Blog

13 Reasons Why and Suicide or Hard Conversations with my Boys

I like talking to my sons in the car.  I control how loud the radio is.  They can't run away.  We can talk without looking at each other. I don't shy away from the difficult conversations.  We've talked about the divorce, Dad and Mom dating other people, wet dreams, racism, abuse and homophobia.  A lot of times I talk and they listen.  On really good days, they ask questions and tell me their thoughts. I was dropping them off at school when the radio station started discussing 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix series.  This was one of those moments I embraced as a moment to face them in honesty and openness, hoping they would gain clarity, and started by asking what they know about it.

Kid1 knew the basic story.  I admitted that I had binge watched the whole shebang over a couple of days.  It draws you in, but not in a responsible way.  I had to point out a few things that I felt needed to be pointed out and I'm giving you the benefit of that talk.

First we talked about our own experiences.  I started with theirs.  My older two sons were taken by ambulance from school after telling their teachers they wanted to kill themselves.  As hard as that was, I'm grateful they talked to adults they could trust.  They made the choice to verbalize their feelings and we were able to support them by getting help. It's the kind of experience that shakes a family up.  My younger kids learned from what the oldest did, but I hope to teach my kids from what I know.

Depression isn't a life sentence.  We are given coping skills by example from our parents.  If I learn how to navigate depression, being self aware with self love and amazing coping skills, they could learn from me.  It's possible to break a family cycle of anything but if it's to be done, it has to be done by me.  I don't get to sit this one out and hope they float.  You don't just survive life after the existence that I have had.  You thrive, you take names with your notes, and you hold the hands of those looking for guidance.

Back to my boys . . . We talked about the series. This was a book and a work of fiction. Suicide is permanent and discussing it with my kids, it's important for me to remember those teen years when everything was immediate and there was no real concept of permanence.  For my own memories, what lasted a few weeks or months seemed to be the end of the world and lasted the rest of my life.  At least until the next big thing to shake me to my core.

Suicide never gives a person as much control or power as Hannah (from the series) had.  You have nothing in death.  Even martyrs have no power, as the control of the movement is carried on by the living.  Hannah's revenge plot was carried out by the living.

This doesn't negate the power of what she endured.  The reality of some of that story is a reality for many teens.  The takeaway I wanted my kids to understand is that should they choose to watch it, they needed to pay attention to the fact that Hannah doesn't take ownership of her situation or her reaction.  She blames everyone else for a choice she made on her own.

When I watched it, the part that didn't fit for me was her depression.  She was sad.  She was alienated and targeted.  Was she depressed? My depression has looked like a desire to stay in bed and be isolated.  She wanted to be around others.  My appetite was affected and at the end of the series, I couldn't relate to her.  The finality of her choice looked nothing like the times I debated "to be or not to be." It looked like she stepped outside of deciding to end her life, and made her death a revenge plot.  In depressed states, I rarely thought about anyone but me.  I wasn't capable of it.  I wasn't able to look outside of the immediate moment and onto a moment in the next hour, let alone 13 tapes later.

I was open and honest with my kids about my experience.  I told them about the time I was hospitalized for my first suicide attempt at 14.  It wasn't about being held by the hospital so I wouldn't hurt myself.  I was hospitalized for an overdose of Tylenol and they kept me until they were able to get me stable.  I told them about getting help then.  I told them about getting help for the baby blues when my firstborn was a few months old. I described pushing Kid1 in a stroller to see my therapist because I needed help.  I reminded them about the period when my middle son was facing severe depression the first time. I was also taking care of their Dad's late Uncle's affairs.  To me, family means commitment and duty.  I had only met this Uncle a handful of times, but when it was time to take care of his remains and spending weeks on end to clear out his apartment, I was the only family willing to do so.  I was overwhelmed and unable to spend time with a therapist of my own, so I sought help with my general practitioner and she put me on antidepressants.  It was what I needed until I was able to safely care for my own emotional needs.  The lesson was that I got help and I kept getting help.

I also told my sons about what I'm feeling now.  I told them how hard it was to lose my children in a miscarriage.  I told them I'm not ready to release their ashes but it's something we will do soon.  I explained that I cry when I need to and get space when I need to.  I've been gardening and baking and shopping because this is my version of self care.  I write and cry and sing out loud because this is how I heal.  I start a new position in Santa Monica tomorrow and I will be near the ocean and find peace with the sounds and smell.  All this means I'm not okay, but I will be and it gets better each day.  It helps to be self aware which is something I am still learning.  It helps to know what is something I need to work through and what is something that comes from other people.

I explained that I don't get to blame others for what I feel.  Maybe I'm a strong person and that means others take it for granted that I can handle everything.  Maybe I'm so hated that others like to kick me when I'm down.  Maybe the idea of losing a child is something that makes others face that fear on their own and that makes people uncomfortable.  There were three specific moments right after my miscarriage that I felt like being alone were better options.

The day after I found out I had miscarried was a Thursday.  I was walking around, knowing my twins had stopped living inside of me.  I felt so trapped and betrayed by my body. It felt like my heart was fractured and my belly felt heavy and burdened instead of light and filled with hope and life. I was trapped in my home and my skin.  I went for a walk through Chinatown to escape my thoughts.  I was called and then called out for not helping someone else through my grief.  I explained that my boyfriend and I were helping each other through it all and I was told, "who is helping me?" For a moment I felt like I was wrong for focusing on healing with my boyfriend as they were our kids.  I worked through the anger and realised I wasn't wrong in doing what we needed to in order to get through what we had to get through. I wasn't responsible for how others needed to face our loss.

The day after the abortion I didn't want, I was called by someone else and told I was so hated that this person couldn't find empathy for me, and somehow I was supposed to make this person feel better.  I was putting him in an awkward position, somehow. I was packing away my maternity clothes that no longer fit and ultrasounds that were no longer a focus of hope.  In my grief, I was preparing for my boyfriend and my sons to come home.  In a rare moment I was trapped in a feeling that I hadn't known in months or maybe a year.  I was manipulated and made to feel bad by someone that no longer matters in my life.  It took a while to separate what was grief and what was irrelevant so I could move on.  When I felt the power of my grief removed from the pain of someone else's expectation, I felt peace.  I know I couldn't have controlled what happened and I was dealing appropriately with what we were given.  I felt peace in knowing I wasn't being unreasonable but the call I took was.

On Monday, not yet a week from the news, I was making calls to have my babies cremated and I was expected to stop that to help someone else with everyday life.  I did.  I managed to function outside of my expectations and do what I was asked.  I needed time to myself and to take care of my children but outside life rarely allows you the space you need.  I was intentional with responding to the situation and not reacting the way my heart wanted me to.

