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Walking Tall

The woman that taught me that identity is in how we walk. It’s also in how we talk, breathe and exist.

"Do you know who you are? Your bloodline is stronger than that backbone right now.  Sit up straight.  You need to walk tall like the history of the women in our lives made sacrifices and fought hard so you could live the life you have."

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Angry Black Woman

I release the many things I can't control and find a way to micromanage the little bit I can control.  And I fire my vitriol out, instead of in.  My snark goddess bathes in the blood of my enemies.  I let it out.  There is no ghettoized Nubian Princess. My outward aggression does not need to do the dance that inspires fear.  I am the Reigning Queen over all I command.  I'll remind you that you're not paid to act like a pussy.  I'll remind you that you are a bad-ass in your own right and you don't need to settle for less out of fear of loneliness.

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Relearning How to be a Girlfriend After Being Married

I’m still learning. When I wake up and get ready to face my day, I get to decide I don’t have to know what it will look like or how it will feel. The hard part is realizing the many ways I need to unlearn an existence. I was a wife for 15 years. I made meals I never ate. I rubbed sore muscles and washed laundry for someone that wasn’t my offspring or me. Dishes were washed and bathrooms scrubbed as the last thing I would ever want to do with the consistency of someone suffering from severe depression. The stench of urine never went away because teaching my boys to use a toilet when I didn’t have a penis as an example means it was a poor lesson and it often failed all over the seat and floor. (New lesson: bleach will make my skin reek and burn my eyes but after a while, the chemical scent fades and with it the smell of stale urine only a barfly could appreciate.)

I dated when I was younger. It was a goal to be someone that might become a wife one day. I wanted to be all that would make me a wife. Even to the point that I would put my desires behind someone else’s. I was a chameleon for love, as it were.

Fast forward to nearly two years ago and I’m suddenly single again. A year ago I started to enjoy being single. I’m doing what feels good and exciting to me. I go where I want and stay out as long as I want and it’s about making myself happy. I’ve gotten really good at buying myself flowers and discovering Victoria’s Secret for myself. I eat what I want and enjoy the epicurean delights of self-satisfaction. I love being single because I get to be selfish without feeling selfish.

Then lightning strikes and there’s a man. Just one. There’s a boyfriend and I get to unlearn being a wife to learn how to be a girlfriend and no longer a single woman.

There are moments of joy because I love the way I feel when I’m with him. There are moments of doubt. I have FOMO (fear of missing out) just like anyone else. Is there someone else? Could there be someone better? I have moments of telling myself to relax and enjoy each moment for the spontaneous gifts of our time together. Our times together are amazing enough that I want to learn to be an us when I was so happy with just being me. And moments where I feel like I don't deserve him. They coincide with moments when he tells me he knows there isn't another me on this planet.

I found myself rushing home after work to be by his side and in his arms. On a kid free day as a single woman, I would normally just explore the area I work in or drive to the ocean for a while until traffic was a straight shot home and into bed.

I keep turning the thermostat slightly lower to accommodate his comfort rather than my desire to comfortably walk around naked at home.

I would normally have a light dinner or a non-existent one on a kid free night, and I wonder if I should cook for him or how that should look as his girlfriend that isn’t hungry and he surprises me by caring for my needs and being self sufficient. I have moments that beg for a lifetime in spite of my fear of what that could look like. I wonder if I want more and I ask why can’t I have the more he’s offering. And there’s happiness and contentment and moments that shock me and rock the certainty I almost lived in. (I'm certainly adaptable.)

I find myself trying to remember how I am supposed to behave and care and not rely on him. Can I rely on him? Does he ask that of me and why does that scare me. Around that time, the reality of being abandoned shows up and I see how I keep holding him at a safe distance, without accounting for the fact that there is no safety in what we have and that is the thrill I have a right to embrace.

I’m learning what drives him and where his passions are. I’m learning to see the new patterns of who we are and not place the heavy burden of the old (my past) on top of him.

When I met my ex, it was on the heels of a superficial relationship with someone else. He introduced me to a song that I in turn introduced to my ex. We played that song over and over on our honeymoon. I kept wondering if I should just tell him and pick a different song. I heard it on the radio this morning and it was interesting how the memories of it were layered by two different men. I heard another song with a similar scenario and two different men, and again, the significance and memories cascaded in a way that felt so confused and beautiful. There was a moment with my current boyfriend. There was a sweet emoji he texted to me (and so help me, I’m embracing smiley faces and I don’t feel like an asshat doing it). He sent a picture that reminded me of my ex and I let his expression color the picture in a different light. Like brush strokes on a canvas, we are offered a gift in our expressions and it was a moment to shift what I saw and how I felt and rather than dwell on what it was, I was able to bask in what we’re making it. And that moment is his and mine and has nothing to do with anyone else.

My kids on the other hand . . . Kid1 isn’t in love with my dating one person. (He might have enjoyed the idea of me being a player or hard to keep because that meant I was so picky only his Dad was worth holding onto and that means only my kids held my attention. He isn't rude but refuses to engage.  Kid2 is indifferent. Kid3 (at 10 years old) has moments where he likes the new boyfriend and moments where his anger is palpable. He tried breaking my car window after watching me, watch him pee all over the toilet seat on purpose. I withheld my smirk and laughter at how visceral his need to be territorial was.  And there I go with that bleach lesson again. We're all learning.

