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What's the Score?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Person I'm Becoming

I was never a full on good person.  I wasn't an ideal daughter because rebellion was my way of filling a void I couldn't wrap my head around.  I wasn't a good sister because I was so angry that our age gap meant they were more like extra moms that were bossier than our mom.  I got hitched and poured myself into being a good wife.  I wanted to be what I thought I was supposed to be.  As a new mom, that meant keeping a crying infant quiet during long nights alone and keeping the house clean when it was the last thing I wanted to do.  It was a lot, and I called my mom when my son was 4 months old and I cried in gratitude because she didn't kill me as an infant.  I let those ideals go when I realized I was  putting my son's life in danger because of what I thought I should do.I used to lie a lot.  Everything was about how I spun it and I felt if I threw enough sugar on it, I could make cotton candy.  I lied about big and little things.  It drove the ex crazy and stopping was because I had to decide that telling the truth means I'm not ashamed of the truth and if I need to hide it, maybe I need to adjust my actions to live fearlessly.

I get to be an auntie.  It may sound silly because none of my siblings are expecting as far as I know, but I get to be an auntie. I have many, many nieces and nephews. When my sisters were pregnant, if they were willing, I was able to rest my hand on round bellies and wait for a tap from the life within.  I was in hospital rooms full of gore and only saw the joy of a growing family as I cradled my nieces and nephews and sang the first of many lullabies to them.  I gave them hugs and loved them and they were my joy.  I saw all of the good in my siblings within the younger generation, but none of the things that sparked sibling rivalries.  I poured love and hope into these children and delighted in the visible curiosity in their smiles and the dawning realization of connections made with chubby hands and large heads.  I changed diapers and chased naked babies that would flip over and crawl away from me in mischief and my frustration.  I got peed on and pooped on (my niece nailed my face and hair) and I had first steps that collapsed into my open arms.  There's so much good in being the auntie that never gets too tired because she gives them back.

I saw one of my nephews today and we talked a bit about life and what he's up to.  I assured him it was curiosity and not judgment because no matter what he does, I will always love and be proud of him because he is my nephew and that is enough. I told him about my love life and what it looks like right now, and he told me how great it is to really see me happy.  He expressed his anger with my ex, who was his uncle for nearly his whole life.  It wasn't just the husband he was to me, but the uncle he was to my nephew and the person he was in general.  He didn't have to say it but I know it was the person I was as an auntie with him.  In my rush to stay on the high road, I told him he didn't need to defend me and dishonored his need to be heard and have his feelings validated.  Auntie failed.  I get to make up for it when I see him again, because I gave him a house key with a fridge to raid and a safe place to come whenever he needs to.  I can do that now that I'm the one in charge of my home.

I just sent off a care package to another nephew that just went away to college.  As I was shopping and picking out junk foods and snacks, it occurred to me that I had no idea what my nephew even likes.  It was another auntie fail.  There is nothing to do about that but notice and change it.

I get to be a daughter and spend the time needed by my parent when they are going through something terrifying.  I get to trust that my children are safe and cared for and they don't need me to be with them when I need to be the daughter my Dad deserves and the example of what I think that entails to my kids.  I don't need to wait until I have time or until I can make arrangements.  I can just be, because in letting go, there is trust and faith in the support that has been supporting me.  The older two were with their Dad.  The baby was with my mom and I could just be a daughter.

My big sister said, "Thanks for everything . . . and stepping up to the plate!!" I didn't know how to respond because I couldn't admit in that moment that I had held myself back for so long because I needed to be more of a wife than a daughter and I felt the shame and regret filling my lungs and blinked away the tears that didn't have permission to escape.  I was this daughter to my father in law.  I was this mother to my kids.  I was a wife in what I thought I was supposed to do and failing my individual needs at the same time. I had a long talk with my brother in law and the family consensus seems to be that we're all happy that I am happy, but it appears that I have a new willingness to do what I wouldn't have done before and I'm no longer using my role as a wife as an excuse to not be an aunt, or daughter or sister.

I won't say it's all about what I was or wasn't allowed to do.  I made a choice.  I wanted to make sure my ex was okay with staying home with kids because it was my job as a stay at home mom, but I treated him like he was babysitting his kids.  I let this excuse stop me from visiting one of my sisters when she was hospitalized.  I'm throwing away excuses and learning to Be.  Right now.  I'm not waiting to have what I think I need. I'm not creating a list of things I need to do in order to decide that I can do what is necessary. I can be what I choose in this moment.

Transformational Training

The end of this week has been spent in a personal development course.  I had a friend really push me toward the course because it was amazing to her and she saw the potential for it to be amazing to me.  I didn't want to go, but more than that, I didn't want to disappoint this friend.  I started without real expectations and came in with a boatload of skepticism.  The course is called, "Basic" and it's held by Mastery in Transformational Training. An initial online search and sycophantic encouragement from a room full of people at this friend's birthday party had me convinced it was a cult.  I joked about heading off to be brain washed to friends because I was curious, but not convinced it was a wholesome experience.  There were too many red flags for me.  There were definite moments where this was reinforced.  Everything is done with the intention of taking all of your beliefs and restructuring them based on new perspectives.  It's not far from where I had gotten in writing by myself.  I am not the child I was when pain first left it's mark in disappointment.  As an adult, I can honor that pain, but I no longer reside in it.  It is not my reality.

The class has games and directed meditations that will deepen your perspective of the life you lead and your motivations.  There are moments when your classmates will work together to cull the person you want to be out of the heaviness of who you've become.

There was a moment of being called out and it hit me so profoundly.  Part of what I was told was that I am arrogant.  There are other words, but this was the most meaningful, because immediately I found this to be true.  It was a moment that brought shame, but as the thought settled into the fine lines of my identity, I considered where it came from.  I have spent so long feeling like nothing that the idea of being more than I was became a drug and a balm and a protection to me.  I couldn't decide if this arrogance was a bad aspect of my identity.  I still can't.  At the same time, one of the things I deeply want that I don't feel I have is confidence.  My arrogance is a mask and a protection.

The class also showed me that I don't take risks because of the control I need and the underlying fear that stops my development.  I want to take risks. I want to live in bravery despite my fear.  I want to do more and be better. I need to take the unknown road and commit to a bigger gamble.

There are other areas that have shifted and expanded for me . . . areas I didn't know existed.  Through writing, I was fairly certain I had worked through my Mommy and Daddy issues, but there was a deeper layer I had never explored because I didn't realize it existed.  It is a layer that at times makes me give space without realizing the pain it likely causes the people I love. How do we deny ourselves to others? How do we ignore them, and in so doing, what kind of example am I being to my sons? I learned from an Uncle that we are either the parent or the child in our relationships and we can choose what to be.  I've since learned that as an adult, I can be an adult with my parents and it may actually learn their respect. I realized that it breaks my heart that I don't often see my parents profoundly joyful, and it's hard to see them age into the natural order of life when they have always been so strong, secure and independent.

I have sibling issues.  Birth order issues.  I did not know this. I saw it in a game we played and it is an example for the life I lead.  I didn't want to learn the rules of the game.  I wanted to sit on the sidelines and pick a side that had more to do with the shade of lipstick I love.  I wanted to listen and laugh at the snarky opinions I held that labeled the others in my group.  I do this in life and with my family.  Being the baby for as long as I was, my opinions weren't valued.  To this day, I wear a skepticism that negates any possible praise.  My older siblings have moments where there is awe and acceptance for some of the major ideals that I share and this awe feels like condescension that I could come up with valid ideas that are too strong for a baby sister.  I see myself as the baby and have yet to see myself as an adult.  It was something that played out just on Father's Day.  I had an opinion that I negated without trying to be heard and at the end of the day, it was something we did and we all enjoyed.