I am accountable for how I choose to react or respond.

I am worthy of loving myself.  Self love when angry, sad, or hurt.  I am worthy of it.

I am not expected to take care of others, although it is nice to know I can because I'm a strong woman.

I can separate my feelings from those imposed on me.

I can ask for help.

I hope that at the end of the day my kids can learn from my experiences and know that there is help and hope and a future through depression.  You get to live and in living through your pain and finding the rainbows through the storms, you get to help others.  It's a gift. I don't hate 13 Reasons Why.  I'm grateful for the conversation it started.

As of now, I'm still involved in self care and my family is loving the gluten free red velvet cakes I keep baking.  My yard looks nicer than it has and in a few weeks we'll have fresh veggies warm from the sun.  And I'm still here.

 

Actively Grieving Through My Miscarriage

I woke up reaching for my children, knowing they weren't there anymore and sobbing that they were gone.  My nurse drugged me into silence with both dilaudid and percocet and a prescription for 800 milligrams of ibuprofen for when I was out of hearing range. Her relief began when I was too drugged to cry for a pain she couldn't soothe. Even through my pain and the opiates, her relief was such a contrast from what I felt.

Read More

How I Use My Birthday to Plan Life and Death

It’s my birthday month. I know a few people that make it a month long celebration but I’m not that person. I might be too intense for those shenanigans. I spend a couple of weeks looking for my perfect birthday gift. I don’t plan what I’ll do. It doesn’t usually work out the way I want it to when I do. It didn’t work out with my ex, and now my kids are set in what they will and will not do.

February is the month when I celebrate my next lap around the sun, rather than the last one I just completed. It’s an opportunity to jump into this next year with a sense of direction and excitement.

I spend a few days dreaming big. It’s a time to think of the ways the year felt amazing and the ways I wanted more than I experienced. The thing about a dream is it hasn’t happened yet. No matter how big or small you dream, you get to create what you imagine. Why not dream big? It’s the difference between dreaming of a slice of cheesecake and owning the shop that makes them all day. You don’t have either in front of you and you get to create the steps to get the goal you’re after. It sounds silly until you imagine the ways you stop yourself from dreaming big. I didn’t dream big as a child. My only life goal was to make enough money to hire someone to clean up after me. It’s a gift I’ve handed onto my kids. At Christmas I saw how I have been living in scarcity to the point where my kids asked for permission to dream of a wish list. I get to dream big so they can see we limit ourselves and we don’t have to.

My first big goal is a trip to Canada. Kid1 wants to go to Canada and I would love to take my boys. That means getting passports and there are steps and documents I need for that. I need to figure out where he wants to go which is hard right now. He’s not talking to me. He hates the idea I have a boyfriend that I want him to get to know. I’m giving him space for a few days, but Canada is about him so we have to find space to make amends. I get to figure out the finances when the single parent rodeo is a difficult and expensive ride and I’m a temp that hops from agency to agency when opportunities present themselves. And permission. I get to see if their Dad will allow me to travel out of the state, let alone the country. There are goals and steps and I get to figure them out and step into each task.

I work out the kinks in my planner. My planner is really just a 3 ring binder with months broken up. Rather than a budget, I set up what is due and when it’s due because bills are my reality. I have goals set to tackle certain things as a priority. I have things listed I want to experience, and I have steps broken down. It outlines my goals, but also my 18-month plan. I have sections for my kids, and finances, goals, what I need to do, field trips and reading lists. The hard part for me is deciding what I can do each day to work toward those goals. It’s easy to procrastinate.

Normally my Christmas task is to write letters but I didn’t get to it at Christmas, so I’m doing that this month as well. I write letters to my loved ones so they have my final words if I unexpectedly die. I keep track of things I would add to my obituary, so it’s easier for whoever gets to arrange that, but I also write letters to my siblings and nieces. Unlike the times when I've been depressed and suicidal, writing this out (in it's morbid glory) is the one way I'm thinking of others.  When suicidal, I was incapable of thinking about others or beyond the next hour.

What is amazing is how the thought of dying really makes you appreciate what you have in living and it often makes me have conversations I would normally put off. It’s a way to force myself to clear the air and be present in my relationships. It’s a way to show my family how much I love them, even when I don’t make time for them in my selfishness.

February is my month to shoot forward into the next year and it looks like a month of planning.

How To Find Closure After Something Special Ends

A few mornings ago Kid3 was singing an Adele song and laughing about it. He found the funny without knowing what it was about, other than the many memes starting with, “Hello.” I asked if he knew what the song was about and I told him it was about getting closure and saying hello a long time after a relationship ended. Then the jaded bits came out to bite me and it’s worth looking at if it makes my inner cynic stand at attention.

Closure is about being able to move on from something that meant enough to destroy you a bit when it ended. It could be a relationship. Or a job you relied on. Or the death of a person you didn’t expect to die and refuse to let go of. It’s about accepting that something you loved and cherished doesn’t exist in your life anymore and knowing that it isn’t who you are. You are not a broken relationship and the past is not where you'll find your badassery.

The angry black woman in me said, “you expect someone that failed you while you were both in love to make you feel better now that you’ve had the time to move on?” I mean, true artistry looks like this woman in love. Even when you aren’t amazing, my heart full of infatuation can make something truly terrible look like I can’t live without it. I take your flaws and push them aside because living with them is better than living without you. Take that amazing artist interpretation, give it time and I may just see how much we really weren’t made for each other.

Time will show me the ways I didn’t give space or obsessed way too much over every single detail that seemed relevant but really wasn’t. I’ll see the ways I failed and pride will shove the reasons he failed me to the forefront. And closure sometimes asks us to reconnect to reexamine and release these things. But why?

I’m currently in a relationship. It’s new and I’m still in that happy phase so this really is a look back and doesn’t apply to him. But he's different. I can see the things I question and his answers shift my perspective. I'm different.

Looking at past relationships, there was a fascination in each man I cared about to the point that I wasn’t caring for myself. I wasn’t writing or finding time to be in my happy place. I was relying on him for happiness and that means I wasn’t happy. That neediness often made him (all of the hims) unhappy.

Take my unhappy ass, add a man who was equally unhappy. Subtract the value for our love and how much we cared about each other and it still didn’t add up to keep us together. In the ways we cared about each other . . . The ways we lied to soften the blow of rejection . . . Ultimately, walking away is the greatest rejection possible . . . And that care still couldn’t keep us connected. Time passes and for me that means head turning weight loss. I return to my happy place that shares way more than you’d ever be comfortable with. I start buying myself flowers and reminding myself of the ways I’m awesome that couldn’t be seen under the shadow of the man I placed on my pedestal, and let’s find that closure!

