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Simmering

Art allows us to process things we rarely give voice to.  It draws out emotions we are often too carefully shielding from the world to express or release. It's a performance that echoes what you remember.  It's a song that winds melodies around our hearts, stealing any superficial healing. It's a painting that arrests your senses and calls on a memory that faded with the sun after a fitful night of ephemeral visions. It's the winding of metals around precious stones to adorn the bodies of those we love.  It's the careful placement of stones and the manipulation of water and flora that invites fauna in a garden.  

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Everything Happens When and How It's Supposed to

I love my car.  I wrote about the car issues I had with my last car here. That reminder was perfectly timed for my emotional strength and momentary weakness last night. I was picking out colors for my living room at Home Depot and as I was leaving their lot, my car notified me that I had low tire pressure. Having had so many cars with slow leaks I used to ignore, I just drove home.  It was normal when I had dented rims, or used tires to have issues that are slow to show up.

I was going to go in and find the primer I had in storage to start on the really dark wall at home, but it's a bigger job than I want to do alone and stalling made so much more sense.  I was thinking of dropping things off and maybe finding an adventure.  I love driving up PCH during the day and it was something I could imagine being less terrifying than it usually is for me at night.

It was more of an instinct than an automatic response, but instead of going in for the night, I got out the car and started walking around my car.  I actually heard the hiss of air escaping the tire.  I called roadside assistance to swap out a tire that I could have changed myself and I was able to wait inside my house.

You might imagine I remember every single word I write because it's all solid gold.  Every single word is magic. Right? It's not.  The crazy part about my writing is how it helps me release and forget things. I had actually forgotten the details about the post linked above and the writing of it.  Last night reminded me of a night with car problems a year ago and 20 miles away from home. I actually tried a few keyword searches to find it.  And I was floored at the perfectly timed reminder I needed. Last Christmas echoes this Christmas in some ways and I'm ready for that launch into more than I could have dreamed for.

Last Christmas I was picking out my kid's Christmas gifts at the dollar store.  My car was crapping out on me consistently.  I didn't have a job.  I received a charm from my sister for Christmas.

This Christmas was handled with credit (next year's goal is cash) and my only wish was to give my kids more than they expected and I did.  No real car problems because last night doesn't count and I received a coffee mug filled with candy from my mom.

Both years I was overwhelmed with love and acceptance from my family and friends.  It was a gift that offered more than I expected.  Both years there is a sigh and a collapse of expectation that creates space for transition.  I'm ready to be launched into more than I could dream of.  My expectations are high, but my accountability to myself is even greater.

Last year I was so convinced my marriage was something I wanted and would never let go of.  This year I'm eager for the next thing in my life and excited for the change that is coming.

The car I drove both Christmas's have reminded me that things happen in a perfect way that create change, keep me safe and inspire hope.  I was talking about it with a friend last night and looked up the post this afternoon.  Here I am, jobless, having a tire that needs to be repaired, handling it on my own again.  I was reminded of last time.  I was reminded of the journey I've been on.  And the timing was grace.

Being optimistic means I'm always looking for lessons and miracles.  Being who I am means I have encouraged accountability in my choices and I have a tribe that holds me high.  It is a great time in my life, even if I can't make sense of it yet.  I can't wait for what 2017 will bring to me, and what I get to create.

Dreaming Big

Dreams vs. Reality

My dream for my blog was always free therapy.  Somehow it became a point of conversation that has made people ask me for advice because I've found a way to live that makes it seem like I have answers.  It's odd for me.  It feels really strange like the times when I get asked for relationship advice from people that seem to see I'm not actually in a relationship and think I'm an expert.

Online dating, sure. We can have a laugh at my expense.  I can tell you about inappropriate texts and cat fishing.  No water, hook tying or smelly bait necessary.

Mothering boys, yes. More laughter.  Amazing rewards.  Heavy costs.

Moving on from a marriage.  I'm getting pretty badass at this.

Surrogate pregnancy, yeah. 3 surrogacies, 7 IVF cycles, egg donation, natural birth, c-section, twins.  Couples that made me feel things I couldn't imagine being gifted with.

Autism advocacy, hell the fuck yes.  Sensory integration dysfunction messes exploded last night.  I'll tell you all about it if I can hand you a scrub brush and get free labor.

Meaningful and lasting relationships . . . Can I get back to you on that? Although it might be closer than that pot of gold I'm after. I can show you my fear of commitment.  I can point out the ways in which I keep things superficial and how these relationships have been set up to fail.  Or the ways in which I made myself codependent to someone's narcissistic needs.  We can talk gas lighting and how easy it is to follow familiar and destructive patterns. I can show you how I push men away by being clingy because they prefer it when you really don't want them. And the best relationship advice I keep hearing is to pretend you don't, even if you do.

A couple of nights ago I dreamt I was on an adventure. I was finding my way through a place that looked like a park and led to hell. It was an ascent up stairs into hell.  I was on a rescue mission. I had a piece of wood, lit like incense and keeping it lit and smoking was my ticket back to the living. There were people on their adventures alongside us and somehow I knew enough about where we were going to advise them.  I remember the large concrete steps that were designed for something that wasn't human.  We had to climb each rise and trek across each run.  There were scattered pine trees around me and I was leading someone even though I was just as lost.  It was a strong contrast to what I actually felt when I woke and felt warmth and safety in my bed.  I was held and felt so much peace when waking that the dream itself was so foreign. I don't remember the last time waking at 4 am made me so happy.

Last night my dream included a man I wanted to be with a few months back. He was with his kids, and I was only visiting him as his date was leaving. His date was clearing plates, and threw away the rest of their Chinese take out, past the pleading of his daughter for the rice she wanted. As she left in her fancy clack of heels, I taught his little girl to make a pot of rice in her dollhouse kitchen the way my grandmother taught me to on the stove in my childhood home. We rinsed the rice, and I could smell the memories of basmati rice in the feel of water and grains slipping through fingers.  I showed her how to gauge the water by using her finger tip.  We set the water to boil on her tiny electric stove top and at some point her big brother flipped the house over, but we were able to save that pot.  My dream started with a man I was okay with letting go of and ended with the loss of his children and my grandmother.  This morning I woke up and it doesn't matter that I never met his kids or that my own were in the very next room, there was a feeling of loss that held me and forced silent tears to fall. It's a loss that feels like a dream that steps on scars of a past, only it's a present feeling that suddenly carries depth and layers.  Waking from this dream, I lost his kids, my grandmother and the current man that set my soul aflame and left me in burning embers. It layered and fell on me in emotions that screamed for release before my eyes opened.

What amazes me is the way I wake up from dreams and reality is shadowed by fiction so powerfully that I don't always know the difference. The peace in last night's dream was shadowed by a real moment of loss that I felt before I was fully awake this morning.

Dreaming and Real Life Goals

I was writing out my goals for the year.  They included personal growth, financial stability, travel and love. I kept looking at that list this morning and wondering why it all looks doable.  Nothing looks extraordinary.  It's all attainable.  And this sadness hit me because I knew I wasn't allowing myself to dream big.