Learning Empathy

I went to an empathy workshop.

I was at an empathy training workshop last night and the real lessons kept hitting late last night as I was finally dozing off around 3 this morning.  It was a class that found me through the MITT network of classes I started in July.  Through discussion and working on ideas and concepts with others, I get to take notice of my actions, and make changes. I get to see how I look at the world around me and really understand how narrow minded I am.  I get to break the confines of what I've always known to experience all that can potentially be.

My judgements kept me from empathy in my marriage.

 

I was hard on my ex.  Ending the relationship the way he did because he wanted happiness and found it in other people throughout our marriage was something I crucified him on. Over the last couple of years as I really got to look at my life, I understood the value of my happiness and I can see that I was depressed through most of my marriage. I loved him.  I just wasn't happy with myself.  I've learned that happiness comes from me.  I can't borrow it from someone else.  I can't take from who they are.  I get to make my own and while I can offer a smile, I can't put it in anyone else. Being apart was a gift but I was so attached to my role as a wife that I looked for my happiness in other ways just as he did.  The reality of his action in a marriage of our mutual inaction was a gift and without malice I can see the ways in which he fought for our mutual happiness.  I can no longer blame him for the many ways he gave me more than I asked for in the life I now get to live.

My self guided tour spends a lot of time in selfishness.

Through a self guided transformational exploration of who I am, I no longer find my value in what others think of me.  They have no point of reference in judging me and have no idea how to value me.  I am not my college degree.  The time I took to earn it was a challenge and it was emotionally rewarding, but it's a piece of paper and means little in my job search.  I'm not my relationships.  There is value in my relationships, but my relationship with myself means more than my relationship with anyone else.  I'm not my looks.  I like attention as much as the next person, but being a sex object when I feel so much better about my thoughts and ideas that are often ignored is never a good feeling.  I have a large brain and feelings!!!!

As a wife I was very selfish and couldn't see it without empathy.

I was rebellious in spending in ways that made me happy, justifying it as household necessities, knowing he wouldn't see it that way and hiding all evidence of that debauchery.  For both of us, it was about control.  I did it in small amounts I felt could be justified.  He never saw the value I did and saw all of it as the deception it was.  I wanted my home to be a place I wanted to escape to, and he wanted to escape from it. I sucked my time and energy into side projects like making soap with fat and lye.  Or learning all about keeping bees and chickens. I would garden and do all I could to ignore the chaos and the lack of support I felt in my own home. I would read books back to back so I could check out of reality and school became a priority.  He wanted connection and found it in other people and I always held the idea that I did nothing wrong in isolating him because I did it in learning and ways that I felt were important to me and my family and I didn't devote energies to other people and that meant I was faithful, right?

Last night in an empathetic perspective shift, I realized that he was looking for something to pull himself out of a marriage that wasn't satisfying to both of us. For him, it meant walking away in the ways he needed to. For me through my attachments to being the wife I wanted to be, it was on my birthday this year when I decided something so terrible and irreparable had happened that I could justify the end of a marriage, because being rejected and abandoned for 11 months wasn't enough. It was such a bad situation for both of us that something so drastic had to happen to justify walking away.

Empathy means I get to be vulnerable and release both of us.

I learned that through empowering myself, I have become the bully I felt he was being to me.  I get to take notice, and stop being aggressive when I know fighting back is a choice.  I know I can defend myself and I no longer need to. I shifted my perspective just enough with the help of someone else, I was able to forgive him on a level I didn't realize I had not forgiven him yet. I went through months of repeating to myself, "Iforgivehim, Iforgivehim, Iforgivehim." But I finally released the rest last night and it was just a perspective shift.  No crying.  No ritual or prayer.  Just a shift that let me release my ego, disconnect my emotions from thought, see it with new eyes, and let the fuck go.

Without empathy there is only selfishness and a commitment to being right and it is a pattern I took into my last relationship.

I had a boyfriend for a few days this week.  I don't actually write about my relationships until they are at the point where I am ready to release them.  I hold close what I intend to keep and the moment I start writing, I know they may see it and not like what I have to say and walk away. With each of them, I've already seen enough to feel he's not the one. It's like a last ditch effort for me because the most attractive thing I could hear is "I've read your blog and it's what makes me like you so much." It was something I would have never heard in my marriage and it means probably more than it should now. I heard that in the last week and it was the most intense and short lived relationship I've had since my marriage.  There was one night that is a gift I will unwrap in memories for a very long time.

The workshop I signed up for was sent to me as a message on Facebook and I got the alert while next to the man I was with.  I brushed it off, but the next day signed up anyway, fully knowing that I may be with my boyfriend, but also knowing there was a chance I wouldn't be.

How I met my last boyfriend.

Wednesday of last week I was doing my usual right and left swipe on a dating app. There was a man that was dragging out the conversation with a sentence a day for a couple of days.  I pushed and almost asked him out that night, giving him room to be dominant and actually do the asking.  He did and it was immediately attractive, even if the face in his profile picture was in shadow and hard to see. We ended up meeting at a bar, and as I learned from a friend that shared the workshop with me (as we continued our night at an epic viewing party in Beverly Hills we crashed), that was when I started rejecting him.

