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Dust Settles on a Marriage

I felt gratitude for my ex husband choosing to leave me.  If not for his choice, I would not have the life I have now.  My kids in the car were happy, as far as teenagers are willing to express such happiness.  I had this overwhelming hope that their father was as happy about our marriage ending as I am.  It was a genuine moment of gratitude toward him and a moment where I hoped he had the same joy and optimism toward a new future that I do. 

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Everything Happens the Way It's Supposed to and It Isn't Always About You

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A couple of weeks ago I was getting a haircut.  I loved the way his work made me feel. I wanted a trim and a dye job.  I have a bit of hair at the nape of my neck bleached, then dyed purple. I wanted it near work in Santa Monica to help me take my time getting home so I could avoid traffic. I found a hairdresser who uses gentle products and was very social.  I loved my time in his chair. While he worked and the shop began to close, his cleaning man came in to scrub floors and make the place smell chemically clean and sanitized. We chatted about his birthday weekend plans apart from his twin sister.  We chatted about the twins I carried long enough to love. Just as my hair was washed out, a woman came into the shop.

The hairdresser was supporting her with a hug and the benefits of friendship.  She wore a cute black dress that was perfect for work and made me jealous of it until I remembered I rarely sit like a lady in a dress.  She seemed to be holding back with so much pain and emotion.  I asked if she had just endured a long day and my moment of compassion opened her up just enough to be authentic in the pain she felt.

This woman was going through a divorce with a man still intent on making her suffer even though they were no longer together, and she was faced with starting over.  New city, new job, new lower credit score (divorce will do that) and no idea how she was going to get through it. I've been there and I'm certain several of my readers have as well.

I gave her encouragement like I got so many times from people who had been divorced.  I told her she was stronger than she knew.  I was told the same thing repeatedly and it was only in the months after I found a new normal that I could see it was true.  I told her there were good times and bad times.  Remember the bad, but cling to the good.  I told her that I acknowledged her for not giving up and getting this job for herself.  She insisted the job was for others and their expectations of her, but I pointed out she was doing it for herself.  I knew because she wasn't in bed, hiding and quitting life.

The cleaning man stopped to encourage her as well.  He was a man that got to start over after nearly 40 years and and it wasn't his first choice either.  He also eventually found freedom in starting life over.

What are the odds that I would be in the right time at the right place with another stranger sharing a similar story of getting through the end of a marriage with a woman who needed to borrow our strength?  We were exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there.

There was another hair appointment that was supposed to be worked in tandem with mine.  She had cancelled and had she been there, we might not have had that same cradle of connection and care that we were able to offer her. Had I decided to go straight home or wait for the weekend to go to a salon near my home, I would have missed her.  We are right where we need to be, when we need to be there, but sometimes we're meant to be present for someone else.  It's not always about me, and I get to see how I might help others.  That is a gift.  It is a special honor.

I told her to hold onto that moment.  It was one of the good ones where she openly cried with two strangers and she was met with love and compassion.  One day what we gave her will be needed by someone else. I'm certain she will give and also receive in the act of giving the way I did.

There is a right time and place for everything.  There's a whole song and bible verse on it if you don't believe me.  The thing is you get to look at the moment you are in and see what the purpose is.  Maybe you're there and the reason is you're meant to support someone else.

Why Dad Has to Look Great, Even Through Divorce

I might give more clarity than is appreciated by my ex on my blog, but not to our kids.  They don't read my blog.  They don't always want to do the reading for homework and Mom just blathers on. I don't lie to them but I defend their Dad to them all of the time.  They are free to express themselves in my home, so when they call him names, I'll remind them that he loves them as much as I do.  When they justify their opinions, I remind them that we can all be a bit selfish or lazy, but that doesn't mean we love anyone else any less. I remind them that having them do chores around the house prepares them for life alone and their Dad is doing the right thing by teaching them independence.  They help out when I need them to but I resented feeling like a slave to my parents, and will never ask my kids to do work I won't help them with. I might not like their Dad as a person and my life is so much happier without him but I admit, my kids have a good Dad. Why do I defend him? Because even in the ways Kid1 splays himself across my couch, he is in every way his father's child.  I love my sons.  Every part of their personalities is special to me.  There are even ways where I see their Dad or grandfather coming out and those are special.  I know them and I know where they come from and they're my kids.  I want them to feel safe talking about him to me, and they do. Because I defend him even when I don't want to.

We get our first sense of identity from our Dads. It's how we fit in his world that tells us we matter.

My relationship with my kids started in pregnancy.  I was talking to them before they had ears to hear me.  I had that bond or connection, and I still do.  The act of growing up means we are part of our mothers and spend a lifetime learning independence from her.  Even as an adult, I see the ways I follow what my mom did and the ways I try hard to distance myself from her.  I see it in my sense of style and the way I give my kids affection.

When a child is born, they still rely heavily on the parent they attach to, but the smell of mom can soothe a crying baby because that feels like home.  It's instinct.  When they get older, they start to look to the other parent, (in my case my Dad as well as my children's Dad) to see where they fit.

Mom is different from Dad. There's a sense of safety when a child gives mom a melt down.  Mom understands and will make it better so they can safely fall apart.

With Dad, there's a distance that holds a different sense of security and safety.  They will behave differently.  It's not just me.  Most seasoned moms will tell you their kids are different people, depending on who is around.

When it came to angry tempers and who was more capable of losing their shit, it was always me.  The pressure of keeping a clean house, behaved kids and his needs met was overwhelming.  My needs were neglected and it looked like anger.  I was scary.  Without fail, I could tell my kids to behave or I would call their Dad, who was usually more patient, and they would behave.  They listened to his authority without him needing to raise his voice.

Our home feels different now.  I have certain rules, but I allow flexibility.  I will ask them to shower after dinner, but I'm flexible with showers as long as they happen before they leave for school in the morning.  I will ask them to go to bed, but in bed with devices is okay as long as they're asleep before I am, and even if they aren't, they won't be punished for brains that won't slow down. I don't worry about what they wear to school as long as their bodies are comfortable and warm.  Much of this is very different from their Dad and most homes because as mom and head of my household, I can do it how I want to and giving my kids more control and authority over their bodies is important to me.

But I'm not Dad.

When my niece was younger, I asked her brothers to step in and be the man in her life.  I asked them to take her out and play basketball and spend time with her.  I let them know that if the men in her life don't give her a sense of value, she'll believe any boy that tells her he's the only one that cares about her and that will groom her into his victim.

My Dad has always been part of my life.  To this day, I see my Dad fairly often and we talk.  I've become more open with him than he probably appreciates at times.  Growing up, I still had Daddy issues to reconcile.  It was mainly that he was present and my Dad, but he wasn't the person I imagined him to be.  He failed the rules I set for him in my head.

My Step-Dad was patient beyond measure.  He gave me rides, bought me things I wanted, was kind and patient.  I was terrible to him.  I called him "Penis" and sometimes to his face.  I treated him like the name Step-Dad meant I was to step on him.  It was years of patience and I couldn't see him as a decent man until 5 years into his marriage to my mom.  Now I'm so blessed to have him in our lives.  He's been a terrific grandfather to my kids.  He spoils them.  He loves and cares for them, and he looks out for me.  Step-Dads are really special and mine is a great Dad.

I'm lucky to know my brother in law as a great Dad to my nephews.  They live separately from me, so I don't know all that happens as they parent, but I've seen him guide my nephews in a way that they are respectful, responsible, and caring.  Of course, my sister had a great deal to do with that too (because my family is filled with badass warrior dragon slayer women), but I'm not writing about moms.   He has been present and involved in their lives.  He has given structure and discipline as well as encouragement.  He has put being their Dad above being a person in the ways where selflessness has been more common than selfishness.  That's a great Dad.

