiful things in yourself that I see in you. I’m also not gonna force feed you, because I have been in your place multiple times and I needed to dig my own self out each time, on my schedule and by my rules. But I do need you to know that I see you, and I know you’re gonna see yourself again soon. You’re gonna have kinder thoughts about yourself; you’re gonna have the strength to keep fighting the good fight; you’re gonna like what you see in the mirror. Wash, rinse, repeat. This never ends, so don’t give more value to the highs than lows; the bests than worsts; the beauty than the ugly. It’s all necessary to complete us. It’s all valid. It is all to be embraced.

Take it a little easier on yourself. Smile at the amazing human you are. There is nobody else in the world who sees even a fraction of the ugliness in you that you see in yourself. You are beauty and you are love.

brave new world

What a strange experience this covid thing has been. Strangely foreign; strangely beautiful. A paradox of existence. I began the pandemic wanting to strangle everyone I was sheltered-in-place with. I had mini- verging on mega-meltdowns trying to navigate the new landscape that lacked the daily peace and quiet I was used to, and likely some degree of depression.

It’s hard to remember the days not so long ago when I felt so hopeless amid it all. But it was real and it was nearly all I could feel. And then, as the months passed by and everything that used to be normal morphed into a new and almost unrecognizable normal, I slowly began to morph into accepting the package as it was. Eventually I even started liking it, and now I am grateful for the exact things I hated when our world blew up. I expect to see my husband and kids in this space that used to be solely mine all day, and I miss them during the occasional times that one of them escapes the compound and ventures into the world at large.

There is no rushing to anything we do in life these days. There is lots of quality time and conversation in ways that our previous life did not allow for. We have grown through the loss of two family members and we have learned, or remembered, or a combination of both, that life is precious and finite. We have realized how easy it is to stand up and be present for others. Life has a richness to it now that is palpable and keeps me wanting more. I’ve learned that I can do hard things, and I like myself better when I face my fears and allow myself to be vulnerable. My capacity to love seems to grow with each conscious decision to choose love over anything else. That sounds rudimentary to me as I write it. But truth be told, I had to crawl my way back from scarcity to abundance. And I couldn’t see how scarcely I was operating until life forced me out of my perceived safety bubble and into a brave new existence. My heart beats stronger with each breath I take and I like this version of myself much better than some previous versions.

Someday this year, maybe, our world will begin to return to some sort of the former normal we knew and with that will once again come changes we’ll have to adjust to. I am guessing that we’ll all need some time to figure that out, and things will feel all out of place again, and we’ll likely keep some of these pandemic morsels of life in our daily rotation. I think we have become a kinder, gentler human race that cannot return to not giving a shit about each other. The death and destruction we have collectively lived through has made us a more compassionate conglomerate of hearts and souls. We have learned to slow the fuck down, be present with one another, and hold hands without physically touching.

Although 2021 is only a few weeks in, it already feels light years away from 2020. Hope is in the air. Love is all around us. Kindness prevails. Sometimes we forget to live and be love, but it’s there inside of all of us, just waiting to be unleashed. We can do hard things.

embracing vulnerability

My son got his license the other day and that next step of independence has hit me. Hard. It got me all thinking about life on a deeper level and being all sentimental and goopy and it just so happens that fate has gifted me an empty house, for the first time since March, so I’m gonna write it out whilst simultaneously relishing the solitude.

There are things I want to impart to my kids before they are out of my nest. I guess that’s what most of us strive for as parents. I thought I had all the time in the world until one day I didn’t; and I don’t. Any maybe that’s the point, too. Our children are not us. They are not ours. They are as individual and unique as the exact moment that created them. I’ve always believed this to be true, but the older and more individual my kids become the more time I spend pondering nature vs. nurture on that mini scale which applies only to my own experiences.

With that said, I am also pondering life on a scale so much larger than my bubble. My bubble led me to this place of rumination but the beautiful messiness of life has overtaken my thoughts.

Why is it that, as humans, we are so fucking afraid to be vulnerable? What is it that makes us work like hell to prove to everyone we love and care about that we don’t need them until we are offered a limited space in which to finally be real? Once we are able to lay our swords to rest and love in the truest form we become what we should have been all along: Real. Just simply fucking real. Life is messy; life is mired; life is beautiful. Life requires some serious acquiescing to what is, in any given moment. Over and over again. I wish I would have figured out how to acquiesce long ago; and I am equally as grateful that I am starting to figure it out now. I’ve pondered why I couldn’t; and what I think I have come around to is that we are all broken and scared – and we don’t know how to trust that our hearts will not be broken over and over again. I think that once you start trusting that the people you have chosen to love also choose to love you, there is no other place you will land than that of higher and truer love.