Mostly the class so far has given me this perspective of authenticity in relationships that is in many ways still a haze of nebulous beauty.  I don't want to feel like my motives are ulterior and I want to give a fully disclosed transparency to others.  I want them to know why I feel they are amazing and why I want their time.  I want to understand what makes me see others as any less than beautiful and what could I do to make the interaction one where I don't feel victimized by a power struggle but empowered by mutual respect and love.

I'm not a crying type but I left last night's training after a day of tears that surprised me.  It wasn't all sorrow.  There was dancing and deep connection and hugs that brought so much joy and sorrow that there were tears and smiles and encouragement.  There was a shift and there was growth.

I headed to the beach because that is where I reboot and decided I would feed a hungry person.  I ran into Patrick with the blue eyes and he remembered me from the last meal I gave him.  We sat for a bit and I listened openly to him tell me about being younger in Arcadia and he now lives near my Mom.  I was in a state of giving because of all I had received.  Today is the last day and then we graduate.  They suggest we surround ourselves with family and friends but I'm choosing not too.  Everything is so fresh and raw and I'm hollowed out in places that I want to heal before I reach out with healing scabs.  I need to process it still.

It's not a cult, but they will scrub your brain.  In a good way.

 

Gaslighting

I'm not a therapist qualified to explain gaslighting other than the dialogues that I've reexamined in my own life in the past year and a half.  A great starting place is here. A better than I care to write explanation comes from here where I borrowed:

The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 film, ‘Gaslight,’ where a young woman named Paula falls madly in love with her suitor, Gregory. After an intense romance that led to marriage, Gregory begins to display pathological narcissistic behavior, leading to Paula’s insanity. In one scene, Gregory tampers with the gas light in the attic, causing the house lights to dim. When Paula mentions hearing footsteps in the attic and the lights dimming, Gregory tells her it’s completely her imagination, making Paula question her judgment. Gaslighting is now the widely used term for when a narcissist truly messes with your head.

My friends didn't approve.  They wanted someone handsome and smart and someone that treated me well and I couldn't see that he wasn't all of this.  I had love in my eyes and I couldn't see.  I had to protect him from their jokes and their mean because I wanted him to be okay and they wouldn't have let me keep him.

There was a time when my opinions were met with defiance.  I saw it was yes and he insisted it was no.  I said it was this way and he thought my eyes were tired, I couldn't see in the lighting we had.  It was no and it was always no, but I saw yes and said it was no to stop fighting. I hate fighting and I'd rather be wrong.

Seasons shifted and friends melted away.  He didn't like who I was with her and she was crass and loud and didn't like how he treated me, but this was normal, right?  Choosing the one that kisses you and letting go of your friends that know you and see the energy shift in you that came from him is what you do when your love is all consuming. This is what it looks like when you feel love . . . Right?

I wanted a night out with friends and we were meeting at a bar, but he insisted he should drive me and wait outside the bar with our kids in the family van until I was done.  I was being selfish and he was trying to protect me from myself.  It wasn't control because he was so upset about having to do it. Even if I didn't want him to.  That's normal, right? It's what a caring husband is supposed to do, isn't it?

Friends told me he was flirting but he was always a flirt.  He got it from his grandfather and I should accept that because that's who he was.  He once got in a fist fight with a complete stranger outside of our apartment building because he got a smile that seemed to say I was doing what he was.  I was covered in puke and running after baby needs and at a loss because I had no idea how to be a mom, but he thought I had energy or desire for anyone other than him because I was so tired, too tired to look at him.  Or anyone.

I started to shift around him afraid of his anger or worse, his sadness. My actions made him happy or sad. I made him do things and say things so I behaved in his way as best I could, chafing at what was right because I felt it was wrong. I stopped questioning if it was right because it didn't matter anymore.

I had errands to run . . . Target and groceries and he was home with kids, but an hour was enough and at that point he would text me for my location and when would I be home because he needed a break to run and go play and be with friends and I needed to be home with the kids because my time to run errands was a freedom he couldn't afford.

I would lose myself in a book or two or three in a day.  I would escape in another world so I wouldn't have to see what was in mine.  I would write until he would look for my words and use them against me.  He took the part of me that felt safety and freedom in crafting worlds of fiction and he made me feel that being a bookish broad took my marriage from me.

Last week was:

"For the record, I really  fucking hate you."

" . . . pussy that reflects badly on you is the open gape between your crusty thighs. I hope you catch something from all the whoring around you do and die so I can be rid of your skanky ass once and for all! Try not to knee yourself in the saggy tits!"

Joke's on him, I have no sex.

"Not the good Christian abandoned wife you pretended to be . . . Glad people finally get to see your true colors."

Yes.  I'm finally writing!

It's been a year of this including text messages from his "special friend." They both think I'm physically unattractive and a bad mother. It's been a dialogue I have no control over and a trust that is so broken that my need to control is fueled by this underlying fear and I'm faced with my inability to take risks.

My internal dialogue is I'm a single mom to autistic kids and that is a bag of rotten tomatoes no one will seriously want to invest in.  If he does, I worry he wants to victimize my kids.  So there is space and distance. And fear and I'm not looking for serious relationship material.  I can't have that right now.  It's not allowed and I won't allow it.

But there has been space.  There has been enough distance to see that my life and who I am has nothing to do with what he told me.  The shades of his lies still color my view and I will always wonder if I'm seen the way he saw me.  I will be insecure until I remember I don't have to be. It creeps out in new conversations and I look like there is a compliment I'm trying to find, but it's really a moment of forgetting who I am.

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.

The Vulnerability of Men

Last week my online dating frustrations hit a point where I was whining to my big sister.  She was online dating for a bit and reminded me that our step brother found a wife on Ok Cupid and we all adore her. We were talking about the men that send pictures of private parts or ask for those pictures.  We talked about the conversations that get pulled aggressively into non consenting sex over a WiFi connection.  Those men never get in touch with me again. These things just appear to be the cost of the convenience of meeting someone without going out to do so.  Our talk was one where my perspective was shifted.  I was putting too much care into finding the right person to kill time with. I had my heart set on going out with someone and the ideas of where that would lead are still uncomfortable for me.  It's a nebulous idea that dances at the edge of consciousness and my calm has been in looking at profiles because looking is easier than leaping into another life of being with someone and the good and bad that come with it.

On Match, I wasn't getting many responses. I have hundreds of views each day, but not many people that want to talk or express interest.  I reached out to a few people, but realized that most of the people I was matched with are not actually visiting the site anymore.  Their idea of who sees you filters down to; seeing, clicking on and viewing, liking, winking and messaging.  It looks better on paper than in reality because in reality, many can look, but without a subscription, can not talk to me.  I have more responses and emails on OK Cupid, and a little more fun as well.  They have quiz questions that read into personalities and that helps with matching.

I have gotten messages but they fall into categories of NO.

The really cute ones that are submissives looking for a dominant woman to humiliate them with a strap on  - "You are truly beautiful, but not for me."

The boys that are 21 and 22, and unafraid of rejection.   - "You are cute as a button but I don't date younger men."  - They are persistent.  - "Really, I have a 14 year old and have been able to buy my own booze almost as long as you have been alive.  Hard pass sweetie.  Thanks for the ego boost." They tend to believe in a friendship that will convince me I want more and they ply me with words like "gorgeous, beautiful, goddess." There are a couple I will communicate with in kindness, but there is no interest on my part. I decided I will not date men that are younger than me. I was wrong in my ideas of being a shameless cougar.  I can't do it. She's not me.

There are a few requests from other cities and countries.  I am only looking to date someone in my city because that's the point of finding someone to spend time with. I want to spend time with them. What they are offering is not my idea of dating.

There are the older men.  I won't go above 45, but I've had a lot of requests from men in their 50's and 60's and even an 80 year old.  These men are persistent and ask for a chance.  They'd probably treat me well, but they aren't what I'm looking for.  I give my appreciation and say I'm too uncomfortable with the age gap and wish them well.