There's a holiday schedule for my kids.  Easter is coming and I get the Saturday before Easter and their Dad gets Easter Sunday.  We used to visit his family and I wanted the kids to keep that tradition and enjoy a quiet day with them where they don't have to house hop and we can just enjoy each other privately.  For Christmas I get Christmas Eve.  My mom started having celebrations on Christmas Eve so we could spend Christmas Day with our spouse's families.  Without a spouse I was planning a hike alone but a friend invited me to share their Christmas meal.  I sat at the table and watched a Dad hold a baby so his wife could eat her meal.  I watched him connect with his children and guide them with love.  He knew the needs of his children as well as his wife did.  I was so blessed that night by being able to watch a man be a great Dad to his children in supporting his wife.

I remember taking a picture of the mess Kid3 made in my hair when he wanted to brush and style it for me.  It was fun for him but it reminded me of all of my bad hair choices as a child.  I cringed.  I couldn't go out like that.  The smile on his face made it a moment worth remembering through the selfie I snapped.  Yesterday a facebook post almost moved me to tears.  A friend posted a picture of her husband with their girls.  He was proudly wearing the polo shirt and tie his daughter picked out to go out and spend time with his daughters and a niece.  That is a great Dad.

It seems to be an anthem among single moms that there are no good Dads out there, but that's not true.  There are many amazing Dads out there and it comes down to a choice to be that person.  Just like moms, it's a moment to moment choice. Sometimes we shine with patience, love, care and understanding.  Sometimes we fail miserably and hurt the children we love with impatience, anger and selfishness.  The great ones never quit and learn with the kids coaching them to greatness.

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.

Unreleased Offenses

Last night my really nasty side came out and it was messy and ugly and all over someone so sweet, that it really was a violation on my part.  I was in a place that was so uncomfortable that in noticing where I was, I noticed what I was doing, and the guilt and shame are still all over me.  This is about releasing offenses so I don't arm myself with them to injure another person. There are some things in life that feel huge and out of control and I find ways in which to feel like I have some control because that makes it easier for me to accept and navigate messy feelings.  When I was a surrogate, it was my control over my contracts and records that helped the out of control areas.  I agreed to everything in the contracts, so when IVF cycles and hormones made me feel crazy, I had something concrete to focus on.  There is so much that intended parents have to release in terms of pride and trust and I wanted to reciprocate that in having them choose obstetric doctors.  When my ex left, he took all of my contracts because of some imagined support battle in the divorce that hasn't happened.  In that moment when all of my records and photocopied checks were gone, I felt powerless and violated.  I felt like the signatures that held so much trust and hope were taken from me.  I have to release that.

In the last year I have gotten several text messages from my ex that looked like screenshots of our conversations that he was sending to someone else.  Very likely he was sharing my worst side with the woman that replaced me in his life.  What it felt like was a huge betrayal of trust, and it was done repeatedly.  It's still done, but I've gotten to a place where I ignore it because there is nothing I can do about it.  It's a violation, but I'm powerless and so I release the idea that I should have power over it.

Yesterday we were together to go over child support.  I was in a room full of people that were forced to share a room with their ex-lovers.  It was tense and comforting all at once. We started discussing our incomes and it became clear to me that I take a lot better care of myself than he did.  He noticed the ways in which I was doing well, and I thanked him for reading my blog.  He insisted people from the church family we shared will send him text messages to show him what I'm up to.  I stepped over that betrayal in that moment. I appreciated the fact that I have no idea of what he's up to unless our sons complain about something, and I was grateful that I no longer feel the need to spy on him.  I'm usually busy being happy with the epic things that fall in my path.

When the calculations were made, the child support payments he would have had to make were so small I decided to let it go.  In that moment I felt peace and saw it as extending grace.  I looked out the window and could see the building I worked at in January.  I remembered a few happy encounters in the kitchen with a slow smile and amazing pectorals and the view that so much peace was found in.  I asked if the attorney could see the ocean from there and he said he could on some days and it was a moment of respite from the tension of the morning.  I was smiling.  I glanced over and saw my ex had angled his phone and was recording me.  I smiled and said hello to his camera, and I was amused for a while.  It's not the first time I've been an unaware subject for someone's private viewing and I'm sure it won't be a last time.  I have caught enough camera phones directed at me that it doesn't bother me for the most part. This age of smartphones brings out the particularly creepy.  I didn't feel violated by this at first.

I was on my way to work and singing happily and even caught the food truck at lunch for my usual breakfast (2 eggs over medium, bacon, avocado and tomatoes, with cheese sometimes).  It was a good moment.  As the day wore on, Facebook reminded me it was 16 years to the day that he proposed to me.  My internal harpie started reminding me of the ways I was promised growing old together.  I started thinking about our trust and how utterly it was destroyed.  It was so much emotion, I couldn't keep it off of my face, and people I work with noticed.  I felt so violated in the picture or video that was taken of me.  I became a sideshow of someone else's design and the peace I felt was taken and mocked.

After work I saw a smile. It was beautiful and carefree.  It followed me home and I later used the beauty of that smile to reflect on my pain and sorrow and it became a source of frustration and highlighted a rare lonely moment.  I wanted to hurt the beautiful thing I saw and when I realized what I was doing and why, the guilt and shame tortured me through sleep and disquieted dreams.  This morning I've been searching for self compassion because there's not much more to offer outside of an apology to make up for what I did.

Old patterns emerge when I'm feeling especially low and I've had it suggested enough recently that the idea of getting lost in someone else's happy trail made me consider online dating again.  I'm not sure how fully I'm jumping into this. I went over my dating tips and the dating tips from my friends, and it doesn't sound as amazing a distraction anymore. I'm releasing these offenses and broken agreements that keep suckerpunching me at random times.  I will find grace when I'm not expecting it and look for beauty because I always find it.  But there should definitely be some shenanigans tonight.  There will be stretching out of my comfort zone.  There may even be another dress involved.

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.

Open Wounds

There was blood on the floor from the gash gaping gore Licking the edges itchy with healing

tang of salted copper pennies

Bite of flesh digging deeper in rage lust vengeance

I want to feel what I need to inflict

Anger angst apathetic vices

you are full of fire and cold embering flames

expired heat and disgust replaced desire

Wrath lashes through dull warm beer haze

And I spit with spite at the little bitch you've become

Washing hands clean

scalding boil of lye and fat

scraping remnants of memories to clear away the decay of your existence

leaving gone and still going

And I call your name one last time

Pussy

Unringing the Bell

Sometimes it would be amazing to unhear or unsee something.  A chance at a do-over is the stuff of great novels and daydreams.  We all want to take something back and start over.  Sometimes it's impossible.  Sometimes you can use the point where it all fell apart as a launch pad for something new and deeper. The devastation I felt when my husband left me was traumatic but there is value in it.  I have learned so much about myself and I have found true joy in who I am.  There was a cost but I didn't expect the payout to touch so many various areas of my life in such a ginormous and beautiful way.

In 2012 I was hospitalized with my last surrogate pregnancy for about a month.  At 25 weeks gestation, a regular check up with the neonatologist showed that my cervix started funneling and the twins were trying to come out. Well, more like my body wanted to force an eviction. I've always been blessed with fairly easy pregnancies and contractions I couldn't feel until I was about ready to push. Why else would I be willing to be pregnant 6 times? I was planning a pedicure and Target trip that day but I was told to head straight to the emergency room. I couldn't stop at home for my laptop or Kindle or even extra panties.  I was in a hospital bed from week 25 until week 29 when they were born.  They eventually left the hospital and then the country.  During that time I was on complete and total bedrest, and allowed to take one 5-minute timed shower while sitting.  The rest of the time I was stuck having nurses give me bed baths, and I spent a week in the trendelenburg position.  This means my bed was tilted so I was laying upside down at a 45 degree angle to keep gravity from doing what is natural.  I will always feel like I could have done things a little differently to keep them in longer and give them a stronger start in life.  I can see most would imagine I did enough, but believing there is always more to do and that I could do a better job is just who I am. I deal with it.  You should too.