Rejecting and pulling him closer was selfishness.

It was that first gut check reaction when he stood next to me and said hello while I was looking in a different direction, and I flinched when I saw him.  It was in the ways he moved closer to me and I moved back.  It was in leaving and using my tone of voice and body language to flirt with another man, through innocuous conversation right in front of him.  It was as we were walking to our cars and his parting kiss was rebuffed in my excuse about public displays of affection.  It was in celebrating and laughing at going home by 10, asking my friend that works at the bar about that beautiful man I wanted to get to know better and a Facebook post that was a direct dig at the man's character.

Stopping my dysfunctions is something I get to work on.

Somehow the next day I went out with him again.  I loved his dominance in telling me he would pick me up.  I was talking to two men about him.  At one point I wanted to date them but ended up sticking them in my friend zone.  They told me I should go and I was deciding against him before giving him a chance the way I did to them.  I had nothing better to do and so I met him on a second date.

But he was so good in so many superficial ways.

The physical chemistry was there.  He had a body I could cry over.  (I might have when things ended.) The third date was following a familiar pattern and when he asked me to date him exclusively, I said sure.  I mean, he was my first actual date that got a second date since that beautiful but barely understood Italian man back in May. I had coffee, and hugs in the week before, but those weren't dates as much as meeting platonic friends I would never meet again.  It was easy to date him exclusively.  It followed the pattern of my boyfriends in Junior High.  Being his girlfriend meant no one else could steal me away.  Being my boyfriend was cool because no one else was asking me out.  I like to focus on one love interest at a time anyway.  Everyone else was just mental aerobics in bouncing from conversation to conversation.

We didn't really talk and I never allowed him close to me emotionally. I said yes to all he asked of me, without really considering the image of the future he had in mind.  He gave me a poetic moment and it just chipped away at the ice around me.  I nearly melted at his words and given time and really given the opportunity to step away from my judgement of him, it could have been special.

I rejected him in the ways I talked about him.

I told family and a couple of friends that I had a boyfriend, but the reality was I knew it was temporary and described it as such to everyone that I talked to about him.  I only told my family because I wanted to spend New Year's Day with him and invited him to join us. When my kids met him, my youngest had a gut check that didn't trust him (he blamed it on the shape of my boyfriend's nose), my oldest hid from him in the bathroom and his bedroom and my middle son gave him a classic autism dismissal.  He was a non person to my kids because they knew he was good enough for me, which he really was, but not good enough for them. I actually told them this.  The reality is he made me want to be selfish and enjoy him, going against my better judgement as a mom and not putting my foot down and saying no when he asked about meeting my kids.  At the time he said he wanted to grow a full relationship and make me his woman and start a family and all of that.  Instead I prepared them by saying they didn't have to worry because he'd never be their step-dad because I didn't think he was good enough for them.  I get to look at that on it's own. This was me rejecting him again.

The day he rejected me was when the cost of my rejections of him broke over me.

There was a dynamic shift and Tuesday night after we were exclusive for maybe 5 days, he broke it off because he wasn't comfortable with my male friendships that he saw as disrespectful.  And I didn't take it well.  I mean, I could see the jealousy and the ways that it would have grown into an abusive relationship because there was nothing deceptive in my friendships when I was clearly choosing (and simultaneously rejecting) him. His rejection was immediately seen as a gift because he was able to walk away when I knew it was right, even if I really didn't want him to. But he let me go before I was ready for him to.

I don't usually cry for the men I talk to and date.  I see the lessons they leave and there might be a bit of sadness, but rarely tears.  This was different. This was rejection and abandonment.  This wasn't me seeing him on a moment to moment basis, but actually imagining a few days ahead. I had this disconnect between what I knew wasn't a relationship I was really invested in and the emotional pain from the loss of it.  I didn't beg him to take me back but I let him know I didn't want to lose him.  It was the first time since I started dating that I meant it more than I wanted to.

Last night I was getting ready to leave and sat on the floor of my shower crying for a relationship I never wanted to grow.  He was fun, and I loved the way it felt to be in his arms and the many other things he made me feel, but I was objectifying him completely.  The moment I felt it was mutual, I felt a familiar ache that had nothing to do with him. I felt in the reflection of my rejection all of the pain I must have given him and I was shattered. There was a lot of good in him but in my rejection, I never closed the distance to really appreciate him.  He was tender and affectionate.  He was tall and I really loved his body.  He was capable of taking care of himself, even if I saw the ways in which I would live his life differently. He was mine, and then he wasn't and that wasn't a choice I made for us.

I was still blinded by my selfishness.

I left the workshop feeling like I needed to give myself empathy to put the relationship and all it was supposed to be ahead of the things that were important to me as an individual.  After a reality check from a friend in the many ways I was rejecting him, I knew I was being an asshat and not giving him an ounce of the empathy he deserved.

