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Sexuality and Body Confidence

I don’t need to say what I will or won’t take in a relationship just as I don’t need to say I’m in charge.  It’s in what interests me.  It’s in the authority I live in.  It’s in how easily I give things a hard pass or what boundaries I set up. It’s what I allow to happen and how I allow others to talk to me.  I don’t feel like I need to make myself a certain way. 

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What Financial Abuse Looks Like

When I was married, financial control didn't look like abuse.  It looked like fairness.  It was only fair that all the money went into a joint account.  It was fair that we went over the bills together, even if he made all the decisions and set all the budgets. I had to discuss major purchases and it was only fair because he was the primary breadwinner.  The majority of our money came from his paycheck, not my financial aid and scholarships, surrogacies, or benefits our kids with autism were entitled to.  He was the head of the household, so he made the decisions.

Avid readers can tell by now that I'm a bit rebellious.  Secret checking accounts and student loans happened.  I was still mom, so much of that went to groceries because the budget he gave me, but never shopped for himself was hard to stick to. It resulted in arguments with my shoulders rounded and my gaze at my feet.  It was a time for me to resort to being a sulking teenager, not a wife or equal.

I applied for credit cards with terrible credit and no job and when I got them, he would help me max them out.  When the bill came, we could never afford to pay the bill I created.  Credit was a bad idea because you have to pay it back with interest.  (At the same time, my individually improved credit has opened a few doors for me, starting with my car.)

It didn't look like abuse at the time.  It looked like equity based on his rubric.  It looked like power and our actions against each other became cyclical and damaging to us both.

Personally, I was frustrated.  I had a book addiction, and often bought Amazon gift cards for my habit while grocery shopping because hiding the purchase amongst groceries sometimes worked.  I hated feeling like I needed permission to spend my allowance.  I would scour clearance aisles and freak out about how to hide it later. I wasn't big on purses, shoes, or jewelry.  I bought things for the house and worried nervously about the fight I would cause by the new dishes, or trash can I brought home.

As I found other ways to hide my acts of rebellion, he found ways to investigate my actions and uncover my lies.  There was no trust and it looked like a power struggle where dominance wore the farce of fairness.

In 2014 I had pulmonary embolisms.  At the time I had a car that was a danger on the roads.  I could only drive it in a lower gear, the brakes were faulty and the seat belt didn't always work.  I would drive it half a mile to the train station, but take the train to work at my part time job, and walk.  I was newly discovering a gluten free diet and avoiding sugar because my doctor scared me with pre-diabetes.  Walking seemed healthy.  I walked 5 miles and that night woke up with leg cramps only to find out the next day that my birth control pills tried to kill me and walking so much didn't help. The greater question that I didn't dare ask at the time was, why couldn't I drive the safer car to work? Where was the equity when I was taking the train late at night alone, worried about my safety the whole way?

Having that relationship end, different articles and stories found their way to me.  It was through friends and online.  The concerns my sisters voiced for years finally landed in ways that I couldn't deny.  Mine isn't even an extreme case.

Some people are battered in their relationships but the abuse is more than physical.  If there is physical violence, there was certainly verbal, emotional and financial abuse before during and most definitely after it. The most invisible form of abuse is financial.  It's about an abuser having control over their victim.  In that way I suppose you could say my rebellion was abusing my ex and calling it control. Money is used to isolate and control victims.  A victim can't always move out or leave if they don't have the means to.  It's about not being able to do anything because you completely depend on someone else.

I was allowed and even encouraged to work, but I found a balance in staying home for my kids, and going to school for myself.  He often told me what kind of work I should do as a suggestion, but it felt like control. It felt like I had his permission to be a teacher, even if I hated being in the classroom.  Even if I did work, I knew I wouldn't have control of my paycheck.  Now I enjoy work.  I'm much better at making money than keeping a clean house. (I'm okay with this.  You should make peace with it too.)

In my last relationship, I had a hard time asking for his financial advice or support.  I didn't want to give him control or cooperate with what he felt was best.  He didn't want to blindly throw money my way to help out because he didn't trust me, even if we were living together. We didn't trust each other. Money and control became a problem and rather than do what he asked, I stood my ground.  Other relational situations shifted the balance in what made a relationship worthy of growth and our relationship didn't continue. He was intelligent, with a background in finance, and an ability to get and keep my attention.  He was and is special.  At the same time, I couldn't in any way relax into a situation where I couldn't control my finances.  Strength or weakness, it's who I have become.

I have a purple purse charm I have kept on each of my purses for almost two years now. Allstate has ways to support women that are financially abused. I didn't buy it for them, although my purchase supports them. It has become a symbol of hope and strength for me. It has become a reminder that I don't need permission to buy my kids clothes. I get to make choices and create the life I want to live. I'm not a tree with deep roots. I'm free. My tassel sways with the freedom I feel in every step I take. Even if I'm not financially stable as a funempolyed single mom, I am free.  And I am in a much better financial situation than I was under someone else's financial control.

I am not affiliated with Allstate or the Purple Purse Charm and I have no monetary investment in this (or any of my posts to date), but if you would like to support their work, or at least learn more about financial abuse as domestic violence, please click here.

Micro Midlife Crisis

When I was younger, my dream was to have enough disposable income to have someone else clean up after me.  That's as far as I got. When I started college, it was about doing what my parents wanted me to do.  I didn't want to go.  My mom wanted to send me to Thailand for the summer and I refused.  (It was about a boy and not my smartest move.) I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I was one of those students that kept taking electives, hoping it would point me in a direction.  It pointed me in many directions and nothing was really calling to me.  (In hindsight, taking your core requirements will do the same and keep you from wasting time.) I ended up taking classes on and off for so long that by the time I got my BA, the kids starting in the fall were born the year I graduated high school.  My 20 year reunion is in less than 2 weeks. When I became a wife and mom, my goal was to be really good at that and put my family ahead of myself. I wanted to support my ex. Unwinding after work was his right, even though I was exhausted with an infant. He wanted to disappear for a weekend of paintball, then it was deep sea fishing and eventually his rap concerts and I stayed home with our kids. It never occurred to me to have a night with the girls. When I finally did get "me time," it was time spent running household errands alone. (I know how to party.)

I got a call earlier this evening from a friend having a freak out moment that I'm really familiar with.  He was bothered that so much of his identity is tied to his relationship with his kids and the people in his life and he realized he didn't do anything that was just for himself.  He was so involved in the success of those around him that he forgot to sort out his goals and line up his accomplishments.

My first freakout like that happened in my early 20's.  I was a mom, wife, sister, daughter, and had no idea who I was anymore.  I lost touch with the girl that loved shooting pool, smoking cigarettes, drinking with friends, beach days, and hiking to Sturtevant Falls from Chantry Flats.  Even when I was doing those things I was unsure of what I loved, and what I was doing because it's what my friends were doing. I could handle being home alone but not being out alone. 

In early marriage and motherhood, it was so easy for me to get caught up in being who I thought I was supposed to be.  This person took care of the house and did it with a smile.  I looked at motherhood as something that didn't fit what I grew up with.  My mom went to work, then came home for snuggles.  I didn't feel like I was missing anything. My Dad stayed home with me or both parents worked alternating graveyard shifts so one of them was always available.

As a new mom, I tried to follow what my ex had as an example growing up because he loved his mom and I wanted to be like her.  It's hard to fit an ideal that was never yours and that was colored by the fantasies of a little boy that may not have a clear understanding of the realities of motherhood from the perspective of a mother.  Her input (innocent as it was) always made it seem like I was failing.  I just couldn't do it the way she did.  It nearly broke me.  I sometimes joke that I will do my best to ruin every relationship my kids ever get into by being amazing now, but really, I only hope they find someone to love them like I do.  I hope to never make a woman or man feel like they are lacking because of the ideal of what I view as my daily shortcomings.  Yes, I have boys, but we live with the expectation that gay or straight, I will always love my kids.

When I looked at my life and realized it wasn't what I wanted my life to look like, I tried to work within what I was capable of to transform my life.  I started small.  I got curious about subjects and would spend hours reading about topics that interested me.  It started with bees and gardening, jewelry making, cross stitch, crochet, scrapbooking, and for a while I started making soap with fat and lye.  Eventually having lye in the house was way too scary because I had small kids.  I still have my soap molds, and have happy thoughts about getting to the "trace" stage and may pick it back up one day.  (You'll just have to look up soapmaking.)  This helped for a little while.

Eventually, I went back to school. I needed to finish.  When I went back it wasn't about my parents.  Finishing school became my goal.  I wanted my degree.  I wanted to earn that class ring.  I never got my high school ring because I always expected to go to college. When I decided to go back, I remembered how much I loved being in the classroom.  I loved the discourse and the moments when one person would make a profound observation that would shift my perspective into a new interpretation.  I loved that feeling.  A man that can shift my perspective with a sentence is one of the first things I look for in dating, and why I often spend my kid free weekends alone.  (Reaching the bar I set is a really tall order but he has to be smart.) My education is the one thing that was all mine, and could never be taken from me.

I had another moment of awakening earlier this year.  I wrote about it here. I had been doing things the way I was taught for so long that it became my expectation. When I had the freedom to do it my way, it took a while to realize I could. That realization felt like freedom.

My big midlife crisis happened when my ex had his moment of realizing his life didn't look the way he wanted it to.  When he left, I was lost.  I could handle the things I was already handling.  I had the bills in my name.  I had been the handy person around the house, or I knew who to call.  I knew how to exist in the ways I needed to.  What I didn't know was what I wanted my life to look like.  I didn't know what my life should be now that I was only obligated to my boys and myself.  It was scary because I had to figure out what I like to do in my free time now that shared custody means I have so much of it.  I'm still figuring it out. I was recently asked what I like to do, and I listed my usual field trips, but I'm still searching and I hope I never stop searching.  

I was listening to house music again for the first time in decades on Friday.  It felt like urgency.  I couldn't stop dancing in my seat and it probably looked like I had to pee.  It probably made me feel like I had to pee.  But it was amazing in the memories it brought up of raves and dance crews (shout out to the Kinky Dolls . . . anyone?), being known and handed drinks when I entered a party . . . Yeah, and then there were some things that don't need reminiscing.  The music was a reminder of a time I had forgotten in the dark alleys of motherhood martyrdom.  

I spent so long being a wife and mom.  I was a student, then I graduated, and I had decided my kids couldn't become orphans to the stacks, so my next goal of law school will happen once my nest is empty.  I had fluid ideas of what I wanted to do on our next camping trip or what my next job might eventually look like.  I had to start figuring out where my happy places were.

I started bullet journaling.  I really should get back to it.  You can look up bullet journals online and there are many amazing variations.  It's about finding one that works for you.  Mine ended up in a three ring binder with different sections for my goals. I had a daily "to do" list. I had a calendar.  I had long term goals and 18 month plans.  I had a list of books to read and movies to see.  I had financial plans and outlined the way I wanted to shape my existence.