The reality for me is that I have never been able to find closure in a conversation with the men I once gave my all to. I couldn’t see how he might fail me until he did and once I had that hindsight vision of who he was, I see how he could have never been what I painted him as. I see the ways he could never even communicate what I needed to hear because he’s never been as open or emotionally self aware as I am. I held him to my standard and I know he’ll never meet another woman like me. I’ll never meet another woman like me.

For me, closure comes from hindsight and a vision of what my future should be. It comes in facing the ways I accepted less than I desired and taking notice of the ways I undervalued myself to prove to them they were worthy of my love, affection, time and desire. (My desire though... Not everyone can or should handle that much intensity.) I appreciate the times that were good. I relive a few of the good memories. I’m careful to see them with the perspective of someone that was once in love and is now happy and fulfilled in self-love. I can see the good for the good it was. I can also see the ways it was a relationship I would never wish on a loved one and I can stand tall as I walk away because the closure I needed was always in my control and not at the mercy of a man who failed me and odds are would repeat that pattern.

Find the good. Honor it. See the bad. Recognize how you accepted it and promise yourself to do better next time. Be open to love and let go of fear. That’s the closure you’re looking for. It will come in waves and surprise you when you least expect it to.  Go with it.

Do Better and Be Better 

You have the individual power to uplift someone or tear them down. You can wrap your needs around someone else to the point where your survival takes their life. Don't be that person. This will be a day of conquest and joy for me. I'm feeling good.

You never know when another person is dangerously on edge and the words they hold and chew into calm are ready to unleash scars that will ripple into your silent places of reflection.

Do better and be better. Kindness is free.

Being Drained by Emotional Vampires

Lately when my phone rings I'm pretty sure it's going to be someone that needs a zap of my sunshine because staying positive is a thing I do.  Most interviews and follow ups come in as emails. I answer all calls and return the calls I miss because I believe a call (or text) means someone has something important to say to me.  Even pocket dials are taken as an opportunity for serendipity. Most of the time, these calls from a small handful of people leave me exhausted.  Opening with a hello often opens the door to the many ways their frustrations and stresses and depressions weigh on their souls.  They unload, and I don't avoid it because there is a trust in being the keeper of secrets.  There is an undeniable honesty in the heaviness unburdened on me.  The phrase "emotional vampire" comes to mind, but I dismiss it because it seems harsh. Every call ends with their heaviness weighing on me.  It usually takes a moment to shake it off.  Sometimes it takes effort.  Sometimes it takes a minute in the sun.  Sometimes it just requires clothing optional lounging.  The best escape and recharge is when I get lost in nostalgia and remember the times and the men that made me smile.  It's playing with my dogs or my cat taking hostage of my arm (when she's kind enough to retract those claws). Those calls end and I'm putting on music to sing and dance to.  I'm shaking off the lingering energy that is heavy and sticky.  Sometimes those calls force me outdoors.  Today  I was content in the powerlessness of being stuck in traffic.  Wow.  Does that mean I prefer traffic to the voice I heard right before it?  I'm not sure.

My Suicide Attempt Survival Story

12705470_1200926759941244_5291325635341678539_n This post has been brewing in my mind for a bit, and it's time.  It's not that I'm suicidal or even depressed right now.  I've decided today will be a great day and I'm expecting something good is on it's way.  I believe in choosing my moods and the feelings usually follow. After that serendipity and the universe conspire to surprise me.

Yesterday I started clicking through an article on Facebook.  It was one of those "21 celebs that took their own lives" type of stories that make you click through each and every one so you get the full exposure to all of their partners and sponsors or ads.  This was a horrible set up, as it allowed the author to repeatedly rephrase their sentiment, nullifying the tragedy of a life unfulfilled into statistics and cliche.

I'm writing to make it clear that I will never call suicide a coward's way out.

My first suicide attempt was a couple of months into the 7th grade.  I'm 38 now.

I don't remember wanting to die.  I felt overwhelmed.  I had my first crush and it turned obsessive and it was the first of many unhealthy infatuations.  My great grandfather had just died and the family was planning on driving out to Houston and I didn't want to go.  We had visited often enough, every few years.  All of my memories were of him being bedridden with a colostomy bag attached to the bed in varying degrees of fullness.  I would have to climb on the bed to give him a hug and a kiss where his lips couldn't quite pucker, and it was warm and wet.  I couldn't understand his slurred speech. I'd wander through his immaculate house full of mirrors and fiber optic lamps, and crystal vases filled with bright silk flowers in unnatural colors.  I didn't feel an attachment to him, and I didn't want to have to pack up during the school year to head out on a trip to Texas for a funeral.  I felt lost, and uncared for.

That night I snuck out of the house around 10 to go for a walk.  Late night strolls are how I will always self medicate. I snuck back in, and didn't get caught.  I grabbed a bottle of Advil and a bottle of Tylenol and started swallowing pills, one at a time and one bottle at a time.  In the morning when I woke up vomiting, it still didn't occur to me that I might die at that point.  I told my Dad I had taken pills.  I don't even remember which parent or if both of them were with me in the Kaiser emergency room.  I was so far from understanding the gravity of the situation.  I was almost nonchalant, in between puking.

Advil would've given me a stomachache.  Tylenol needed to be flushed out of my system because my liver couldn't process it.  I had my stomach pumped and was in intensive care for a few days, drinking medicine mixed with apple juice to make it more palatable.  It was years before I could smell apple juice without wanting to vomit.  It finally hit me when I was next to a mother with her anorexic baby.  When I saw her reaction to what I was there for, I saw the stigma attached to suicide in a way that I couldn't grasp before.  I had months of therapy, and never saw that it made a difference. I still don't know that I was depressed enough to kill myself, or if I was just bored and lonely.  To this day, I only take medication when absolutely necessary and I am really happy that I'm not on any medications.

Years later, during and right after high school, I made attempts.  The most dangerous attempt wasn't a fully formed thought of wanting death.  The attempts that came later were an absolute contemplation.  I will not deny that I was so depressed, I felt dying would be better than living. They were so long ago, I can't remember a sequence, and I'm not sure it would matter.

I was drinking.  It wasn't like the dream I had last night at a bar with friends and a sweating MGD in my hands.  I was drinking alone with a knife in my hands.  I always had knives around me when I was younger.  I had a knife and I was making superficial slices along my wrists.  They were tiny scratches that didn't draw blood. I was depressed and I wanted that feeling to end, but I was more afraid of killing myself.

Another time I was sober and crying, and held a knife over my stomach.  In a rage, I had stabbed a bible multiple times because I couldn't find comfort in faith and I was ready to turn that knife on my gut.  I wanted to cut out the ache and hollow feeling in my chest.  Again, I was more afraid of the pain.