Last night I went to the workshop I had a feeling I would be at anyway.  I signed up for the class knowing that even though I had a boyfriend, the relationship might not last that long.  I don't know that I would tell him any of this.  It's not that I'm showing you all I am an asshole.  I'm okay with being authentic.  I'm not really a nice person all the time.  Some people think I am because I can be, but it's a choice. Part of me wants to make him feel better about the ways I rejected him.  I know that it is about relieving guilt and not for him. Part of me wonders if he saw it because until it was pointed out to me last night, I really couldn't. Part of me wants to give him the power of his rejection.  He made an empowered choice for his life and I need to give him that.  The rest of me wants to honor the many ways he affected me and taught me to shift my perspective, even if he has no idea he did.

It's amazing what stories make sense when you go through a situation and what a perspective shift can do.  In the class, I learned that empathy isn't draining if you exchange it with vulnerability. Seeing things with compassion, understanding and love is a gift I get to give to myself.

Hopefully you can learn from me too.

Think of a person you have a hard time seeing eye to eye with.  Give voice to your frustrations.  Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Then flip it.  Ask what they would say you are doing to make them feel the way they do.  Look at them with love.  There's a reason, or maybe there was a reason that they mean enough to get under your skin. See their world the way they do and let go of the idea you are valued for being right.  That is what empathy looks like and in my case, it's got a heavy dose of guilt.

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.

A Night Meant to Happen

I'm often amazed at the way things fall into place.  Part of that is a willingness to look for serendipity.  Last night I was invited to an event with GenArt at Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel. I love what GenArt does.  They live out the active study of humanities by incubating emerging talent in film, art, music and fashion until they are ready to be launched and are able to fly on their own.  I love what they do. On my way to the hotel, I was struck by the beauty of the setting sun and the many shades painted in the clouds. I ended up in a turn lane and on Mulholland Drive instead of staying on Laurel Canyon.  The timing of what I saw and the spot I was able to pull into left me in perfect position for a breathtaking  view of the sunset.  There's something about the ability of clouds to hold so much magic.

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It was a long day and at the end of it, I needed a nudge from a couple of friends to go to the event.  I wanted to go because I wanted to show up for my friend and steal a hug from her.  I wanted to enjoy grown up moments.  I wanted to enjoy the screening and be surrounded in the magic of the Hollywood I wanted to be part of in my early 20's but don't have the stamina for now.I wanted to shmooze with the fun crowd, although I never bothered to  fake a persona, as I'm more comfortable as myself.  I felt guilt about postponing my reunion with my boys who were back from 5 days with their Dad.  My niece was with them as she gets them after school, but I was asking for a few hours longer, and feeling guilt about it.

In the end, I did what I wanted to do, which was sit poolside. I accepted that the nudge I sought from friends wasn't permission or an opinion I was asking for as much as I needed them to soothe my guilt over the moment I wanted and felt selfish about.  I remembered that guilt is manufactured by me and a choice.  I knew my kids wouldn't care if I was home as long as they had quiet and food and for a few hours I could enjoy myself and come home energized.  I did.

At the event, I had the honor of meeting David who embodied everything a great mentsch should.  He was decent, authentic and straight up.  We talked for a couple of hours and there were waves of clarity from the perspective he helped me shift.  Our conversation started with how I know the owners of GenArt.  I told him about the MITT Basic class I took and how moved I was at my friend's steadfast belief in me.  She believed in me so much that she enrolled a friend of hers into the idea of putting down my deposit for the course.  She had no idea if I would go or pay her back, but she believed in me and it was a huge gift to me.  I get to take the Advanced class next week, and while I haven't met my goal, I'm believing it will all work out because things always do. David pointed out that showing up is catalyst enough.  He told me to show up and give of myself, but that even givers must be discriminating.  I need to know that I'm worthy, and give to those I find worthy.  He asked why I wouldn't assume others would want to help me.  He asked me to not base my expectations on what happened in my marriage.  We spoke openly about life.

David sipped his bourbon as I sipped a club soda with lime, and he looked me in the face and asked if I was prepared for his honesty.  I was.  I didn't even have to check my inner voice because in that moment I felt self love that was profound.  I felt his kindness reaching out to me in a way that was gentle and giving.  He gave me a word: Worthy.  He told me I needed to make it a mantra until I no longer need to remind myself that I am worthy.

He gave me a story about an unlicked cub.  A mother would have only so much energy for licking her many cubs that there is one that would get neglected.  I was in some ways an unlicked cub and I need to internalize that I am worthy.  Even if that is something I might have a hard time seeing.

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As we continued talking I gave him a word that had been given to me by a really incredible woman.  Several months ago we were talking about my first crush since my ex and the looks we exchanged. I gave him a look of hunger when I didn't mean to.  He looked at me like ice cream on a cheat day.  Yet, there was distance and space that would never be breached. She told me he needed to work out his mishegas.  Of course, my second crush would follow the same patterns of wanting more, but not enough to want more and the same crazy back and forth happened until it didn't.  What struck me last night was that I missed the other part of what she told me.  We attract what we are or who needs what we have.  She pointed out that my giving nature would provide me with someone who needs me to take care of them and that I had enough on my plate.  What she was too kind to mention was that the mishegas I was seeing in him was a reflection of my own. Last night I realized that through my marriage and now as a woman who is not divorced and yet single, I am in my own state of mishegas.