Men that want to talk about sex, and have a tantrum because I won't send pictures of my body parts: I block them or ignore them.  It usually comes with another tantrum.

There is one that I'm allowing to think he means a lot to me. It's an externalized abuse for my internalized issues.  When I met my ex, I was dating 7 different men.  I let them all go for my Mr. Right, but at the time, it was a balancing act.  This was when cellphones were about calling, and not about texting.  This was when people were still using pagers.  I would doodle through every call, and make sure to keep track of details about our conversation.  This man I'm texting is emailing pictures of himself to me and acting like I'm the one that holds the key to his forever, but I can hear his missed details in repeating conversations with me, as if it's a rehearsed script and he's lost his place.  He tells me how amazing I am and that I'm his priority and he wants to be mine, but I can hear the false ring to his words and know he's putting in a lot of work and will be disappointed but it's his choice to mask his polyamory habits so I can be the evil person I don't want to be because he deserves it.  That's my justification.  I'm sticking to it. Besides, he is many cities away and I turned him down flatly.  Is it my fault he isn't interested in what I want in his proposed relationship with my pictures? Maybe.  Maybe I should just cut off contact.

There were a couple of men that are looking for their forever.  They are well off and situated in life and looking for someone special.  I tell these men that I'm not the person they are looking for.  I have baggage that will look like I'm playing games and they deserve more than I am capable of offering, but I wish them all the best in finding the right woman. They tend to respect my answer. There's something beautiful about these rejections.  There's something in the vulnerability of their honesty and their desire for a connection.  There's something in me saying that I am not in a position to start a relationship that they would find fulfillment in.

I pass on military men.  They are a special breed of human willing to set aside their needs and wants for freedoms I can't imagine not having.  They live by rules I don't and deserve more than I'm willing to offer.  My Dad is a Vet from Vietnam.  I remember PTSD as that thing that makes me wake him up by shouting from far away because his fists wake up before he does.  It's that thing that makes him forget names and dates because the trauma that feels as fresh as yesterday reminds him that those he meets may be gone in 5 minutes.  I remember fireworks shaking terror into him and Thanksgiving meals that looked a lot like doomsday threats to unsuspecting boyfriends.  I remember the slow walk and hounding trepidation as we would visit the traveling Wall of black stone that was engraved with names of heroes that our nation tries not to forget.  I remember my Dad finding names and touching the cold stone in a moment of profound grief.  It's the sorrow that sits on shoulders, never offering relief, but the weight that flooded his features that day showed me that my Dad was capable of human frailty. It showed me that beneath his bravado he was broken and the shards he held in his heart were sharp and delving deeper as each year of survival pressed guilt on his frame. I feel a military man deserves an equally amazing woman and I choose to not be her.  I choose selfishness and will thank them for their service before saying, "happy hunting love."

I see the props they showcase in children, pets and cars.  I see the backdrop of global locations in their pictures.  I get the need to showcase what they can offer, but I'm not comfortable with being materialistic like that, so I have started skipping past men that are less attractive to me than their dog.  I see their stories as a way to say that they are amazing and as uncomfortable as I am, I try to see how they might be special through the worries that they would be seen less than their accomplishments.  I'm looking at their eyes and some of them have eyes as blue as the deepest seas.  I laugh when I read someone's impression of my body because clearly, they spend enough time in the gym to let their pectorals declare whose body means the most to them.  They tend to like my eyes (no idea what they see, but I'll take it) and my body and a few even mention my verbose blathering in my profile.  They get the apple points for saying I'm articulate and they want to know more of what I think .

I am looking for moments of shyness and insecurities because that is where I am humbled that they took a chance to approach me. I find their vulnerability attractive and I want more. I also enjoy telling the little boys I'm too old for them.  It eases the feeling of being thrown away that creeps up every so often when I slip in my vigilance.

A Panopticon Lesson on a Field Trip

I took a trip to Zuma Beach because it was suggested and I wanted to go.  I've had friends suggest ways to go out and meet people, but this trip wasn't about meeting people.  It was about getting out and exploring and doing something for me. I wanted to go and I was excited. I took the streets over 40 miles and I kept passing places that I had always wanted to see.  I was always interested but didn't have company or time.  Or I felt like I didn't have that freedom over what I wanted to do. Laying on the sand at Zuma, I watched surfers and birds.  I enjoyed the warmth of the sun.  I applied for jobs and secured an interview for tomorrow.  In that space where I was watching a young family build sandcastles I was thinking about my next trip and where I wanted to go, and that's when it occurred to me that this was my moment.  I didn't need to wait for next time or perfect conditions.  I would go and do what I had always wanted because this moment - this day was mine, and I was done giving up my time for the responsibility of what I was supposed to do based on someone else's rule book.

With joy and purpose, I headed south and stopped wherever the ocean was too beautiful to keep going.

A new favorite beach is Malibu Lagoon State Beach.  There was so much life everywhere.  There were birds and in one of the pictures I actually caught a fish jumping out of the water.  There were sea shells with live creatures still in them.  The lifeguard was so full of information and on his suggestion, my next long trip will start at Point Dume. He handed me a tide schedule and I plan on catching a grunion run this year.  I had been wanting to for over 20 years, and now I can stay out all night if I want to.

I stopped at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine on Sunset in Palisades.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  People drove into the parking lot with smiles and yoga mats.  There is a sign asking to turn off phone ringers.  It was beautiful and in some ways surreal.  It was interesting to see the Windmill and Houseboat near the shrines and statuary.  There was this beautiful cove of greenery.  I was so in love with how I felt that I took a selfie and forgot a more private picture for the blog, but I loved the way it felt, so I'm sharing it.

My day ended at Will Rogers Beach.  I sat in my car, watched the waves and ate my dinner.  I watched the runners and skaters and bike riders.  I smiled, and said a quiet thank you to a few men that cared about their bodies as much as I did in that moment.  Then I started practicing that not so obvious look that is a covert check out and far less creepy than my lack of impulse control. Before the sun went down behind the clouds, I took a nap.  It was a really good day.

There was a moment while I was laying on a blanket and watching the men in wetsuits as they straddled their boards, and realized I could go to all of the places I passed on the way to my destination.  I decided the present moment was mine to take and that was huge because I was giving myself permission by deciding I didn't need permission. It happened around noon at Zuma Beach, but the gravity of it didn't hit me until I was driving down Sunset on my way home and passing Vin Scully Avenue around 8 or 9.  For years I felt confined to the plans and agendas of other people. I had always felt like I needed company or permission.   I didn't have access to time that was my own for dreams or frivolity. Here I was, spending an amazing day proving to myself how remarkable this new freedom is, and then it hits me, we've been sharing custody since the start of October. It's the middle of April and I'm only now deciding I could go and do what I wanted to do.  It was a shock to finally see that my restraints are in my head as ideals of what I am supposed to be or how I'm supposed to spend my time.  I am my own warden.

 

I Need Some Space

I was just talking with a girlfriend about the spaces we need. I don't have many girlfriends. Having more than one female friend is a new area of growth for me, and even then I don't call the ones I rely on.  I see them when I see them and open up completely when I do. There are a few amazing exceptions, but for most of my life, I have had a hard time making a connection with other women.  I've heard people say that women are too full of drama but that's not my cop out.  I was never all that girly and that lack of girliness was obvious and uncomfortable. My loaner and somewhat Tomboy side is my weakness and my strength. I'm not into purses and shoes, but I love hand me downs from my sisters because they come from my sisters.  I get my retail therapy in grocery stores because I love food.  I hate clothes shopping.  It's necessary at times.  I get that, and I will shop but I hate it.  In high school I wore a 36DDD bra.  At my largest I was wearing a 40G.  I'm not a fan of looking for clothes that I love and can never wear. I play in makeup sometimes, but I'm not an artist.  It doesn't always occur to me to wait for someone to walk around a car and open the door for me because I can do it myself.  I still don't know my way around a curling iron and only got the hang of a straightening iron in recent years.  In Junior High one of my great (male) friends named me "Lion Lady" and he loved to pull my puffy mass around my face.  (I didn't mind.  It was better than being called Chewbacca for the same reason when I was younger.)