Aside from COVID life, which I cannot even begin to address here, life has offered me the opportunity to dig deep twice this year – like dirt under all my fingernails deep. And I am grateful. I feel like I am starting to really understand and embrace the human existence on plains that I’ve shied away from probably since the first time I felt my heart broken. If I could tell my twelve-year-old self, and really every age since a little something about life, I would tell her to embrace the hurdles; you cannot grow unless you do. I would tell her to wear that goopy heart of hers on her sleeve with pride – love begets love. Vulnerability is what makes us so fucking human and beautiful. Pride will destroy us each and every time.

Life events in their realest and truest form are working to make me a better version of myself. They are helping me figure out how to open that heart of mine that was scarred and afraid. They are offering me the most painful, in your face, fingernails-on-chalkboard experiences. And in that, I know I am growing.

be still and listen

I’ve been spending my recent quarantine time listening to others speak to me through podcasts, interviews, lectures, classes and TED Talks. I had forgotten how much my mind loves to be fed and watered and grown. I had lost sight of how much nourishment is out there to feed my soul if I simply be still and listen.

When life is so busy with normalcy it’s hard to quiet the rush and await the offerings that come when we silence our own minds. It took me upwards of 60 days to climb my way out of pandemic-induced desperation and depressed ambivalence toward life, but the myriad offerings patiently waiting to enlighten me have reminded me, once again, that every single inch and gram and ounce of life is a choice. I have finally figured out – correction – am in the process of figuring out (again) – how to feel peace and open my mind to the beauty in all things. I feel a sense of renewal and gratitude for this time our current world has given me to think about and cultivate joy.

It’s crazy how much change we have been through since the beginning of March, and how our experiences parallel those of each other even though our individual circumstances are widely varied. I guess it boils down to how very similar we all are as human beings on this planet despite how different we appear to be on the outside. We are pain and fear and suffering, and we are hope and kindness and love. We are our worst and best selves all in one day, and we march on as individuals, families, and communities.

We are there to pick each other up; to fight for the human race in all its inequities. We are beautiful even when we are ugly. Together, we survive and thrive.

pandemic reflections

Day who-knows-what of quarantine and I am finally starting to love and semi-understand the me I have struggled to embrace throughout this pandemic. I spent the first fifty-or-so days feeling completely lost. Immobilized. I couldn’t do anything except sit and shame myself for doing nothing. And then I felt like shit about that. And then I did more of nothing while contemplating the same feelings of shame over and over again. For a long while there, it felt like the cycle of madness and sadness and inertia would never end. And then I got depressed about those feelings and thoughts.

I was neither patient nor kind with myself as I struggled and fell and scraped my knees and failed, failed, failed to be my best self. Or even a mildly recognizable version of myself. I judged and berated and hated and threw up on myself for every negative thought, emotion, and reaction that came through me. And you know what that bred? More of the same gross feelings about myself. That damn cycle of doom and gloom just kept perpetuating itself; shoulders heavier, moods darker, outbursts over more of nothing in the big picture of life. I felt lost in an infinity pool of hopelessness. I judged myself against every achiever who seemed to be excelling while I continued to derail. Every post I saw of someone mastering a new skill in one way or another just made me feel more inept. You bake bread, I clip a hangnail. You remodel your bathroom, I pluck a whisker. You feed the homeless, I finally cook a meal for my family. My successes had pretty much boiled down to showering more than once a week, remembering to wash my face in the morning, and not shitting the bed.

A writer struggling to write. An artist struggling to create. A lover struggling to love. An optimist hidden beneath a shroud of negativity. I honestly could not find an ounce of comfort within my own skin, soul, body, mind, or home. The house too full for my quiet mind to find solace in itself; the fridge too close to turn away food that I numbingly shoved in my mouth; the day-drinking hour steadily encroaching upon hours that some may perceive more as morning than afternoon.

The feeling of immobilization has been the weirdest thing for me. I have never in my life spent so much time sitting on my couch wondering what to do next. And then wondering why I am wondering about it instead of just figuring out what to do with all the time in the world available to me. And then doing a bit more of nothing while thinking about the fact that there is so much I could do. And, alas, still sitting on my fat ass doing nothing and being pissed off about it. Does that not fall within the definition of insanity?