Self Limitations

It was a set of goals that are based on limitations I was offered and accepted in the past.  I'm serving myself oatmeal for dinner and convincing myself it's the best possible goal and plausible outcome. Where is the food joy in that?  Where is the life satisfaction in knowing you accept less because you know it can be delivered?

The way I do anything is the way I do everything, right? I was talking to a man and I could see the ways he could make me happy.  What he offered me was like so much of what I had in the past that I could see his trailer and imagine a happy movie for me to get lost in, cry over, and see what the ending would be.  The ending is always happy or sad, because movies rarely just make you think, right? Lately all of my romances and crushes make me think and rarely (but sometimes) they might make me cry. I've never shopped around for a step-dad, so it was easy to see that he couldn't be a step-dad to my kids.  Good enough for me, but not my kids.  It took a few days for that idea to really sink in.

In love, I haven't started dreaming big.

In shopping for a step dad, there hasn't been an experience to raise or lower that bar for me.  It's still held comfortably at myself.  If I'm the badass warrior dragon slayer I am, I need the other part of my power team to be just as badass if he wants to be a step dad to my boys.  I've just never had a potential step dad for my kids that could lower my expectations.  He would fight for his sense of duty.  He would embody maturity to be modeled. He would be a man I would want to give more children to, in all of the lunacy I would have to embrace for that.

My love life is different.  I've dated men that stole, and did drugs, and loved getting drunk.  I've dated jealous men and men with tempers.  I know what an online affair feels like and I now know not to ignore that feeling when faced with it in real life. If you feel it in your gut, it's probably more true than you want to believe.  I've dated men that could convince me I was being a bad mom and partner by being who I am.  I can usually tell I'm being lied to when I'm doing something wrong by breathing.  As a single woman, I'm fairly confident. And I know right from wrong, often choosing the right thing, over the easy thing. My love life has taught me about breaking into cars, slanging crack, rolling Primos (crack needs to be cut on glass or a mirror so it doesn't fly off a wooden coffee table and you want to sprinkle it on the weed before you roll it like a pregnant lady - small on the ends and fat in the middle), gang life, hiding guns before they're sold, jealousy, insecurity (I can dance on eggshells, but I prefer a dance floor).  I can roll you into a recovery position to make sure you don't asphyxiate on your own vomit.  I know what it is to be the object of lust for a fuck boy and I know how to treat him just as callously.  It's not a gift.

I hope no woman ever has to learn what I know romance to be.  You should be learning what flowers make you feel special and deep conversations that make you feel things and think differently.  You should learn what will make him happy just as completely as he's learning about you and your desires.

It's the blending of real and fantasy that I want to learn.  I want to learn to expect nice surprises and hand holding.  I want to expect to be treasured and loved.  I want to expect that I'm not the only one that knows the right choice looks harder than the easy choice, but the right choice will help us sleep better at night. I want to expect more songs sent to me that hammer what we're both feeling into melodies and lyrics that call to the deepest parts of my soul.  I want to wake up in my lover's arms and feel him breathing under my hand as his heart paces happily against my cheek. I want to wake up to his smile and laughter and I want another morning of stolen kisses before duty calls and a feeling of happiness at those random texts throughout the day that drags on way too slowly until I can see him again.  I want his scent to linger on my skin and feel him with me when the memories are too sweet to entertain reality. I want this love to be a reality my kids see and learn from.  I want them to feel they have someone patient with them and understanding.  I want them to know I'm not the only one that sees them as normal human beings.  I have friends that tell me to raise my expectations as well as friends that tell me to lower them.  I'm just shooting blankly and hoping he'll be targeting me at the same time. And if he finds me, he will do all he can to hold onto me.

There's also a balance.  All things in life have a good and bad to their cost. I remember what it was like when my mom first brought my step dad around.  I hated the change he represented.  My boys also surprise me daily and they handle these changes better than I did. I'm learning to not give them my fearful limitations and to just see where we can go, stepping back where we need to.  I'm taking notice of the ways that I'm limiting my dreams and coaching myself to go get my life.

If you haven't heard it, I'm telling you now: Go get your life!  You are your only motivation and limitation.

It's about a career that I love and pays me enough to be happy doing it.

It's about going places to see and do and be that are not limited by constraints I've adapted from the expectations of others on my life. I don't have to stay local or a standard week or weekend.  I can go when it fits my needs and how it works best for me.

It's about a love that isn't set to a template of my past or a fantasy that is too unattainable to be mine because when I decide I can't have it, I will start sabotaging myself so I can't get it.

Meditate on your goals.  Focus your energies toward your success.  Plot and plan.

Dream big.  Reality will try to kick you down, and that just means you need to redirect your plans and goals. There's a life you get to live.  It's yours and no one else's.  You should handle it, so you don't become a slave to it.

This is the Monday of Your Life

I was driving Kid2 to school this morning, and I asked him if he was excited.  He gave me the usual "what the hell?" look that teenagers are supposed to perfect.  I laughed.  Then I looked at him and said, "really?"  And I explained what I'm so happy to share with you.  Right now. A friend once pointed out that we get two lives, and the second begins the moment we realize we only get one.  This is your Monday.  No one else gets to wake up in your body, (unless you are having a frisky morning) and no one else gets to live your day.  This is you in all of the amazing ways you get to exist.

Fight for your bliss.  Look for your joy.  Live every moment as if it matters because this is your life and you are the only one that gets to live it.

Make good choices you can be proud of.

Do the epic and live in the sublime.

Breathe in the gift of your existence and with every moment, know you have a unique contribution to offer.  Figure out what you are meant to do and who you are meant to be.  Then do it.  You are your only motivation and your only roadblock.  Own your better and embrace your worse.

Gift yourself to the world at large.  Be.  In this moment as you read the words in my heart, be aware that this moment is yours.  This epic existence is yours to set your own standards, disregarding everyone else's.  They don't even get to experience your heartburn, so don't give them a smile that hurts because it's inauthentic.

It's the Monday of your life, because this is life and there are no practice days in your existence.  We are abundantly gifted with days to do more, be better, and give all you have, knowing that cup comes with free refills.

You can live in expectation that one day you won't be living, or you can live in the intention that this isn't that day and so it doesn't matter.

High School Reunion

I'm more committed to my Facebook account than I am to most of my relationships.  I check out my Facebook feed throughout the day.  My Instagram and Wordpress accounts are allowed to post to Facebook and I don't even question why no one else asks Facebook to post to them.  Or maybe I just won't explore Facebook's commodification of my ability to use them to remain emotionally stunted. I use their messenger.  I use it to follow along in the lives of my friends without actually having to bother taking the time to be part of their lives. Shame on me and I get to notice, and change that.

I went to a high school that is only 4.5 miles from my house.  I've walked farther than that on a great museum day.  The thing is, most of my graduating class that I have "friended" (because making up words works when you become the social equivalent to coffee) is also fairly local.