I had a friend right after high school that always wanted to hang out and I loved nights when all I planned to do was stay home and do laundry.  She wanted to be attached even then and her need for connection ended a friendship I couldn't appreciate.  Most of my friends at that time were guys.  We hung out and drank together.  This was my pizza and beer crew. We hit night clubs together.

I watched my male friends in their relationships.  Part of it was the maturity level we were at, but they needed space at times.  They were ready to romance their girlfriends and hook up with others in between, but they needed their time with the boys where they could claim their brotherhood meant more than whoever they were playing with that night. I'll spare you the phrases that rang loudest while they were pounding beers and smoking cigars and cigarettes. They needed space to reset.  I understood that.  They were gaming on a console or balling on the courts.  They were street racing their rice rockets. It was a thing. This was their reset.

When the ex wanted to go out with friends and paintball all weekend, I got it.  When he wanted to go on concert tours for his rap music, it was okay.  He was chasing his dreams.  When he wanted to go deep sea fishing all weekend, I remembered to wash his fishing clothes separately so we didn't all have to smell like fish guts and sunscreen.  He needed to reset with the boys and I understood it and didn't complain.  My job as mom was to be with my kids.  That was how I usually felt.  It was the life I accepted.

I had my impressions of what a mother was from Joan Cleaver but more so from my own parents.  They were usually hard at work or sacrificing for our family.  Dad took a road trip across America and that was when Mom decided she was done.  Their divorce was final the same month I turned 18. I have never even seen either of my parents drunk or high.  Dad used to smoke pipe tobacco.  It was cherry vanilla, but they were the example of family first that I grew up with. My adolescence had a reality check and rude awakening once I became a parent.  I couldn't do what I wanted to, and I felt I was supposed to want to be a stay at home mom.  When I found out about my ex's first girlfriend after we got married, I decided I needed to finish my schooling. I needed something that was mine and had nothing to do with being wife, mom, daughter, or sister.  I needed something that was selfish and all about me.

After one of my last finals at Glendale Community College,  I was planning on meeting a friend and his girlfriend at a local bar.  He was one of those guys I used to hang out with.  I was one of the guys to him and one summer he picked me up after work every day and we would stay for a while at Manhattan Beach where he was learning to body surf  and I was soaking in the sun.  We'd go through an 18 pack at my place and he'd fall asleep on the couch. I covered him with a blanket and he called me mom. That evening it was just hanging out for drinks at a local dive bar. It was really one drink.  I ordered a Cape Cod that was too strong and slowly nursed it, begging my ice to melt and sucking on my lime wedge. I ordered a second one I couldn't finish. My ex insisted on taking me and we didn't have a sitter so he waited in the family van right outside with our kids while I had a drink in a bar.  We had been married around 4 or 5 years at this point and I had learned by then that going out wasn't always worth it in the end, but I really missed my friend.  As a wife, eventually going to Target or the grocery store meant he would call me around an hour after I left to make sure I was okay and coming home soon because the kids were being kids and he needed help.  Then I would get home and usually unload and put all the groceries away myself.

Now we have shared custody. My time alone starts tomorrow after they leave for school.  I'll have a five day stretch to do whatever strikes me as fun.  I'm thinking of heading to the beach in jeans with a sweater because I expect it to be cool.  I'll watch waves and pack a lunch. I may take the streets there and back.  I'll come home and taste the burn of alcohol and I won't worry if I've had too much to drink or acted too drunk.  I'll put on loud music and probably dance in my underwear while drunk because that sounds really fun right now, but my kids are home and I will not stress them out with my need for freedom.  I'll watch bad television and read mediocre prose with a good storyline.

I like these spaces.  I don't want to give these spaces up.  These spaces make going solo on expeditions my first choice and dating is not an option if I want to keep these spaces as my own. These spaces help me see the abuse in the spaces I didn't have. Even if checking on me was framed as needing help, it was control that was taken from me. These five days are mine.  I'm eager for the chance to kick the joy into them.

Do Better and Be Better 

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

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

Do better and be better. Kindness is free.

That Time I was the Other Woman

It wasn't on purpose.  It never was.  He was sweet and made her feel like his world was better with her in it.  He wanted her to meet him while he was working because he was always working and she was his happiness.  Her new soundtrack was about the longing and love he made her feel as they sat and talked and kissed in her car while he was on a break. She only saw him at work.  He was on location and she was happy to follow him on sets all over Los Angeles.  He would wrap warm arms around her and lend her his jacket.  She wore Versace Red Jeans and he wore Versace Blue Jeans. It was unintentional but it must have meant something in the signs she was searching for. They would smoke cigarettes together, and he would light hers with the Zippo lighter she bought and had engraved with his name. He always lit her cigarettes in a show of old Hollywood chivalry. His house was in Rancho Cucamonga and too far for her to visit, but he told her she would be proud that he mowed his lawn every weekend.  He only had his kids on weekends and he wanted her to meet him at his house one day - to meet his kids.  His kids were his world and his ex girlfriend wasn't in the picture anymore. His work schedule made it hard to see them anytime but the weekends.

Her friends didn't believe he was real because they never saw him but made fun of his last name and called him Mango.  He was sweet and they gave him a code name she loved.  Her friends saw the shiftiness and wondered why they never saw him.  If he loved her, why was it so easy to stay away from her?

His story began to shift in the days and weeks they dated. Working as a gaffer was hard work and long hours, but eventually he became the supervisor of the security company on most sets.  She didn't question his lies because it didn't matter what he did as long as he kept making her smile. The ex was all the bad in the world.  She was the source of his pain and she took all of his hard work and spent it and didn't care about him.  She went from ex girlfriend to ex-wife in a few dates, because his dishonesty was killing him and he needed her to know that she meant enough to be open and honest.

He met her at her favorite pool hall with his son Michael and brother Jason.  They played 8-ball.  Michael was sweet and shy and happy to be with his Daddy and Daddy's friend.  Daddy kissed his friend, but friends sometimes kiss and it was innocent to a five-year old.

She met him at work and his co-worker told her that he was still married, and she shouldn't trust his lies because his lies were destroying worlds.  She couldn't believe that.  His words brought hope and happiness.  His words made her feel lovely in all of the low places because he wanted her but loved her enough to wait and fill their visits with words and kisses and the kisses were chaste because he respected her.

One day she ran into his brother on a location set.  Jason felt bad that she was so misled and he gave her the honesty his brother was withholding.  She was dating a married man who went home to his wife every night and beat her when he was angry.  She was dating a married man and the proof was irrefutable. Jason took her to meet their mother and unwrapped her Christmas gift in memories through a scrapbook wedding with grand babies. Her boyfriend was the groom and the Daddy and she was a homewrecker.  She was a trollop.

Jason wanted to touch the places she wanted to be touched.  Jason knew how to pull her across a dance floor and wanted to show her what he thought the meaning of life was and it filled the spaces her boyfriend left.

She would never kiss her boyfriend again and dumped him because he had a wife.  The longing and pain were real. He was pretending but it was real to her. She wouldn't see him again, though he begged her and she missed him.  She would want closure because it was a word that meant she might not have been wrong to give him her heart. She would spend weeks feeling like the lowest scum on earth for being with a married man, for feeling like her happiness could justify the destruction of a family.

She would never again date a married man because the point of marriage is that you aren't open to dating. What this boyfriend taught her would settle into solid lines never to be crossed because he taught her what marriage isn't in the weight of what she danced in.  His allusions made her feel beautiful and the unfairness of his lies made her wonder how much was real.