At the point I was really starting to wonder whether this cauldron of self-worthlessness was my new normal (a week or so ago, give or take), something started to change in my mindset. I’m not talking big changes here – I am talking the simplest act of being able to smile a genuine smile at life rather than wanting to flip it off. I started to see little glimmers of hope here and there in my crowded, cluttered, messy life. Baby steps leading the way to acceptance of this new and strange reality; baby steps guiding me to compassion for all that is; a somewhat recognizable path back to myself. I think, maybe, the change came about because I decided to get curious about my feelings and question why I was allowing myself to have them if they did not serve me or my family well. I had somehow allowed myself to get so caught up in what wasn’t that I couldn’t see what was, and my gains during this time of shelter-in-place have been and are exponentially larger than my perceived losses. For someone who thinks she generally adapts to change well, this experience of absolutely everything about your life changing at once has humbled me into taking a closer look at myself and examining the true pillars upon which I stand. With the disintegration of everything that once was I could not find my center. Once again, I have been offered the opportunity to test the core of who I believe myself to be and re-erect myself into warrior mode.

Truth is, the stillness bestowed upon us by this pandemic has allowed me more conversation and closeness with my teenage kids in the past sixty days than time and schedules (and likely their desire) have afforded us for years. Truth is, the crashing economy stymied my normally traveling husband to a new job with a home base and for the first time in eight years we get to share space together every day rather than only on weekends. Truth is, phone calls I never used to answer because I “didn’t have time” are now the phone calls that I initiate. And I can finally see all of these things for the beauty they are even though the world we now live in still feels foreign. And I am grateful.

I finally managed to plant a little garden of beauty with my own two hands, metaphorically and in reality. Both bring me joy. And both calm my soul.

But I might die if I have to unload the dishwasher one more time.

checkmate

Pain and stoicism; loneliness and longing. This is how I describe you. Within these walls of “comfort” you built was ever there an eye to see and know you, a heart to understand all you felt and feared? The deepest parts of you threaten to burrow into the healed crevices of me and I ache for your emptiness.

Wrapping into self so tightly is a false cocoon of safety. The walls you mathematically built around your fears don’t protect what you think they do. I know; I lived in your space once and thought I was safe inside my concrete fortress, but it was a shell of an existence.

What happened, so long ago, that was fierce enough to shut out your light; make you feel as though you had to bite and tear and lash out at every part of a graceful life? Was there once a brightness and lightness in you that made you feel happy? Did you ever smile a genuine smile or laugh for the sheer joy of laughing? How did I become me despite being raised by you?

I’ve wanted to ask you these questions for the longest time. Recently, my curiosity piqued because I thought I had finally figured out some of the pieces of the puzzle that comprised you. And then, before I had mustered up the courage to try and learn you; to try and know you somehow; you had less than a month left to live, and I found myself flying across the country to care for you in your final weeks and days.

We had not spoken in nearly two years; still, you were more concerned with proving yourself to me than allowing yourself to be vulnerable or accept love of the purest kind. It was never easy or natural or normal – the relationship between you and me. It just kind of wasn’t… at all. How, then, do you say goodbye? How do you survive days and weeks of caring for someone you don’t particularly like while maintaining your sanity?

I don’t know how to feel about my feelings. Mostly I don’t feel at all when it comes to you. And then I feel bad about my indifference. That foundation of openness and trust; of mother/daughter specialness, was something you never wanted until I was an adult. But you cannot build upon something you have not yet erected. And I had no foundation with you; no desire for you; nothing upon which to build and grow and learn and love. So you and I remained stagnant in our false relationship while I raised children of my own and learned what it meant to be a mom.

The first twenty-four hours are sort of not completely awful and somewhat tolerable. You are determined to love this human being, flaws and all, as best you can through her remaining days. You kind of thought she was on the same page, but she can’t love you back; she simply does not know how. So you set your brain to survival mode; to the most primal of human needs. You work with the calendar that is uncertain with stage four cancer and live what is; you pack up your shit and fly across the country and live out of plastic bags for weeks because you care as a human, even though you do not know her at all as a daughter. Maybe you silently hope for something more from her; an epiphany to come with the knowledge that these are her final days on earth. You grasp at any glimmer of a real human beneath the facade.

The glimmer never materializes despite your best efforts to elicit. Instead, you get 24/7 servings of everything you hated about your life with her; the existence you ran from the moment you were able to make it on your own. You become convinced that you cannot make it through this. You have self-diagnosed panic attacks, difficulty breathing, and cannot sleep because nothing about your current life resembles normal, and you don’t even know in which bed or house you will seek respite on any given eve.