For so long as a wife, I did what my version of someone else's expectations of me were.  I failed their expectations and mine.  Now I kinda do what feels right and I have a happier home because of it.  But there's the whole dating thing.  Legally I'm still married.  In every other sense I'm single.  I really like being single too.  I do so much that I enjoy and I've had enough bad dates recently to feel like I want to know my day won't be wasted with bad company.  If I do find myself entertaining the idea of a relationship, it's never with the natural progression of cohabitation. I don't want something that looks like living together and meeting families. David gave me sound advice, and I'm figuring out what it means to me.  He said the longest distance for a man to travel is the lean in to kiss a woman, and it doesn't take much to convince him not to lean in.  I've known my confidence can be intimidating, but hearing it in such a fatherly way really gave me enough pause to consider my more predatory moments.

As we talked I realized I was getting comfortable.  I've heard so many dreamers imagine being rich, but their life looks like it does every single day.  For a while, every ounce of thought and energy went into plans and goals, and I've gotten comfortable with doing a job I love to the point that I wasn't really looking at it to see if it's the right place for me in the long term.  I stopped dreaming and for a while I was just setting moderate goals.  As we talked about my career, he asked me to think of what I could do that would allow me to give, but also to give in a way that the people I give to would be able to give further.  That was a profound moment for me.  It's not enough to hand granola bars to homeless people camped out by freeways.  I need to give in such a way that those receiving would be able to make my gift grow.

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There was so much that we talked about and so much of himself that he shared with me.  The night of being in the moment was a gift.  I didn't worry about my kids (they were taken care of by my niece).  I didn't worry about work.  As much as I love it, I'm not essential to my position and I don't need to prioritize it when I'm off.  That thought could be terrifying, but I take it as freedom. My love life was just as stunted and stalled before the night as after it.  As I left, I had a hard time remembering much of what was said, but the feeling he left me with was profound and resonated in hollow parts I didn't know were emptied.  I got home to a loving message from a friend based on a silly Instagram video I took on my lunch.  I went to bed not only content but happy.

Hollywoodland Kindness

The plan for today was to explore the Secret Stairs in Hollywood.  I had the PDF with instructions printed out and with me.  I grabbed two small water bottles after inhaling a banana on my way out the door.  I somehow ended up at Bronson Caves and was excited to head up to the Hollywood Sign from Camp Hollywoodland instead. This last minute change of heart is very typical of me and I always go with it.  It usually ends up in an amazing transformative lesson happening.  Or a really pretty view.  I think I got both today.

At the car, I didn't really plan to go all the way up to the sign.  It looked daunting the first time I heard about the trail when I was exploring Bronson Caves with a friend.  She made it seem entirely easy and doable because she's done it with a 3 year old on her back.  She's pretty amazing.  I should remind you, I'm not into exercise.  I like pretty things and will do the crazy and sometimes the stupid to see it.  After my trip to Sunken City in San Pedro and hiking to the water below it, a friend joked with me about seeing me on the news because I was one of those people willing to do stupid things because I wanted to see what it looked like.  He teased me in love.  There will always be love in this friendship.

As I was hiking up and ready to quit the first time, there was a family coming down, with children and a stroller.  They made it to the halfway point pushing a stroller and told me to at least shoot for that.  I made it my goal and it was easy.  By this point, I was almost done with my first bottle of water and I had left the second bottle in the car.  I sat on a bench.  The only bench on the hike, and caught my breath.  As I sat and thought about turning back, there were a couple of young women with their dog.  I let my pride get to me.  If a little dog could do it, why couldn't I, right?  I mean, I've driven down Sunset strip and I've seen enough of these little yappy things being carried in purses.  Why shouldn't I keep going if this little pooch had it in her?  The girls encouraged me.  They pointed out the last real incline and that the rest was relatively flat.  I was doing okay, aside from the heat.  I had just hiked Runyon Canyon the day before with far less water than I had today.  I was energized and had a great experience by the end.  I didn't consider the fact that I left a few hours later today, or that it was considerably hotter. And a bit further.  I just thought, if a dog can do it, and I feel good, why can't I?  Honestly, I held onto my empty bottle of water until I turned back because I hoped there was a fountain on the way somewhere. There wasn't.  I was getting closer to the water tower and that's when the lethargy started to set in.

As a mom, I'm used to pushing through exhaustion.  I'm used to going and going until I actually can stop and take a breather.  I was pushing myself.  When I got to the residential area before that last leg of the hike that takes you above the sign, I realized I could probably drive through the residential area and hike above the sign another time.  It was time to head back.  I sat and rested until I was cool and my heart wasn't racing.  I threw away my empty bottle and I started back.

As I was walking, only determination kept my pace up.  I was determined to get back to my car and that one bottle of water.  The thirst in my throat wasn't burning.  You read about vampires and burning throats, but I think that's just authors in need of heartburn relief.  There was a dry itch at the back of my throat.  My mouth felt hot and dry.  I'm usually fairly modest, but I became one of those women hiking in her yoga pants and sports bra today.  I never imagined the day I would hike without a shirt again.  The last time was 7 kids ago.  I was so hot I didn't care how visible my tattoo was. No one else cared either.  I started planning each rest stop as the next shady spot or rock ahead of me. I would rest until my heart stopped racing and my body cooled down.

As I walked, and stopped, I would pay attention to what I felt.  I would sit on a rock and lean forward and feel light headed.  As I walked, my hands started swelling to the point where I had to put my class ring on smaller fingers.  I had a hard time getting it off, and it's normally fairly loose.  (Dehydration was on the verge of getting scary.)