This time of being forced away from my family reset things for me.  It gave me a do over. I realized that motherhood was a gift I was squandering in superficial ideals of what I should do and what I should be while my kids suffered my short temper because I couldn't possibly do it all and be happy about it at the same time.  I came home and things changed.  I decided I would be the mother my children deserved, rather than the mother I wanted to be. I started putting their needs ahead of mine and the desire to whine about it settled into a version of peace for me.  I stopped feeling defeated because I felt what it was like to not be able to sleep with my kids near me and steal random hugs whenever I felt son sick and needed a refill.  I never imagined it as preparation for shared custody.  I saw it as patience when I needed it and compassion when they did.

In 2005, my oldest was 4 years old and nonverbal.  His pediatrician with too many letters behind her name told me he would talk when he was ready.  At the time I was a teacher's aide at an elementary school and had a friendship with a speech therapist.  She suggested I ask the school district for an assessment.  His assessment was the same day as his first IEP.  I took him for the appointment and the team asked me to come back in a few hours and bring the whole family.

A few hours later I was there with the ex and our two boys.  They psychologist played with our kids on the floor while the rest of the team explained what autism is and that it was in our home.  They explained the characteristics to us and I right away made the connection that they were describing everything Kid2 does as well.  From the floor, the psychologist told us that in her professional opinion, Kid2 was also on the spectrum and his characteristics were more severe than Kid1.  Kid2 was still 2 years old and an official diagnosis wouldn't come until later. Autism spectrum disorders can often look like normal toddler behavior and while it may seem like everyone has autism through some sort of connection, they really don't like to hand out labels unless they have to.

My emotions were swiftly all over the place.  Before I left that meeting, I had cycled through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) and I was at acceptance. Every thought and action for the next few years became, "But how do I help my boys?" I had to field the questions from family, making them feel better about what it was like for me to raise special needs kids because somehow the stigma affected them even though I was the one dealing with meltdowns and being a bad mother in the eyes of everyone around me.  It was a long time before I allowed myself to mourn the loss of expectations that were born with my kids and died in that meeting.  I would deny myself the freedom to revisit those stages and emotions because it wasn't productive.  I would instead go through a moment of sensory integration messes like poopy painting on the walls and floor and beg others to envy me in snark and frustration, not realizing that there really are women that would give anything for the work I faced in place of the grief they felt.

There are fewer expectations and more pleasant surprises. I was told my middle son would never even say, "Mom." I smile when he has long conversations about Nintendo or tells me how loved he feels.

My boys are still autistic.  That doesn't go away or fade into the background.  It's in our face with meltdowns from time to time. We do our part to make others autism aware, it just doesn't look like stickers and ribbons.  I'm usually good at knowing where their limits are but I constantly remind them that they need to communicate their needs.  I don't mind cutting a day short, but I mind knowing they pushed through a day of torture because they felt my needs were more important than theirs. I will always run the risk of a total melt down with violence if I try to change routines too drastically without plenty of warning and coaching along the way. The difference is they have learned ways to regulate how they feel and they have learned how they are expected to behave in society.  It's not a perfect formula but it's one we have all learned to work with.  At the same time, I am at peace with the idea that they prefer to be home at all times because it's a routine they can predict.  It's structure they crave and when they are calm, we all have peace.  That is until Kid3 has a meltdown. He doesn't understand he's not capable of competing with what his brothers have already done before he was born and the part of me he is poking with a stick has long since been broken and looks at him with pity and amusement.

Would I ever unring this bell?  Probably not.  Of course I'm Mom and would love to protect my children from every moment of suffering.  The reality is they are often blessedly oblivious to most social slights. I'm the one that sees more than I should and I may or may not have wanted to cut a kid because of it.

There are things about being a special needs mom I would never give up.  I'm an advocate.  I know how to fight for my kids.  I have.  I've won.  Fighting Like a Girl and Pulling Punches is all about what my kids have taught me. It has made me grow in patience and empathy.  I'm the person that won't judge the mom with the crying child in a grocery store because I know that child is probably hungry, tired, uncomfortable and bored. I know that parent has been doing all they can think of to do for their children while doing what they need to do in order to take care of themselves and be the parents they want to be.  We all try to do what we think is best for our kids.   Being an autism mom has made me an optimist.  I will always look out for the best in a bad situation and find the silver lining because that is a necessity in the life we get to live.  We have to stay positive because it's not just our joy on the line, but that of the children we are blessed with.  Their peace and sense of self comes from me.  I'm responsible for the inner voice that I've helped shape from their infancy. I'm responsible for their ability to navigate the world outside of our home and the thickness of skin that protects them from discrimination and aggression.

As for Kid1, he has the ability to see the world with a fresh perspective that takes each part separately and examines it carefully before putting it all back together.  He has a gift for art that is detailed because one of his superpower characteristics is to fixate on one thing to the point of mastery.  He amazes me with how he sees things and the specific diction with which he describes things.  One of his loves is my mashed potatoes.  He's always called them "smashed potatoes" because that is what I'm doing when I make them.  (Not much in my kitchen came out of a box until recent months.)

Kid2 is completely guileless.  While he would love to lie, he's often incapable of it. He has an open appreciation for affection.  He understands the value of a great big hug and snuggles that hold you up and together. He loves video games and will research and obsess over them. He's passionate.  He will have moments of joy and laughter and moments of rage.  The only times he is apathetic is when he is experiencing a sensory overload and needs to reset with hugs, and a calming routine. Or when he's being affectionate.

I've heard some lines about special needs parents being chosen.  I call BS on that.  The learning curve has been sharp for all of us, and we haven't quit or died trying, so we're doing okay.  But we're far from the saintly.  We know how to live on call every moment and know that an emergency is seconds away at any given time.  We've been judged for our parenting and had our instincts go against professional opinions and we've been right. Given true respite where someone we trust has our kids, we can let loose and party harder than the average parent.  We know how to accept a break when it's offered and we trust the person that has our kids.  At the same time, not everyone is trusted with our kids.  We're not magical or unicorns, but we learn to choose our battles and let the small stuff slide.  The big stuff will be a bigger battle than you could imagine trying to bargain for.

Right now this first draft is being written with 9 year old Kid3 having a tantrum because I won't allow him to eat Funyuns in my bed.  It's been about an hour of crying, throwing things and slamming doors.  It's part of his fallout when transitions between houses gets to him.  I'm at peace and ignoring him, except when he calms himself enough to talk clearly.  I respond calmly and talk to him at his level while speaking slightly lower than he does until he has begun to calm his voice.  I wouldn't unring this bell.

Before My Day Started

Her words flow like a balm but land on me like drying honey. Sticky memories and untethered thoughts flood and flow like water on a dessicated sponge. Springing vibrantly from her tender remorse, her sponge renews disgust with the stench of what has died. She's late to the game and needs to rehash, relive, catch the rebound and make it her layup but I was never part of the team and I no longer want to play or cheer on a losing team.

Renewed rejection prickles and itches and my scratch is opening sealed wounds. I'm digging past the edges of a healed scab into flowing blood that was a series of superficial scrapes the first time.

 

 

 

Jealous Much?

I once read a Maya Angelou book that I loved into worn and dog eared pages. It was weighted with the pleasures of words that resounded deeply in the wistful and angsty corners of my heart.  The most profound (to me) thought she shared was on jealousy.

“Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening”

The beauty of online dating is the ability to hide certain details like where exactly I live and work.  That's the benefit of hiding behind a keyboard.  I let potential suitors know I'm available when custody shifts to their capable Dad, and I usually have a couple of offers lined up for Wednesday because that's my first kid free opportunity.  Last week and again this week, I was asked to meet at the California Pizza Kitchen in Burbank.  I work in Burbank and that seems to be the solid choice because it's across from Ikea and everyone seems to know how to get there.

For years it was our place.  My ex and I went there for date nights, and we shared many family meals there.  I went there last week with a lanky guitarist/skateboarder and learned from the staff that still remembers me that it's still my ex's favorite place with the new woman in his life.  I was surrounded by scent memories and nostalgia in a restaurant that has slowly shifted into something new and trendy in shades of my favorite colors.

My date probably had first date nerves, but I wasn't so into him that sharing a first meal with him mattered to me.  He relaxed into the evening when he realized I really don't bite. He had yet to impress upon me the benefit of his presence.  As cocky as that sounds, I am picky.  I'm on four dating sites, and have swiped left enough times that I've exhausted both Clover and Bumble's list of potentials because I've narrowed my criteria and rejected as many as they had for me.  I like a clean shave because that's a preference.  I like fair skin and light eyes with a solid jawline.  At the end of the day, he has to be doing better in life than I am, and not feel like dating is the same as a sex interview and that's where they tend to crash and burn.  I'm very interested in not having to take care of anyone else, and I refuse to date younger men.  As of right now, I have 237 likes on Clover in the past 3 days and 90% of them are still in their 20's. It's a cougar's market.

"No man is offended by another man's admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment."

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I'm meeting someone else at that same restaurant this week.  I hear his insecurities when he brings up my ex.  He wants to compare and contrast but that's not a game I'm interested in. I can hear his need when he tells me how carefree my smile is and that I have a magnetic charm he has wanted to get to know for some time and then he talks about his insomnia.  He thinks he needs what I have but I don't know how to share it.  It's who I am.  He's a bit jealous of the ex and I don't think he can tell I don't care to see that.

I have jealous moments, but it's not for the man my (still) husband has become, but the life we used to have.  It's gone.  We've both changed too much for that history to become a future. I have moments in the bustle of a busy restaurant with friendly smiles and fresh yeasty bread with a crackling crust and the aroma of fresh pizza sauce that catch me by surprise in memories of spilled soda and laughter and even a bit of hand holding when we shared each other's rings. I'm sometimes jealous for the life we shared before this last year changed who I am and forced choices I never imagined I would have to make.  I'm no longer jealous of the woman that called me a horrible mother, an ugly woman and that I deserve how my husband treated me as she spent long nights and days texting my husband and sharing family moments with her children and mine in restaurants and at their workplace, replacing me at my children's birthday parties that are now separate celebrations.  I'm no longer jealous of the in laws that treat her like family and told me I was no longer family because I was thrown away.  I was thrown away.

I think of the ignorance and joy of a life as a wife that never imagined a "what if" or "when . . . I will" because I once had a marriage that didn't have a contingency plan. Our future was camping trips and growing old together and it doesn't look like that anymore.  I'm jealous of the certainty of that.

Beautiful Sunsets 

 

Friday was a good day at work.  I did a bit of a run around scavenger hunt for toner and was surprised that my security badge got me into places I didn't know I could go.  I learned new things, and I am really digging finance.  I left work and drove to Santa Monica for another glorious sunset.  I live a blessed life.

I walked the pier and saw that friendly photographer that once offered me a free picture and still offers a warm hug and a hot beverage.  He kept offering hot tea and I accepted. I watched people on the pier land small mackerel.  I looked for the seal that appears to prefer warmer weather.  I even watched a man toss back a crab he caught, accidently knocking his drink into the ocean.

I answered a call last night that carried a redemptive value I never thought I'd see. It was a shift I didn't know was coming and it arrived long after I gave up on it. The freedom it brings comes with a weighted burden of the heartache that came as a cost to the person bringing my vindication. After being accused of insecurity and jealousy over a friendship, I was told that yes, my ex left me for another man's wife, and there is something wrong with what the two of them did and continue to do to my family, with blessings from those I once called my family. Being right doesn't always feel good.

I spoke about the ex for the first time in months and it wasn't painful. It was more a dull history lesson with angry highlights.  I'm moving forward and experiencing many beautiful first times in a long time. It tastes like freedom. It smells like aftershave and feels like facial hair and solid muscles.  I waited a long time for that conversation and last night I realized it didn't matter anymore. I don't feel happy about it.  I feel pity.  It sat on my shoulders and as the wind whipped through my hair, I couldn't toss back the weight of disappointment that this woman felt.

I made a last stubborn walk through forceful winds to look for the gamboling seal that often cheers me up, then headed to the parking lot.  I stood in front of Pier Burger and while I felt that dinner should be had, my appetite was gone. I met Patrick with beautiful and haunting blue eyes. He was searching for dinner in the trash in front of the restaurant and I offered him a hot meal instead. I looked in his eyes and addressed him by name.  In his uncertain smile I found the cloying weight was a layer of shame that I was feeling and I let go of that weight long ago.  I could see it in the way he looked at me, that the weight I was starting to shoulder was no longer my burden to carry.  In the glimmer of hope shining in his icy blue eyes, I found my anchor in joy.

Healing, Growing and Helping Others

Lately the power of "no" has been an elusive friend.  She watches me from her corner booth with a dry vodka martini in hand and the solitary light of an inhaled ember that is a beacon in her ephemeral haze of cigarette smoke.  I can hear her laughter cutting into me like a slap across the face that is kissed into tenderness.  My life has been vacuuming away my choices, so I can only see decisions.  These decisions have a heavier weight to them.  There's an honest clarity that we can't always coat in confectioner's sugar and the independence of a choice is shackled in duty when it becomes a decision.  We must do what is right, even if it is not easy.  Especially when we know it doesn't feel good. It's the stress of the last couple of weeks that has had me blogging less, but it's not so much about being busy or distracted as much as I've been holding the choice to be a dutiful "person to ______" as more important than the choice to be selfish for myself.  Right now that means I'm taking on a little too much and processing it all just before falling asleep and the meaning escapes me in dreams but I wake up with hopeful anticipation. Stress relief looks late late night flirting into early morning hours because I can and a nap is never not an option. I'm reminded fairly often that I need to take care of myself first and this late morning while still in bed is me doing just that.

I am mother before I allow myself to be me. It has been a few days of frustration, disappointment, powerlessness, and when I wait patiently, I can even see Grace.  Yesterday Facebook reminded me of what I went through "On This Day" last year. I'm editing out a few names, but essentially I wrote:

May 20, 2015 at 4:29 PM

It's been a rough few months.  I'm not ashamed.  It is part of life.  Alone with the kids at bedtime last night, I was feeling too low to want to read to them.  Kid3 had a tantrum, so I went ahead and started reading.  I keep telling them that giving them less than what they deserve because I might not be happy is a choice and they need to call me on it when I do that.  Kid1 called me on it. It's not their fault life is unfriendly to me right now, and I won't punish them for it.  So I started reading, and as I'm reading, the tears start and so do the sniffles.  My throat gets tighter and the words struggle free and choke with emotion.  They didn't say a word.  They listened quietly and said thank you with goodnight kisses when I got to the end of the chapter.  Their hugs were loving and gave as much as was received.  It's a new day and looking at last night, it encouraged me and right now it's lifting me up a bit. I have great boys.  I want the world to know how great my boys are.