The daily to do list was a list that was marked in some way each day.  It wasn't enough to write a list that got crossed off.  I had a box next to each item and I would mark those boxes as in progress, completed, rescheduled (with a date), and cancelled (with a really good reason for being cancelled). I was accountable to myself to work toward my goals every single day.  Right now I have a cork board with my long term goals listed.  The bullet journal had deadlines. My white board has short term plans for me and the boys.  But the bullet part is what was driving me to do more each day.  To get back into it, I would need time to daydream.  I need to visualize what I want my life to look like.

It won't be solitary.  I can do solitary, but I'm ready for partnership.  I'm ready to support and be supported.  I won't fear what was and color the future with it.  I'm sure I'll find him because I'm open to looking in a way that I wasn't a couple of months ago.

It will include road trips and local adventures. I've never been to San Francisco or Catalina Island.  I want to explore and be a tourist.

It will include my boys, but there will be things that are just about me and maybe friends or a special someone because motherhood doesn't mean I need to be a martyr. (If I say it enough I'll believe it and the guilt will fall away.)

It will include mountain sunrises and streams and beaches at sunset.

When my friend called tonight, I was excited.  There is so much power and possibility in realizing that your life doesn't look the way you want it to.  There is so much potential in that realization because not everyone can see the disconnect.  He arrived at a place where he can slay dragons and rescue princesses.  He gets to be his knight in shining armor with Prince Charming hair and damsel in distress and that is the greatest gift he could give himself. I'm excited to see what his life will look like in the next few weeks.  More than that, I'm excited about the ways I get to start my planning and plotting again.

A midlife crisis isn't the end.  In my marriage, it was the end that opened up an amazing start. It's a place to embark on your next phase of amazing.  It might suck in this moment, but this moment tells you where you've been and which direction you get to lead in.  You get to lead your life!

Have you ever had a dream you let go of? What's stopping you from picking it back up? 

Reaching out of Isolation

I like being alone.  It's my default preference.  It's safe.  When I was younger I was often in my own little corner of a shared bedroom, playing alone because my feelings were often hurt and I was able to play with my vivid imagination and not get ignored by big sisters that I couldn't relate to, or neighborhood kids with better gross motor skills than mine.  (Kickball and pickle are all fun and games until you can't keep from kicking the ball onto the roof, or catch the football without making it bounce off of your hands after you just threw it like a flailing duck that should be shot.) My mom saw my isolation as a gift in ways that I couldn't.  She put me in gymnastics, dance, and swimming.  She knew I wasn't cut out for team sports. Drill team doesn't count.  That was a self inflicted hell on my knees.

In elementary school, I connected with two beautiful girls.  They saw me and called me "friend."  We did sleep overs and car washes.  They introduced me to Guns N'Roses and Metallica.  I survived elementary school because of them.

Middle school happened and schools changed and I had one or two really great friends I saw in school and one that I had slumber parties with.  We would steal her mom's car in the middle of the night and learn to drive together, always trying to replace the gas we burned off, joking about our shenanigans and confessing as legal adults about what we did at 14 years old.  My isolation meant that when I graduated high school, it never occurred to me to collect contact info because I wouldn't just see these people on Monday or after summer break.  I would go home and enjoy my solitude.  I burned too many candles, read a million books and listened to music that made me feel things.

When we were barely legal, my best friend would pick me up for nights at house parties and raves that included drunk driving and dancing on go-go boxes while taking off more clothes than I would now.  It was wild.  I was broken and as much as I loved her, I eventually pushed her away with broken parts trying to maim others.  I wasn't a nice person.  I married in the years we were apart, and when I was pregnant with Kid1, she found the space to forgive me for the ways I hurt her.  She is amazing and still the most beautiful and powerful woman I know.

As remarkable as she is, I pushed her back again. Looking back, pushing her away the second time had nothing to do with her or with me.  I pushed her back because my ex didn't like her.  I pushed my guy friends away because they couldn't see what I saw in my ex, and I was choosing the man that promised me forever for the friends that gave me forever without needing to make a pledge.

One of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship is isolation.  If your person needs to be your only person, it's worth looking long and hard at.  If your person is open to friends becoming family, there's a good chance there's nothing to hide.

Isolation from people by my marriage was a gradual process that didn't look like denied permission.  It looked like I had a boyfriend that my friends didn't like and made fun of.  I wasn't asked to choose, but I couldn't stand seeing my ex feel hurt by them, so I chose him and walked away from my friends.  There was good in that too.  They accepted me drinking like a fish and smoking like a dragon.  He wanted to wife me and make me a mother and I wanted to stop because that was what would have earned his approval.  His friends became my friends and I let my friends go.  Eventually, his sadness looked like he needed to get out and have time with the guys.  I understood that because I needed it too, but I had pushed them all away.  He would go out and I would stay home with the kids.  He had concerts and paintball, and I stayed home with the kids. I stopped looking at strangers because I was worried he would get jealous if I got attention from someone else.  After Kid1 was born, there was an incident.  We lived in a 30 unit apartment building.  There was a man visiting another unit that left the building smiling at my ex.  There was a fist fight in front of our building over a smile that made me look like a cheater.  I felt the need to become invisible and I got really good at it.  I had the perfectly formed incentive and I loved him too much to see that as scary.

A lot of what I've seen in past relationships has made me very hard on potential dates.  It doesn't take much for me to kick a new guy to the curb, down the gutter, and then seal off the manhole.

When it comes to my kidlets, isolation was about protection.  My kids had sensory needs that had them poopy painting on walls when they were younger.  They like being naked.  We used to replace all furniture every single year because of destructive kids, and really, they're still destructive.  I need to replace my broken dinner chairs again.  I have a home in various states of broken.  Right now it's the chairs and the motor on my jetted tub sounds sad.  I have a paper towel dispenser that I need to screw back into the wall and a toilet paper dispenser that became a toy before it was thrown away.  It hasn't been replaced yet.  It will be.  When I get around to it.  But inviting people into the messiness when I'd rather just escape until they are home and I want to stay home with them hasn't been a priority.

We've been sharing custody for a year now, and in this year I've been going out alone a lot.  I go to the beach or a museum. I've started hiking and being a tourist in my hometown.  I love it.  It doesn't require company.  I've in the last couple of weeks decided I don't want to be a lonely cat lady.  I've recently started meeting people out and about.  I don't mean my one date allocation for men.  (I will one day go out with a guy more than once and the cute Italian guy I couldn't understand doesn't count.) I mean, I've been going out with people I know, and not just one on one sessions where I can get stuck in a session of complaining about life.

I have a tribe.  Our friendship was mired in the trenches of transformation that looked like 5 days of screaming and crying.  These people are remarkable and bigger dreamers than I am.  A few of them have had events and asked for people to show up.  I decided that when my tribe calls, I get to show up.  It's a stretch, but it's not without it's rewards.

I don't drink often or much. I don't drink around my boys often.  Last week I had a gluten free beer and ended up fairly drunk.  I wasn't trying to get drunk. I just wasn't trying to waste a full beer. I've started having a drink while out enjoying a solitary dinner, then sobering up completely before heading home.  I'm a grown up.  I can do these things.  As a wife, I was often our designated driver.  I could never handle my liquor and even when I was drinking, I was a lightweight.  Add kids, and I often felt like I couldn't drink. My boys spent so many long nights in the emergency room at random times for crazy reasons.  I was afraid of what it would look like to not protect my kids from themselves, and show up drunk in an emergency room full of mandated reporters.  I had to be the designated driver because one of us had to be sober in case of emergencies and it was always me.  I can't tell my kids to never drink and drive, and then be the drunk driver strapping them into car seats.

Yesterday was busy.  I had my brunch around 11, and went to meet friends for a show and a drink.  Literally, one drink.  I know better, but decided I could do it because I didn't have a curfew. I was nicely sauced and everything was insanely funny.  It was great.  The thing that was different was I wasn't alone.  I was there with several of my tribe.  I had a first. It was the first time I was mothered while drunk by other women.  Again, I rarely drink and hardly ever get drunk in public.  It's usually a drink with a meal, and never on an empty stomach.  These women walked with me.  We talked and ate and visited for a while.  When it was time to go, they wanted to be certain I'd be okay.  It was a unique experience and it hit me that this is what happens when you are a grown up drinking with people that care about you.  My best friend in my youth absolutely loves me and loved me then, but we were both immature about our choices.

It's made me want to stretch my isolated parts.  I never have company at my home. I have excuses about why I never have people over.  I live on a tiny one way street with no parking.  I have a messy house that my boys treat as their personal natural disaster.  I have repair jobs I haven't gotten around to because I plan to fix them all myself when I'm nome, which is when the boys are home and I'm busy running around catching up on laundry.  I never have people over.  Tonight I will.  A friend needs a crash pad to save on a late night commute into a different county, and I've offered up an empty kid bed.  All year, I've had one girlfriend and that cute Italian boy over.  For him, that was the night I realized I couldn't keep seeing him because I finally broke through the sexy accent and I could understand what he was saying.  Who knows? Maybe I'll consider having a small gathering or soiree or shindig.  I doubt it though.  Parking still sucks, and that means I'll have to be home on a kid free day.

Shadow Boxing

The class I took about a two weeks ago was intense.  Think of it as 5 years of therapy in a span of 5 days. It was 5 days of screaming and crying.  It was 5 days of seeing who I am and appreciating who I show up as to others.  It was recognizing the areas in which I get to grow. It was digging deep to pull up every horrific situation I have faced.  It was a purge that first ripped off the bandaid, scrubbed the infection out and included a battle cry like I never had permission to release before.  It echoed deep inside of me and frightened me with intensity. I left the class feeling so raw and freshly healing from being broken, yet unencumbered by the weight of my own design. We wear layers of mortar and bricks in walls of protection because that is what we create as safety. We don't worry about the weight until it's lifted and there's freedom.  Aside from feeling like I put my body through more than it could handle, I felt freedom.  I was flying.

My lessons are I get to ask for support.  I get to let others in.  I get to offer transparency because I don't need to carry my burdens alone. I don't need to be fake or plastic.  I don't need to be timid and afraid. I don't need to be a martyr in the name of love.

It's been about two weeks and life keeps happening.  I've had a few issues come up.  I'm flexible enough to call an audible and shift into where I need to be instead of landing on the sidelines, out of breath, dazed with fresh turf stains on my lucky jersey and dogpiled under too much sweat and weight.

Shifting analogies, yesterday and this morning handed me a cross, uppercut, and roundhouse kick combo.  As I was bobbing and weaving, juking and jiving, I realized I can handle this.  I've been shadow boxing for years and this scenario is my normal.  I flow around what I'm facing with ease in a way that doesn't disrupt a whole lot.