At one of my resting stops, three women asked me how to get to the Hollywood sign.  I started explaining and had to pause for a moment because words were hard to get out.  I excused myself and explained that I was in the mood to see something pretty but I really don't exercise and I didn't plan my water needs very well.  I was offered some water and empathy.  They got directions.  A swallowed mouthful later and I kept going.

At another resting stop, I saw a man running back down.  He ran past me on his way up and he was running past me again.  He stopped and asked if I was okay.  I must have looked terrible to break his stride, or he was just really a great guy.  I told him I was already more than half way down, but taking it slow.  He asked about my water.  I admitted I was a little dehydrated.  He offered his hydration pack, and I wasn't too proud to accept.  He apologized about the weird taste because he adds electrolytes but I wasn't in a complaining mood.  I was so grateful.  Immediately, I could feel a difference.  He walked with me a bit and asked if I wanted him to stay with me all the way down.  I insisted he keep going on his run, but I regret not getting his name.  He gave me one of his electrolyte powder packs and all I gave him was my gratitude.

I was almost at the bottom of the trail and remembered how excited I was at this point on the way up.  I saw a group coming and I didn't notice their backpacks.  I told them I hoped that they had more water than what was visible.  They said they did and I told them to have a great day, realizing I was mothering strangers.  One of the girls in the group ran back to me and handed me a bottle of water.  I was so thankful.  I got to my car and had the second bottle after adding some electrolyte powder to it.  Then I drove to Gelson's for coconut water and more water.

There was a lesson in my day.

I'm fairly used to being on my own.  Last night I was at a launch for a friend's company at Club Couture in Hollywood.  It was a red carpet event and I showed up alone.  I invited people, but didn't have any takers.  I was still comfortable going to the event without an escort.  I danced alone, and was asked to dance.  (A yes to a dance request does not mean I will be okay with you touching my butt, and no matter how beautiful you are, if you are with a date, don't waste your time on me because I don't share.)   Today was about learning that there is a community in human existence for a reason.

The kindness of strangers kept me going when I wanted to quit, and kept me hydrated.  It could have been bad.  It didn't escape me that there were rescue helicopters flying around, watching all of us for the silly folks like myself that didn't plan appropriately.

There is a reason there are buddy systems in hiking, and swimming and schools.  Buddies are amazing gifts. The short time I walked with the man that stopped his run for me felt better.  There is so much in the encouragement and companionship of someone else.

Research is brilliant.  I'm committed to preparing for hikes I've done before, and researching for new places I want to explore. I should have connected with that friend that has done the hike.  I should have checked out a map, and seen I could have made a short cut by driving through the residential neighborhood.  (I don't hike for exercise.  It's about seeing pretty things.) Going on a hike and making a really long detour yesterday was not brilliant.  Going on a hike I wasn't prepared for today could have been dangerous.

Planning is not overrated.  Even though my plans shifted, it would have been a great idea to shift with those plans, and make sure I had the provisions I needed.  My next hiking trip will include a backpack for water and coconut water. I may look for that electrolyte powder because it felt good.  It will include insect repellent.  I have bites. They suck.  And sunblock that was already in my car should have made it to my face and arms.  I am not red, and I won't peel, but my skin is hot to the touch and I'm sure my makeup is now too light for my skin tone and that is quite a bit of foundation and concealer to replace and not wear. It was nice to hike really close to Gelson's.  Once I got to the parking lot I dozed off in my parked but running car, sleeping off my exhaustion in air conditioning.

I really could have made it to the top if I had been more gentle on myself.  If my body wasn't trying to shut down on me, I could have made it.  I have sore muscles now and a slower walk.  I also have a new appreciation for walking through air conditioned museums with restaurants and available drinks everywhere.

My thought Saturday was I can do this without company and Sunday I learned how essential company can be.  And strangers are incredibly kind.

 

How I Show Up in Romantic Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

I'm learning.  It's changing.

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

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

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

Control Freaking

In the Basic class I took through MITT, the lecturer, Jorge gave us an example that I've been leaving all over town. I've probably left it here already, but I'm okay with that. I've added my own embellishments, because that's what I do.

When you really have to poop, you have to poop.  If it's a case of raging diarrhea, beware of white walls that beg for poopy painting.  When babies wear swim diapers, you can see it as a dark poopy cloud in the blue of a chlorinated pool.  When you're constipated, you can sit and wait, and strain . . . You can get up and walk and try to relax . . . If you can't go, you just can't go.  You feel uncomfortable and your normal flow is halted.  You literally can't control the shit that is in your body, so why try to control anything else?  All we can control is our reaction and our interpretation.

There's a story that isn't mine to share but the end result is my kids needed me to come get them a day early.  They need me to keep them for more than my usual custody days.  They need me to be the Mom they deserve because this situation has required me to spend more time with the women that my ex surrounds himself with than I would like, and they are being the guard dogs he seems to need around me.  I'm just that vicious.  Grrr.  Well, he keeps calling me a bitch but he has no clue that I could be far worse than I have been, but being kind is something I do for my boys and something he couldn't possibly understand.