Kid2 is going through a rough patch right now and last night Kid3 blamed their Dad.  It wasn't until after I defended him that I realized how well I'm doing.  At first I was devastated.  I was happy in my marriage and blindsided that he wasn't.  I've found there is true joy in my daily life now that I am single.  There's so much joy that even when situations are out of my control, I can find peace and laughter if I dig deep enough.  I'm learning how to deal with what life hands me in a way that lets me react in making difficult choices and tough decisions without selfishness and greed.  I can hear my son blame his Dad for the family falling apart and I can hear the pain when he feels hopeless in helping his brother.  Hearing his concerns allowed me to comfort him and remind him that I have fallen apart myself and it's a choice to decide you want to get back up.  I reminded him that his Dad is much happier now.  I told him that I've found ways to be happier now and we all just need to find ways to move with what life looks like to us.  I felt the weight of truth in stating that this situation with Kid2 really isn't anyone's fault and that we just need to find a way to help each other feel better and be better.

I saw my cousin and sister late last night and he shared some of the pain from his break up.  I told him I've found my joy in crashing waves and smiling at strangers. I love matching bra and panty sets.  My sister asked who is going to see them and I pointed out I see them in the mirror every day.  I showed them my latest tattoo which is over a year old and we talked about online dating.  In the end, there is good with the bad, and I am having fun with it.  I've found fun on one site and I can let go of the other one.  We made tentative plans to go to Florentine Gardens because that was a club we all went to when we were fledgling adults and it would be fun to revisit.  Mainly we talked healing.

I love my cousin. He is beautiful and feminine and so full of deep love.  I reminded my cousin that he was born at a certain level and lowered himself to be with his ex.  I told him he keeps entertaining his ex to offer another opportunity to get kicked. I did it too. If he stops looking below him, he'll see all of the many beautiful men at his level and above.  He needs to stop looking down and back and look forward.  I told him he may never find closure for the relationship but he will one day find closure for why he thought he needed to allow someone below him to act as if he was above. He wanted to know why his ex would enter another relationship right away and accept an obvious downgrade with worse treatment.  I told him that his ex sees him as better than he deserved which is why he's often the object of aggression.  Say "have a nice day" and hang up. I do.  He looks at what he has and knows it's a downgrade.  He takes whatever he's dished because he's afraid to look lower.

I told my cousin about the many great men I've been meeting and he started to say that I would find someone better than my ex. I don't look to compare him to anyone. Not anymore. He's a good Dad.  He does what he thinks is best for our kids, as far as he can see. We're just no longer together. I compare these beautiful and intelligent men to me. Can we hold a meaningful conversation? I have goals, does he? I'm taking care of myself, is he doing better than I am?  Things are looking better from this vantage point.

I went home and realised the pedestal we place our loved ones on are designed for us.  We just need to look around, up or down, but we'll eventually see where the people we love are placed, and we will eventually see that we don't need to put them in our place because they won't always be willing to set us on their pedestal and their pedestal doesn't always lead us forward. If we're lucky, we can hop from stand to stand, side by side and not feel like one needs to be displaced for the other. And sometimes it's not worth it to date a charity case.  Letting them go and washing off their sticky insecurities can be a little exhausting. That really doesn't refer to the ex.  We're happier apart, and I'm happy with casual dating.

 

The Art of Gift Receiving

It took a long time to realize that when people give me something, it's because they want to and the best way to honor that is a gracious acceptance and open appreciation.  I'm not an asker.  If I ask for something it's because I have lost hope and I will ask my parents first, and only.  Actually, my kid's school is looking for donations for a new adaptive playground.  I ask for them sometimes.  Something about being born to my parents makes them always the safe people to go to in asking.  There's safety in knowing they always want what's best for me and there's security in knowing they will sacrifice their own needs for my sake when it's possible. A beautiful friend of mine just made a huge career jump from finance to acting.  The payoff was huge.  There's something about people in entertainment.  They are all of the dreamers and visionaries in our society.  They are idealists. They have really strong beliefs. Like me, they desire attention for their craft.  When I was working as a television extra (I'm a native from L.A., it was a rite of passage) I loved that I could get a job because I was cute or beautiful or had a great smile.  Casting directors always compliment when booking.  It was what I needed and helps keep me grounded when weeding through the dating sites full of men that want to get to know me better, even if I am only being polite.  I'm starting to be a little rude and even catty.  I may have to take a break soon.

Squirrelly rabbit trail aside, this beautiful friend of mine is acting which means character development looks like intentional play and scavenger hunts.  She was working on bartering a few weeks ago and I was happy to help.  She was contacting person to person to trade goods and services.  I gave her Japanese panel art that had been sitting in storage, and she gave me a session with a certified spiritual life coach.  I wanted to help my friend and she wanted to gift me with something that would help me grow.

I am a Christian, and most Christians would freak out at the idea of seeing someone who is a clairvoyant and practices candle magic and tarot reading, but I'm not going to ever be typical or like most others.  Look here for That Time I Was a Practicing Witch.  I looked at the session as receiving a gift and when you receive, you take it as it is given, being open to the blessing they offer.

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I was early in the area and spent some time in Pan Pacific Park.  There were children playing and people with their dogs.  There were so many baseball Dads and it felt good.  I walked around to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and read the inscriptions on the black granite pillars. I walked along to the children's museum and had a moment of indescribable grief.  The weight of all I was surrounded by really hit me and I was crying in solitude as I touched the tiny holes left as symbols for children.

I remembered a man that always wore a cap on his head, with a faded number tattooed on his forearm.  I remembered the ghost of a smile that would touch his lips but never his eyes. No matter the burdens on his heart or the sorrow in his bones, he always had kindness for others in his warm and calloused handshakes or the care he took in seeing to the needs of his wife. Years beyond his passing and I am still blessed by the memory of his gentleness.

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She was petite. She greeted me with a warm hug and her energy wrapped around her in a way that was expansive, but held in check.  It reminded me of a cat, playful and powerful yet indifferent to anything that didn't grab her attention. We walked to her home and the sounds, smells and sights were very east asian.  There were rich reds and bright oranges with dark woods and plush silk pillows.  The lights were dimmed and the room was bathed in the light of the setting sun in the west from a south facing window.  She had me stand with my arms out to my sides and fanned the smoke of burning sage all over my body as she spoke out her intentions or "smudged" me.  It's not a scent easily forgotten. It was a purification to start the work she was preparing me for. She offered me something to drink and it's a habit to decline.  We sat and talked.

I went through the dramas and traumas that are in the blog and even a few details that I normally keep much closer to my chest.  She is intuitive and repeated the same thing a really long Meyers Brigg test and Core Values Index told me.  I shoot from my heart and everything is grounded in love.  She asked what I wanted to do next and I told her I was receiving a gift.  This is her time to bless me in any way she felt was right.  She did a tarot reading and it reaffirmed what I had been hearing from her and others anyway, but there was a shift and I heard what I needed to.

In love, she pointed out that right now I am balancing everything and it is a heavy burden.  Right now finding love would mean I'm attracting someone else to care for and my spirit guides are trying to protect me from that.  I need to be filled to attract someone who is also filled.  I told her about a situation that had been on my heart and she described the meaning of mishegas, and told me there is plenty of hope for a shiksa like me. She said the name, shiksa with love and joked about there being plenty of jaffrican americans before me that have been willing to convert. She is Jewish and had never dated another Jew because it felt like she'd be dating her relative. It inspired hope.

We moved on to candle magic.  She mixed essential oils in a mug and picked out an orange candle.  She anointed the candle and placed some oil on my hands and I placed it behind my ears.  Years ago it would have gone around my third eye, but I wanted it behind my ears where the smell would wrap around me during the guided meditation when we lit the candle.