She would settle for a man who wasn't handsome but made her feel desire that consumed them both.  He wasn't successful but she found home was in his arms. She would learn to trust him through the times he betrayed that trust. She would wait in faithfulness through his solid and malicious rejection, until she would decide that she had enough of what he offered and she would want more joy than he could ever give again.

One day she would look up the old boyfriend because cyber stalking is her gift.  She would see that he is divorced and looks nothing like he did in her memories. In 16 years, his children grew into beautiful expressions of their parents.  She could see that the pain he caused them cut him out of their pictures and likely their lives. The shadows of released inhibitions weighed down the happiness in his smile and though he now tips the scale far less than he used to, he stands as though there is more weight on his shoulders.The fading tattoos that were one or two now mapped destruction all over his entire body. She would decide he wasn't worth a hello.

She would continue looking up other ex boyfriends to hold them up and see if she would want them back.  She would decide to keep the memories they gave her but that they weren't worth the friend request. They weren't worth a revisit.  She would pour herself a fresh cup of coffee and daydream about the shape and form of her next lesson with a Cheshire cat smile and joyful anticipation.

While I uncover our sins

While you were talking my thoughts roamed into the list, picking apart what to do and when to do it and not worrying where I fit in because I never did. While you were sleeping, I ate while I watched you snore and I cried silently and sometimes I wrote in a journal I tried to hide from you.

While you drove me to the bar and waited in the car for my fun to end, I couldn't see your paranoid control and fear that I would find another person in the drinks with old friends I never wanted to date but I knew it would be my last night with friends at a bar.

While you were running away for weekends of paintball or deep sea fishing or concert tours, I was being Mom to our kids and asking my parents for help with groceries.

While you said we couldn't afford to pay the debts in my name, I managed to pay them without your consent or assistance.

While you were ignoring me, I was escaping into teenage paranormal romance books, because these books didn't have a sex life to be jealous of.

While you were flirting with the waitresses in front of me, I was afraid to look at other men because of the reaction you might have had.

While I was birthing babies, you were kind enough to let the laundry wait for me.

While you were battling food poisoning, I came home from the hospital to make my own dinner after the birth of our firstborn which set the tone and my practice for the other pregnancies.

While you were losing weight and excited to go on adventures, I was willing to walk through Sea World a couple of weeks after our last child and years later Legoland with a c-section scar less than a month old.

While you had lost the weight of a person and insisted on amusement parks, I tried to ease the sensory needs of our autistic children.

While you wanted the fame on stage, you didn't see that we were putting you first and sat uncomfortably in your shadows and darkness.

While you were our leader, I took up the rear to make sure we didn't lose children on adventures because it never occurred to you that we couldn't keep up.

While your words said later for nearly a week and I was stumbling in the dark to do our laundry, I made the choice to step on a ladder and change the bulb myself at 5 months gestation.

While I was on bedrest and you made yourself look like a hero, you forgot to mention the help our surrogate couples hired so you wouldn't have to pick up my slack.

While you were working, I had phone calls and follow ups and exhaustion from lack of sleep because sleep came in the morning when you were gone and I had peace.

While you were getting drunk I was sober and moming and driving and urging you into bed.

While you were raging and breaking cabinet doors, I was raging right back in my mind, afraid to move because of where your rage might have turned.

While you were locking yourself in the bathroom with a knife I was irritated because I knew you wanted my audience, but you didn't care that our kids could see it too.

While you were driving home and not excited to see me and the weight I waited to rest on your shoulders, I was excited because you could see the children destroy all I had done in their artful undoing and I really wasn't sleeping all day - just most of it.

While you were punching cracks into the windshield on the freeway, I wondered how this came from a game of punch buggy.

While you walked through the door, we were happy to see you but we missed the puppy joy mark that was the bar you were setting and you thought we didn't care because we were only matching the joy you showed us in coming home.

While you were hungry and forgetting your wallet or keys or running out of gas on the freeway, I paused my day to rescue you for a moment to be with you and be the hero I hoped you would be to me.

While you ignored my suggestions, I found I could feed them to others and you would actually hear them.

While you complained about money I hid in my Amazon account, I found you were hiding so much more and convinced myself it was your right but guilt and shame plagued my sins against you.

While you were gambling, our son nearly died and the fault was mine because I am his mom even though that tub was filled on your watch and the destruction in the house was a mess you sat in while I took two kids to the grocery store and battled the budget you gave me alongside their wants.

While you had a girlfriend online, I had baby blues that nearly ended our eldest son's life.

While you joked about my being on my phone during our dates, you were tagging me on yours.

While you wanted to snuggle and just be with me, the house wouldn't run itself.  I had to get up and be a wife and mom while you lounged in bed and couldn't hear me not asking for your help.

While you watched television, I was escaping into books right next to you because not being present while next to you was my idea of bliss.  I loved watching Legolas, but couldn't see the point in memorizing a trilogy when there were books filled with new worlds to discover.

While you were trying to impress her and found her so amazing, I was secure that our marriage would survive because in my selfishness I saw my happiness and couldn't see you didn't have any in yours.

While you were waiting outside a concert to drive home an artist that wouldn't even get you into the show, I was being awarded at an Honor's Convocation.

While you were making financial choices I didn't agree with or believe in, I was borrowing from my parents who now trust me on business accounts for emergencies as long as me doesn't include you.

While you were trying your best to not be my husband I was trying harder to be your wife.

While your Christian rap ministry took you on tour, I was home with our children, wondering why you couldn't be that man on the streets in your own home.

While you wanted me to be a wife and only a wife, I fought you each semester and quarter to be more so we could have more, never imagining my new identity would be the one thing you couldn't take and that you would try to destroy all else.

While you were buying three touch screen computers and a WiiU for Christmas, I was giving our sons a welfare Christmas from the Dollar Tree, and they were giving me gratitude and love.

While family and friends pointed out what I couldn't stop seeing, I defended your actions and managed to make them my fault.

While you were working to provide for our needs, I was shopping as therapy for the home I wanted us to build.

While you were figuring out our finances, I was planning on retail therapy in the grocery store.

While you hated my friends, I avoided them for you but you still spent the night out with friends who kept bringing strippers to the house that you spent the night at.

While you shattered who we were, I've been picking up the pieces I want, and smashing to dust the parts meant to die while I find the ways in which to fall together.

Broken Birthday Wishes

My birthday sucked this year.  Big time.  Most birthdays aren't days I celebrate.  I had one year when the ex invited my large family for a restaurant meal.  It was big, and for a few hours it was special, but it came with a price. The emotional lashing in the days before it tempered the night.  There were pictures posted on Facebook and my smile was genuine, but I don't even remember if it was 29 or 30.  I wanted to make it a big deal because it was a milestone to me. It was the lead up that felt like a big deal because there's supposed to be significance in it.  When the next morning came, I was slightly jaded.  I still had laundry and dishes and kid chasing and the part where I was special felt like exhaustion from the gratitude I was in service to.  I'm used to still being Mom on my birthday because if I don't do dishes or laundry, it'll be waiting for me in double portions the next day.  I didn't expect breakfast in bed. I rarely eat breakfast.  I often made my family breakfast as a short order cook, and hoped for time to go back to bed. I've spent birthdays at the zoo and Chuck E. Cheese's. I used to say that all I wanted for my birthday was my Kindle, Amazon store credit and a hotel room with room service and housekeeping.  No one ever believed me and one year I'll do it for myself. My birthday hasn't been about me since I was 21 or 22.

Birthdays and especially Mother's Day are not about me.  These are days when I get to show my family how much I appreciate whichever ways they want to show me they love me. Kid2 once took the cookies I had baked and made them into cookie sandwiches with school glue.  I almost ate it until I asked what he used.  I would have swallowed it with a smile because mom duties include instilling value in the children we raise.  My birthdays have become a day to really feel gratitude for my Mom because I know my birthday is about her as much as it's about me. I don't get it when people celebrate the entire month, because usually I want the day to end. I'm not afraid of aging.  I like where my years have placed me.  I've earned my laugh lines and the random gray hair I sometimes find. Eventually I will take ownership of my birthday again.