I changed my mind and met opposition, but got to stand in the empowerment of my own choice. I didn't have to get nasty about it and I felt stronger for that.  When I was looking for work, I was selective in my job hunt.  I didn't want to drive far and I didn't want to give up my mornings or dinners with my boys.  This was what was important for work that I would get paid for.  When looking at what I was planning to do and the distance and time away from my kids, I decided now is not the time for that commitment and I get to stand in my authority over my life, and it feels good.

I got a call that says I'm a bad mother that neglects her kids and I get to face that accusation.  I'm still standing and have no problem functioning through it.

I read a text that says my family needs me and yet I'm helpless. I get to rise in unexpected ways with an open heart. I get to do what is requested in the humility of knowing what is in my heart is right for me, but not necessarily right for the situation.  I get to accept that I don't know all of the answers.

My morning greeted me with an anonymous text that asks for more than I will ever offer, and I didn't lose my calm while at work.  I didn't snap at the stranger that has no business in my affairs and was presumptuous enough to engage in a conversation without announcing who they were.  I extended this person the pity I have for my ex. Not everyone can walk in the audacity I catwalk in.

I got to dress up for role play in my class almost two weeks ago and at the end of the month I get to do it for Halloween at work.  I mean, matching bra and panty sets make me happy, but I never even got into dressing up for sex. And we're talking sex.  I'm not excited, but this won't break me.

I realized with all the hits to my ribs that make me want to cringe and protect my vital parts, I'm used to this.  This is my normal.  I can function.  I can fake until I'm ready to hide away and lick my wounds, but how much stronger is it to rely on friendships and let others hold me up.  I had that last night.  Under a full moon as planes flew high above the hills in Los Feliz, I sipped a margarita surrounded by my tribe and told them my latest drama.  We joked and laughed and just enjoyed each other's company. The weight of my day was heavy but by the time I left, I was so uplifted in the love that surrounded me.  There was silliness and I eased into being surrounded by people when I'm usually most comfortable alone.  We talked about the nice Jewish boy or Ginger I want to meet.  We talked about needing to be supported and ways I'm still growing.  I held a sweet baby that reminded me that I'm doing well enough with my kids, that an infant would trust me and laugh in my arms.

Last night reminded me that I don't need to shadow box and prepare for an onslaught.  All I need to do is stand in who I am and accept that there's a tribe ready to welcome and carry my burdens with me, if I'm willing to share what they are.  If I'm willing to share the load (in a not creepy or sad Samwise Gamgee kind of way) I don't have to do it on my own.

And my friend's margaritas are mixed with love and magic.  I learned that too.

Rise

"Rise"

I won't just survive Oh, you will see me thrive Can't write my story I'm beyond the archetype

I won't just conform No matter how you shake my core 'Cause my roots—they run deep, oh

Oh, ye of so little faith Don't doubt it, don't doubt it Victory is in my veins I know it, I know it And I will not negotiate I'll fight it, I'll fight it I will transform

When, when the fire's at my feet again And the vultures all start circling They're whispering, "You're out of time," But still I rise

This is no mistake, no accident When you think the final nail is in Think again Don't be surprised I will still rise

I must stay conscious Through the madness and chaos So I call on my angels They say

Oh, ye of so little faith Don't doubt it, don't doubt it Victory is in your veins You know it, you know it And you will not negotiate Just fight it, just fight it And be transformed

'Cause when, when the fire's at my feet again And the vultures all start circling They're whispering, "You're out of time," But still I rise

This is no mistake, no accident When you think the final nail is in Think again Don't be surprised I will still rise

Don't doubt it, don't doubt it Oh, oh, oh, oh You know it, you know it Still rise Just fight it, just fight it Don't be surprised I will still rise

These are the lyrics to the song Advanced 139 chose to represent who we are. Powerful, right? It's not the Katy Perry version but a cover by Boyce Avenue.
Last night I was challenged. It was a stretch for me.  I was to embody Beyonce and be empowered by it.  Oh my goshness.  It was rough and there was a really raw feeling that settled in my belly and held me hostage most of the day.
There are many people that love Beyonce, but I've never really been a huge fan.  I still haven't even listened to Lemonade.  The album hit too close to home.  Waiting for my ex to decide he wanted me back for 11 months is not a feeling I want to revisit.  I feel stronger now.  I feel confidence and joy I didn't feel before.  I feel freedom for the first time.  Listening to that album didn't feel like something I could handle, so I've avoided it.  I loved her music in the early days, but there was a disconnect in who she is.  I tend to love music, while ignoring the person behind it.
The prude in me sat in judgement of her.  I've never seen the skin she exposes or her dance moves as empowering.  We have different styles.  I will step outside of the voice in my head, steal a hug from a man and tell him how appreciated his beauty is.  But it's about sexualizing someone else for my needs, not caring about theirs.
"You're beautiful."
"Thank you for loving your body as much as I do."
"Thank you for that public service that looks like your exercise routine."
Spreading her legs on her back . . . Crawling on all fours . . . Exposing her flesh to turn someone else on always felt like putting her sexuality in service to someone else.  It's her agency but it felt like she's giving it to someone else because he wants it enough that he'll claim ownership of her. It says more about me than it does her.  Madonna has done the same for years, but there's this distance she has.  She hasn't seemed emotionally needy in decades.  It's also possible that I over identify with Beyonce and I see in her the parts of myself I don't like.
I spent years using my body to please others, rarely ever enjoying the encounter myself.  I've found my power in satisfying my needs, rather than trying to please someone else.  I'm in a place where offering my sexuality is a gift I'm offering because I choose to and it's no longer a gift just because someone else wants it.
I posted a selfie video on my Instagram on September 19th.  I almost took it down because I thought of it being used by someone else to live out a sexual fantasy.  I decided to leave it up because that would have been me catering to someone else's fantasy, rather than enjoying the moment of confidence and satisfaction I was in when I made the video.
I was asked to empower myself by being transformed into Beyonce.  I had to dress in a way that I wouldn't dress.  My bra was visible through my shirt last night.  I wore pleather shorts, much shorter than I'm used to, with high heels that I nearly fell in.  I stumbled and almost took a few ladies down with me.  It was epic.  I was cheered through it and it helped me get through the ridiculousness.
The big part of what I was asked to do was to empower myself.  How amazing is it that people who have known me for 3 days could decide on day 4 that my biggest discomfort is in empowering myself? They don't see my insecurities at work when I'm asking and double checking what I know because I'm afraid of making mistakes.  They don't see me shrink back from fighting because it's easier to not fight and walk away than use my voice.  I know I could hurt others.  I choose not to because hurting others hurts me even if I'm being attacked, but also because there's uncertainty . . .   Sitting in the shadows as others move forward unable to use the thoughts that just don't shut up in my head . . . They don't see me silencing myself when with family or my ex.  They didn't see that the only place I've found confidence is in fighting for my children.  In this moment, I can see that as the past because I'm a badass and change is a choice I can make today and continue to make.
Last night, we left it out there.  I powered through my fear in bravery.  I stumbled through cold, in heels that were a little too big and trusting my feet or not, the shoes betrayed my ankles and I powered through in courage.  And through it all, I said, "Oh what the fuck? Do whatever it takes," because in the end, it wasn't about me but supporting and being supported in what I was doing.  I was being encouraged while allowing others to encourage me.
After the performance, I was lifted by my tribe. I was cradled, then held high above their heads as Beyoncé sang "Halo" and I sang along with her. My walls were tumbling down. 
At the end of the night, I had rug burns on my knees.  I had several hands on my body.  I held so many people in my arms.  Rather than feeling dirty and used, and distanced by my own design, I felt open.  I felt so much love that while my heart was ready to burst with the trust I felt, I was okay with it.  It was a time of open hugs that offered more full body contact than I've had in really long time with men that were scantily clad.  I may have really enjoyed that too. I offered massages and gave massages.  It wasn't payment for a negotiation of pleasure.  It was a gift and an offering of love.  Unconditional love and service to each other.  I was open to sharing who I was.  I was ready to let others in. I am ready to let others in.
I had a moment of just opening up in love to my Buddy.  He's beautiful.  He's kind, and generous.  He's considerate. He's a leader.  He's everything I would want to wake up to in the morning, if only he weren't gay.  I keep saying the perfect man would be gay but into me and he embodies this in a way that aches.
I'm committed to being gentle with myself, and opening up to others, trusting that being hurt by others might happen and I'll face that set back with a moment to say, "Yes!" I'll sit back, reassess, and move forward with an open heart because closing off only hurts myself.
The legacy I will live in will be to live in openness. I get to live and allow others in.  I get to live and in empathy, find empathy for myself because being connected to what I feel is a gift and I receive it in the present.  Each breath I breathe is the gift of life and each exhalation is my contribution to the world, and I can't contribute if I hold who I am.  That will only make me suffocate.  There is no life when there is no exchange.  We rely on others to reflect, to connect.  It was a huge lesson last night.  I get to live in a way that doesn't cripple my sons.  I get to live in a way that doesn't leave them searching to heal the scars I've created.  I get to be the mom I want them to have and I get to ask them the questions and offer the answers that I wouldn't have before because I get to let them in.  I get to let people in.

When, when the fire's at my feet again, And the vultures all start circling, They're whispering, "You're out of time," But still I rise.

15 Years Later For Me

If you are old enough to remember, you can never forget what you were doing when you found out about the attack on our country.  We aren't used to bombs going off around us, or planes being hijacked in protest.  We are not accustomed to areas we should avoid because there are IED's that were planted . . . Or once upon a time, bouncing betties never went off.  We aren't used to seeing child death from drowning in an attempt to escape the violence in a place that was home or toddlers still with shock and covered in blood and dust.  This is not our normal.  When it happens, we remember.  Details may get fuzzy.  Who hurt us or why they felt they needed to will burn into memories that are never met with understanding.  The indelible mark on us all is the way we felt because unless we're lucky enough to heal properly, this will be how we feel about this situation for the rest of our lives. I was on bedrest.  It was a year and 9 days since I said "I do" and I was 34 weeks along with my firstborn.  He wasn't gaining weight and his amniotic fluid levels were low, so I was in bed with him.  My husband was at work in Downtown L.A. as a security guard.  I've been asked, and I'll say it here, I married for love, not looks or money. I loved his company and our simple way of living.  I lived for our late night Walmart dates of household shopping and our fishing trips in Big Bear Lake. I would've followed him into homelessness if it meant waking up with him every morning.  I would've cared for his every physical need as long as he let me and I did until he stopped wanting me to. I couldn't imagine the years before us being anything but happy, and the ways our lives blended and solidified looked nothing like what I imagined.  I stopped dreaming and just took each day as it came.