I spread out on a comfortable and blood red couch and let my eyes focus on the blue tchotchke hanging above the tall window facing her balcony. I lit the candle and she started playing soft music and began her guided meditation to clear any chakra blockages and purify any energies.  It had been many years, so being intentional with not allowing racing thoughts was more of a challenge, and at times my mind just went blank in being in the moment.  She asked right away if I had felt anything.  She said she felt my third eye was going mad and I have my own clairvoyance.  It wasn't until I woke up this morning that I remembered the familiar tingle that settled around my chest and the weight of energy flowing through my forehead.  I imagine it as energy.  It might have just been a buzzing feeling of stillness that can't be processed because I'm not used to it. I left in a much better mood than I had been in.  She was a gift to me and I highly recommend her. Visit Gypsy Rogue here

I stopped at the Grove because I had never been there before, and I wouldn't let the fear of it being a couple destination stop me.  It was so much like the Americana.  I enjoyed walking around for a bit and was really excited that I left and didn't have to pay for parking because I didn't make it an all day trip.  On the way home I sang too loudly and laughed into the wind.  I stopped at Phillippe's for a French Dip and potato salad dinner.  I didn't take it to go, but sat alone and smiled at other diners. It was a night of self care and a blissful evening of healing and fullness.

Self Confidence and Online Dating

I spent many years as a stay at home mom.  My days were spent chasing babies, cleaning up messes and doing yard work.  The yard work made me happy.  I love fresh dirt under my nails and working up a sweat in pulling stubborn weeds. It was often done in bare feet or running shoes.  Mainly bare feet.  When I went back to work in January, I decided I wanted to wear heels, but it was hard on my calves and I had to work through some seriously solid comfort zone fears. I wasn't used to walking or standing in heels.  I used to be.  I could spend a night dancing in heels at one time.  I still miss my black Esprit Mary Jane pumps with a chunky heel. It was a long time ago.  Pushing Past My Comfort Zones To Reclaim Ownership of my self-imposed value system came with rewards, but the first few days it mainly came with serious calf cramps. I was talking to my regional manager about my shoe issues, and she said she never wants to lose her confidence in heels.  The word, "confidence" immediately shifted my perspective.  It shifted everything.  That was when I really saw that confidence is something you decide you are going to accept as part of your identity. When I was walking without confidence, I had this fear that my ankles would twist and I would teeter and fall.  When I realised it was about confidence, I started walking as if I knew I wouldn't fall because my confidence made the decision that I wouldn't.  The change in my stride made my calf pain go away.  I wasn't walking like I would fall and my muscles didn't have to compensate for my insecurities.

I'm building my confidence in my dating profile.  Funny story:  I set up my preferences based on my type, and someone I know ended up in the search that pops up when I open the app.  He's not my dating option, but he pops up, and I remember his smile and the real life person I know.  For some reason, the views and likes and messages I've gotten since yesterday are all compared to him and they all fall short.  I'm chatting when I'm I get an email or chat window, but they're already rejected based on the person I know in real life.  It's sad.  On the other hand, it was a moment of joy to realise that I'm no longer comparing everyone to my ex.

The app and website are boosting my confidence.  I don't have to go out and turn down polite interest, I can do it from my phone in my pj's while getting laundry done. And there's something that feels good knowing that in 24 hours, I've had over 150 men click through my profile.  The numbers may be average or sub par, but it's far more than I was getting while out and about. Some of them might have read my verbose ramblings and checked out the profile I've plastered with several vapid examples of vanity.  I like reading, "nice smile, " and that I'm a "striking eyed beautiful woman," even if the smiles he can screenshot are all he'll ever see.

Right now my confidence is looking for balance.  The person I was the last time I was dating was intimidating and aggressive.  She was also a bit of a slut. I'm at peace with that.  It isn't who I am now. I'm trying to dial it back a lot and this in between gray area is foreign and frightening.  Besides, I still feel that I am having a great lot of  Fun Dating Myself and I feel I am pretty phenomenal.

There's something to be said about online dating.  I like real life interactions where I don't really pay attention to cars, status, or even looks until a man has said something that makes me want to learn more about him.  In real life, I can feel the guilt when I start to become materialistic, but online it's expected and I'm eased into it without the real life person in front of me to remind me there is a person with genuine feelings before me. The online version has made me look at these men in a different way, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  Realistically, I look at profile pictures and the first thought I have is, would I be willing to see this man naked and be attracted to what I see?  It happens in person within the first two minutes, but I can usually get past that.  Getting past my vanity and physical attraction is how many of my long term relationships were born. Online, he won't get a chance to make an impression.  I usually like conversations about interests and likes but online they become a blur.  I'm missing the expressions and cadence in a voice that makes me obsess like I did when I wrote That’s cute, and Getting Back on that Flirtation Bike.

Everyone's profile duplicates each other after a while. The profiles in my searches all have readers and outdoorsy types.  They like children and animals and water.  They want someone fit and attractive and happy.  And they all make insane amounts of money. The woman they are searching for needs to be driven and make him a first priority.  So many of men want to show women a great time, snuggle and travel the world. I'm just hoping to find someone that's already survived their midlife crisis, but I won't add that to my profile. They like motorcycles and fast cars, and I can't help but remember I'm not dent proof and will lose in a car fight and become a victim to their need for speed.

I find lots of really driven men that have worked so hard on a career that they missed the part about starting a family, or stayed in a relationship for longer than it was working.  I was in a marriage that I thought was working.  I get it.  I was putting our kids before my career and now I'm starting over, but on my terms.  I'm not the financial powerhouse I plan to be one day.  That confidence will grow once I start a career path that I'm designing, and not one that I'm trying to fit into, and once I find work I can be passionate about.

I can't help but see the lack of confidence on these profiles.  It's not always obvious, but it is often shy and insecure in the last line of an open invitation.  It's in the pictures of places they've been and their pets, children and cars, instead of a bright and wide smile.  It's hiding behind sunglasses as if they can't imagine anyone getting lost in their eyes.  It's in their disdain for a sales pitch they know is a sales pitch that they aren't fully confident of. I'm just as guilty, talking about the places I like to go and feeling like I may be padding a resume while I do it.  At the same time, I'm not advertising my blog and a full visual of what makes me who I am.

I am being honest though.  That is huge for me.  I'm not lying in my profile or in private messages.  I have no reason to because I'm not ashamed of who I am or what my life looks like right now.  I'm not even lying about my lack of gainful employment.  Go, me.

I Can't Keep Playing Hide and Seek

"The man who thinks a thousand dragons sufficient to watch a woman, when her inclination takes a contrary bent, will find all too little; and she will engage the stones in the street, or the grass in the field, to act for her, and help on her correspondence." - Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson

I'm really trying not to hide lately but hiding has been my default.  In new relationships I was so driven by who I wanted to be with, that I often shifted their perspective of me so I would fit, not giving credence to the fact that my value from beginning to end would always end up more meaningful to me in the end. So far they have all left my daily life, and I'm still here. I lied because I didn't believe in the value of my thoughts or feelings.

I'm a bookish broad.  I love a good story with romance and magic and very little sex.  I'd rather read through loads of build up in angsty infatuation than literary porn without satisfaction and a set up for real life disappointment.  Besides, not every author's idea of kink is a good fit with mine.  I used to buy Amazon gift cards to hide how much I loved new books.  I'd spend an extra $25 on a grocery store receipt to hide the books I was buying. I loved reading and losing myself in novel after novel, but felt that was something to be ashamed of because it brought pain to the ex.  I made him jealous because I spent so much time with my favorite authors in my head that his value was then in question.  It was like going on a date with your face glued to your phone.  It was very rude of me. The insidious irony is I still believe that no matter how much I believe in the freedom to read.  There are people that have died for that right.  (Are the gaslights dimming, or is it me?)

I wanted to print out pay stubs for the job I had earlier this year.  I set up a password for the Paychex system they use and I saved it on the computer, but the computer I saved it on was the one that stayed at the company I no longer work at.  As I was explaining this to the person on the phone helping me reset my password, I was laughing about never working for that temp agency again.