In the last year, I've found there is so much peace and joy in life alone and on my last birthday, my ex reminded me of how much pain and damage he could cause. I'm all for putting individual needs first until those needs start to fall as burdens on others.  I took off my wedding band on Valentine's Day, but I decided I was not going to continue waiting for him to divorce me on my birthday which was the Friday before it.  Up until then, I felt that if he wanted to leave me, he could be the one to divorce me.  I didn't want to hold his hand, or finish what he started because for a long time I didn't want that. We didn't fight.  I'm not a fighting type for the most part because I'm fully aware of the damage I can cause and I never saw him as capable of handling me at my worst.  I never wanted to hurt him but my reactions would say otherwise.  I don't think he could imagine the damage I could inflict intentionally. On my birthday, I saw that it wasn't about waiting for him to finalize things, but deciding his choice was the best thing for me as well. I am content in the knowledge that he will no longer be able to control my financial freedom or how I look or behave around other people.

Every year my birthday Facebook post is a reflection of where I am in that moment.  I had been posting for years, but In 2015 I started expressing more than gratitude for the happy birthdays I received and I wrote:

I'm at the age where decades blur with the business of life and if you asked how old I turned today, I would say I turned old. It's easier than doing the math because I won't remember my age until the next milestone which will be 40. 

 I'm at a place where I feel that love means doing what you know is best for the person you love, even if it's not best for you, and not looking at it as a sacrifice, but as a gift, because in the end, their wellbeing is what's best for you.  

I found passion in school but failed to temper it with goals or a dream, so now I'm living the dream and it looks nothing like I thought it might. I still don't have a live in housekeeper. Or a dishwasher. Or more disposable income than sense.  

I went from finding a random $20 in the wash to a few coins and sopping wet toy cars and game chips.  

I stopped going with the flow of life to picking fights for everyday injustice. My calm nature holds in check the furious beast that loves to research the alleyways to victory. (Autism Mom superpowers)

As a new Mom I refrained from buying toys by gender identity. 13 years later I hope to raise feminist men because equality feels better to me than misogyny. 

 Another trip around the sun and my creaky joints keep trying to tell me to slow down, but that girl in the mirror keeps telling me I'm gorgeous and slim (clothes sizes lie - arbitrary numbers and nonsense) I used to try to show off my cleavage or legs. Now I just don't want to embarrass my kids when their friends see me. 

This was when I was still content in my marriage and I thought both of us were happy. This was posted in February with a few redacted bits:

 2016

Life is about balance and there might be beauty in my ashes or hope through my despair and the gift of humanity is emotional interaction and deeper meaning in the mundane.

I reached out in love to two really amazing people before the sun came up. I saw them posting online and I knew I wasn't waking them-although I could probably call them at any time of the night and get the same love. Love can't tell time. That's why infants survive until they sleep through the night. This morning there was anger and rage streaming through my tears, and I called them instead of passively aggressively posting that it's my party and I'll cry if I want to. I see that as growth. I was greeted with love and encouragement and a reminder to pray through. 

I got to work (stepping out of my car) and a complete stranger found me as a person well put together. She couldn't taste the salt stained cheeks or see the red eyes begging for rest as I fought my bedding through fitful sleep last night. I'm still running on fumes of 4 hours of sleep and way too much of that burnt coffee that Starbucks calls medium roast. I looked at her. I looked into her eyes, ignoring years of meaningless meander through a faceless city and I thanked her. She was safe to confess my latest heartache to, because after this morning I'll never see her again. She hugged me. She saw me for my strength and embraced me for my vulnerability. 

As my day progressed, new co-workers peeked over at me to wish me well for my birthday, one spending moments of his day to ask about my plans. I was encouraged. They complimented my white Home Depot dress and found out what a Home Depot dress is. It's sexy and classy and you wear it at Home Depot when you're feeling low and it'll boost your day by the time you leave. It pairs well with my Ruby Woo Mac lipstick because nothing says you're kissable like red matte lipstick that is a cross between berries and blood. It reminds people of love, sex and death and is somehow sensual.

My new license plates came for my new car and I was grateful for the unwrapping of my present to myself. I finally have a car I'm excited to stick my CSULA Alumni license frame on. My neighbor offered a hand (that Home Depot dress kept delivering all over town) but I enjoyed putting them on myself. 

There is no cake because I don't eat wheat and didn't plan a flour less cake. I've also always thought blowing spit and lung juice over a cake that others are expected to eat is a bit gross. Sometimes frosting will seduce me with the siren call of a sugar rush and pre diabetes because I am a sugar addict. Self-control isn't always one of my gifts.

Tomorrow is a new day and a new year. It's leap year so I have 366 days to set new goals and kick the custard out of life with a blowtorch in hand. Custard is creme brûlée with extra sugar and a torch. And the food joy is exponential when custard becomes brûlée. And fire. (I just pictured Beavis and Butt Head, did you?)

Parts of that post were cut out.  I stepped out of my car that morning knowing that by this time next year, I would be a divorcee. As much as I was crumbling at the edges, I was determined to face my day with pride and grace.  That was the face this stranger saw.  After nearly a year of believing that I could forgive anything if I kept my eyes on my faith, it was a moment of deciding I didn't want that anymore and a test of what my faith means to me. My prayer life has suffered since then.  That's my truth.  The day was full of good and bad, and there are times when the bad still batters me.

I had planned to take my kids to Catalina Island that weekend.  My car died in January and my trip became a down payment. The ex did his best to control my birthday weekend and my powerlessness reduced me to angry tears on my commute home that day. Plans were shifted because I do what the kids allow.  I tried to salvage a good memory that weekend and bought a Playstation 4 for my kids which was met with a meltdown by kid2 and collects dust because kid1 and kid3 believe in the gaming potential it holds.  Just Tuesday kid1 and kid2 were talking gaming, and I heard kid2 say, "you should just get a Playstation 4." I reminded them they have one and I was met with laughter.

What I didn't include in my Facebook post that day was a moment.  It was a brief moment and for a while it was my private happy place.  It was a moment that made me feel attractive and desired.  There was a look and that look was everything.

My Children's Autism and Our Codependency

 Never underestimate an autistic person.  Their beguiling brilliance will enchant you before they abuse and reduce you to tears.  Never dismiss their needs because as difficult as it is for me to help them navigate our world, they face the most difficulty in just being and trying to do so in a way that is socially acceptable.  My kids are praised because of how well they are doing, but it often includes a complete collapse at the end of the day because they have been working so hard just to be perceived as what we consider normal.  We need to remember that autistic and neurotypical are both normal and natural.

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A Date Myself Night

Last night took a detour.  I was excited and filled with Anticipation. It started when the kids were picked up by the ex.  He kicked me to the curb, down the gutter, and for months I couldn't even get out of the manhole.  He seemed shocked in saying I looked good.  I wasn't expecting the shock or the rage that seemed to fuel it.  He wanted to talk child care and I told him to go ahead and use his girlfriend.  The agreement we drafted was made pointless by the loophole he immediately saw, and I decided to stop fighting it when I decided I wanted a divorce.  I've told him to divorce me several times, but I decided to do it myself mid-February.  I let him know in February.  Last night he asked why we have to go back to court and I reminded him about the divorce that is coming.  He asked if I was divorcing him because of my new man.  I told him it was none of his business.

I went to visit my childhood friend that we named our firstborn after at his job and he showed me the rooftop.  The sun was starting to set, and it fell between two buildings. It's right in front of the Deloitte building which has always been my favorite because of the football shape on top of the building.  When I find hilltops in my neighborhood to look at the Downtown Los Angeles skyline, I always look for that building. The sky slide on the US Bank building was on the side we couldn't see, and I could see the Library but know it's much more beautiful inside, and I'm due to visit the fountains in the courtyard because it's been too long. I can't remember the names of all the other buildings he pointed out. He took pictures of me because I looked like I cared and that is a good look on me.