My latest stretch is to show up.  I have met some amazing people this year that are dreaming big and offering me the opportunity to be present for them.  I get to show up and it means I'm not hiding in solitude, pretending to be friends because I can see what you're doing online without actually talking to you or pretending you might matter.  I mean, at the end of the day, these people are part of me.  There was something in my life that they experienced with me, which is why we are connected on social media (for the most part). They sat in the same classes with me.  They knew me and saw in me things I couldn't see (because introspection isn't easy when you are too busy looking for similarities so you aren't othered, not realizing it's what's within you that makes you so alike). They didn't see what I kept carefully hidden in shame of who I am.

The reunion was a success.  The group of us meant to reunite showed up.  There will be other gatherings. In the brokenness that has shown up in other areas of my life, I stepped back and allowed others to plan the reunion, only planning to show up for the game, if that.  I wasn't committed to what became an amazing night of reminiscence.  The girl that got me into and out of so much mischief asked me to be her date, and when I spent more than a few seconds debating if I should go, I decided I should go.  I'm becoming much more impulsive.  If a thought takes up more than a few moments of my time, I have been deciding on the, "oh what the fuck, do whatever it takes" mantra, and so far it's serving me well.

In not being an active participant, some friends were left out of the invitations.  It wasn't on purpose.  Actually, when I first heard about the planning, I was still in the trenches of family life and that life looked a lot like what I expected the rest of my life to look like. The idea of being around old friends and the way I felt I had to fit myself around my ex's needs in that situation were stressful.

*You may or not notice that I have no problem expressing my thoughts and ideas and perspective, but the way I felt when fitting myself around his needs is something I have yet to be able to express.  I am still stretching slowly in expressing my feelings but that only comes through relationships which I'm fantastic at avoiding. Didn't notice? You should practice studying the words left unsaid.  It can be illuminating. And that is my next real area of growth . . . sharing my feelings (even if they are messy and not always nice).

When my ex said he was done with the marriage, I was often openly bleeding.  I was posting exactly what I thought and felt and what was happening on my Facebook wall.  Life as I knew it was shifting and it wasn't just the person but the expectations of what my life was going to look like were taken from me and I couldn't make sense of it. It was ugly and messy and in hindsight not a strong or proud moment.  I unfriended a lot of people because I didn't want everyone to see it.  I unfriended people I wasn't super close to.  I unfriended his family.  I unfriended the people planning the reunion.  About a month ago, I friended a woman that reminded me it's been 20 years and she told me about the reunion.  I was added to a group, reconnected with friends, and then kept it superficial, not bothering to see who was included in the group and which of my friends were left out.  She didn't actually go, but remembered the douche ex I had in high school.  I didn't want to be remembered for being his ex.  I can't be remembered for that because who we were has nothing to do with who I am, right?

I got to show up.

I arrived on time, which means I was early for the rest of the group.  I'm really used to walking in alone and being comfortable in my skin.  I was someone's date, so I took the time to explore the gardens at Yamashiro before their era ends (in 2 weeks). I met her at valet and we walked inside, with a moment for a selfie.  She's beautiful but more private than I am, so I'm not sharing her face on my blog. As others came in, there were hugs and moments of, "you kinda look familiar." Because of Facebook, I also greeted spouses I don't actually know with so much more familiarity than was warranted.  (Yay creeptackular me!) Then of course there were moments when I was in a room with complete strangers because I was just as self involved in high school as I can be now.  How I do anything is how I do everything, but I get to take notice and grow from that.

True to who I am . . .

I'm still me.  When I walked inside the restaurant with my friend we stopped at the bathroom where I noticed the way the water poured out from the faucets.  I stood in the vent blowing cool perfumed air over me with eyes closed, feeling the wonder of the moment and what I was being invited into.  I watched the beautiful koi in the ponds and streams around the restaurant.  I enjoyed the sound of my shoes walking across the floor.  When I realized the time later, I ran outside to catch an amazing view of the sunset.  I then went back in to grab company because it was too beautiful to not share.  I had moments where I stood at the large windows as the skies grew darker and buildings and homes all over the city slowly lit up.  I wasn't giving all of me to the moment we shared, but living each moment for the gift to myself that it was.  It was a sensory nirvana.

The nostalgia feels . . .

There was a moment on a bench where I sat with a friend and we talked about ex boyfriends.  We talked about how much better our lives are without them.  I told her how after my separation, I did enough cyber stalking to see what my ex's were up to, but decided early on they weren't worth reaching out to.  We had moments of connection that probably excluded people that were never as close to us as we were to each other.

On the way to the football game, she was in the car ahead of me.  We were talking by phone.  I have plenty of moments where I will say, "hi" or "thank you for what you are doing for me on your run" or simply, "you're beautiful" while my window is up and the radio is on and I'm at no risk of actually being noticed.  Last night while we talked on the phone, I rolled my window down and said, "hi" to the man in the car next to me.  I said, "sorry but you have a terrific smile."  He complimented my smile and drove up a bit, ending the conversation.  I laughed.  My friend laughed.  In that moment, I was 20 years younger.  In that moment, I had the audacity to flirt shamelessly again and it was epic.  It was me standing  on the wings and strength of our friendship.  It was remembering that with her, I could do anything. Being isolated in my car reminded me that I can do anything.

The homecoming game . . .

My kid brother is on the football team. He was benched for an injured clavicle but he was there.  And I was there with the men that were once boys on that team when it was my school and the women I sat with were once cheerleaders and the drill team.  We critiqued these kids for getting away with the things we never could have on these teams.  The football players scored higher.  The cheerleaders would have been out performed based on the leadership we had in our youth alone.  The dance team was certainly a highlight of the half time show. This morning I learned that their leadership is the direct result of a foundation and a student that learned under one of my classmates.  We're amazing and talented at any age.

The end of the night . . .

I'm mom, so even though I shared two thirds of the planned night with people I haven't seen in 20 years, I was happy to head to my Mom's house and pick up my son.  My kid brother didn't want a ride home, and I get it.  He had a food baby to feed with his friends.

I went home feeling like I wanted to deepen these connections and renew these friendships.  These people had shared experiences and memories with me.  There's a built in connection and camaraderie that I can connect with and grow from. We shared similar shock and outrage to see kids walking around holding a live chicken at the game.  We remembered the field being more dirt than grass, and too dark to play night games.  I remembered that I used to love watching live football games. It wasn't so alien and I wasn't lost on the basics.  That was fun.  (We won't talk stats and predictions.)  I walked to my car with a coffee mug, and in awe of the moment I watched a couple of friends buy a tie from our alma mater, and tie it on with expertise.  Another friend reached for a parting hug while holding his sleeping daughter in his arms and wearing his 20 year old letterman jacket.  His fatherhood just about melted me.

To see these people as adults . .  . Strong, fierce, beautiful people with families and responsibilities and this beautiful light that looks like strong hugs and a searching look to see that I really am right in front of them and doing well . . . It was an affirmation of the life I get to live and love in.  There's glorious freedom here.

It was a great night to be me. Even if you are pseudo connected on social media, there is nothing as moving as showing up for your friends and being connected by experience through time.  And it's never too late to step in closer and reach in deeper.  So much opens up to you and all you have to do is show up.  You get to show up and things happen as they're supposed to!  I have some showing up I get to do today.  You should find ways in which to show up too.