The man I loved called me to ask if I had seen the news about  a plane in a building.  I turned on the news to a live feed and watched the second plane strike the second tower.  It was several moments of confusion for me because I was watching it live and it didn't occur to me that a plane flying into a building would be anything but an accident.  I couldn't understand how he could tell me to watch for something I was seeing live.  I didn't understand how someone could do that intentionally.

I remembered my short trip to New York in June 1997.  I had a boyfriend that missed his grandmother and high school friends.  I couldn't take care of myself as I was living with my mom, but I managed to take us to New York. We crashed Jerry and Nora's wedding (no clue who they were).  We went to Roosevelt Field Mall (so much like every other mall).  We went to Six Flags Great Adventure (which looked a lot like Six Flags Magic Mountain). We went to a restaurant owned by models (who barely eat and I don't remember if it was good), and we walked through Manhattan.  This is the only picture of me in New York I have.  Now if your boyfriend (on the right and shorter than me) is walking with you but doesn't want to walk with you that is a problem.  He dumped me right after the trip.  We'll always have that trip to San Pedro because in that moment, there was love. You can search "San Pedro" in my blog and see where I thought about this boy enough to include in a few posts.  The amazing thing about growth is that if I were to meet him for the first time today, what he taught me then wouldn't get him a first date now. I miss that purse though. I need to go back to New York one day.

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New York was beautiful with its humidity and fast pace on the streets.  It was glittering lights and I would've loved to check out a play or visit the Statue of Liberty.  We rubbed the Charging Bull on Broadway and Morris and I imagined what it would've been like to be there in the winter with slush around my feet.  On the flight in, my boyfriend pointed out the twin towers and told me about the first attack in 1993 but I had no clue about the significance of the buildings until 4 years later when I was home and watching it.

I watched the news shift between New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania because none of us could understand why so much hate would take innocent lives.  I worried about my husband who had a duty to the building he worked in.  For weeks, we were still in complete panic that the next attack would hit closer to home, and he was in the heart of our financial district.  In the weeks following, his responsibilities included logistics around building safety.  He got an upgrade on his cameras and he made great use of them, zooming in on pretty ladies on the the street.  I was in bed.  Watching the news.

I couldn't stop watching.  I felt the fear begin to cripple me into worrying about my husband and what I would do without him.  (Well, that question was answered and I'm doing fine.)  I started to react to the situation in the way I saw my Dad reacting to life.  He's a war vet. He served in the Army and was there for the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam.  He sees a war torn America every day.  It's a pair of glasses he can't take off because PTSD won't allow the present to be just the present.

I had this growing life inside of me that would tap and kick and roll.  I had him under my ribs, and resting against my heart and there was so much life inside of me.  I had to step into the faith that there is more good than bad in the world.  Instead of focusing on the many broken bodies carried out, I began to focus on the many helping hands that gave selflessly and the stories from the plane that ended up in a field after so many stepped bravely in spite of fear to keep that plane from hitting its target.

There was and is so much hate brewing in our country.  Ignorance has cast anyone in a hijab as a vile creature of hate and bigotry has become entertainment and worse, a political vehicle.  It's disgusting.  I had the absolute privilege of carrying twin girls for a family of arabs that also practice Islam.  They showed me love and respect.  The father of the twins I carried wouldn't even enter my room without my husband in the room out of respect.  I was floored by the value they place on their women.  I don't agree with all they do, and I'm not trying to proselytize their faith.

I can simplify it by looking at my family.  I come from an international family.  By birth, my heritage is African American and Thai.  Through adoption and marriage, my family is also caucasian, Mexican, and Vietnamese.  If you want to trace heritage, I'm Mexican, Italian, French, Sephardic Jew, Choctaw Indian and a slew of other things that dilute blood from a slave ship from Africa.  I couldn't begin to tell you what is on my mother's side because I don't know.  My boys are Dutch, Irish and Jewish.  We're international.  Each of us is responsible for our own choices and we are a mix of good people you would trust with your wallet and people you might not trust (I hear my Kid3 steals from other people's houses when with his Dad but he doesn't have that problem when with me).

I can break it down in terms of food.  I love good food.  My food baby is well fed and my palate is frequently pleased.  Food joy can sound orgasmic. My international family means we have international foods at holiday gatherings.  Christmas will include a turkey and ham, but my sister and I have made loads of tamales and champurrado to go with her sangria.  What I've learned is that even if you come from Thailand and know how to cook Thai food, it might not taste good because not everyone can cook.  Your Italian aunt's spaghetti might be homemade but you might still prefer a jar of Barilla to her labor of love because she could burn water without supervision.

We can't judge a group of people on the actions of a handful of people that probably could have used more hugs than they got when growing up.  Bigotry and hate often look like fear.  Fear, like stress and guilt are within you and if you let it cripple you into bigotry, that's your own fault and can't be blamed on beliefs you are too afraid to try to understand or challenge.  Woman up, or man up, or tranny up.  Get that handled so you can do epic shit and look past what you didn't understand to be more than you see right now.

I didn't know anyone that was in one of those buildings that day until a couple of months ago, and she amazes me with her zeal for life.  She wasn't in the building when it was hit, but she was in the building that day and in the city at the time of the attack. Her children and her work are her passions and there is so much room for intentional engagement when I do see her.  I know a rescuer who was a fire fighter at the time and she's still tough as nails and likely suffers from what that dust did to her lungs. Both of these women are inspirations to me for getting through that as closely as they were and living a life that isn't a prison to that experience.  They live.  In all they do, they don't allow their strength and courage to die.   They are braver than anyone will ever give them credit for because it wasn't born for recognition but for survival.  It came in silence and is not something they put on but who they are. They are amazing and strong women in every sense of what being a woman means to me.

In 1994, September 11th was the day I was baptized.  It was a day to declare my belief in the religion I was raised in.

In 2001, September 11 was the day our country felt hate.  A war was started and my children don't know what it means to live in peace.  It was the starting point for many of us, and a mark in a long history for others.  It is the most significant entry in my son's history books that I can give a first hand experience of.

In 2012, September 11  was the day I made a trip to the hospital to visit 6 day old twins and marvel at the fact that they were still alive even though they were born at 29 weeks. It was the first time Baby A was allowed kangaroo care, and I held her against my chest so she could hear my heartbeat and borrow my warmth.

In 2015, September 11 was a day of hope for me.  I had encouragement from my son's principal because she saw me struggle through being a single mother and she knew what I needed to hear from her own walk through it.  I wish her the best in her new school. My family had just surprised me with groceries because I needed the help to feed my kids after their Dad left me.  That day showed me that I'm stronger than I thought I could be.

Today, it's a day of peace. I get to hear happy sounds as my sons interact with each other and I steal hugs throughout the day.  I'm sipping coffee and I'm writing where the only editor in my head sounds like my voice and not what someone else might say.  Today, September 11 is a day of personal freedom.

How I Show Up in Romantic Relationships

I've had 3 conversations in the last few days that have really forced me to look at my romantic history.  The conversation last night was with a really great guy. He's handsome and sweet.  He's known me since my teens and he's constantly calling me out to expect greater than I do.  He says, "How are you love?" and "Raise the bar, ma." Decades ago I was the confident flirt.  If this expression of him were to meet me then, I'd be in trouble because he is dangerously hot and his emotional intelligence of women is off the charts. He's capable of making someone very happy, but he would be settling.  He was shy and quiet when we were young.  I may have enjoyed him for that on more than one occasion. We talked about what we want in romance.  I'm not polyamorous but we talked about it.  It's about wanting a mental, emotional and physical connection with several people.  That would never work for me because I thrive in monogamous relationships. I like the idea that I'm on someone else's mind as much as he's on mine. I want to know that random things remind him of me and that he's on the street and something about the person in front of him makes him think of me.  I guarantee that happens for me when he's special.  When he's special, I don't have a poker face and I can't hide it.  It's written all over my face and it's in my body language. When he's special, I feel like who I am is bending around him into ways that make him a part of me. And yes, that scares me. I'm the type that gets a rush in doing the brave thing in spite of fear.  I would go with it.  I can press in without worrying about the future because there is amazing joy in the present.  But it scares me.

Yesterday I had a brief conversation about where I am in my dating life right now. I'm not seeing anyone and enjoying the many ways I get to date myself. I buy myself lingerie and flowers. I take myself to nice restaurants and museums. I catch beach sunsets and take long walks through beautiful parks. My dating history looks nothing like what I do for myself and if someone wants my attention, I have to first believe I'd have a better time with him than alone because my alone time is special to me. There aren't many people I would give up my free time for. There's an even smaller number of people I'd be willing to drive to and meet on their side of town. And if he wants to meet my boys, he'd have to be able to offer them more than my happiness. He has to be curious and intelligent and beautiful. . . So I date myself and my sex life is only in my dreams but that's okay too.

My reality is that I was sexualized at a young age. I had men make me uncomfortable with their desire before I even needed a training bra. By the time I was the same age as my first born, I was having regular sex with a boyfriend. Through high school I had a few relationships that lasted over  a year and a half and my in between times were about learning to flirt comfortably.  I may have a problem with shutting that off.  It's not on purpose.  Early college days meant many fleeting hookups.  Then I met the man I married. I had never had an innocent relationship that was just about making out.  There were innocent enough hookups but innocent relationships skipped me entirely.  My sexual history tells me the best encounters are the ones in meaningful relationships.  My last relationship isn't one I would want my children to model.  So I'm cautious.  I'm a chicken shit.  I'm happy in my celibacy.

When I was younger, I would find someone that was full of amazing and I would very easily look over their terrible qualities.  I was having a conversation with a co-worker and naming out things that were part of my marriage that I now see were not normal, but her reaction told me how far from acceptable it all was.  It's not okay to be jealous of platonic friendships to the point where I'd end them.  It's not okay to feel responsible for how others see the man I'm dating when his actions will speak for him.  It's not okay to feel bad about wanting to learn more and do better in life because of how that might reflect on someone else's ambition. I don't know how to be in a relationship that doesn't walk all over me.  But I'm learning.

I had many relationships where it was very clearly just sexual on his part.  He would let me know in direct and subtle ways that I wasn't the person he was pouring his soul into.  I would accept what he offered and hoped that I would grow on him. Like a fungus.  I was very big on settling for what I was being given. I was always in this perpetual state of hope that my love could flow through him and back to me, even if he consistently proved to me that it was just sex.

I'm learning.  It's changing.