In their effort to avoid a fight (that I wasn't in the mood for anyway), they have put plans in place to keep me from my ex (that I really don't want to see).  At the end of the day, you really can't take away the rights of a wife and rightful next of kin.  There are perks to the stubbornness that hasn't started a divorce or legal separation.  I can exert my authority where the other woman can't.

I'm not talking about pulling a plug on anyone.  It's not that kind of a situation.  At the same time, if I want to go to visit or get basic information, I have yet to be denied.  I don't need to know details other than how it will affect my boys.  Is it serious? Not fatal.  Is it going to put him out of commission for a while? Yup.

I had serious control freak issues for a while.  I still do, but I've relaxed. I remember a few years back I was doing IVF and preparing for an embryo transfer.  I was really big on sorting recyclables at home.  I had two separate trash cans and would recycle cardboard, and plastic.  I would neatly fold used aluminum foil and recycle that too.  I was keeping a productive herb and vegetable garden.  And I was doing IVF.  Generally after a transfer, you are supposed to take it easy and let those embryos stick to calm, relaxed uterine walls.  I was preparing for a couple of days, but that got extended when I had some spotting.  For days I stayed in bed and my couple hired help so I could stay in bed and not worry about my kids.  My help didn't know about my crazy recycling or how much my garden meant.  The moment I was off bedrest, I was trying to revive plants, and digging through the big city trash bins to sort it all.  I was a mess.  It was about control.

I love tackle boxes.  I keep one for my jewelry making supplies and tools.  I used to keep one for my jewelry too, but then I never wore different things.  They're out so I can see and choose now.   I keep a tackle box for my sewing kit.  Right now it's a bit messy.  Normally the threads are all organized and wound tightly.  I brush out lint and dust.  I keep all compartments full of extra supplies.  It's about control.

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My garden is mainly dirt and a collection of rocks I pick up because I always find a rock that needs to fit in my pocket or go home with me in the trunk or front seat.  Right now I'm never home and we're in the middle of a gnarly drought. Once upon a time, I was growing fresh thyme (I need a new plant, it died), chives, flat leaf parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, mint and basil.  I had a bed I loved and mulched with crushed cocoa nibs. I would walk barefoot in it and each step smelled like chocolate.  I grew zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, lettuces, bell peppers, and peas.  I loved that I could plant something and my kids usually wouldn't pull it up.  They even ate vegetables they helped me harvest. I did have to stop a sword fight that attacked a new fig tree.  It wasn't like housework.  Just today I got home to the drying sticky mess that was a soda earlier today on a floor I stayed up last night to clean.  I couldn't control the natural disasters that looked like my sons and sometimes felt like sensory integration dysfunction to them. Gardening was about control.

As a daughter, my parents always told me what to do, but now it's a constant expectation of what I should do.  They are starting to nudge and give distance.  They are starting to see me as an adult and they understand my rebellious streak. I have to remind myself that they can't give me guilt.  That can only come from within me, and if I feel guilt, I need to examine what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, because I refuse to live in shame for my choices.

As a sister, I still get told what to do.  "Don't post where you're going all the time on Facebook . . . Stop going out alone to the beach." I really don't think anyone cares about what I'm up to.  Otherwise they'd say something and I'd probably include them in my shenanigans.  I sometimes catch the surprise on my sister's faces when they realize I am actually an adult and capable of making grown up decisions and observations.  I will always be the baby to my older three sisters and they will always want what's best for me. They'll always have a hard time seeing that it might look like what I do, rather than what they think I should do and that will have to be okay.

As a wife, I was told what to do but it often came with the weight of the ideal he held for me.  He knew what kind of wife he wanted me to be and even if I wasn't her, I wanted to be her for him.  In the end, there was always a rub that left me raw, and I often did what I wanted to do and accepted he wouldn't be happy with it.  It's how I got my degree, and built up my Kindle library.  It's how we got all of the camping supplies he now has.  I did what I wanted and hid my actions or faced the music after the fact. How sad is it that I lived  a life where I knew what I was doing was wrong or would upset him and the only balance was to do what I wanted and know it wouldn't be okay to do what I wanted to do? I really am grateful to the life I get to live without him.  Our struggles weren't about money or housework, as much as he wanted to believe that.  It was about control.  We fought for it without actually fighting.

My obsessive observations of beautiful men . . . In my writing . . .  On the street . . . In social media feeds . . . It's all about control.  It's more than aggression in objectifying someone or calling out to him in a way that would offend me if roles were reversed.  It's about noting intricate details to avoid dealing with the real issue bothering me.  It's about control.  There really is no mystery to my extreme boy craziness, and unwillingness to step into more than a glance or smile.  I'm not dating anyone because then I would feel obligated to stop getting lost in a beautiful body and genuine smiles.  I'm more into silly nothings that stay nothing. I prefer the chase of a crush. If it's more I have to address my fear of abandonment and you can't abandon me if it's not serious.  You can't dump me if we were never together.

I've become a rebellious teenager.  I see it in everyday moments and taking notice doesn't always mean I want to change it.  It's been a balance I've been trying to strike, and I don't mind moments where I'm behaving badly. It's between taking control of my life, and letting go of what I can't control.