I had a bottle of vicodin once.  I held it and considered taking them, one after another as I did when I was younger.  I called someone to talk to.  She told me she didn't feel qualified and I should call someone else.  That depression was quickly replaced with rage, and I put the pills down.

I won't say that feeling is forever gone.  I know that sometimes depression will visit.  It's always a slow and gradual feeling that creeps up and if I don't take time to reflect on how I'm doing, it'll sneak up on me until it is all I can see.  When my husband told me he was leaving me, I was very aware of all I felt, and I was determined to not go on anti-depressants again because of how terrible withdrawals felt.  I had rage.  I was lost.  I was broken.  I was angry.  But I refused to be depressed and those moments came, but I fought hard to push them away.  During that time, I can say I was never a danger to myself or anyone else.  Having a mom willing to fund a 100 pound heavy bag and hand wraps really helped.

My most recent bout of severe depression was two years ago.  It was a time when I was dealing with my husband's late uncle, and a suicidal kid2, and a husband that wanted more of my attention than I was capable of giving to him, while trying not to destroy the eggshells I walked on by going against his wishes in making final arrangements for his uncle.  His mood on that was fickle and one moment he approved and was grateful.  The next he was angry at me for doing it.  A lot of our marriage, I ended up doing what meant the most to me whether or not I was given permission, and  I have a degree because of that.  Our son was being bullied and teased and I felt so powerless.  I was so busy worrying about how everyone else was doing that I didn't see my own feelings taking a dive.  One day I was on the freeway and I was surprised by an errant thought of crashing into the center divider.  It wasn't something I wanted to do, but it was a thought that crossed my mind. I got home and called my doctor for an appointment and anti-depressants.  They helped.  It took a while to kick in, but once they started working, I was able to take the hits, and not feel like I needed to do something drastic and scary.  It gave me an ability to get through what I needed to.  Now drastic and scary looks like cutting my hair into something so short my curls make me resemble a peppy poodle.

I never saw suicide as an easy out.  It seemed like an only out. It was difficult and terrifying. I can't say killing myself would've been brave.  I know when I've thought about it, I never worried about how my family would react.  I have a sister that beat cancer.  I've imagined losing her, and the thought of what her loss would do to me has backed me off of the ledge a few times.  I won't say I think of how it would hurt her if I were to die.  At my lowest I'm too selfish for that.  It takes my self focus into another person I love and my perspective shifts just enough to step back and remember a person I love, and get lost in nostalgia of her teaching me to throw a football or the red Minnie Mouse watch she bought me. I remember the first house party she took me to and her looking me in the eye with a pointed finger and threatening me about taking something and having it hit me years later that she meant taking drugs.

Being suicidal is selfish.  I can say that.  It's not selfish in the way where I would ever bash someone with it as a sharp accusation. It's selfish because the times I have been there, I didn't feel like anyone else had my concerns as their priority.  I felt I was doing what was best for me.  It wasn't about cowardice in facing a difficult life.  I didn't think that far ahead.  I didn't think farther than how I felt in that exact moment.  It's not that I didn't care about anyone.  I was just so consumed, it didn't occur to me that other people would exist in the bubble of hell I was in.

Suicide isn't the easy way out.  It's a more difficult decision than trying to get through another day of despair.  Depression that visits in cycles is something you can get used to.  Deciding you've had enough is stepping out into something new and terrifying.  I'm not advocating suicide. Clearly, I'm still alive and kicking through adversity.  I'm such a believer in life, I've given birth to three of my children and four that belong to other people. I'm just saying it's not okay to negate a life based on a choice you have never been faced with, or choose to not remember.  It's not okay to call a person's existence a cliche and ignore the devastation they've left in their wake because you don't agree with their choice.  Or because you are too afraid to try to understand it. They left behind a family marked by stigma.  That family has a lot to reconcile, but sometimes saying you don't know what to say, and offering a hug or practical help around the house is enough.  You don't have to replace their loss, or feel it fully, but let them know they are not alone and not forgotten.

Comparing Battle Scars and Posttraumatic Survival

12375995_1160730407294213_8254412565600730506_n He thought it was wonderful that his darkness didn't affect us. He had to retract that statement because he could see the darkness in my oldest two sisters.  But it didn't affect me. Not from the bubbly personality he can see. He has a way of saying whatever is on his mind, then bracing for the price and always assuming he could never bounce a word check.  His insecurities are fleeting. He's Dad and children are meant to be seen and not heard.

I often tell my kids I will screw up and I won't even see it.  I need their tender sorrows to point out my wrongs because in the flow of caregiving, I can lose the gentle care they need.  I didn't mean to inject venom in my reply, but it was a sore subject, written out with every destructive jab at this chrysalis.

"You have no idea about the darkness I fought in my early 20's.  Being able to hide it well doesn't mean it wasn't there." At that point I bit my tongue and felt the sting because I needed a physical reminder of the pain I could inflict.

He pauses before he points out I had never had segregated bathrooms.  I have never been through war. I felt like I was lacking a penis to measure and the fact that it came from my Dad who I always wanted to be more than he's capable of stung and the pain throbbed in my heart which was swollen with poison.

I took a breath.  I can't fault him for his ignorance or hubris.  He was never capable of looking beyond himself, and it makes sense I would fall for men just like him.

12552988_1178012595565994_8261439526896330352_n

"Your grandson suffers from PTSD.  His tormentors in 1st grade and the systematic denial of his concerns by school staff are as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  Trauma is subjective. I will not compare battle scars."

He agrees that I'm right, and in that moment I again denied him the opportunity to deepen our relationship because I can't handle the weight of making him feel better about the choices I've made and the lashings I let others scar me with. I denied him the knowledge of others controlling my will and my body, and in many ways my freedom.  I allowed what he taught me to accept. He will always be fragile enough that I wouldn't want to hurt him with that information and in my silence there is both denied access and protection. He looked at me in surprise because every so often, it occurs to him I'm an adult with unique thoughts from his own.

12227086_1139097039457550_1281209690915880305_n

Every so often, the depth of my perception startles my family because I see things they don't and I string words together that they couldn't imagine coming out of me.  It's the curse of being a younger child or sibling.  Family will always expect you to need their permission to mature. Being less social left me to an imagination that doesn't require clearance or acceptance from others.

12800211_1215658528468067_8513300433923764173_n

I can see where denying Dad that step into my valley of demons is also denying me human contact and acceptance.  I made a lateral leap. Today I made a choice to reach out to someone I have been wanting to talk to. It's an insignificant step, but it was my step.The only thing that needs to come out of it is that I stepped out of my comfort zone and into a healthy risk.  It's healthy to reach out in vulnerability.  It was a choice to step out of my past and the hang ups I carry and move into the light of possibility.  It was small and innocuous, but it was a choice I wasn't forced or goaded into.