I look at my history.  Today would have been an anniversary for my parents.  They've been divorced since I was still in high school and I have a high schooler now.  I saw their dysfunction and persistence as normal.  Mom yelled.  Dad ignored.  When my ex said he was leaving, I became them.  I was my Dad that first night in packing and separating our stuff at 3 am.  I was my Mom in saying, "go." I didn't need him.  Then I was me, in my crazy need to hold on and fix it because I saw my mom hold on and try to fix it for so long.  It was all I knew.  They had rare moments of affection that skeeved me out, but I was too young to remember if they were ever madly in love with each other.  As an adult, I can see the ways they still love and care for each other, even if they still refuse to talk to each other.

As Mom, I see my kids in their good and their bad.  I see more than anyone else, and I consistently choose to love them deeply, even if there are moments I don't like what they are doing.  I tell them they are consistent in who they are.  It's my ability to be patient that fluctuates and it's my fault if one day I lose my shit. This blog post was born from my need to step away and calm myself. As a mom and a daughter, love means I accept you as you are, without a need to change you because that would rob me of the gift of knowing you in your purest form and warmest light.  I want love to be about accepting the dark and the light and basking in all of the ways it feels to.

My latest goal is to love unconditionally.  Offering love isn't the same as being in love.  There's a difference.  I know it.  Lust and infatuation are very different from being in love and I'm aware of it too.  I'm a hugger.  I don't offer a hug unless I know I can hug the way that feels good.  If it's an arm or a side hug, I'd rather not bother.  If I feel I can hug you, I can offer transparency (in doses).  I can offer affection and build a person up with the amazing I see in them.  I'm going to let a person know when I randomly think of them because this is expressing love. When I get to the point that I know I would offer more than I have to give, that is a transition into being in love and that is where I step back.  I run away when it feels like my moods are dictated by how they make me feel.  That is what being in love feels like to me.  Otherwise I'm offering love without expecting a return. It feels good and in the offering I'm being selfish by not expecting an exchange or allowing myself to rely on them.

Keeping Company

I've gotten really comfortable with being a loner.  I like the freedom of going where I want and staying as long as I care to.  I eat what sounds good and it's a very spontaneous existence.  I really don't enjoy dating lately because of the predation I feel.  It's amazing when you hang out with people that don't want to have sex with you.  Or maybe they secretly do, but you feel they care about what you think about something too.  This weekend I've been intentional with trying to involve others in my free time. Friday after work,  I had a call I regret taking from the ex.  Rather than just sit and calm myself, I explained what had taken place to a friend.  I didn't need him to fix it, but I also didn't sugar coat it.  His discomfort made me laugh.  It was a full belly laugh that reminded me that I'm fine, and being yelled at and listening to my son cry in the background is our version of normal and on Monday my kids will be in my arms and we will be okay.  It was a 20 minute set back that before would have lasted the weekend.

I left and headed toward the Grove where I spent time with a woman I admire and adore.  She's intuitive and empathic and so deeply understanding of human behavior.  She's an actress and fans that might recognize her is an occupational hazard, but she's so much that person you can just hang out with because there is such a strong sense of peace around her.  She's all Hollywood, but in the sense that she doesn't feel like a transplant that gets jaded from a dream she hoped she could mimic.  She's built her own ideals of what making it should be and what it looks like to her tells her she's living the dream and happily awake through it.  The first time I met her was shared here, and since then, she has shown up in my life in meaningful ways, right when I need her to. We talked about boys, and sex.  She encouraged me about my career and we talked babies.  I left her feeling like I could do the next big thing and I could ask for help in doing it.  I didn't realize how big of a problem asking for help is.  It's pride.  It's insecurity.  It's something I'm taking notice of.  It's part of my skirting around a relationship, but that whole thing is also about knowing how picky I want to be and the fact that I kinda enjoy saying no.  I love telling strangers that they're beautiful without any intentions of furthering that conversation. It's a position based in fear and insecurity, and she made me take notice in the most loving way possible.

Saturday morning I was interviewed.  When my ex left and took the boy's bunk beds to his new place, I was sharing a full size bed with Kid3, and Kid1 and Kid2 were sharing the queen size bed I shared with my ex.  It was one of the first times I was threatened with a call to Child Protective Services because teenaged boys shouldn't have to share a bed. None of us liked the situation, but we got through it because abundance sometimes lands in our laps. Through the help of my pastor and the Dream Center church, we were given new beds (but Kid3 still likes to sleep next to me) and dressers, and a dining table and chairs.  It was all free from Ikea with a team of volunteers that came in with smiles and hugs and prayer and encouragement.  They brought it in.  They put it all together.  They took out the trash.  They prayed for my family and left.  I was called a few weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed.  I agreed because what else could I do to show my gratitude?  And I'm a ham.  So much of the conversation reinforced the encouragement I got from my friend the night before.

Saturday afternoon I was with a transgendered woman I adore.  I have friendships with gay people, and transgendered women that dress the part far better than I do, but this is the first woman I've met that committed to surgery and hormones.  I'm so inspired by this woman. We walked through Echo Park Rising and sampled Whiskey, while talking about boys and girls and relationships. We talked about what it was like to be both a man and a woman.  I learned so much from her. We walked through a bookstore in a first time experience that really felt great.  We sampled Wild Turkey and both preferred the Honey to the stronger one with the number attached.  We shared coffee and now share a deeper friendship.  She had other things to do and I took a short stroll through Echo Park before heading home.

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I didn't know my cousin is in my state until she checked in on Facebook, so I headed out to pick her up for bowling and connection.  She's a college student, but I was the one wearing my college sweatshirt. We talked boys and relationships.  (You'll notice the theme because I'm boy crazy.) I told her that I'm too old to date men my age because they're having their midlife crisis and looking for a younger woman to help them feel young.  And I told her I don't date younger men because that's creepy.  I just enjoy the beautiful ones and have no problem calling it like I see it. We talked about the greatest parts of being single and school.  She insisted I'm not old enough to complain about my geezer body, but then I pointed out I could be her mother. That's when I realized I really enjoy saying that.  I enjoy pointing out that I'm old enough to be someone's mother when they are hitting on me and I'm giving them a hard pass.  I like it when people think I'm younger than I am.  It feels good.  Black Lights on blue polish makes me happy too.

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When I left her, she asked me to text her when I get home. It's the thing you do when you love someone.  You want to know they made it home safely.  I drop a person off, and I wait in my car until they are safely inside.  I had a friend do the same thing after dinner last week.  She wanted to know when I got home safely.  My Dad does the same thing.  Are you home? Let me know when you get home.  Frankly, I'm not comfortable with this.  This request brings out my rebellion, and I always give it time, then lie that I got home, and often find myself at the beach or in a store to shop.  I did it again last night. I'm rebellious about it, and it makes me lie, and last night I realized I do it and it's not okay.  I spent so long in a marriage where I felt I was supposed to be home, and I was.  I would go to the grocery store and around an hour into my trip, I would get a call or text to see how I was doing because the time said I was supposed to be home by then.  I'm intentionally staying out late in rebellion because I'm a grown up and shouldn't be told what to do.  (I'm taking notice of this and yes, I do sound like a 12 year old.) My rebellion looked like driving to the Vons on PCH and Sunset for sushi, soda and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup dessert, because the divorcee diet looks like crap and soda that made me think of Butterbeer and Harry Potter.

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This morning I have museum plans.  I sent out a few last minute invites but I'm content with going alone. They are flexible museum plans because I have puttering around the house plans too and lounging around the house naked plans before the kids get home tomorrow.  I'm enjoying the sounds of trickling water in my pond, a plane flying, the ticking of a clock, birdsong, the rumble of a truck on my street, my dog whining (she's a little bitch), and the sound of keys flying on my keyboard.   I'm enjoying the silence that feels like solid pressure because I won't have it tomorrow night.

Welcome Distractions, or My Latest Crush

I prefer a good crush.  This has been decided.  I have yet to be convinced otherwise.  They're safe.  There are too many ready excuses why I'm not ready for a real relationship.  I think the biggest thing is my paranoia.  I'm low maintenance and easy going and that is so easily manipulated.  Most people that know me have noticed that I'm fairly resilient and adaptable to adverse situations and uncontrollable change.  That is an abuser's fantasy and I'm aware of that. I won't demand to see someone's phone, or insist they tell me every detail.  (Okay, so I would check my ex's phone, but it never occurred to me to look at any texts other than the ones from his sister that hated me. I might have seen the affair if I had.) I don't even need to be in constant communication or contact because I really love my time alone. I can be intense and passionate and dialing it back is always a challenge and not always a welcome one. A freefall into love means I'm giving it my all at 110% no matter what the return, or if there is one at all.  At the same time, I'm afraid of welcoming someone into my life that will eventually want to play house and I'll have to trust someone with my kids and that's the last thing I want right now.  I like silly crushes and superficial connections. I like playing it safe. My latest crush has very solidly placed me in his friend zone.  It was somewhere between a crush and almost a thing, but never really a thing.  I once joked that he keeps dumping me but we're not together. It feels like cooling off is leading to a final answer and while there is a little sadness because I always want what I want, I can accept it for what it is and appreciate it for what it was.  There was no leading on.  His honesty is new.  There isn't something to read into because his words have always matched his actions.  I think he was always flattered, somewhat curious, but he was always clear that I'm not the one.  I was never the right one for him. I won't explain his reasons but I will say I understand them and would never hold them against him. Maybe this moment is setting doves free.  I'm releasing what I have so carefully kept to myself.

There were a few moments when that friendship was a blurry dance but it's firmly back in place again and I'm okay with that.  Or I will be. It's where I keep all of the ones I refuse to let go of.  It's a good place to be.  I did consider a real and lasting relationship with him for a little while.  He's pretty amazing.  If being with him when I didn't have my kids could ever be enough, he would be the one. My kids have a way of creating radical change and I wouldn't want to change him.  I enjoy so much about him that shifting who he is would be a disservice to him and his eventual Miss Right.  He could only ever be Mr. Right Now but he's so great I would want more for him.  There isn't a time limit on Right Now, is there? Besides, it's not that serious. When I'm having a rough day, I'm not trying to hand it to him to fix for me.  We don't get into deep discussions about our dreams and our histories. We haven't actually gone out on a date. I'm very open and transparent and he's incredibly private.  I'm more into escaping into who he is and what he looks forward to each day than trying to fit him into me and my life. It's enough that on a rough day, a memory of a conversation or his shy smile can make me smile.

On a tangential side note, I'm listening to a playlist that includes Radiohead's Creep, Self-Esteem and She's Got Issues by the Offspring as well as Dramarama's Anything, Anything.  We won't analyze that, but I will leave it right here for me to notice and you to laugh at.  Go ahead.  It's a freebie.

What kind of man could catch my eye and hold my attention?

He's amazing and special.