Saving Space and a Place Called Home

I was on a journey through home yesterday, if that makes sense.  I am an Angeleno.  I was born at Cedars when they first moved from the blue Scientology building near Kaiser and Children's Hospital in East Hollywood.  I've lived here my whole life with all of my addresses in Los Angeles County.  I've always just lived here in the shadows of existence I let others define. I went to bars my friends wanted to go to, or the ones close to home when I was alone, never making space for the opportunities I wanted to create.  I would go to restaurants chosen for me, and I have an amazing knack for finding something on the menu I can enjoy . . . Even if I really hate Island's or In-N-Out (I know, sacrilege but I'm over it, you should get there too). Those were my ex's favorite restaurants and we were there most family and date nights.  Sucked to be me. It's part of being Kid4 for 17 years before becoming Kid4 of 12 plus the siblings that married into our clan making us a sibling force of 16, not including ex spouses (no, mine doesn't count).  I can go with the flow because I'm not a special snowflake that has to have her way.  This looks like existence and is hardly living.  I've taken notice.  I get this and I get to change it. I can own my voice and be heard in a room full of din beyond my creation because I'm more powerful than I've even given myself credence to be.

My day started at the Grand Park art walk.  It was all of Grand Park with Dia de los Muertos artwork throughout.  If you're curious, you can check out my Instagram.  (This will be here later if you get lost in my vapid selfie moments.) The museums, theaters and music centers were free and offering free performances and swaggy junk that will make once functional fabric into landfill fodder.  I then walked to the Artist and Fleas LA meetup where I found Ms. Mary Abolfazli and took home her book which whispered words to me sweetly, only to explode into these words today.  (We'll get there.)  I drove to the Last Bookstore, then walked to the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market and then stopped at Howard Griffin Gallery before finishing my day off in Santa Monica on the pier and at a short play.  It was a really great day to be me, but if you haven't noticed, most days are.

Back to this gem of a book.  Mary's book asked some questions and it's only fair to share the pages that spoke the loudest for this post.  I'm certain it will be read and re-read and more will come of it because the best books . . . the honest books . . . offer that gift and keep giving it in renewed messages and new ones that you didn't notice the first time. What is most incredible, is that she teaches her craft.  She teaches creative writing and you can learn from her by checking out her website.  You can also search "That Kind of Light" and save it in your browser.  Make repeat visits.  Tell her I sent you.

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What is home? I used to think home was where my heart was.  Home was in the man I chose to bind my future to.  When he left, it wasn't just the man that was gone, but the future and the goals and plans I created for myself because I was so solidly bound to him.  My life was a space created and saved for him.  He wanted to draw and I was looking for art supplies and keeping the baby occupied to leave him alone.  He wanted to get into paintball and I was home every weekend alone while he played, being passive and aggressive about my abandonment in teasing jabs at his bruises after kissing him goodbye that morning.  He wanted to go deep sea fishing every weekend, coming home with fish and the smells of ocean, rotting sea creatures, oiled burlap and sunblock. I would have to wash his clothes separately to not be tainted by the smell of loneliness.  He got into rap music and would call to say he was too drunk to drive home and I would be home alone, knowing there were strippers at the house with him because that was the culture they cultivated. His music became offensive to me as a wife and I couldn't be offended as a wife because the fame was his dream, so I said I couldn't allow our sons to listen to his music as their mother.  He became a Christian rapper but the abandonment was the same.  He was taking on leadership roles in our church and I wanted him to take over more than financial leadership for us at home. I was home alone with our kids, making space for his dreams, not realizing I could have been creating my own.

College wasn't a dream.  It was my survival.  I needed space that was my own and had nothing to do with anyone but myself.  I needed something sacred and untouched that was mine, and it looked like school.  When my life was released and only mine, I had to redefine what my dreams and goals were and it's a constantly renewing process.  It looks like eating foods I love and exploring where my curiosity takes me.  It looks like sitting on a pier long after the cloud cover blocks out the moon and all I see is darkness because in this expansive void I am small and everything is bigger than me and because I am breathing and present, I am just as monumental.

Home is no longer a person.  It's not the home I come to each night.  It used to be home was where I laid my head, but that was because of the men in my life . . . in my home . . . the one I chose and the children we shared. It was the soft sounds of rest and the peace I felt in my home because we were together.  But on days when I am home alone, I've discovered home to be the place where I am resting in the authority of my choices.  It's where I can be content in the feel of my skin and the infinite possibilities of my freedom.  It's the taste of a good meal and the beauty of a sunset or a fluttering butterfly that catches my eye.  It's birds in flight and the wonder on a child's face.  Last night I was walking down the street with a friend and a child passing in the opposite direction reached out to hold my hand and that was home. Home is where I choose to make it and it's no longer in a person or a vision I can't see.  It's not just within me but all around me and bigger than I need to contain.  img_1549

What does it mean to live life if we become syncopated routines of existence?  We do our daily tasks and assign to them the meaning we think they should hold, based on another's rubric.  At the end of your life, will you be happy with the pretty things  you own or have authority over, knowing you didn't impact anyone's life because you failed to impact your own? I don't want the perfect body if I have to eat food I don't like.  I don't want the swanky office if I don't get to do what makes me happy.  I don't want the clean house if it means we can't be playful and carefree in it. Play can become passion if you let it, and to do what doesn't excite me means I've allowed the cost of my existence to dictate my capacity for joy.  Never again. Not while I'm cognizant of my capabilities . . . not while I can imagine the possibilities.

Being burdened by the past of my existence is a choice.  I can see what I've done.  I take notice of what I am capable of doing and make the changes necessary.  Those that only see me by my past have no reason to usher me into my future so I have stopped holding them and it's liberating. img_1550

My gift for today is to remain present.  I get to live in this moment and enjoy the sounds of nature (because I live on a quiet street on a hillside), while getting lost in haunting melodies that I've just discovered on Spotify.  I get to make space to be home and alone and see that it's a place of peace because I am a place of peace.  It follows me and is not confined to a person or the walls around me.  I get to be an expansive presence in my own life.  It's a gift.  I'm a certified treasure.

Oceans and Waves

img_1497 It's been a gnarly week.  I left work early on Monday.  Exactly 2 years after my pulmonary embolisms, I was having chest pain that felt like I was eating wheat, but I wasn't eating wheat.  Part of me knew it was probably tummy troubles, but because of the tight chest and childhood asthma making a comeback lately, I thought the prudent thing would be to check it out.  I hadn't eaten wheat at all in the last few days.  My chest felt painfully tight for at least 15 minutes straight and puking until there was nothing left didn't help.  Apologies to whomever had to listen from the stall next to me at work. An ER visit with tests, a blog post and a nap later and I went home to tackle mom duties. Indigestion from stress and I was ready for more.  

Hindsight is always crystal clear.  I had 2 and a half cups of coffee with enough coffee grounds in it to pretend it was tea and I was doing a divination reading.  It's probably what upset my stomach although I haven't had any other heartburn symptoms until tonight.  Even then, my wet burps weren't painful.  It was a demanding week with the boys.  They are consistently themselves, but my ability to handle it was shifting and I was short on reserves.  Today I had three people push my buttons in a way where I reached out to a friend in an effort to not lose my shit.  I smothered my anger in chocolate and headed to the beach after work.