As I headed out, my date night became a date myself night.  I started heading home, but ended up taking the streets to Santa Monica.  I had a pair of jeans and my Uggs in the car, so I threw them on under my dress in the parking lot as teenaged girls were flirting with the Bubba Gump staff enjoying their breaks.  Walking up the stairs on the north entrance to the pier, I got a face full of strawberry e-smoke and an apology.  I told him I was fine.  When I smoked it smelled like tobacco, and not like fruit.  He told me the e-cigarettes helped him quit smoking and I told him I quit cold turkey but it didn't make me a nice person.  He told me that took a lot of mental strength and his observation made me smile as I hit the pier.

I thought I'd dine at Maria Sol and rewrite an old memory with someone else.  They were closing and I ended up wandering around the pier. As I was walking, a vendor stopped me to ask where I'm from.  I'm a native Californian, but he couldn't imagine me being from Santa Monica, because he would have remembered me. He takes pictures of people in front of the lit up Ferris Wheel and sets them one of top of the other for a holographic dual picture effect.  He offered to take a gratis picture of me to make me smile.  It did make me smile and I thanked him and admitted I was having a rough night at that point.  Years of being gaslighted made me start to believe I was divorcing my husband so I could date and that it had nothing to do with the times he told me he was done, or the many times he cursed me out at the top of his lungs or by text, or the time his girlfriend texted me from his phone to tell me I was a horrible mother, and physically unattractive. He was negating his responsibility for the other times my arguments with him became her fight to battle. I think the photographer's name was Martin, but he offered me coffee or tea, and told me I was beautiful. He asked me about my day and gave me words of encouragement. He handed me a free picture without a hologram and asked me to visit again sometime.

I walked away feeling better because it had been a few months since a stranger handed me something free just for the opportunity to see me smile.  Then it occurred to me that most people never have that happen to them and for me it has happened a few times a year for much of my adult life.  I truly live a charmed life when I remember to look past the drama. I walked the shoreline and passed couples in the icy water, or huddled on the sand.  There was a beachcomber with a metal detector and sand trap, sifting for the day's lost treasures.  The sound of the crashing waves is energizing and it just makes me happy.

Walking the pier, there were several men that looked at me and smiled once I acknowledged their looks.  I was being friendly but I wasn't feeling like a shameless cougar. There were two men old enough to be my grandfather.  Some were young and in groups.  One was female. Two were chasing kids or holding hands with someone else.  Then there were the handful that were purposely avoiding any glance in my direction.  They made me laugh.  Earlier in the evening I had joked with my friend about finding a self car wash near a high school in my dress to boost my mood, but that is really disgusting and something I totally would have done in my early 20's.

I left and took the streets home again.  Driving past Hollywood High School I remembered the junior high graduation I was late to. Our auditorium was too small so we borrowed theirs.  I barely made it in time step into the moving procession and make it to my seat on stage with the rest of the graduating Leadership class.  Years later I was sitting on those steps as an ex boarded all over them, grinding the rails.  I don't know if he wanted me to watch him, or if he didn't care that I was bored. He skated and I lit up one cigarette off of the butt of the last one. It might have been both. I realized I shouldn't skip dinner even if I wasn't hungry, so I stopped at the Denny's near Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles were I had my very first set up date.  It was my 10th birthday and my sisters took me out with one of their friends and his kid brother.  I sat and tried to rewire the thoughts running through my mind.

I can't be the whore I felt like for divorcing the ex.  You can't blame a divorce on a person that doesn't exist.  I reminded myself that I waited.  I waited over 10 months after he threw his wedding band in a parking lot to take mine off.  It's been over a year and it's okay to decide I am done.  As I was leaving the restaurant, the security guard asked where I am from.  That's a common question because I look uncommon. I'm mixed.  I don't fit the standard categories.  He called me beautiful too.  I thanked him and told him I was having a rough night and it definitely made a difference.  I believe taking a chance that a compliment wouldn't bring out my crazy should be rewarded with gratitude. He said I had a glow about me and he couldn't see how I could be having a rough day.  I get that a lot.  I had just eaten a Denny's pot roast, with tepid and not hot tea because I forgot I prefer IHOP's pot roast and I had a waitress doubling as the hostess. I didn't send it back because I was trying to focus on not feeling like a whore for reclaiming my future from a dead past. I smiled on my way home and this morning emailed a friend about my cover up tattoo.  I'm ready to look at designs and ideas.

My Suicide Attempt Survival Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing Battle Scars and Posttraumatic Survival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Connection Between Dreaming and Creative Writing

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In my early 20's I had vivid dreams every night.  I would wake up and scribble every detail in a spiral one subject notebook. Sometimes they made no sense whatsoever.  Other times, I'd wake with clarity and my problems became puzzle pieces that fell into place. When they really had me guessing, I'd usually turn to the internet for a search and answers. These searches would tease out deeper meaning hidden in my psyche.

When I was pregnant my vivid dreams usually involved lesbian sex.  I learned to just laugh at those and enjoy them for what they were.  While I'm not a fan of girl kisses, my sleeping mind wasn't against them at all. I carried so many boys in my Momma belly, it might have been their hormones.  The girls I carried shared enough of their hormones to give me pimples and horrible morning sickness.

I will carry the DNA of every child I carried in my womb for the rest of my life, circulating in my bloodstream.  For this reason, if you've ever carried a boy, don't bother taking a gender identity test that isolates male DNA.  It'll give you a false positive. Wait for a torpedo in the ultrasound when you go for the organ survey around 20 weeks.

For the last several years, I couldn't remember dreaming at all.  There's a definite correlation between my ability to write and my ability to be aware of any dreams.  I couldn't write for a long time.  At one point, I couldn't line up a paragraph and in frustration I would scrap it in tears.

There were many times that I'd start a journal and my husband would find it and read it and be hurt and depressed by it.  I hid them in the bottom of drawers and under mattresses. I taped them along the wall in our closet. Writing was a way to dump my anger, doubts and frustrations without lashing out at others.  He would later read my vitriol and internalize it.  Sometimes we'd talk.  Sometimes what I wrote would come back as a weapon against me in an argument at a later date.  Other times, it came out as anger or frustration that I would focus so intently on reading or writing that I wasn't able to give him or the kids my full attention.

In one of my many bids to win him back, I destroyed journals I had poured myself into that spanned more than two decades. I'm not upset about that.  There was a lot of anger in them, and destroying them changed how I write.  Changing how I write was able to shift my perspective, and I'm happier for it. Although, in my early journaling days, I was full of male bashing jokes.  Bad male bashing jokes.  I miss the laugh. I would write the word, "platypus," and giggle for a few minutes.  My favorite insults were "hamster penis," "vulture vomit," "penis dribble," and "chicken weenie." And no, chickens don't have weenies. I love it that most days I can slip back into that teenaged me, and be silly and make people think I'm a decade younger than I am.  I can dance through a song while focusing on work because I can find that joy and silliness.  It's never far from me.  My anger is.  I have most of the poems I've written throughout my life. The darkness that filled every moment is far from me.  I like who I am now, and I love that I'm not far from the silliness I used to live in, but it's been a long while since I've told someone they were being a hamster penis.

Part of loving being a student majoring in English was that I had an excuse to have to read and write.  A grade depended on that and my performance would later be monetized. In theory.  Still waiting on that one.  I am not a fan of most literature taught in college courses.  It was typically dry and boring.  It took 4 valiant attempts to get through Moby Dick and I was proud of getting through it, but didn't feel like I would ever want to read it again.  Children's literature with the undercurrent of moral teaching and sexual perversion was more interesting than I anticipated.  You should read Little Red Riding Hood with me.  It will scar you in your childhood dreams.