There's something transcendent about his hugs.  To be wrapped in his solid arms and held against his body with that amazing scent that is so masculine and sexy . . . I will not admit or deny that there is occasionally drool involved. Bald men with healthy tans and hard muscles has always been a thing - my thing because I'm not above being shallow, but he has been a special treat.  His eyes are dark brown and so expressive.  There's a quiet calm in the way he slouches in a chair and it's almost like watching a wild animal that is bored between kills.  Lithe.  He has a beautiful lithe body. When he talks about astronomy, physics and geology, there's passionate excitement. I don't know if he's into Potter, but he'd be a Hufflepuff and that's not a bad thing.  I've always been a little more Ravenclaw but I can see that in him too.  He's well read and like a sponge, he not only absorbs what he's read, he can expand on it and watching him express what has blended together and mellowed into certainty for him is a special pleasure.  His eyes will tell you when he's unsure or insecure and there's a soft vulnerability in his gaze with lifted brows and full lips.  I could coddle him in those moments.

He's the strong and silent type but there's a vulnerability about him that brings out my protective side. In many ways he's so open, guileless and innocent. In other ways he's closed off and unmovable. Manchild isn't a dirty word if that's what would define him.  I rarely have this much patience or kindness for men since I realized my role as a wife was more important to me than being my ex's wife was. There's something about him that speaks to that part of me that needs to give and offer and not expect anything in return.  He brings out selflessness in me, and it's not about my vulnerability.  It's not that he needs to catch or protect me.  I want him to continue to be who he is, and whether or not he can offer me anything more than a smile is irrelevant.

He's beautiful.  I think most would say he's cute or a looker, (I may or may not have shared a glimpse of a profile picture with a select handful of women and maybe a gay man) but that's just based on his face.  There's a whole package and the thought of it is often my happy place.  Like, Peter Pan better find Tink because I'm ready to fly now.  There is solid muscle that looks amazing in a t-shirt and jeans. He has a runner's body and the lines from his broad shoulders to his hips are what Greek sculptors were commissioned to master. I love the body hair that covers his arms and peeks out of his soft and faded t-shirts.  He's so active that his skin is always warm and slightly dewy. (Perks of a fast metabolism.) His hands are warm and calloused and rough and manly. His chest is perfect. My hands are soft and sensitive and there is so much pleasure in what my fingertips and palms have felt.  I love the way his muscles strain to stretch across his chest and the thin flesh over his sternum throbs with his pulse and his stomach is flat and firm and fun to touch.  There is so much peace in wrapping my arms around him and just fitting. His kisses are deep and passionate and I imagine his hip girdle could make angels cry.  I wouldn't know.

For the first time in my life, I've been alone with a guy and kissed him and we've started something doesn't mean he needs to finish it.  We've kept our clothes on at all times and there's a purity in it that is worth holding on to. Some people call that respect or taking it slow, but it's so alien and I totally dig it.  I'm used to manipulation and aggression and guilt to go further than I want to, but there isn't a rush and I love that feeling. I really just enjoy sitting with him and talking to him.

I'm not into the idea of sweating.  I will sweat.  I just don't enjoy it unless I'm walking somewhere to see something beautiful or pulling weeds.  Exercise that doesn't look like fun isn't something I do.  He's so committed to being active and eating well.  He's mindful of what he's eating at all times and it's a choice I admire.  It's a lifestyle for him and has been since at least his teens and it's beyond admirable.  I thought being gluten free was a pain for me, but to stay off of sugar for nearly 20 years puts him on a meta human level, right? Dr. Xavier around, anyone?

I think the greatest pleasure I feel from him is in that sapiosexual itch he scratches.  He's so smart, and curious, and creative.  I've had conversations with him where I was dumbstruck by the ideas and thoughts he explains and I did mention he's gorgeous, right? He once told me about reading Einstein's autobiography and a lot of that conversation is a blur because I was struck by how intelligent he is and the rest of it was my slack jawed glory.  I'm sure it was comic relief because I could feel how stiff my smile was.  I must have been amusing to watch. More than once I've been lost in watching him talk.  He writes, and draws, and composes music and as public as my writing is, his craft is so much more private. I write to get it out of me, but he has ambition I've never felt before. I try to write daily and exhaustion often wins, but he is so dedicated to his craft that he's doing something creative every single day.  I was honored in hearing his music and he kept trying to explain away what he felt was wrong, but I was just lost in his ability and the way his music made me feel.  It really is something amazing when sounds aren't processed with meanings in lyrics. For a moment I thought about linking to the many posts he's made an appearance in, but it's easy.  He's been the one that makes me smile and has been inspiring posts since I first saw his smile at the end of May. He's been my muse.

He likes to stick to his routines because his goals are bigger than instant gratification.  He down plays friendships and relationships, but when people are leaving his everyday life, he takes a moment to honor their friendship by being present and communicating the value he places in them with an offering of his time.  He's deeply introspective and polite, often brushing off the possibility that anyone could offend him because of the thick skin that all artists layer on as protection. I think his transparency is far more genuine than the personas most people affect. He carefully sticks to his diet and exercise because he wants the results he's working toward.  Aside from physically pushing himself, he takes really good care of himself.  He could use more sleep and he could be more gentle on himself, but then that would shift who he is. He's passionate about politics because he knows what is right and wants his ideals to influence society because as much as he sees himself as solitary, he's also passionately interested in the good he sees in the world and wants to make it better because he can't ignore the bad that is all around.

I've always been up front that I want someone that can hold a conversation and he has to be eye candy, but we're just friends and it's not that serious even if he is beautiful because beautiful is never enough. At the same time, this post almost didn't happen for fear of a reaction that would make him hide from me and I can't have that influence the freedom in my writing, right? In theory. 

Anticipation

It's Friday and the rush of a work week winds slowly into talks about a diet, a drink, a plan . . . Life marches and evolves once we leave and their excitement and joy becomes irritating noise when my eyes watch the clock and my longing wraps around me like a cloak.  I'm shrouded and cloistered from their excitement as mine coils within me. Like burning embers and a gentle breeze, heat rises in my cheeks and my pulse quickens.  Agitated fingers tap a beat, a rhythm, a slap tap tap that can't remain still as the day melts into early twilight filtering through blinded windows, soothing the heat of a relentless summer sun with drifting clouds racing through cooler air as the bright blue sky betrays the sun, inking the clouds in darker blues, and pink hues that blend and blur a yellowed tinge of remembered glory.

I'm losing focus as my mind slips from duty to pleasure in the last tasks of a full work week and the joy of what will come tugs and pulls me deeper into thought and thoughtless sensations flood my belly and raise goosebumps on willing skin that begs for a touch and a moment of stolen pleasure on sensitive finger tips and arms that long to hold him.

The moment arrives and I stand to feel a lump slide and stall in my throat, swallowing hard the nervous energy gilded with the fear of rejection.  That beast lives under my skin and she waits for moments to strike me into memories of a rejected love and she slaps me with what was past and it takes a moment to remind myself that stolen moments are just moments and the only promise for tomorrow is my carefully laid resentment if I expect more than is willingly given. Within a few steps, my anxiety has made me forget my purse and keys and my clumsy steps remind me that I wasn't always so confident, and memories of a shy smile and large brown eyes sometimes uncertain and deeply contemplative ground me in my own fragility.

The moment approaches and I take a minute to breathe deeply to calm myself, knowing that I will again smell his unique blend of sexy masculinity and it will surround me, staying on the hand that holds his.  I take a moment and release the doubt that floods me because I am living in this moment and nothing matters outside of it.  I'm ready and anticipation gives way to the arrival.

 

When we were playful. 

When you're little and playing with a puppy, playtime can become painful. We downplay the scratches that came with laughter because puppies don't know any better. We still do it in relationships because love can infantilize a grown ass man. Imagine that?

What's the Score?

Several times a week I will say out loud that I should watch more movies or television but I get home and I start writing or picking up after my boys. I still haven't watched more than a few YouTube videos but I did experience something movie related.  This afternoon I had a moment where there was space to just be.  I was listening to a score for something I have never seen, but in the soft melody that tickled at something light and playful, I was able to just experience what I was being pulled into.  I had no idea what the dialogue would have been or what I would have seen or heard to hand feed what the director had in mind.  I had a melody and in what I heard, I was able to just feel.

We never pay much attention to the musical score of a movie or television show.  Unless you are into films and production, most of us don't notice because it's not meant to be noticed.  The power of a score is in its ability to make you feel without telling you anything.  I really felt that today and it was incredible.  The beauty of it was in the simplicity of just being open to what I felt and not having to overthink anything.

Sometimes our extrasensory perception speaks to us in a way that a musical score would.  It's that physical reaction that doesn't match the rest of what we feel.  It's when you talk to someone that says nice things and looks beautiful, and yet you feel prickly tingles at the base of your skull or your calves tense like your body is ready to run.

At other times, it's the soundtrack of our past that loops through a new experience.  Without trying to, we often will subconsciously refer to something in our past to make connections in our present and predict our future.  This is why we find comfort in relationships that remind us of our opposite gendered parent.  This is why we have a hard time trusting when we see a behavior we experienced from a previously broken heart.

We rely on lessons that we've learned or have been told.  We imagine the many intricate deceptions that flower out of a missed call or ignored text.  We don't think about what we are doing to ourselves, but the score of our history colors and decorates our present and future unless we are aware and can shift our perspective into something new and experience each moment as a new possibility.

I'm in the process of selecting a new score for myself.

In relationships, I'm not looking to create a future and a long life together.  Each moment is a gift and I won't burden it with what should be or what has been because I'm enjoying what is, without worrying about what could be.  That's what unconditional love is about.  It's not about planned resentments when I realize the pedestal I prepared for someone else was only made for me. It's about a moment that may or may not lead to another moment, and appreciating all that was offered in that moment, without searching for the promise of something more.

In life I'm relying on my gut instinct more than I did before.  There is something about a physical reaction that is worth listening to.  When I first met my latest crush, there were definite butterfly moments.  Or indigestion. But the idea of running into him gave me a physical reaction and once I got past the shock, it was a feeling I now look forward to. (I'm not used to feeling like a teenager anymore.)

You wouldn't know by watching me walk or talk, but I am often assaulted by doubt and insecurities.  The ideas of low self worth will randomly surprise me from time to time.  Depression will creep up on me if I'm not cautious about the thoughts I allow to roam unbidden through my mind.  Silencing doubt and insecurities and that voice that chimes in the nonsense of not being enough is sometimes a challenge, but when it's quiet and instead I can hear my intra-personal cheering section, I feel stronger and confident.

I'm creating a score that builds in urgency and excitement. It's a trail of light footsteps that lead me through a forest on a path dotted with small animals and dewy moss covered rocks.  It's sunshine that filters through the trees, warming the coldest recesses of my heart and making me stretch in sweet resistant pain.

What are you listening to when you can no longer hear the words or see the frames?