How My Support System Holds Me Up

I live in Lincoln Heights.  The hills dip and climb with views of downtown L.A. and the hills above Hollywood.  After getting kids off to school I drove around streets on hills with crumbling asphalt.  There's a hefty dose of fear that the incline is so steep my car will flip backward if I'm not careful.  At one point, I couldn't see beyond the hood of my car because of how sharply the road turned up the hill. The neighborhood is all narrow streets with room for one car at a time, and never in both directions. Street names include Tourmaline St., Turquoise St., Amethyst St., Mercury Ave., Beryl St., Pyrites St., Onyx Dr., Moonstone Dr., Radium Dr., Topaz St., Galena St. and Amber Pl., and in those names, I know there was a rock doctor that found home in those hills and pleasure in the views from them. This is my home.

Throughout my neighborhood there are a few modern homes that appear out of nowhere and clearly don't belong here.  My home is a 1920's bungalow. The old bones were made to be where they have stood for nearly a century. Scattered throughout the neighborhood are lots filled with tall grass in untamed flurries and platforms of crumbling concrete.  I have only one neighbor with a perfectly manicured lawn.  She understands there is no controlling your children but you can control what your yard does. You can see the rise and run of stone or worn wood that once led somewhere.  Steps are missing, and handrails are less than memory . . .  just gone.  The supports are still there because they were so much stronger than the broken home they established.  Ivy and weeds meander and overtake lifted areas in a bid for the love of the sun and wildflowers attract bees that lazily dance through their work day.  I headed home with a clear head and plans to play in the dirt because there is something so rewarding about dirt under my nails and making things grow.

My neighbors are good people.  I never interacted with them much when my husband lived here. One summer day in the first few years we lived here, we were all outside and my husband hosed me down from head to toe.  I was soaking wet and sliding through caked on mud. He was the only one laughing.  My neighbor across the street would hear him yell from her house and always assumed there was violence in our home.  There was emotional abuse.  There was financial abuse.  There still is financial abuse. He took his aggression out on cupboard doors and bedroom doors.  He never hit me, and I only feared he would once.  That fear was enough to get a restraining order that I later had lifted.  A judge was worried about my safety to the point that he was willing to take away my husband's rights to me and our children. In all the ways my Dad stresses me out, I love him enough to never want to sever that bond between my kids and their Dad.  I would protect them from him, but I don't feel they need it. He's become the Dad I hoped he would be, without me around because he's probably a much better person without me. I wonder if I was too much of everything in the way that he was content in doing nothing once he got home. The day he moved out, my neighbors came over to see how I was doing.  They didn't know I was home and fighting to pull out the bathroom sink and vanity as he was taking out bunkbeds and the barbecue grill.  My next door neighbor told me how petty he looked in taking a grill he never used. I was usually the grill master unless I asked for his help and did all the prep for him. My neighbor offered to help with anything around the house if  I needed it. I'm a big girl.  I can vote and buy my own booze.  I keep my distance and try to be a good neighbor to him and his wife. The neighbor across the street shot me a text to make sure I was home and tell me she was taking pictures if I needed to file a police report. She opened up about her concerns of abuse and then told me of all the ways her husband hurt her.  In all of the distance I kept, they still gathered around me in support.  When we had a custody hearing, both of them offered to write character reference letters on my behalf. They did.  (The judge only looks at notarized affidavits.  Lesson learned. I wasn't trying for sole custody.  Not really.  I just know a good bargaining chip when he had no idea what I wanted. He told me what he wanted and wasn't concerned with what I cared about.)

My neighbor could see something in me that she saw in herself and when she explained it, so much clicked for me. I won't disclose how many, but I've had several people tell me about their rapist or the abuse they suffered at the hands of a loved one.  I encouraged one woman to press charges against her abuser after her experience with date rape.  In helping her, I was able to work through my own experience without ever telling her about what I felt. I printed and saved the newspaper clipping about his arrest for a long time. There's a resilience in us.  It's a light that attracts abusers, but a glow that encourages other survivors.  I get it now.  It's not always a fear of violence, but an inability to step out in confidence.  It's a part of us that I'm working on rewiring in me. It's the part of me that feels respecting others comes before my needs. It's the part of me that is comfortable living on eggshells because it's been so long since I didn't have to. It's a part of me that is only confident in the ways that mean the least to me. I used to tell my husband that I have amazing legs and a decent rack, but I couldn't show him what I wrote to the point that I stopped writing.

As I was turning off the garden hose this morning, my phone rang switching off the 311 song I was in the middle of singing.  The peace and joy I felt was in my voice as I answered my phone.  My Dad has a gift for asking what I'm doing before telling me what he needs.  One day I will call him on this manipulation.  He put me in a place where my gut twisted in stress and for a few minutes I craved the taste of courvoisier and cigarettes and the escape that was once my favorite preparation ritual before family gatherings. I'm not that person anymore.  I don't remember how she woke up without a hangover and I can't handle cold Tommy's burgers for breakfast anymore so I called my sister instead.  She gets it.  She reminded me of how amazing caller ID is.  I hung up with a plan to write and do what I was planning to do, and decide if I will be the daughter I want to be, or the person who needs to be taken care of first. I ended up choosing me with plans to fall in line as a daughter tomorrow when I can at least prepare for it.

I have a huge family that supports me in any way they can and in ways I've never even anticipated.  They are so team me that sometimes I need space to breathe in air not tinted by the anger they express in my protection.  Their love in that way can turn toxic. They also see me as resilient and can't always tell that the space I sometimes need is from them and their needs.  Their needs aren't huge, but my plate is pretty solidly full.

When I was in high school I made a boyfriend my world.  He had brown hair that flopped in a mushroom cut and loved basketball, but the game didn't love him. I used to pack his lunch and mine because giving is part of who I am. In hindsight it wasn't one of my more brilliant moves. I tend to give more than I should. He had a hard time punching a straw through a Capri Sun pouch, and I felt obligated to take care of him. I felt needed and like he wanted my brand of love.  I even skipped drill team tryouts the next year to spend more time with him. He took a cowardly exit in telling me he had to let go of me because his parents found out we were still dating long after they told us to break up. Later random girls with larger curves than mine and lipstick bolder than mine would tell me he hooked up with them when we were together.  We spent ditch days exploring the swings at Griffith Park or touring Olvera Street, but he wanted something else.   It took a while for his pregnancy scare that broke us up to get around to me.