There's something so healing about the sound of waves crashing and it was a beautiful night to stand over the ocean.  I haven't actually been in the ocean in years, but I imagined what that used to feel like and the memory shifted my perspective for just long enough.  I should paint the picture.

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When I got to the beach, the sun had already dipped beneath the horizon and the inky blue of night was splashed across the sky with the pink and gold of a light that can't be dimmed even after the sun makes way for the moon and stars. The clouds were drifting far above, and I knew the rain that started falling in Burbank would wait for my recharge in Santa Monica.

I walked along the pier and got to the end where anglers were using huge amounts of bait for the small mackerel they were catching.  Lower atmospheric pressure meant the ocean was swelling in anticipation for the storm and the water reached further up the pilings to the pier I stood on.  I stood over the water that crested in small translucent blue green waves.  The water was fairly clear and even at night with the lighted bobbers being used by hopeful anglers, I could see down several feet into the water.  The water rose and fell gently, with hardly a gust of wind.

I took the time to swipe left and right, because online dating is something a friend does and he makes it look not so scary.  We even swiped right on each other so he could see what vibe I'm sending out when a man asks me to visit him in his home but I've never met him before, and a second asks me to meet him in his home for a massage an hour and a half after a "hello."  He couldn't see anything other than how deep my need for conversation is.  I lightened the mood a bit, but the offers remained the same.

I took my time leaving the pier, meandering from side to side while walking east, appreciating the sound of water, and people, and Pokemon players.  I stopped and stood for a while to admire the waves that were cresting, then crashing into foam and a rushing gallop of waves running along the surface of the ocean.  Here I could see clouds of sand churning and dancing, making clear waters murky. I walked further toward land and as the waves crashed violently, further out, spent waves weren't consistently able to reach the same places.

I thought of those summers as a child when I would go out far enough into the ocean that I had to tread water because I couldn't stand.  I remember the feel of water so deep that I could curl my body up into the fetal position and just float on the waves, bobbing buoyantly on the surface.  Or I could hold my breath and go further toward the shore and the waves that were cresting would force my movement.  I could relax my body enough to be tossed into somersaults.  These waves would run toward the shore in shallow rushing foam, pushing me forward toward land.  On the shore, every 7th wave would reach far up the sand, but the other waves couldn't go as far.

When you first arrive at the shore and you start walking in.  The icy cold of the water first gives you pause at your ankles and again at your thighs.  Your body keeps telling you to stop .  The further you go, the more the waves fight you until you see the big ones coming and you can just dive below them and come up without being pushed away.

It was a moment where I realized I could stick my head up above the water and I could see where I was and what was coming my way in life.  The waves and the force of them is consistent.  That doesn't change.  What changes is the depth of the water, and the point at which the ground interferes with the cycle of the waves. Where I am shifts with who I choose to be. You fight to stand and move forward and then it gets easier and you see where life will move you.  Your body acclimates to the temperature and the force of nature becomes a balm as the waters wash away concerns of life, giving way to the feel of existence in ways that are foreign and call back to the time in utero when we were warm and safe and held. You dance away and laugh at the waves that try to reach you but you know where you stand and they are always out of reach. 

The farther in the ocean we are, we are carried.  We are pushed and held and oblivious to the distance we've slowly moved up north with the will of the ocean. We don't even see what's happening because we're so involved in being carried and guided by the waves - by our circumstance. The ability to stand changes the closer to land I get and the more firmly I plant my feet, the more violently the waves will push me, and crash over me.  The sand will shift away and suck me deeper into the muck and sludge.  But I don't have to stay where I am and life won't allow such obstinance.

Tonight I stood above the ocean and figuratively raised my head above the water to see where I was, deciding I'm not in the crash zone anymore. I'm in deep water, but every once in awhile, I find myself in the crash zone, being pushed out far enough to realize the waves that once overpowered me are still unable to reach as far as they once did and I'm diving deep without much effort lately.  Sometimes the waves are bigger than I am, but I haven't left the beach and that means I'm still trying.  And sometimes that's enough.  

Micro Midlife Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assistance on Aisle Me Please

I'm not quite comfortable asking for help.  Actually, it makes my skin crawl in bad ways.  I'm finding ways to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and I'm asking for help.  Yesterday was a day where I was being aggressive.  It looked like confidence because that is what my buffer of safety looks like.  It's bold.  It's the audacity to say what I want to.  It sounds like, "You're beautiful love, but that doesn't mean I want you." It's not nice and it's a perfect mirror for what I was feeling.  I was a bit out of control.  I was uncomfortable in my body.  I needed a timeout.  I needed to be alone.  I needed to find my center.  I went out alone and within a few moments I was okay again.  I know what I needed to do to reset and I did it.  The problem with that is I do it while shutting others out. This morning was a better morning.  It was a good day.  I took a walk and found peace in my stride. I was productive at work, if maybe slightly scatterbrained.  It was really great.

Early in the evening I was given words that came with weight.  It felt like anger wanted to claim me.  It felt like sadness was ready with a blanket to smother me. It looked like my mask was firmly in place because I was ready to hide in self destruction again.  That moment I saw the choices before me and I shifted.  I walked and talked with a great friend.  She gave me the perspective of a man as only she could because she was one once.  She gave me a direction for my boldness and I find that I'm a bit timid in taking her advice, even if I really want to.  This is new.  I like this new.  Our conversation shifted to the week I've had and she celebrated the idea that I'm willing to consider more than a few dates because she sees this as growth, just as much as I do.  I even told her that there's a new person holding my attention in unexpected ways and it's odd that I won't refer to him as a boy.  That says a lot.

I called three other women and even talked to two of them.  My world had righted itself by the time I got home.  I don't know if it was faster to enlist a few women to support me, but I'm glad I trusted them to help me and I'm glad we communicated on a deeper level.

I was a stay at home mom for 15 years.  I was completely reliant on my ex.  Our relationship was based in isolation.  He was my world.  I ignored friendships.  I turned my back on family.  All financial decisions were his and any shopping I wanted to do came with enough shame that I would hide Target receipts and buy Amazon gift cards with groceries so I could support my reading habit.

When my ex left it was first emotionally.  I had isolated myself to the point where he was everything and then I was nothing.  Physically he left.  I was so used to getting hugs and snuggles and suddenly it was just me, my teenage boys and my little one that wouldn't give me space.  Then it was financial.  In September of last year he promised to never give me another penny and it's not a promise he's broken. I had to figure things out.

I figured out finances, and self soothing through the pain.  I figured out how to find balance at home with the boys and when they are away.  It was hard.  I was able to learn from a breakup in my early adolescence that numbing the pain just gives you delayed grief.  It's like renting a storage space for your late aunt's things.  You will get to them when you can, and in the mean time, you're willing to make monthly installments on delaying grief. When you finally start to get through it all, you're faced with the grief and the anomie from a ripped off bandage that is covering something that was scabbed over and stiff and the world that kept going when you first lost her is still going, but they don't understand you might need to pause a moment because it's fresh pain that comes in waves.  It was emotionally draining.  I didn't numb the pain in alcohol or men that I really wasn't interested in.  If anything, I got really picky with who I wanted to spend my time with. I got it together.  I figured it out. It was hard and the idea of becoming dependent on someone else again scares me.