The other side of being a student and using school as an excuse for my bookish fix is that there wasn't room for creativity.  I would read countless dull literary masterpieces during the quarter, and on breaks go through several young adult paranormal romances because my brain needed the downtime, but I couldn't plot and plan a story.  I'm more of a pantser anyway, and there are major plot holes when I don't outline.  I tend to see them around the 40,000 word mark and scrap my manuscript and start over.  When I do plan, the writing bores me to the point that I hate revision, and if I don't want reread what I've written, it's ballsy to expect anyone to want to read it the first time through. This has happened at least six times. For some reason every time I read Twilight, I feel like I can be a writer.  I can do what she did there.  Then I read Harry Potter and know I'm not ready to create worlds, and "kill my darlings," as Stephen King has said or written.

So now I'm writing.  Most of what I'm writing is getting published in these blog posts.  Some of it stays private.  I haven't started on a book yet, because I can accept I'm just not there yet.  My prose isn't achingly beautiful.  My thoughts are still chaotic.  But I'm writing, and with the words, dreams are teasing my resting mind, and lingering each morning.  It's as if by writing, I've given myself permission to access the forbidden ideas held in check by fear of hurting my husband's feelings.  It's as if I have permission to work through issues and grow emotionally.  And I have.  You might not see it, but I do.

The best part is the way my mind can trail in opposite directions.  I woke up one morning on the tail end of a sexual dream.  It was tender and beautiful and not about my husband.  As the ephemeral tail of a lingering touch lost its substance, words filtered through my mind, with venom and angst about the wife I was and the many ways he took my giving heart for granted.  I was angry that I did it at my expense in the names of love and obedience, and his exit was about finding the happiness he deserved. They were such opposite thoughts, and they overlapped and still made sense.  As overwhelming as all of those emotions were, I didn't feel overwhelmed in the least.  I could evaluate both what my mind saw, and the words filtering through my mind with my eyes still closed.  It was epic.

I've started lucid dreaming where in the middle of a vivid dream, I know I'm dreaming.  I'm aware that what is occurring is happening in my sleep.  Or sometimes I'm on the verge of drifting off and I'll feel a dream trying to pull me in and I haven't fallen asleep yet. Most recently, I was drifting off and a gentle hand on my shoulder was pulling me back for a kiss, and it was so real and not real that it woke me up.  It was awesome.

How My Support System Holds Me Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm supported and knowing that keeps me encouraged.

 

Massive Ass Expansion or Exercise?

12027611_1111426288891292_5109535420567742605_n It's occurred to me that I can't keep making 3 egg omelets with soft cheeses and mushrooms for breakfast and not start seriously exercising.  It's a little crazy. I may have to look for that yoga mat and make peace with sweat.  I might even teach the kids that my jump rope is more than a weapon to subdue a younger brother.

I used to exercise.   I had an old dance teacher who taught out of her home.  I learned ballet, tap dance, jazz, and even a few Hawaiian dances from her. I loved her wrinkled and gnarled arthritic hands that would hold graceful poses as she waltzed around the studio with us.  She had a cat that loved to mark my jean jacket every single class session.

I ran around the neighborhood with the boys where we'd throw a football around in a game of Pickle, or we played kickball in the church parking lot where more than once I had to climb onto the church roof to retrieve a ball.  I tried being a skater and stopped shortly after mastering an ollie, because I realized I didn't love the fear of my horrible balance.  I rode bikes around the block and we found the steepest hills to challenge death.  An elderly neighbor gave me an old bike out of his garage with U-Shaped handlebars and a banana boat seat.  His wife used to make us rhubarb pies. My Dad replaced that bike with a 10 speed when I wanted a stunt bike.

I was in gymnastics with a coach that told me I was too tall and my girl hips were too large. I tried so hard to continue working with bloodied and torn blisters on my hands that looked like eyes when I matched the lines on my palms into a smile. I loved the uneven bars, but they didn't like me.

My 8th grade year I was in regular P.E.classes and frequently had (uninvited) teen boy hands slap my butt.   I had an inept electricity teacher who showed me how to use a drill press, but couldn't keep his male students from touching my body. Assault in the early 1990's looked a lot like boys being boys according to faculty and administration. I would eventually write "Jane Doe's Butt" (using my actual, but currently redacted name) on my P.E. t-shirt over my rear in an attempt to own the daily assault. Shortly after that it stopped, and now I can see it was just an act of aggression.

I was on a swim team at the beginning of puberty.  It was a mixed team and I was bear crawling around the pool in a bathing suit with pubescent teen boys right behind me.  It pushed me out of the pool in a way that makes me still avoid chlorinated waters.

I was in drill team and running a mile daily. My knees suffer from practicing knee drops from a standing position, whether or not I remembered to bring my knee pads to school. Being able to drop into the splits and jumping into Russian splits in the air was one of my many selling points, I'm sure.

After my one year of drill team I fell back into general physical education where I did the stretches everyone else did, which did nothing for me.  I ended up pulling a muscle running laps without stretching enough.

In karate, I did 300 crunches a day.  I would spar with a tall blonde god who is now covered in ink with a bald head and working to protect celebrities all over the world.  Trust me, he's great at guarding a body. I didn't mind when he would take me down, but it's okay that we were only ever friends. Memories of crushes without heartbreaks are my favorite memories.

There is something about the evolving body of motherhood that is miraculous and disgusting.  My firstborn was slightly underdone.  His first days as a preemie in the NICU meant I spent his first 4 months trying to get him to latch on.  I was determined to breastfeed, and my badassery wouldn't accept his wailing rejection as my final answer. Nursing meant sweat, and leaking milk, and smells that I hope to one day forget because my body shouldn't smell like that. Childbirth, in all its wonder is a leaky endeavor and it's those memories that make me hate sweating, though I love fresh sweat on a healthy man. Clean sweat is such an aphrodisiac.  Try it.  You'll like it.  Everybody's doing it.

My current exercise isn't exercise to sweat and be healthy.  I like to pull weeds after rainfall.  Tap roots pull out with satisfaction.  I will build and destroy and rebuild in projects around the house.  I enjoy long walks that push past a stitch in my side and give my feet blisters.  Some might call that hiking. I was planning a beach trip this weekend so I can duke it out with ocean waves, but it might be a bit cool for that. I need the point of exercise to be doing something or going somewhere, and it has to be gentle on my knees that are short on cartilage.  I was 5'6" in my teens. I may have already started shrinking. I just can't see myself working a machine while watching television. It feels pointless and depressing.

It's amazing how much I love my cooking when I spent years making breakfast for my family, skipping most meals myself. My husband hated boxed meals and his mother's cupboard surprise, so I was always challenging myself in the kitchen.  Tonight we're having shepherd's pie and this is a meal where I sneak in rutabaga and turnips, parsnips and carrots and they all look like potato cubes, except the carrots and I feel like it's a mom win. They might be catching on because those bits don't taste like potatoes. I would stay up late and nosh on junky processed foods while reading a book or watching something on television.  In laziness, I would doctor a can of some sort of chunky Campbell's soup with shredded sharp cheddar and french fried onions. It was the hours when my family slept that my respite began and I couldn't indulge in that respite if I was asleep, so I stayed up and consumed foods that disguised the feelings I chose to chew down. Right now I'm often not hungry, so when I am, I make it special. It's like being a teenager again, except I'm excited about fending for myself.

My current eating habits are different. I don't think I'm eating in depression as much as having an epicurean indulgence.  I'm very much into whatever feels good right now. At the same time, I love it that I'm about the size I was around the year 2000. The idea of exercise keeps playing with me and I'm not sure if or when it will happen, but I keep having thoughts of visiting a friend at the Crossfit in Eagle Rock because he makes it look so inviting. But realistically, as was just pointed out to me, a crossfitter will always love their body more than me. I'm okay with that too.