I realized confession isn't for the person you unload on.  It's a way to unburden your own guilt without regard for the destruction you unleash on another person. Confession is selfish. I think that's why I tend to wait until confronted, or until I can see the repercussions of my actions. When I'm undeniably wrong I apologize.  My kids know I will own up to being wrong and inconsiderate.  There's no such thing as "because I said so."  They know to call me on it when I'm screwing up.  As their mom I get one shot at being what they deserve.  When I screw up, I own up to it as genuinely as I can.

It was my first time ever being dumped and I returned to the group of friends I had before him.  They were older than me, and at that time mainly on the football team.  I remember standing behind them as he would walk by with new girls on his arm, and I felt protected. I had these amazing guy friends who only saw me as a younger sister, and they were standing around me and it was a ring of protection.  He would walk by but he wouldn't look at me.  Even if he did, his look was met by the guys that at least gave the impression they would hurt him for me if I wanted them to. They were part of a hill top kick back I was never invited to.  I can appreciate that they never saw me as one of those girls. They probably have no idea how much support they were giving me. I remember being told by a few boyfriends that I was too nice and innocent and those weren't bad qualities, but that was part of my rebellion after being dumped by my New Yorker.

I have a lot of male friends that have stood by me in protective friendship throughout my life.  I was once having a party when I was in the garage at my mom's house.  At one point, I was being pulled toward my bed by a group of guys I didn't know. I had hands all over my body, grabbing and pinching me. I tried reaching out to the one guy that I was actually seeing and he left me to grab another friend of ours.  (Seeing him as a bit of a coward didn't make me want him less.) The friend he grabbed then pulled me out of my room, making that group of guys back down.  He was short and stocky, but not many people would pick a fight with him. Years later my friend's girlfriend would tell me about the many times he beat and raped her.  I left that friendship because my heart couldn't condone who he became, but the irony of being saved by a rapist from a gang rape has never settled into insignificance.

Last night there were Facebook Messenger pings back and forth between me and one of those football player friends from high school.  I told him how I finally cursed out my husband. Again, not to his face - to another friend of mine.  But I did it.  He told me I should curse out my husband to his face, and called him names for me and again, I felt supported and cared about. I told him about some of the stunts pulled this year, and he called him a coward.  I noticed a theme. Again, I'm into all the wrong people.  I then told him how much his support meant in high school too, and I'd have to go back and read our emails again to see if I ever thanked him for that.  I've been so selfish lately, I may have missed that kindness. He also told me he was in a similar situation where he needed to choose to love himself. I could hear what my friend said and see past me into having compassion for my husband.  It was another one of those moments when the path we are on has trail markers and mile marks and there is peace in that.

45771_1221987451168508_4217023058186097200_n (1)

 

I'm in a strange place.  There are times when I am angry and I want to call out all of the vulgarities that cross my mind, but the part of me that wants to be a wife in obedience to my vows has me biting my tongue in aggravated silence.  It's not about my husband but about the wife I want to be. I expect to see him in the years ahead because we have children together and I can expect that we'll both try to put them first. There are times when I am at peace because there is joy when I look at the freedom I feel away from him.  I have gratitude for my release.  Life is full of ups and downs, but I'm habitually optimistic so I look for joy and find it and that's usually when something unexpected knocks the wind out of me.

I have friends who like to tell me how amazing I am.  Faithful readers will see that there's a lot my life has seen.  I'm a remarkable survivor of the craziness I've chosen.  I'm resilient in all that falls into my life. There's a lot of emotional resilience I can stand on because as complicated as life likes to be, I'm still here and I'm not quitting.  I have too many that rely on me to let a setback set me back.

A friend of mine is a praying person.  She's prayed for my marriage in times when I couldn't.  She prays for us now, as I'm just praying that forgiveness be placed in my heart so there's no room for bitterness.  She tells me I'm not playing the game right.  I'm supposed to be sad in my corner and falling apart and my husband doesn't know how to work with that.  This might be some of the reasons why he's become especially vindictive, but it doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't hurt as much when you stop wondering how you can get past it and decide you don't have to. Honestly, I think he's always had a hard time understanding me, and I tried to become more of what he wanted to make it easier on him, not seeing how much this cage has been hurting me. I was pretty broken at first.  We were at different places when he told me our marriage was over.  He was miserable, and I thought we were happy.  I saw my Dad's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder my entire life, and somehow it looks like Posttraumatic Resilience in me.  I can celebrate my milestones and know that it only gets better from here.

I love my church Pastors.  They're husband and wife and could be my very attractive teenaged parents.  There's always wisdom and encouragement in their conversations and they help me see the divine when I'm too self focused to see outside of my thoughts. She encourages me in showing me that I'm not created to be below anyone.  He has a soft caring side, but will put on that police officer's hat when necessary and give fatherly  advice when appropriate. In my life, I've seen three therapists.  They are great for getting past the major hurdles that keep you from moving forward, but the best gift they offer are tools to help you see yourself out of your valleys. I know when to ask for help and I've proven it to myself when I've sought a therapist.

I'm supported and knowing that keeps me encouraged.

 

Old Poetry To Remind Me I Was Unhappy Too

I don't do pictures that would put a face to my words, but I thought I'd share old poetry.  Two old poems.  The more recent one is at least four years old because I'm 38 now.  The older one was while I was still breastfeeding, so at least 8 years ago. My Release

Stress came in waves Like sheets of plastic suffocating Like flames of sickness licking my flesh from the insides Like sex without love messy fluids and sweat and no real pleasure or release pain in waves, waiting for joy which never comes Like reek of sweat sickly musk masked by refuse of small comforts Comfort sought after in foods chocolate and icecream, rice pudding and doughnuts chips and dip or salsa iced tea and soda and sugar and waste Eating beyond sustenance, and into blankets of numbness Comfort in the nothing the nothing of sleep the nothing of television Hiding from the bright spring air and in the dark dampness of the hollow of my blankets windows shut and unforgiving musky in my stench of unbathed loathing damp in the overflow of morning feedings Awake and wired late at night while twitching in unforgiving darkness, while the angels of my flesh and desire slumber next to me snoring in sweet nothingness while early morning taunts me And in the dire bleakness of my power outtage, wishing for momentary release in window surfing or a mind to reach out to A moment of vulnerability and my stress is relieved.

And again, I want to go outside. Again, there is a garden to sow Again, there is much to be done, and at last, I'm ready to do it.

 

Poem for my 34th Birthday

 

Can I still remember my last name?

The girl that I once was

I know her now

Though she barely knew herself

I think of her and wonder

How did she survive the life

She forced us to live

Then I remember she didn’t

I’m here and she’s a memory

A fond one that has evolved from

Faded recollections

 

The woman in her wake loves attention as much as she did

But will live without it.