I'm stretching who I was into who I am becoming.

When I was hiking a few weeks ago, and dangerously dehydrated, I was still too proud to ask for help. I knew it was dumb to go farther than I planned with the small amount of water I had with me.  It was just as ridiculous to go hiking alone, but being alone has become the theme of my life.  I was determined to get to where I was going, and a bit freaked out about my condition, but I never once asked for help.  It was offered. I'm really thankful to the three people that offered help without my asking.  But it was dumb.

If I were a car my asker would be broken.  It's in my gut, right below the high beams.

I almost didn't take my Advanced class when I did.  I didn't have the funds and I was willing to wait until I did.  My friend noticed my aversion to asking for help.  She challenged me to stretch and ask for help.  She wanted me to start a Go Fund Me page and she coached me throughout the process, being one of my greatest contributors.  I started another one for this third class, but I'm in a place where it's okay if I don't make my goal.  I came up with the deposit on my own.  I'm getting some help through Go Fund Me, but I realized even if I don't make the tuition, I'll be okay. I'd be okay with taking the class later, if that's what it comes down to.  For me, I was proud of the moment I asked for help.  Even if enough help doesn't come, I've stepped outside of my comfort zone.

I asked for help tonight.  Rather than run to the ocean, I talked it out.  I asked for someone to listen to my frustrations and the parts that were angry.  I listened to wisdom I was incapable of.  I got it out and allowed the stretching that is forcing me to grow. I didn't go out to be seen.

 I chose to spend my last kid-free night for 5 days at home, in bed and reading someone else's blog.  I kept having wow moments at how lost I was, and how I could still feel the excitement though the gibberish (to me) haze of stats and my inner reckoning with, "I thought it was a football that gets thrown and caught and then there's running to the end zone with it.  What is all this other jargon?"  Clearly I don't speak sport stats, yet I kept reading. Interesting. 

Rise

"Rise"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Day

For the first time ever, my Dad and Step-Dad sat together and talked. My Mom remarried in 1996.  It was typical of divorce and remarriage.  There was anger and pain and it wasn't a mutual uncoupling.  Mine wasn't at first either.  For so long, my parents wouldn't even look at each other if they were in the same room.  For so long, my Dad wouldn't enter a building with my Step-Dad.  Today was huge and amazing, and yet, I tried my best to not make it as big a deal as it was. My sister and brother in law reminded me of deep love and renewed hope without trying. I spent time with my brother in law, and really appreciated how enthusiastic he is about going to work full time now that their nest is empty.  He quietly gave so much of himself so my sister could finish medical school and so their boys could do what they needed in order to become more and do better.  I remember years ago hearing about him filling up her gas tank and getting her car washed.  I'm still shocked that men do that kind of thing.  (I can hear a guy friend 0f mine telling me to raise my expectations.) He's loved her at times when I was shocked at the anger that she could be capable of.  He has done all anyone could ask for and more and he's done it without asking for recognition and tonight I really appreciated all he's done for their family and wondered if I could one day find that.

My cousin was there with her longterm boyfriend and their kids. I've been skeptical about ever trusting a new man around my boys.  I have anxious moments of terror that I would introduce them to someone that might try to harm them.  But I see the two of them and their children from before they met, and there is hope.  They gave me hope.

There were moments with my sisters.  I told one how deeply she is loved to the point where I could see her discomfort.  I hope she understands how earth shattering my love for her is.  I went on about my love and appreciation for my family tribe to another sister and nephew.  I wouldn't be who I am without their reflections on my life and through my soul.

And then there were conversations:

My Mom (from Thailand) : Look at her eyes. She's had enough.

Me: We're Asian.

Mom: Oh, now you're Asian when it's convenient.

Brother: We need a rope for the piñata.

Me: I have one in the car. Don't ask why.

Sister: For all that hiking you do.

Me: Uh. Yyyeeeah.

 

Me: Do you wear foundation or powder?

Sister: Powder. Why, can you see it?

Me: No. Your skin just has this glowy perfection that isn't normal for my skin.

Mom: I can't finish this. Put it in a water bottle and I'll take it home. . . I can feel it in my face .

(Talking about that really great glass of red wine and the Asian flush. I get it from my Mom.)

 

It was a tilapia, oyster and shrimp Po Boy fish fry.

Sister: I want some steak. It's good for my low iron.

Me: You should look around for some kale. (Sister) has one of those healthy houses.

 

Younger Niece to her older sister: Everyone says I look like you.

Other niece: Not when you make that face. . . Stop looking at me. You're ugly.

Me: She looks just like you.

Niece: Not when she makes that face.

Me: You both look like I used to.

And silence.

Niece: (surprised) Your hair has been purple almost two years?!?!!

Me: Yeah.

Niece: I never noticed it. Not until we went to the beach (this summer).

Me: It's purple underneath where I can hide it when I'm a grown up and show it off when I want to be 12.

 

Sister: I can't finish this. It's dry. Want it?

Me: Sure. (Taking the cigar she lit.)

~Later~

Dad: You are not too old to be obedient. (Directly and indirectly trying to get me to put it out.)

~Later Still~

Stepdad: (Privately) Don't do that. Especially in front of your dad.

~Latest~

Mom: Why are you doing that?

Me: It came all the way from Costa Rica.

Brother: $9.50 American is like $27 there.

Me:And there's shipping. It rode on the plane with them and everything.

 

Via Text: Hey :) How's your weekend going?

A sad stream of small talk leading up to, "Can you send me a pic? . . . How tall are you?"

Me: You seem like a nice person. (Lies) I wrote you off a long time ago.  (Truth) I hope you have a great week. (Not being honest.)

Because starting a week off with a rejection feels amazeballs when he seems like a sleazeball.

 

Love Bombs

It feels amazing when a love bomb is dropped all over you.  It shatters the inner dialogue that claims you are not enough, or worthy, or that you need to be more than you see in the mirror. You are seen intimately.  The call of your heart is heard and held and it resonates with meanings that are understood. You are given such a pure vision of how you present yourself that there is no denying that you are a beautiful being, full of light and possibility.  You are validated and shown that there is value in who you are as you are, without further expectation of who you should be based on a value system you are never expected to understand.  Love bombs are epic. I love your capacity to love.

I love your ability to see beauty through the ashes.

I acknowledge your pain and validate your anguish.

I love watching you dance and hearing you sing.

I love your excitement over good food.

I love your spontaneity.

I love your caregiving nature and servant's heart.

I appreciate your generosity.

I see you as beautiful and feel your power and authority over your life.

I acknowledge your accountability.

I appreciate your vulnerability.

I admire your ability to internalize criticisms as a catalyst for intentional change.

You amaze me.