She is dying and paranoid and taking it out on you. You’re told by the professionals that these are the behaviors commensurate with someone knowing they are dying; unfortunately, though, they are also her core personality traits and you have a hard time discerning which is what. You hate them all regardless of their affiliation because they all just fucking hurt. You figure out how to function solely on autopilot so you don’t completely lose your shit amid the shit storm that is your present existence, and you realize you are losing a piece of your soul with each dagger she slings. But you smile and press on, somehow, garnering the strength of the real-life angels in your presence.

You end up needing to completely detach self from yourself because you no longer exist. You become dubbed a member of the micro-managing care team who has “great ideas” but they are not valid ideas, because “there are too many cooks in the kitchen” and she is the head chef. You sit for hours while she counts out each of her medicines for a twenty-four-hour period and laboriously places each one in a capsule that becomes increasingly harder for her to maneuver. You have learned by day four, though, to shut your mouth unless you want the process to continue for an additional hour because she felt she lost control and needed to reassert it. You become a shell of a human being, just like her.

You cry, occasionally, but the tears are displaced, and you don’t know whether they are for her, or you, or the relationship that never was.

And finally, it ends, after you have endured more hurt than you thought you were capable of enduring. You have no idea who you, as an individual, are any longer. And then you realize that you’ll never have to feel her projected disdain again.

And you breathe a sigh of relief.

It is finally fucking over.

And you are still standing. You are still standing. You are going to be ok.

stupid is as stupid does

It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since I have been in this house instead of that one; this life instead of that one. These responsibilities in addition to those. Surreal, really.

There is no super to call when the toilets overflow or the fridge leaks, but if you have known me for any amount of time, you know that I see that as: Challenge Accepted. There’s just something about me that is oddly bent on doing things my way, and I don’t really know what that is…I just know it is and I must.

I don’t like details. Well, I do, but only when my brain deems them necessary. Which is absolutely random and always surprises me, to say the least. Somehow I have raised two children with only the big picture – the end result – in mind. Or maybe it’s with just the day-to-day in mind. There’s even too much detail required for me to figure that out, so let’s just say I’m not fantastic (to say the least) with details. As in, too many of them overwhelm me. Too many of them make my brain feel like flapping hummingbirds run amok. Too many of them just feel like too much.

Today, though, the details mattered. Today, the details ripped apart my fucking heart. Today, the details that took my breath away labeled my child as “stupid”. And my heart, mind, soul, and fists are ubiquitously on fire.

I understand fear. I understand fear because you don’t understand. That’s where it ends for me, though; scared with awful and mean don’t resonate in my understanding. Telling your child to refer to my chid as “stupid” because non-binary pronouns are confusing to you, or them, is a cop out. Your words a display of blatant refusal to open your mind to options other than what you are; the middle- or high-school bully that has killed so many souls. And flesh. Have you ever thought about the powerfulness of words? My guess is no, you have not. They fly from your mouth without a thought and you don’t understand who you kill along the way.

Shame on you. As an adult and parent you have a responsibility to be better. It’s an unspoken oath. We raise them to be above and better than us, not to succumb to our myriad insecurities and biases. You could have killed another child with your words tonight; but not this one. Never this one. They are stronger and more evolved than you could ever wish to emulate. They have no use for hate.

Your words fill us with wonder and anger – and then we feel sorry for your pathetic existence. And we hope you grow. You are missing out on a ton of greatness with your eyes closed.

nobody likes a bitch

She views things much differently than I do is what I said. I thought little of my statement in the moment. And then my analyzer kicked in, hours later perhaps, and I realized the ubiquitous difference between what I uttered and what I actually believed. And then I knew I had to write it out.

I had to write it out because I needed to understand myself; I needed to understand what was flooding through my brain and stealing me away from me and delivering meh to myself. Writing is the vehicle that gifts me my grasp of self  – the self that is too deep to unpack most often – as deep as my soul is willing to delve when thoughts and paper merge.

It is then, and only then, that I am free and alive and flying. Thoughts quicker than pen; feelings thicker than molasses; truth more real than non-fiction.

It is then, and only then, that I feel every sacred inch of my being purr and hum; exist in its own capsule; be steered by nothing other than its own idiosyncrasies.

It is so real it takes my breath away. Forces me to gulp for safety. Defies my plea for the benign.