She craves solitude and hardly gets it

But complaining is for the girl that died away

Homecoming, a Custody Exchange Day Poem

I woke up to raindrops and my kids come home today. The rushing winds and falling sky replenish the life the sun has stolen,

but the sounds of life on earth will be drowned out

by the sounds of life that tore through me.

They were each mine for a time then they were ours and now I have to share them

I have to trust they won't be destroyed with the love that nearly destroyed me

The path of healing is steep and full of thorns that catch you when you aren't ready

The first days of loss weren't just my battle to rage.

The heavy bag swung and rattled with fury spent,

post rage teens were sobbing in my arms

Hands that reached for us and held us in love were forging pain with what they were given

There were no words to unleash the pain that was in hearts, under skin,

and we made raw knuckles and tender wrists excuses to cry

Thunder shakes the sky and ground in a mirror of the anger that I pray away late at night

when the only sounds loud enough to hear are the shifting landscape of a life we planned

and the growing pains from a life I can't control right now

My kids come home today so I can be Mom and being a sister and daughter can wait

I will see faces I've missed and kiss cheeks and I will hold my babies.

I will inhale their scent and engrave the moment in my memory when they are with me

because those moments sustain me when my babies are away.

I used to fret over a night at Grandma's, and now I endure 5 days at a time

I fill my bed with stuff as a placeholder, that was once a spouse and is now a child

sometimes he's content with space

other times he lays on top of me, trapped in the comfort required in infancy at 9 years old

The thunderstorm rages its fury outside and for a few days

I won't have to wonder if they'll answer my call.

Respecting the boundaries they set, I tell them my calls are just to tell them I love them

because I know I'm loved I think I'm loved I may not be needed

I feel excitement and joy and worry and fear in the moments where the sun is hiding

the clouds pour out their burdens and the thunder announces its rage

at some point the clouds will disperse enough to let me know the sun was always there

a rainbow will cut the sky in hope and beauty

and my life will imitate the art of nature

Owning Up to Falling Apart

My moment of truth showed up just before 5 tonight. Foraging for sustenance landed me in strawberry shortcake ice cream. The dawning realization that it was all that had passed my lips other than my toothbrush this morning was clear evidence that I'm not doing well and patterns of brokenness are emerging.  Searching for protein, I also poached an egg.  In breaking the yolk and scooping bland warmth into me without bothering to pick a lemon from the yard to whip up Hollandaise, it was the comfort I was seeking and I saw that in my food choices.  I looked around at the wreckage of a neglected home and found myself surrounded in the hollow ache of last year when my husband left.  I'm not that person anymore because now I can see my phenomenal coming out of every smile.  It's time to give her a hug, acknowledge her pain, and help her up. I am determined to break these patterns but first I needed to acknowledge that as beautiful as my time at my job was . . . as giving as it was and as much as I learned, there is the sudden loss of income and identity.

This morning I had the first IEP recessed because I wasn't pleased with the inadequate job the psychologist did in her report.  Calls will be made.  Responsibilities will be taken and where heads should roll, they'll find there's grace because my life is full enough without a bone to pick. The other IEP was successfully closed and signed and I have a copy to send to Regional Center. There was a moment when the school district rep and one of the teachers were alone in the room with me.  They marvelled at how I do it all. I'm an autism mom.  We slay dragons.  We sometimes have to dig deep, but we can do the amazing and impossible. We talked about my kid's early development and speech delays. We talked about sensory issues, and my kid running head first into the door, only to slam the back of his head against the floor.  We talked about poopy painting and tasting.  I don't miss those days.

These meetings were always my job but with the separation, the husband is now involved in every meeting and decision in any way he can do it without being around me.  During the meeting he joined by phone conference.  It was the first time in a long while we heard each other's voices and we did our best to not acknowledge that.  I felt mild annoyance, from time to time, but a lot of what I felt was gone. He was in some ways just another random voice and not the man I wanted to love or maim. That's where I first saw my healing today.

I stopped at the Gamble House in Pasadena because it is beautiful and the grounds make me smile.  One day I may take that tour inside, but on most days, I prefer to check out the pond and watch the fish.  It was a time of quiet reflection.

Throughout the day I saw other people as I ran errands and it occurred to me I wasn't attention whoring or flirting with anyone that looked at me.  Part of me has always been afraid that I would start looking for validation in other people, but today I realized I'm going to be okay in that way.  I've always been not so private.  I was the girl in school that would get on stage in front of peers and sing. And dance. And act.  I even had a wardrobe malfunction with an errant nipple in a really tight Elizabethan dress that presented my breasts as a shelf that I could rest things on. Being a senior in high school that inadvertently shows her nipple off to way too many people at once was not easy to live down.  Although, I didn't get any complaints either.  Go figure.

I still haven't cleaned up my house.  Dirty laundry is piled and there are dishes around.   I'm not seeing it as being lazy but a form of depression that is creeping up on me. Honestly I don't feel like doing it, but I'm making the choice to deal with it before bedtime, and I'm also making a choice to make myself a steak dinner because food is good and I can't start unintentionally starving myself. I like my curves and the clothes that fit me now.  I'm still waiting to hear about an interview from my agency, and perhaps tonight will see an updated Monster resume in the making, but I'm coping by looking at my situation. I'm coping by not ignoring it, even if that is my first instinct and laying in bed in all my bloggy glory feels better.

Today's lessons: The feelings for the husband are easing into a comfortable place.  I'm not attention whoring all over my neighborhood, just my blogs.  Feeling sad is okay and I am still healing.  I should pay y'all in therapy fees but instead I give you words and angst.  Lots of angst all around.

I'm Sharing My Coping Skills

It's unfortunate that life seldom flows in ways that are consistent and expected.  Those who marry would never divorce.  Parents would never bury their children. Dreams and plans would never be deferred or denied and disappointments would not be part of the human experience. But then we'd also never understand the peace and joy that come from knowing what their absence really looks like. I wasn't always a coping kinda gal.  There were a few times in my life when I decided quitting made more sense, or that I needed help because I couldn't do it on my own.  I'm really glad that I'm not a superstar at everything I do.  Failure can be an amazing blessing.  Depression has been a life time companion since the 7th grade.  Don't get me wrong, I was a bit of a loner long before then, but I think of the 7th grade as the starting point because that was when puberty hit, and those grown up hormones destroyed what ever illusion of normalcy I had going.