Yesterday I was committed to being gentle with myself.  Still fractured from behavior I'm not proud of, I was seen and given a couple of objective views of the situation.  I was given an explosion of unconditional love. I was given love in my weakness and in behavior I regretted.

I love bombed all over myself. It was a Thursday night and while I usually take Thursdays as a day to feel small near the ocean, I used it as a date night for myself.  Usually that's a weekend thing.  I'm very comfortable with sitting at a table alone in a crowded restaurant, on any night, but usually Wednesday or Thursdays are about feeling small because I need that perspective often.  I took my time walking through stores and picking up items that interested me. I was intentional with my epicurean endeavors. I treated myself to dinner and walked through a bookstore, enjoying the weight and smell of the books I picked up.  I later went home and stared longingly and lovingly at myself in a mirror. I left hand written notes to myself and left them in places where I would find them later because I will need the reminder of my awesome later.  I tend to forget.

I realized that I am so in tune with the desires of my heart and no one can love me as deeply as I do. I took a selfie to remember how great that felt. Tonight, with my sons home, I'm committed to being silly.  I'm committed to laughing at myself and really appreciating what this feels like.  The love explosion all over myself is what is driving my night and my focus this weekend is to teach my boys that same appreciation.

There will be silliness and shenanigans.

Small Pleasures

My week has been a rough one since Monday evening. Even today, the calls and texts kept coming and at one point I had to step away from my desk to walk off my anger.  At another point, there was no time to choose my reaction after a call and I was again a victim to anger that wasn't mine, but it broke over and around me and I sat in stunned silence.  The tears came without warning but I was sitting in my corner without an audience and grateful for the time of day when others around me had left for the day.  I blinked away those tears because the timing still wasn't right. At one point today I stepped into the tail of familiar scent.  Immediately the smell was a trail to a name that became a soothing repeated track that echoed through my mind like an anchor holding me still in choppy waters.

Tonight there was a call to my sister.  I whined to her.  We talked.  I complained some more.  She understood.  She felt like home.  I made her laugh.  It was terrific.

There was retail therapy and deep discounts.  My Victoria's Secret matching set came with 4 extra panties and was $26 on my shiny black and gold card.  Dinner also came with a discount and a Scooby Snack and a familiar face that I was really happy to see.

Sometimes I feel like I need the catharsis of a deep cry.  It still has not yet come. Last night the plan was to go out on my front porch with the rushing sounds of flowing water from the pond I built and let run over with plants, and cry silently under moonlight out of sight of my kids.  I received a random text message instead and my snark demon came out.

It never fails when I'm at a more vulnerable point and I'm emotionally bottomed out, a random person from my online dating phase will get lonely and bored, and he won't realize I was passing on his offer, even if I tell him directly so I become mean and friendly, drawing him in before cutting him down. I haven't decided why I haven't blocked him yet, but I'm leaning toward how fun he is to mess with.

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He seems to sense my low points and in my passive aggressive way, I become someone I don't like later. I justify it when I remember he thought I would be okay as his top one of three. He thought I would like to be told what to do because he didn't listen to what I said and for a while I feel like he deserves to be treated this way because he doesn't listen to me while he's busy looking at my selfies that were sent months ago.

I stop short of asking what he thinks this will get him and instead tell him all about my man crush and he is surprised that I'm still quite smitten since the last time he reached out and I haven't gotten bored because this discussion has been had about several others in the short time I've known him since early May and it's been longer than normal for me, but he forgets I was a faithful wife for a decade and a half and I can stay focused intently. Intensely. Too deeply. Too much. But he's safe to me.

A day goes by and I remember his heartache and his need to control his romantic life when I'm just focused on controlling my reactions. I feel remorse and it looks like shame in who I have let him shape me into. The aggressor with teeth tastes blood in the water and he's an injured mammal flailing and I enjoy the taste of fear but he doesn't know I want to hurt him.

It's evil and vile and somehow it feels good. Does that make me bad?

Museum Day

My museum experience up until last year was to go to the museums that were part of a school field trip.  I remembered museums as long days and being told to be quiet and remain still.  It was great to get out of class, but at the same time, I was often bored. As an adult, it wasn't a priority.  I had kids that were hard to get out of the house and as far as I know, my ex was never into museums.  At the end of the day I'm okay going alone, and museums are occasionally far more interactive. I'm not artistically inclined, and have at times been almost proud of the fact that I can't draw a straight line with a ruler.  What I see in my mind is never what my hands create.  When I was studying literature, we often discussed the same Greek Mythology that inspired some of the artwork I saw yesterday.  We discussed art pieces but they were in the textbooks we read, and it was more about the philosophies that inspired the artists.

To visit a museum and to see the art was an amazing experience for me.  It was the personified history of each piece that felt like wonder.  It's became an extension of my love of literature.  Literature is less about amazing words and prose and more about what was able to accidently survive people.  Really early literature was written by someone who could actually write because being literate is not something that is guaranteed by birth.  If you can read and write, you have been blessed by life in a way that many people across the world still cannot grasp.  Literature and art has to survive naughty children, angry scorned lovers, thieving rogues, hostile political takeovers and censorship carried out through destruction.  Not all literature is amazing beyond the mystery of its survival.  Of course my opinion is highly subjective.  I can't appreciate Moby Dick and I finally got through it after several attempts a few years back and I saw it as an epic disappointment.

I'm appreciating things differently lately.  I don't have a musical ear. I like music.  I sing loudly, but I couldn't tell you if it's off key.  I took vocal lessons as a child and imagined being a singer for a while (I was the youngest of the Secret Rendezvous but that's a story for another post), but it's not a skill as much as joy.  When I was listening to a friend's musical score, composed into late night hours and experienced by me here, I realized it's sometimes just about what something makes me feel.

Yesterday I visited the Getty Villa, made a quick stop at a beach where I got wet but the pretty rocks were worth it, and then visited the Getty Center before stopping at home and visiting Co Labs Gallery in Highland Park.  I'm sharing my observations.

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This first piece was the first to make me feel something.  I tend to walk quickly through each room and some pieces will call out to me and demand my attention.  This was one of them.  I stopped and almost immediately could feel the burn at the bridge of my nose telling me I should have brought tissues.  I blinked away tears, but I was so surprised at what I felt.  I read the description, and to paraphrase from memory, this is a picture of a father paying the ransom for his daughters.  I was moved.

The many interpretations of mothers and nursing children were beautiful to me.  I nursed my boys and it was by far my favorite part of their infancy. There is calm in the snuggle and their is a sleepiness that falls over you when you are feeding your child.  It wasn't easy with my first born, but it was worth the pain of his rejection for the first 4 months because that's how long it took to get him to latch on.  This piece included the picture of a missing father and that was what made it special.  So much of motherhood is the support needed from the other parent.

Furniture is different and beautiful when it can make it into a museum.  I love huge mirrors gilded in gold leaf with ornate moulding.  I sometimes imagine knocking out my ceiling to make room for this. I love couches that could double as a bed, and feathers on beds are what magic is made of.  Also, I'm so grateful that I don't have to dust anything there.