But I digress, because I came here to talk about what I really meant when my words came out as otherwise, and actually sound kind of bitchy upon rewind. Their purpose was to protect something or someone, though I am unable to define that presently. Or maybe ever. I got so caught up in finding me that I forgot about finding the meaning that I had set out here to do with this prattling piece. My apologies (but I am simultaneously in love with where my writing brain is allowing me to travel right now!).

The interaction that actually elicited the afore-mentioned utterance was but a speck of dust among the whirring particles of every day life. And yet, also, the brevity of that moment carried the weight of judgment being held and shared.

Judgment being held and shared.

And that is what made me sick about myself in those few precious blips of connecting time that I had with my eldest child. Minutes that could have existed of who I believe myself to be were actually snapshots of qualities I do not revere nor care to pass on to my children.

What I am saying is that each and every second absolutely matters. And I thick-black-sharpie scribbled over a field of pastel wildflowers. And I can’t get that moment back to do it the way I intended. The way that is vulnerable and kind.

What I want is to make sure I am sharing all the wonderful and amazing things I believe about our human existence in general – that the world is full of good people if you set your mind to believe that. And strive your best to be one of those people that makes the world a better place. And that it is always better to be kind than be any other way, because nothing will ever take precedence over just pure and blatant kindness. And yes, love is all around; you need only to open your eyes to see its metastasized beauty.

Or watch Love, Actually. 

Truth is, it’s entirely up to you; how you choose to see this world of human existence, that is. It will meet you at the intersection of your choices.

Why not choose love?

#nonbinary #parenting #love

My child identifies as non-binary. I don’t know how long they have identified this way, but they told me about seven months ago. Sometimes they correct me when I use she, and sometimes they don’t, and sometimes I catch myself mid sh and switch to they. Luckily for me as a parent, my child is gentle with my misspeaks and oft-twisted tongue as I progress along the learning curve of learning them.

Parenting offers us a plethora of second-hand life experiences. I am sure my brain would be void of half the knowledge that now fills its crevices had I not signed up for this parenting gig. And who knows if I would have had the opportunity to live with and breathe the same air as one writing their own #identity and #individuality had this morsel of #perfection not been gifted to me some fifteen years ago.

As a musing parent so many things seem clear in retrospect. A-ha! moments cascade in pictures on replay through my mind, and allow me to make connections that scream everything real and true about this #creationinaction. I want to pick the brain of said child and see how much they remember about their everyday life – a life in which each moment they were them. I don’t need to connect any dots or find any understanding; I just want to know this human sunflower on a deeper level.

Have you ever seen a 12 week old fetus-in-utero throw up a high-five on a sonogram? I have; it was this child when I was sure I was having a miscarriage. Their uniqueness began with that gesture and has not once waned. They have never fit a mold of any type; rather, they have designed life to suit their preferences. This one refused to suck as a newborn and instead lounged lazily whilst being fed with a syringe. This one spoke English and signed ASL in three- and four-word sentences before the age of one. This child came to me with their own plans for everything, and I have spent the last 15 years simply trying to catch up with their blueprint for life. (Which is and has always been VERY specific).

I’ve always known that this piece of my heart and soul was special and unique and destined for great things – things that I could not even begin to fathom as just an average human being – but still with each new expression of themself – I find myself, again, in awe. How do 15 short years of life fill one with more knowing of and unwavering conviction in self than I have managed to muster up in 50+ years?

Keeping in line with keeping me on my mental toes, said AP, compacted math, tutoring-peers-since-fourth-grade-I-do-it-my-way child bulldozed me tonight with their ubiquitous uniqueness whilst writing an AP essay on the current political situation in the U.S.:

Mama, who was that dude who wrote the, what was it called…Declaration of Independence again???

Thanks, Trump, for providing the necessary fodder for a literary allusion. Thanks, Sunflower, for providing the necessary fodder for a life full of smiles, laughter, and sheer amazement at what is humanly possible.

I love you more, and I call no regrets.

if

If you’d just practiced more

You would have been better

If you’d just played better

He would have noticed you

If you’d have simply lost ten pounds

He might have acknowledged you

If you’d have known there were requirements to his love that made sense,

You might have:

Loved yourself more…

Never questioned your worth…

You might not have adhered yourself to the pain of non-existence…

If you were not so amazingly you,

You might not have:

Sobbed uncontrollably…

Held me tight…

Shared your exquisite beauty with me…

If I could shelter you from the pain, I would

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t

Because then,

I would not have had YOU