I told her about the last interview I went on for this agency.  I didn't want to go to begin with.  It was farther than I would want to work. I got there and the people I was interviewing with had this really strong dislike of people in general and I didn't like being there for the little while I was there.  It was like that spidey sense we all get when we are sitting with someone that means us harm.  You feel it in raised hairs and tingling at the back of your scalp.  You know it without having words to nail it into finality.  I bombed the interview.  It wasn't on purpose and maybe it was just my personality.  Either way, I was okay with not working there.  The agency rep ripped me a new one like I was a child.  I took it because that is what you do when you need a job, but we hung up and I decided I don't want a job where my boss would send me somewhere I told her I didn't want to be and have her pitch a fit because I wasn't grateful for her lack of interest in my needs.  It's not servitude I'm looking for but service to a company I want to retire with.  The actual company I was at would have fit that bill, but I'm looking forward to the open possibilities before me. I'm okay with the idea of waiting for a company that suits my needs and not just a paycheck.  I hit a few beaches that day because it was a day for  Beach Days and Bombed Job Interviews. I decided I would no longer go on interviews that I didn't want to go on and it was a liberating feeling.  That was another way I was hiding.  I was hiding in looking to take jobs that wouldn't fit my needs because that's what family and friends and society as a whole thinks I need to do. It felt good to decide the needs of my children and myself are most important to me. I need to send my boys off to school in the morning and have dinner with them at night.  I can't spend most of my night in traffic and give away the little time I have with them in shared custody.  I can live with crock pot dinners, but I will not only see my children as they sleep and every other weekend. My last job showed me that I could find passion in what I was doing.  I could wake up excited to go to work.  That's the bar I've set and I don't want to stumble below it any longer.

For so long I hid behind my marriage.  I fell into the idea of fate and destinies and I knew I married the right man, so it was so hard to let go even after he left me.  It was hard to see that I was wrong.  He left and I hid behind the ring I still wore and the marriage license that is still valid.  I was hiding behind a vow he broke and a covenant he walked away from.  I was hiding behind scriptures and ideals and refusing the norms that are part of who we are as a society.  My turning point was in a nonchalant admission of "I'm dating," and a leg kicked out in petulant defiance that made me feel that dating wouldn't destroy me.  It's been blogging about past loves that remind me he wasn't the first forever I was willing to commit to.  I've had 2 long term boyfriends I would have given forever to, and 3 other boys that strung me along because I was willing to be walked on for the forever I saw in their smiles.  There were also many, many Mr. Right Now contenders that aren't worth an individual mention. I never took statistics, but if that could happen in a span of 8 years before dedicating the next nearly 16 years to someone else, that tells me he might not have been the one, especially when he was happiest with me when I was hiding myself from him.  I can accept being wrong because it's better to have been wrong than to admit that my forever destiny is to be let go.

I'm not hiding today but a lot of times I need the reminder not to. Sometimes the effort for transparency is more difficult than I like to admit, especially when it involves conversations with my parents.  In stepping out in other uncharted territory, I'm learning that in doing, I am more capable than I imagined in my fear.  The past week has been filled with unfounded terror, and there have been specific moments when my doubts were crippling. I was letting my insecurities harden into bitterness and it was stealing my joy.

Yesterday was a really good day.  It was a day of unexpected blessings and encouragement. It was a day that reminded me I can't be intimidated in a corner if I'm busy being the greatness I choose to live. I'm not hiding today.

Having Babies as an Act of Faith

When I was younger, I didn't see myself having kids.  They were messy and demanding.  I didn't even see myself getting married when I met the ex. I liked picking my date each night and it was like putting on a persona with each of them because I was good at being what I thought they wanted.  It was lots of dress up and pretend and nothing was too serious.  Okay, so keeping track of who I was dating and what I wore on each date and where we ate or what we did required more work and brain power than it was worth, but I was happy to do it for as long as I did. And once in my lifetime is enough to teach me I prefer dating one person at a time because I'm happiest when I'm obsessing over one person at a time. Even when I got my fertility tattoo, it wasn't about procreation, but about fertility in thought and creativity. There was something that felt right about the ex.  I didn't see an endless fantasy of right now and fun, but a lifetime of caring for each other.  We spent the 6 months we dated doing a lot of night fishing and making wishes on falling stars.  I felt I could live like that for the rest of my life. I saw something special in him that made me feel like it would be good to bring children into the world that would learn to be just like him.  The dream in my head didn't pave the course of our reality.  I had no idea that children would change everything, including how much I would want to avoid large bodies of water, or how much their wants would guide my actions.

There was something so amazing about getting called by the doctor's office the day after a routine physical to tell me I was pregnant.  There was excitement and I was inexplicably happy about something I wasn't sure I wanted just the day before.  The ex was right next to me when I got the call and from the bits and pieces he could hear, he understood and the news made him so happy he cried.  Every bout of morning sickness was silly and fun.  I laughed after I puked because it happened so rarely.  He went to most of my prenatal visits for that first pregnancy. We explored every single stretch mark that traced the growth of my belly and the life blooming within me.  I developed the pregnancy cradle, where my hand was constantly drawn to my belly, to touch the child that I knew was there because I was told he was. It's often how I can tell if someone else is pregnant.  We want to touch our babies, even when they are only our secret.

Once Kid1 was born, the reality of how unmotherly I was really set in.  I had sisters and in laws and my own Mom at the hospital, coaching me to support his head, and burp him gently.  My nurses had a firmer hand, and they had their own pitying looks to depart with.  I didn't feel like I might know what I was doing until he was a few weeks old and one of the wise sages telling me what to do couldn't calm him, but I did.  Her inability highlighted the fact that for his whole life, I had been doing what she told me I was doing wrong, and he told me I was doing it right.

After Kid1 and Kid2 were diagnosed with autism, we found out we were having Kid3. At the time, the odds were somewhere around 1 in 150 kids would be diagnosed with autism.  Six months ago, Autism Speaks was holding that statistic at 1 in 45 according to the newest government survey.  Either way, I was two for two and probably had some insane gambling luck I should have tested out. Our families gave us a hard time about a third child we couldn't afford. Some time when I was defending our choice to risk a third child with autism and not terminate a surprise pregnancy that I wanted, I realised what a true act of faith having children can be.

Bringing life into a world full of death and pain on the news and world wide is an act of faith.  You have to believe that there is enough good in the world to keep your child safe.  There is no way to be within arms reach of your children for 18 years, so you have to trust that there will be friends, family, teachers, clergy and strangers that will not harm your child, although they will have opportunities to. You have to believe that in your life, you will be the example of a person that will contribute to society, rather than take advantage of society and the weaker ones that make up our society.  You will want to give every benefit of your labor to your children while instilling generosity in their gratitude, and a servant's heart to give of themselves as well.

In being a surrogate mother after my three children were born, I was acting out faith that each of my three couples will continue finding ways to consistently choose to love each other.  In agreeing to carry their children and go through fetal testing, I had to believe that months of shooting hormones into my hips wouldn't end in a terminated pregnancy and the emotional burden of turning my back on all of my beliefs about abortion.  I was believing in my ability to safely bring children into the world and to send them off and potentially never know how they are doing and what kind of people they will become.  My faith was based on the love and care they offered me as their surrogate and I have no regrets. I quietly remember each birthday and reminisce through each scrapbook I put together for each pregnancy from time to time. I don't miss the children, but the feelings of love and hope that met every phone call, meeting and shared appointment.  I miss the friendships of parents that would never have met me in a perfect world. It was amazing to have a cheering section and experience all of the joys of pregnancy with none of the worries outside of a happy and healthy child or set of twins.