I admit that odd, excited noises came out of me when I saw the books.  Books!  They were beautiful and hand drawn with rich colors.  They were enclosed in glass and I could imagine the smell of old paper and slight mildew.  This made me happy.

I loved the pieces that were carved into stone.  It surprised me to find a little black boy amongst the art that was mainly Greek or Roman.  I was surprised at how many statues were missing penises.  I wondered if there is any correlation between missing statuary penisses and missing straight men walking through the museum without a companion.

Museum rules about not touching the artwork are just as solidly in place as when I was a little girl.  This was different.  This is a piece that we were invited to touch.  You could feel the difference between what she held and her skin.  Her body was smooth, but the cloth had a rougher texture to it. Now I wonder what her hair felt like, as I didn't think of it then.

As I shared on Instagram and Facebook:

To catch a bathing Venus and touch exposed marble flesh with murmured prayers of her gift of love to flow through all I touch with giving expectancy . . . Such a beautiful morning to be me.

The water features were beautiful and tranquil.  The plan is to go back when we aren't suffering through a drought and might enjoy the sound of flowing water.

These were things that made me want to create.  I loved the mosaic tiles and jewelry.  I loved the glass.  I loved the displays that teach you where the pigments came from and how they were used and for just long enough, I felt like I could create and it doesn't have to be good as long as it makes me feel something.

On my way to the Getty Center, the ocean called to me.  I happened to slip into a parking spot along PCH and walked out to find so many rocks begging to be picked through.  I started my day in jeans and a tank top with tennis shoes.  I keep flip flops and water shoes in the car.  I thought I was prepared.  In my search for pretty rocks I ended up thighs deep in the ocean and laughed it off.  I also had a purchase from American Apparel to return in my car and decided to make it an exchange instead.  They don't carry larger sizes so I walked out in a skirt shorter than I have worn in at least a decade.  I was so self conscious, if dry at first.  I could feel the back of my skirt flapping against my butt, and it was well above the tattoo on my thigh.  I don't feel that a mom needs to cover up for the sake of being a mom, I just got comfortable in sweats and never got used to mini skirts again.

Co Labs gallery was full of woman forward artistry and angsty pieces I would have been embarrassed to explain to my kids. Visit them! You'll love it. A few pieces called out to the deeper parts of me I acknowledge but rarely voice. I almost bought a pocket sized pencil drawing of a man's face. The artist called it, "Drawing UH Hipster, " and signed it SD. It was a perfect drawing. He was cute and for a bit I imagined keeping him in my pocket. I could pull him out when I wanted a smile. Then I realized how badly that reflects on my love life and decided on pencils instead.

By the end of the day I realized walking half of nearly 9 miles in flip flops was dumb, and my feet hate me.  Jumping from 2 miles a day to what I did yesterday means I feel it more than remember it.  I don't have to own the fact I'm rocking a mini skirt, I just need to be at peace with not being in wet jeans. And extra clothes in the car doesn't mean I'm a whore if it's the ocean making me wet.

Beach Therapy and Rage Control

The divorce diet shaved about 30 pounds and put me in the sizes I wore the last time I was single which was six pregnancies ago. I was really happy about that this morning. Caller ID and voicemail are a gift I need to learn to use more often. I answered a call I didn't have to and I felt a familiar rage and my happiness melted away. My plans for the next few days have shifted and the lack of control feels like powerlessness and it boiled into fury. I get angry at times and today I just needed to drive. Driving in, wispy purple clouds curled overhead in sheets of fog through Palisades. It was hot and sunny at home.

I picked up rocks as I walked along the shore, depositing them in a pocket. The stretch between jetties was covered in ladybugs. Some were walking on damp sand. Some were on their backs, stuck in the sand, having been tossed by the angry surf. Some ladybugs were making baby ladybugs. One hitched a ride on me as I walked back to my car for a short nap.

 I love the the life around the rough waters and the way the water filters through mud and sand and back to the ocean.    I am enjoying the quiet and solitude. The people ride by on bikes and share their smiles as I watch the horizon. There is goodness here and just past the breakers I can see my joy again. [wpvideo 6ikycC3g]

After a While by Veronica A. Shoffstall

This poem by Veronica A. Shoffstall has always been a special encouragement to me. It's not mine, but at one point I had the whole thing memorized. After some time you learn the difference, The subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning, And company doesn’t always mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts, And presents aren’t promises. And you begin to accept your defeats, With your head up and your eyes ahead, With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child. And you learn to build all your roads on today, Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans, And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn, That even the sun burns if you get too much, And learn that it doesn’t matter how much you do care about, Some people simply don’t care at all. And you accept that it doesn’t matter how good a person is, She will hurt you once in a while, And you need to forgive her for that. You learn that talking can relieve emotional pain. You discover that it takes several years to build a relationship based on confidence, And just a few seconds to destroy it. And that you can do something just in an instant, And which you will regret for the rest of your life. You learn that the true friendships, Continue to grow even from miles away. And that what matters isn’t what you have in your life, But who you have in your life. And that good friends are the family, Which allows us to choose. You learn that we don’t have to switch our friends, If we understand that friends can also change. You realize that you are your best friend, And that you can do anything, or nothing, And have good moments together. You discover that the people who you most care about in your life, Are taken from you so quickly, So we must always leave the people who we care about with lovely words, It may be the last time we see them. You learn that the circumstances and the environment have influence upon us, But we are responsible for ourselves. You start to learn that you should not compare yourself with others, But with the best you can be. You discover that it takes a long time to become the person you wish to be, And that the time is short. You learn that it doesn’t matter where you have reached, But where you are going to. But if you don’t know where you are going to, Anywhere will do. You learn that either you control your acts, Or they shall control you. And that to be flexible doesn’t mean to be weak or not to have personality, Because it doesn’t matter how delicate and fragile the situation is, There are always two sides. You learn that heroes are those who did what was necessary to be done, Facing the consequences. You learn that patience demands a lot of practice. You discover that sometimes, The person who you most expect to be kicked by when you fall, Is one of the few who will help you to stand up. You learn that maturity has more to do with the kinds of experiences you had And what you have learned from them, Than how many birthdays you have celebrated. You learn that there are more from you parents inside you than you thought. You learn that we shall never tell a child that dreams are silly, Very few things are so humiliating, And it would be a tragedy if she believed in it. You learn that when you are angry, You have the right to be angry, But this doesn’t give you the right to be cruel. You discover that only because someone doesn’t love you the way you would like her to, It doesn’t mean that this person doesn’t love you the most she can, Because there are people who love us, But just don’t know how to show or live that. You learn that sometimes it isn’t enough being forgiven by someone, Sometimes you have to learn how to forgive yourself. You learn that with the same harshness you judge, Some day you will be condemned. You learn that it doesn’t matter in how many pieces your heart has been broken, The world doesn’t stop for you to fix it. You learn that time isn’t something you can turn back, Therefore you must plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure. You really are strong. And you can go so farther than you thought you could go. And that life really has a value. And you have value within the life. And that our gifts are betrayers, And make us lose The good we could conquer, If it wasn’t for the fear of trying.