Hormones made my body change.  Long before that, I remember walking home from school one day and I must have been in about the third grade when a guy in a red car pulled up to me to ask for directions. I don't think my parents allowed me to walk to and from school before then.  I lived in East Hollywood in the 80's and early 90's and I was walking down Virgil near the city property on Santa Monica. I saw my first penis that day.  I didn't realize I should feel fear when the driver pulled over and asked me questions while his pants were unzipped and he had his penis in his hand.  I was confused about what he was doing and had no idea where he wanted to go. I think I was most concerned about not knowing where he wanted to go.  When I was 10 years old, a neighbor in his teens put his hand on my ankle and started moving up.  I didn't know what to do and stopped him at the the middle of my thigh.  There were plenty of other stories about my youth being perverted and my personal space invaded but by Grace alone I can say it stopped at physical violence and I feel without being physically beaten my emotional scars are harder to see but are getting easier to heal. Puberty made me much more obvious to men and the hormones made me feel like I wasn't loved on top of that. Rejecting advances is a skill I learned early on, but that brokenness that wanted acceptance made that a bag of confusion that I still have collecting dust in my closet somewhere. I pick it up from time to time and start to unpack things, but then I shove it deeper than it was.  It's on my to do list and will probably be worked out in a blog post one day. Usually when I'm feeling low, I start exposing flesh in skimpier than normal clothes. That's me regressing. My first real attempt at suicide happened in the 7th grade with a bottle and a half of over the counter pain medication.

I was hospitalized.  My stomach was pumped and I'll never forget the neon green bile that made it's way out of me through the tube that was shoved up my nose.  Ice water was supposed to numb my throat, but it didn't.  I was in intensive care next to an anorexic infant and when her mother discovered why I was there, the curtain around them closed so she could hold her contempt without having to see me. My great grandfather died and I was alone in a hospital bed while most of the family went to Texas for his funeral.  My oldest sister stayed behind and checked on me from time to time. I was in the hospital bed when I got my third period.  It took a few more to realize PMS was real and genuinely going to mess with me as long as I am fertile. It's one of the reasons I loved being pregnant.

Years later there was another attempt or two but nothing quite as serious or dangerous as that first time, and the last attempt was before my second decade.  In hindsight I wasn't quite as motivated to end my life as I was to end that feeling.  Time and experience has taught me that those feelings are cyclical and will pass. It helps to not dwell on the low points, but to change my focus. It helps to curtail the low before it bottoms out, and it hurts to not let other burdens add pressure when I'm already feeling like Atlas with my world on my shoulders. When I'm good, I'm really good.  When I'm low, I'm doing everything I can think of to get better.  I try to find something positive or stick to something physical.  Angry sex used to be my go to. Now I pull weeds.

I gave my firstborn life, and he gave me the baby blues.  I finally sought help when he was about 4 months old.  I remember crying on the phone with my mom and thanking her for not killing me in my infancy.  That was when I realized it wasn't normal. Therapy helped.  Talking to someone that didn't expect me to do it all and do it well was enough.

There was one point when I was on medication a few years back.  I had been dealing with funeral arrangements and cleaning out a hoarder nightmare without the support I needed. It was my father in law's brother and at his request but against my husband's wishes.  It was also at a time when my second child was transitioning from his public school to a nonpublic school because his emotional needs weren't being met and his depression and suicide attempts were hard on me too.  Going off of the meds was difficult.  I was often dizzy and started having irrational panic attacks when my youngest wanted to snuggle with me.  I was glad when things settled into normalcy which is still a constantly shifting landscape. If I can help it I will never go on anti-depressants again.

Last year my marriage ended.  I'm still married, but it's over.  Neither of us has filed but that just speaks of our stubbornness. He decided we were done and it was almost a year before I decided I liked his decision and while I continue to forgive him, I no longer want him back.  I told my doctor in the beginning and she asked if I wanted to go back on meds.  I was quick to say no.  I started seeing a therapist.  I realized I had given her enough of my deductible when she was telling me I was inspiring her.  I already had the skills I needed to get through that phase and I thought she might have been taking notes.

I was setting goals.  I was reading books on finance because it was an area of my life I needed control over.  I started setting 18 month plans and long term goals because Suze Orman and Sheryl Sandberg give great advice.  I learned about Leaning In and it showed me where to focus my energies.

I made improvements to my home.  I created a space that I wanted to be in, putting my degrees in frames and on the walls, along with the kid's certificates and awards.  I didn't for so long because for  long time my husband only had his high school diploma, certificate of baptism, and a picture with other security guards from and old job.  I didn't want to make him feel bad. I was doing the things around the house I had always wanted to do, but I was no longer waiting for someone to do things for me.  When the kids are gone, I'm not in a hurry to get home, but once I am home, I love being in the quiet.

I started buying things I had wanted for myself without waiting for someone to buy them for me.  I love Pandora charms and fresh flowers.  I didn't realize how much I love fresh cut flowers until recently.  He didn't buy them often, and sometimes not at all. I'm still not a fan of baby's breath, but flowers cut in their prime and set on my table for a private show have made that something I now do for myself, along with regular hair cuts and nail appointments. Some things require planning and saving, but I am no longer waiting for something that might not happen and hoping it might be able to happen without planning for it to.

I apply sensory techniques I learned for my autistic sons.  I have a plastic bin filled with playground sand that I stick my feet in on some mornings while sipping coffee on my front porch.  Just an hour ago I was walking on bubble wrap in my bare feet. I keep Play Doh cups in my desk at work and work the dough with my left hand while clicking my mouse with my right.  I have a small bottle of bubbles in my car.  When I get stuck in traffic I blow bubbles.  It is silly.  Other grown ups giggle at me or smile.  I sometimes smile or wink back. Slow intentional breaths required for blowing bubbles also triggers the parasympathetic response. The breathing helps slow down my heart rate and lower my blood pressure.  Most commutes to work include loud music that I sing and dance to in my seat.

This is how I cope when life throws me a curve ball and I've just finished a manicure with wet nails. This is how I face the lemons I was handed and make a gluten free lemon curd tart with spiced whipped cream and stretch what's left into lemonade.

An Open Letter to the Man That Abandoned Me

I wore my wedding band for most of the 11 months since you told me you were done with the shell of a marriage that was the world to me.  Taking it off on Valentine's Day was no longer about making you hurt, but allowing myself to heal.  It came off of my finger and settled in my jewelry box sometime after I bought myself flowers. I wore that ring through nearly half of my life.  I wore it through the life that was ushered into our family and as we mourned the loss of those that left us.  It was part of the dishes and laundry and gardening barefoot as I ripped weeds out in frustration and tears while you left me to sob under the sun - not knowing and not caring. I took off your ring and began gnawing at my nails and the skin around my fingers.  My mouth worried about the loss of its protection. I was once someone's wife.  I was once someone's love.  Now rejected and abandoned, I am my own person and that person scares me. 

Read More