I believed in the covenantal bond of my marriage being a cradle of nurturing that would see our children into adulthood.  There's been a necessary shift, and now my belief is that as parents, we will do what we can to ensure the emotional wellbeing of our children, even if I can't see or talk to the ex without having to quiet my rage.  I forgive him but it's a choice and I'm still letting go of my anger because my emotions are not chosen. I have to feel them as they flow through me, and choose to redirect my passionate rage into open hearted joy. I believe that no matter what I face as a single parent, there will always be enough of what we need.  For 50% of their lives, I will have to be both parents and that means putting my selfishness and unease aside, even if that means allowing their boundaries in my home.  I have to give them space to be and allow the idea that growing up means allowing them to grow away from me, in the way they have since birth.  And it means I will have to accept that there will be times when they will need me to coddle and support them because the great big changes in their lives can at times be bigger than they can handle.  I have to put my pain aside for their needs, and believe that it is what is best for them, even if for a while, it goes against what my selfishness needs.

As much as I love being pregnant, I'm not sure another child will come from my body. Yes, I'm talking about a seventh pregnancy. Birth control pills did their worst and gave me pulmonary embolisms.  It's a side effect risk and I am quite good at odds, apparently. I will never be able to go on hormonal birth control again. I am fertile and a pregnancy would be high risk.  And yet I don't believe in abortion. That just means one day I will find myself in a complicated conversation and today I don't have to make any decisions.

What I do believe in is the good in children and I have 6 siblings through adoption.  I would adopt.  I believe in children, even if I have days where I can't believe in me. The best part of adoption is teaching a person that they were not a surprise, but a perfectly planned and chosen member of a family that was missing them. Birth parents in this way have honored us in their selfless sacrifice. I love being part of an adoption family. 

 

 

Ambulance Ride

My first ambulance ride was about 9 years ago.  There were no lights and sirens.  The seatbelts were tucked into the bench and I held my little boy's hand as the ambulance drove from County USC Hospital to Kaiser Sunset.  He was stable and he was being transported for observation. Kid3 was 8 months old.  I didn't process the fact that there was standing water in the bathtub or that it could be a hazard to the baby crawling on the floor. He wasn't walking and I didn't know he could pull himself into the bathtub until he pulled himself into the empty tub about a week later.   Kid1 was home alone with their Dad and had his hands in the tub with a Lego Boat he wasn't even allowed to play with when his brother was awake because Legos are an obvious choking hazard.  When I got home with Kid2 and Kid3, I was unloading groceries and the ex was running out of the door.  We had one car at the time and he was ready to escape the moment I walked in.

I was having a tickle fest with Kid1 when Kid2 started tugging on my shirt.  My nonverbal autistic 4 year old son saved his brother's life.  My baby was in the cold water on his back, arched and blue faced.  I pulled him out and tried to remember CPR.  I took the classes and knew the drills but in that moment I forgot it all. I pushed on his little belly and water flowed out of his mouth. I didn't realize I could have made things worse if he had aspirated that water.  I was frantically screaming for someone to call 911. I was screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to help me. I was home alone and so helpless.  I didn't have neighbors to call on because they saw too much. We didn't invite them in because they saw enough from outside.  I found a landline phone with my limp son in my arms and called for help.  The ambulance came and the paramedics took him away.  His chest was rattling in air and he was otherwise unresponsive. We only had one car at the time and I was stranded at home with two children.  I waited until my sister came, or maybe it was my mother in law.  I just know that I waited for them and the ambulance took my son.  One of the fire trucks stayed, then took me to my son.  It was agonizingly slow.  They obeyed all traffic laws and carefully kept an eye on me because I was a caged animal.

My house was a mess.  I had been at the store, and my major clean up day at the time was Sunday evening. (They go to their Dad on Wednesday, so that's my new day.) I was tickling my son and preparing to get to work.  I picked up here and there throughout the week, but caring for two children, aged 5 and 3 with sensory integration dysfunction and a crawling 8 month old that started walking at 9 months meant my house was a disaster.  Dealing with the messes on my terms meant I was angry a lot less and able to play with their trains and Playdoh. It meant not freaking out over yogurt on the ceiling and peanut butter on the walls.  It also meant the house was a hazard. I didn't have help and it was less stressful to not invite people over.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was held at a distance until they were sure I wasn't trying to kill my son.  It was standard practice for the situation.  They see that on a regular basis and had to imagine the possibility that I could do the unthinkable because other mothers had thought it. They interviewed my family and neighbors.  They asked if there was abuse in the home and my Mom later asked if there was because she suddenly wasn't sure what she had seen and what I had said because I was not living like the daughter she raised, spitting fire and raging at the world.  I was in someone's shadow and I was still defending my position there.

My neighbor across the street expressed her concerns about the times I was yelled at or other times she saw anything that wasn't love.  She saw power and aggression and she reported what she saw and for years I didn't want anything to do with her because she saw what I refused to acknowledge.  This is the same neighbor that filmed what my ex took out of the house when he left and offered to call the police for me.

Two days ago my chest pain was extreme.  I couldn't stand up straight and the band of pressure was squeezing me painfully like I was placed between two icy plates of stone.  For a person that has willingly given birth 7 times, I can say I never want to relive the sensations I felt Wednesday. It was hard to stand, and I was slick with sweat.  I called 911 and stayed in bed, barely pulling on yoga pants and a tank top. I asked Kid3 to help me and get dressed and I've never had his obedience react so swiftly in the months since I've become a single mom.  When they arrived and asked me to sit up for them, I vomited in a waste basket as several paramedics watched and checked my vitals.  They moved sticky contacts from my chest to my legs to get the best possible reading. I was given pills to chew and a spray under my tongue because I was presenting as a heart attack, and they checked the important things.  I was given baby aspirin.  I had to take it during IVF because studies show baby aspirin helps keep you pregnant through the first trimester of an IVF pregnancy and it's not a taste you forget. It was becoming clear to them it was probably stress, but still felt I needed the lights and sirens on the way to the hospital.

It's different when you're the patient.  Normally I'm hyper aware of everything, but there was a haze of activity.  I don't know how many paramedics arrived.  I don't know what I was given. I remember being put in a chair and being bumped up a flight of stairs and out of my front gate in a bed that was a chair but was a bed because that felt better to me. I didn't even notice being swabbed before  I was stuck so they could check my blood sugars. I just know that my neighbor across the street held my son's hand and called my family.  She met me at the hospital and took Kid3 to his Dad for me.

My nurse asked about my stress levels. I told her it probably was just stress.  I explained the way my life looks right now and that I was sending my kids to be with their Dad.  It's the same stress I've had for months but some days are harder than others. At some point I was given Ativan and the giggles started before the pain subsided and I drifted off to sleep. They should bottle that stuff and call it happiness because it was like being drunk only I wasn't and it was like being high . . . which is probably why it's not handed out like candy or sold over counters.

Right when I was being discharged, my Dad picked me up.  My neighbor still checked on me throughout the night and into the next day.  I have good neighbors and I owe her homemade brownies or something equally less stressful than macarons or homemade toffee. My Mom and Stepdad came by.  My sisters have been calling me.  I feel loved and cared for.  I am loved and cared for.

I've been resting for the last couple of days. I've been sleeping when I feel I need it and I've replaced coffee with cocoa.  The only marathons I'm contemplating are on Hulu and Netflix.  I may start a Xena Warrior Princess Marathon because I loved that show when I was younger.  And Star Trek because . . . Well, no explanation is necessary, but I'll be sipping Jasmine tea because I don't like Earl Grey.  So now my geek is showing but it is who I am.  I'm still happy.  My joy wasn't stolen. I just need to give my body the rest it needs when the stress builds.  I could've built a castle with my shoulder load on Wednesday and if I'm lucky, there will be no more ambulances in my future.  The next time I see a paramedic or firefighter, I will thank them for their service the way I first started to almost 9 years ago.  I still thank every one I see because of the handful of people that saved my son's life and kept me calm when I was afraid for his life.