Unconditional Love

img_0711 There is something so romantic about the idea of unconditional love, but those warm fuzzies rarely touch on the realities of what it really means to love unconditionally.  It's a concept I spend way too much time thinking about.

Having my ex abandon me in every way he could forced me to really look at what it meant to be the wife I wanted to be.  I wanted to love him unconditionally.  No matter what he was doing to hurt me and push me away and have another woman treat me like our 15 year marriage didn't matter, I took my vows seriously and I wore my wedding band and declared I was his wife, because it took two to get together and I never co-signed his departure.  I wanted to love him no matter what he did because love is a choice.  Every moment you choose to listen to the whispers that float through your mind.  You make the selfish choices.  You make the selfless choices, but you choose and you act, and at the end of the day, it is what we've made it and we choose to accept it or we don't. Everything I had known, trusted and believed in shifted on March 11 of 2015.  It was in February - it was on my birthday this year that I decided loving myself without condition meant I had to stop treating myself worse than I would treat strangers. I was the wife I wanted to be and it was time to be the person I want to be. In the end, I loved my identity as a wife more than I loved him.

The picture above was borrowed from the blogger who shares her heart at Chinese Energy Healing and pictures that say so much more than I feel on Instagram.  I've been blessed enough to experience one of her hugs, and she knows what it is to hold you up, and hold you together, and just surround you with her warmth and her love and you will be transformed by the joy she gives you, even if she could really use some of yours as well.

Unconditional love doesn't come with expectations and leave with disappointment.

If your heart is breaking, you expected someone's love to hold and keep you.  In the absence of their love, you were left to fall and falter through disappointment, looking for solid ground because the rug was pulled from under you and every time you think you are standing, someone adjusts it violently again.  It comes in cyclical waves.  I know heartbreak because I know this reliance.

Loving without conditions means there isn't a cost to the love you give.

You love deeply and freely without reservations - without expecting something in return.  You love when you know you aren't loved.  You accept that they won't change for you.  They won't give you their time.  They won't do things for you or even let you know that they value you.  You love them because of who they are, in spite of what they do. Reciprocation is just a bonus.

Love is about doing what is best for the person you love, not out of obligation or repayment, but because their happiness is so closely tied to yours.

As Mom, I love seeing my kids happy.  I like to know that my drama isn't weighing on them.  They have their own drama to sort out and knowing they feel confident and safe relying on me helps me put them first.  This weekend and the last couple of times my Dad had a health concern, I was able to be the daughter  I want to be.  I was able to be there and help him if by bringing him peace, or by shifting his perspective by sharing the deeper parts of who I have grown into.  I was talking with a coworker today who spent part of his weekend moving his Dad to his new retirement home.  His sense of duty seemed to lattice into working with his hands and spending time with his brother but in the gentle laugh lines, a random scattering of gray hair and an open expression that settled into calm there was peace and sense of accomplishment that I could recognize.  (Attractive? Yes but I'm not sure I'd ask a friend to step aside to stop blocking my view, which I did a little over a week ago with someone else.) I'm a nurturer, but even as a salt of the earth type, the responsibility that feels like unconditional love touches all of us if we let it. No matter what duty dictates, there is peace in knowing you can adult enough to take care of yourself and extend it to your parents, without being offered anything more than love and a heavy dose of frustration that looks like teenage angst and rebellion from time to time from both you and your parents.

If you're still lost on the concept, think about a favorite pet.

I got home with tired feet after having to drive 18 miles to pick up Kid1 from his Dad. The frustration peaked and I kept reminding myself that no distance is too far for my kids.  I got home and my cat wanted to claw me because she wanted food.  I'm not saying you should think of your pets as givers of unconditional love.  They expect food and they lick you because they like you for caring for them.  People don't get much more from pets than a place to pour love and attention and in return for love and food, they get wagging tails and licked faces (with the same tongue that licks their own butt). The joy of an animal is enough to so many people. The dog fills this for me because when I'm not being selfish, we're friends. The cat is here to keep the mice out of my 1020's bungalow on a hillside. She has a job and I love her because she does it. She also brought me little birds for a solid week when the ex left. She loves me. People love pets unconditionally.

Unconditional self love . . .

For me, this is a constant journey that unravels with deeper meaning and greater rewards each and every day. It means loving being alone because my own company is my very favorite.  That looks like going to restaurants and dating destinations alone.  I'm due for a walk along Santa Monica pier and a quiet sunset alone . . . likely at my next kid free moment.

It means I'm not settling into something because I'm grasping for a connection but enjoying each moment for what it is because it's right before me and it doesn't need to become more than what it is.

I'm not reliant on how others make me feel because there is so much I feel on my own and that is its own reward.  It looks like a willing discovery of what makes me happy without framing it in the expectations or suggestions of others.

It's admitting that I can be wrong, but I'm still amazing in spite of that.  It's knowing that a mistake isn't fatal unless it makes me stop completely when I can still go forward in a different way. It's being brave through fear because I owe the possible reward to myself. I take responsibility for my choices and hope to grow through facing up to how I might have mistreated others.

It's about loving my body right now, for what it is and what it has been capable of with special care to ignore what was and what it could be because that wouldn't be right now.  With or without makeup I take selfies because I'm beautiful to me.  Unconditional love is about loving what is rather than the potential we place on what could be. It's about exploring your own sexual freedom, whether that means free love or total abstinence.  It's about what feels right to you because you matter more than anyone else.

Unconditional love means I forgive others that I felt have hurt or wronged me.  Every once in awhile I am gobsmacked with rage at the latest offense by the ex and "I forgive him," becomes a chant.  When sleepless nights were a nightly routine, I would wake and pray to God and forgive my ex over and over and eventually falling right back to sleep would happen mid sentence and now I rarely even wake up until the sun starts to filter through the curtains in a morning greeting of warmth and potential. I know that withholding forgiveness doesn't affect anyone but myself and that rage turns to bitterness so I forgive because then I am the one that chooses what my heart feels like.

We love because we can and it feels amazing. We can love without expectations. We can give because it's how we grow. We can give unconditional love and it can feel amazing to do so.

Vocabulary Lessons

So much of what we say comes from what has been said and these words hold the meaning handed down from those that taught us.  Your values are handed down in diluted milk from bottles with cracked rubber nipples and only transform once life has offered more than you ever wanted and the new normal looks nothing like it did.  At that time we start gulping down mouthfuls in a heavy stein because we know how to breathe through our noses and don't need to be burped. I must redefine life in order to keep from being swallowed by it.  I need new reference points and new meanings to make it okay.  We need to make life better in the new frame things sit and shift in.

What is your definition of success?

Once upon a time success meant enough disposable income to hire someone to clean up after me.  Now it's more about my state of existence. Am I happy?  Am I joyful? Does my joy rely on situations or people?  I see joy as something that comes from within.  It's not peace as much as a fluid state of accepting the many things I can't control, knowing I can always control my reactions.  I don't have to control or complete anything.  I can appreciate this moment and my ability to be present in it.  That is success to me.

What is your definition of failure?

There are times when my ability to step back and see what is important is given away.  I will give my strengths away to the rage that clouds my judgement.  It's often part of life when what I expected looks nothing like I thought it would and what I see needs to be redefined because nothing fits.  I lost it almost a week ago.  I'm usually calm and level headed, but I wanted things to go my way and I couldn't have it because I can't control what is outside of my reactions.  I was biting my nail (right thumb only) down to the quick.  I was weaving through traffic and speeding and creative was almost reckless.  Failure was getting home and having a drink in defeat, rather than in celebration.  Failure is reacting in a way that others are afraid to share their truths with me and about me because they have to dance on eggshells because of my possible reaction.

What do you call the in between?

The space in between is full of power and possibility. It's where I can evaluate what is before me and control my reaction to what I can not control.  It's where I can gauge my fear and boldly act in spite of it, stepping out in bravery and strutting around in courage.

What is home?

Home used to be where my husband was. I used to tell my ex  that it didn't matter where we lived, because my home was with him.  Home is where I feel most at peace.  It can be in a snuggle and tickle session with my sons.  It can be in my car and facing the ocean.  It can be alone in the car because I love being alone lately.  It can be deep in a conversation about everything and nothing all at once.  It's where I am seen and heard, if only the thoughts afraid to emerge because I will not give them the credence they deserve.

The friendzone.

I once joked about this place.  It was where bitter men go when they aren't chosen and they're too passive aggressive to have a tantrum and call me names for my rejection.  And yes, I've had some really angry men try to hurt my feelings for not being interested in them. It was also where I stuck some of the greatest men in my life.  If I never got romantically involved, I could always rely on them listen to my deepest thoughts and know that their friendship (and mild attraction to me) would keep them around.  Then I was put in the friendzone.  It was a first for something that wasn't mutual.  I enjoy the idea of being worth keeping around, but I finally get the allure of sticking around.  It's really not a bad place to find yourself.  I'm also in a place where I wasn't too excited about a real commitment.

What is work?

I felt that work was about getting paid for what you can do.  I see it as getting to go somewhere that challenges you, makes you happy while doing it, and then pays you on top of it.  Work is no longer about doing something I hate, but about finding a happy place to be passionate about what you are doing.  I have yet to find joy in down time, but the times when I am challenged and pushed and concepts are expanded are happy.  I leave work feeling really happy every day.

What is family?

I once saw family as obligations and duty.  It was the family you were given, and the one you chose, and creating a bridge for the two that often had me straddling two sides while making repairs and feeling like I've been walked all over in the process.  I see family as a network of support.  My family supports me in all the ways they think are best for me, and the reward is huge if I really look for what that means and looks like since the shift that removed the floor I stood on and threw me off and into amazing love that is stronger than I ever thought I'd have a right to feel.

What is love?

I grew up on love songs and ideals.  I know what I thought it would be and I went for it. I bought that dream and set of ideals and stored all of my souvenirs.  I see it differently now.  It's fluid and flows around all of us.  We have a choice to confine our love to a single set of people we trust, or we can love completely and blindly, throwing everyone and everything into the shadow of our protection.  We can consistently choose what is an action in perfect love for humanity, and I find that choice usually benefits me profoundly as well.

What is beauty?

It's what I choose to look for at every opportunity and in everything.  It's finding you have a beach body because you have a body at the beach.  It's the fall of rain in my desert home and not complaining about getting wet or drivers that follow too closely.  It's the sweet fan of dark lashes that shield the eyes you enjoy looking into.  It's the warmth of a hand to hold when you are most afraid or close to losing control of the crazy thoughts and emotions taking you hostage.  It's the smile of someone that wants your smile in return.  It's a field of California Poppies and butterflies floating while hummingbirds hover.  It's friendship that spans decades and knows just how to pick you up, no matter how many months or years have gone unnoticed . . . because they will always know and love you at your core.

Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me, You are beautiful but you'll go through school and meet classmates that will try to convince you otherwise.  One day girls will stop trying to pick fights with you and you will understand how much love, support and strength you were born into when your sisters go to bat for you. You won't fit the features of your classmates and cultural contemporaries and you will find love and friendship in other cultures.  Never lose your wonder and curiosity for other people. Your hair is different and you'll hate to brush it, but one day you'll make peace with your hair (but not a curling iron) and you'll grow into confidence to match your beauty and it will be okay.  One day strangers - both men and women - will stop to tell you that you have a beautiful smile and they'll want nothing more than to keep that smile on your face.  The names you were called for your full lips and messy hair will be a painful but distant memory and it's not your fault that you look different.  You are different and different is amazing.

There will be silly boys that will make it seem really likely that they are the only ones that see how amazing you are because they were the only ones brave enough to ask you out.  They will want you to touch them when you just want a hug.  They will make you feel like affection is an obligation, but it's not.  You are in control of your own body and no one is entitled to it but you.  You'll find your day brightened by the random people that go out of their way to say hello because there are really nice people in the world and they know that you usually are one of them too.

 You may never get the concepts of team sports, but you will love the many ways your body proves how amazing it is. Childbirth will empower you in ways that you won't be able to properly verbalize.  You will see the world differently through the act of raising children that came from your body. You will find joy in hiking down and then up a cliffside because it can feel amazing to push the limits of what you thought you were capable of. Wear knee pads during all of your drill team practices because knee pain at 23 is unfair and you will find any excuse to accept the responsibility of your injuries and beat yourself further for it.  Fake it until you feel it and above all, remember there is fun to be had and that feels better than a trophy that needs to be dusted looks.  You'll get more satisfaction from academic achievements anyway. You love the ocean. Don't let anyone steal that freedom from you. Learn to ask for help (this goes for the 38 year old writing this to you as well).  No one is worth the words that need to come out of you.  Never stop writing and never feel bad about loving literature. You can make a game of a stick and a plastic bag and you create worlds out of the thoughts in your mind.  You are amazing in the life that flows through you. Love freely and madly, but love yourself first.  When you take a risk and end up with a broken heart that feels beyond repair, know that pain needs to flow through you so love can take its place.  Muting pain in distractions will only leave a festering wound for later.  You'll heal and the scar tissue makes you stronger in the long run.  You can take as many chances at love as you want, but you must do it in the time that feels right to you.  Any faster or slower and you'll miss out on the beauty that love wants to offer you.  Volcanic ash leads to fertile soils, but the cost is total devastation first.

Never stop singing and dancing.  You don't have to do it well, but you have to do it because it makes you happy.  Sing and dance with your children because your depression will be a burden they will try to carry for you.  You have to break the cycle of depression you were born into and that means learning not how to cope, but redirect your reactions in a way that your children can learn healthy choices from your example.  Remember how much hurt feelings really do hurt and do your best to think of your children's fragile feelings because fixing a mistake is so much harder than being mindful in the first place.

Be yourself.  One day you'll realize you prefer the cute boys that are passionate about things that require more mental acuity than physical agility (because slightly geeky is hot) and think of you as smart.  You'll really hate talking to boys that only see you as a face or a body.  Try not to give them hell or be so vindictive in hurting their feelings. You can't expect better of them than they expect of themselves.  You were not created to fix anyone else's Mommy issues.

You have empathy in you and it is the greatest gift.  You will be blessed by giving it away.  You feel more than most and it gives you deep insight into others.  You see the unseen and when you take a moment to tell them they are seen, it brings you pleasure to gauge their reactions.  This doesn't make you responsible for how others feel and you need to release the burdens of the world.  Don't bother watching the news because you will feel the sorrows of the lives shattered and weep with mothers that have lost children.  You will learn from everyone that touches your life if you allow your heart to remain open.  Your best friend will teach you that you can't be angry at the ignorant, but you can pity them. You will forgive people for the unimaginable but it will give you freedom and peace.  One day you will realize your Uncle was right when he explained we are all children or parents in our relationships and it's a choice.  You will decide you are no longer a child and you will talk to your parents as an adult and that day is when they will start to respect the woman you've become.  You are not a victim to the life you get to lead.

You will gain so much patience from mothering your children and your tolerance will be high, but you don't have to be a doormat because you are patient.  Stand up for yourself because if you don't, others will think you're on the ground for their benefit.  At the end of the day, it's about your perspective and it's important to let it shift from time to time.  You will feel the weight of rejection based on how much you valued the acceptance that you never needed in the first place. You are enough.  Just be. Keep your value in your own hands because only you can appreciate it.

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You were born to be more than you have been and I'm giving you back the authority you so carefully handed off to others.  Your life is your own and it's time you wear your glass slippers and straighten that damn tiara.  I'm the grown up and it's time I take care of you. It's time to pick up every fall and check our battered knees. It's time to tell you that I know it hurts, but we can bandage our own injuries and I can help you through the painful parts because it's time for you to release them.

Early Morning Reflections

Being a light sleeper and living on little sleep is one of my gifts of motherhood.  It's the one without a gift receipt so you never know it's value and you can't take it back. When I say this to people they usually assume I'm super productive because of it, but I'm not.  That may be up for interpretation.  I'm laying it out for you to decide. Often I lay in bed, scrolling through social media on my phone so I can pretend I'm keeping up with friends.  Once my curiosity is satisfied, I will think about the day I had and the day that's coming.  I'm sure I got these questions from a book or something.  I don't remember where but I started doing this at a really painful time in my life when I needed the work each morning to help me get through each moment because pain comes in waves and sometimes riptides.

What am I grateful for today?

Sometimes I'm grateful for a moment to snuggle Kid3.  This morning I thought of the back and forth messages from that friendship that always reminds me that he wants better for me than I do at times.  He makes me feel beautiful and wanted and he's safe because we plan to keep each other into old age.  He's amazing.  You should have one of him, but not him.  He's mine.  Other mornings I'll think of how great it is to get to do the things I once had no control over or things that took an ability I hadn't mastered to do because that was the life I had chosen to accept.  I wake up grateful that my aging body chooses to not remind me of the years I've abused my knees. I'm grateful that avoiding wheat makes me feel like a normal person.

Yesterday was winning because . . .

I think of a concrete example of a moment of joy or excitement or even peace.  Yesterday there was enough work to keep me happy and the challenges stroke my brain in all of the good places.  There was a space of goodness under heavy skies when my night was full of promise and the conversation was interesting.  I couldn't ask for more in that moment. There was hope on my way home.  It got away from me after a few hours, but it consistently sneaks into my dreams throughout the night and I woke up in a good mood.

What was the payout for the risks I took?

I want to take more risks.  That step in bravery despite my fear is where I find amazing payouts.  Last night it was in writing something that isn't likely to be shared.  I posted this story because while it started out interesting to me, I didn't invest totally in the dystopian world I had in mind, and it embodied every single one of my fears about writing that great big novel.  It is my definition of crap. I shared it because if it's out there and being what it is meant to be, I can no longer fear the unknown that is far worse in my mind.

Did I keep the agreements I made?

This part was something new from the MITT class I took. I'm often over committing to things I have no interest in doing because I want to be nice.  But at the point of agreeing, I've broken a commitment to myself to do what makes me happy.  It's a moment where I need to step back and take notice.  I've entered a space of inauthenticity.  What was more important than my honesty? What makes my thoughts, ideas and feelings any less valuable than the person I gave my pseudo existence to? I've also been meaning to watch a movie or television because I haven't been doing that lately, and there's a museum or two I've been wanting to visit.  But there's always tomorrow.  These are promises I've made to myself and I want to follow through on my desires because I matter.

What goals do I want to kick into existence today?

This morning's goals look like a to do list.  I have plenty of things to fill out and file because that is what autism mom duties often look like.  I have housework to get through and I want to write something that washes the remorse of last night and my mild hangover away.  I want to write something that changes me as I process what flows freely and I need pull out the stubborn thoughts that nibble quietly at who I am.

 

Wild Fire

It's the time of year in Los Angeles where the dry heat is warm until it becomes unbearable in the sun.  The smell of suntan oil conjures memories of sun soaked days as a child before we found out how dangerous the sun really is.  It's also fire season.  It's the time of year when you can often step outside, smell the smoke from a wildfire, and stand in the ash fall that drifts through blowing winds and lands softly after the smolder of embers have exhausted their fuel. As I left work this afternoon, there was a purple cloud far above me and the hint of the fires that created it barely kissed the skies in Burbank from Santa Clarita. I could see more than smell it.

The irony of fire containment and controlling a fire is in the way that fire is controlled.  You have to destroy the fuel that would feed the fire in order to keep it from consuming what it wants to.  Firefighters will actually create a controlled backfire to create a line to herd flames into consuming all they can and dying out. Containment means there is nothing left for the fire to burn. 

I lost control tonight.  Frustration became rage and I was speeding along the 10 freeway under a yellowed moon that seemed too large to escape. My friend tonight is Jose Cuervo and he would tell you I'm sugar coating things but I was driving way too fast and the music filling my car couldn't calm the rage in my head.

Like a wildfire, there was a perfect set of conditions and the spark that set the flames ablaze was small.  It caught me by surprise.  I had set my own fire line ablaze and for the longest time, all of my dried branches were already burned down.  Nothing could touch me because all of my rage was spent. Until tonight. 

Most people that know me feel I'm a calm person.  I generally am.  I don't get angry often and usually keep my perspective geared toward who I want to be.  That requires burning my fuel so no one else can.

Since the 7th grade I've gotten several compliments on the size of my breasts.  What can I say? Grandma's endowment is envious to some.  Today I was complimented on my boobs.  It's a thing.  It happens.  It happened all the time when I was dating online.  Consistently, I deflect it with the realities of mature breasts.  I have been pregnant, and nursed babies.  These food bags have filled with milk and now look like what I imagine a retired stripper's breasts would look like.  It's not a pretty picture, especially when I can still hear the dialogues given to me by the ex.  I deflect the attention because allowing life to spring forth where it was once dead and had been burned down only means it will burn to embers at another date in a later fire season. 

My autistic sons went through extreme sensory integration dysfunction as toddlers.  When they discovered they could create textures to play in and they could pull it out of their diapers, I went through a phase of freaking out.  They would often sit quietly and play in the poop they just made.  Just the other day the kids left and I pulled couches away from the wall.  There were snack sized wrappers for the foods they ask for from the grocery store.  After a few minutes I started laughing.  That part of me was broken and it now looks different because it can.  The fires have burned out on that rage. 

The inability to illicit a reaction on small things is more about the many ways all life around me has burned.  It was controlled. It was consuming. It is all around me and existing during firestorms means I can take the heat and I'm not afraid of the licking flames. There's nothing left to burn. There is beauty and strength in these ashes.