Sharing my latest anguish and frustration with strangers and keeping those details to myself when it comes to people I have made an emotional connection with . . . It's a way of distancing my intimacy from those I have already made a connection with and asserting control in the details that I can't control. I see intimacy as a moment where there is transparency and I've invited you to see into me, as I see into you.  I can step into it.  I can dance in it.  If it goes deeper than I'm ready for, the fear claws at me and I back pedal and try to avoid the risk that seems to pile up and around me until I'm unable to move forward.  I'm still broken in many ways, and this is one of them. This weekend had great highs, and extreme lows and I'm still finding myself trying to stay afloat in it all but the details weren't offered to all of the people I really do care about and have connected with. At the same time, all it takes is an empathetic smile from a stranger and I've spilled it out in a cascade like falling marbles.  Rolling and spreading outward and impossible to control.

In my life, I am responsible for my choices as well as the consequences of those choices.  It's about taking ownership of the things that make me smile and the things that break my heart.  I have a huge heart. That means it breaks beautifully and terribly almost daily.  I refuse to hold back and control my outpouring of love. I've done it for long enough.  I choose to live in abundant unconditional love.  I love freely and without expectation.  I give and if I feel my heart breaking or offense setting in, I remind myself I attached a cost to what I offered and love isn't something you barter unless you're into prostitution.  There's control in not expecting anything.  In not expecting a return, I'm not allowing you to be someone I can rely on.  I'm not allowing you to offer anything that you could potentially take away.

It's about letting go of what I can't control and holding on tightly to the way I look at things and my reactions to them.  Saying goodbye when I don't want to . . . Not having a voice in who spends time with my kids when I don't have custody . . . Being the person that others want to fight with and putting my pride aside so I can be the mom I want my boys to have, and not the person I feel like being. Accepting that my plans will change and then deciding what about the change I want to be excited about.  For example, I planned to stroll through a museum Saturday and instead got to sit with my sister and take her home from a surprise hospital visit.  I got to check out the Self-Realization Center in Hollywood and I got to do it while being the sister I want to be.  Sunday I planned to catch a beach sunset and spend some time listening to street performers.  Instead I got to pick my kids up a day early. I got to take the control I wanted by using the title I've held for 16 years.

In moments where I completely give up control, I have moments of clarity and grace.  These are times when I'm able to catch a corner of the big picture.  Giving up control is work.  It's difficult.  It's rewarding.  It's what you do when you want to grow because it pushes you past what you are used to and that's the only way to grow.

Handle With Care

I've been extremely fragile this week.  I have moments where I feel happy and confident, but one nudge and I'm shattered and scattered.  I assume whispered conversations are about me, because naturally, I am that important.  I analyze and misinterpret glances and words and text messages until they are so far from reality that I force myself to shift focus and see where my imagination painted the situation like a Picasso. . . So far from reality and to me, unappealing. My 16th wedding anniversary is tomorrow.  My writing never planned or plotted and my marriage was the same way.  Like most of history, it was a cataclysmic explosion that created who we were and the children we share.  We met in April of 2000.  By August 23 he proposed and September 2, we got married.  The following September we had our first born and the September after that we found out we were giving him a sibling.  It was very spontaneous and in our haste, we had few milestones of our relationship before getting married.  I celebrated every August 23, even if he didn't and every Labor Day weekend was special although it was years before I realized our anniversary fell on and around a legal holiday each year.  My family would get together, and keep our kids and we'd do something as a date or we'd run away.  My marriage ended for him sometime in late 2014 but I was informed in March of 2015 and I let go in February of 2016. Last year was my first anniversary without him but I had the kids.  This year he has the boys and I will be alone.  I don't know what that will be like.

It's not that I want him back or miss the marriage.  I've since learned that there were things I accepted as a normal part of marriage that I wouldn't tolerate as a single woman.  I love balancing my checkbook.  I enjoy taking myself out on solitary dates.  I treat myself very well.  I take myself out to eat, and don't embarrass myself in tipping.  I get pampered at the salon a few times a month.  I regularly buy myself flowers if I see a bouquet that grabs my attention.  I pick out jewelry I like and I no longer feel guilty about buying myself clothes.  I really like the way I'm treated and I don't have to worry about being expected to put out at the end of the night.  I decided that if I'm going to share my company, I want to have no doubts that I'd have a better time than being alone.

Loneliness is not what being fragile is about.

I like to do things well.  I like knowing that I can accomplish what I set out to, and that if there is room for improvement, I will easily close that gap.  In school, that meant giving birth in the middle of the quarter, missing a week of classes and still passing above average.  It meant applying for scholarships and earning seven awards as an upper division english major, in spite of my grades, but based on my drive, tenacity and compelling essays.  It meant advocating for my family until I got what we were fighting for.  It's hard to see my marriage as anything but a failure.  Yes, I chose to stay after he left, until I made the choice to move on.  No, we haven't filed for divorce.  I'm stubborn and want him to file.  He doesn't want to do anything I might suggest.  We're at an impasse.  It's marriage purgatory.  We don't even have a legal separation.  We rarely talk and usually text but I try not to respond when I can avoid it. We have a custody agreement, with separate finances and separate homes, but we're otherwise still very much married.  But it feels like a failure and I can't fix it without taking it back and I don't want it back.

I've had ugly moments this week.  Moments when my broken pieces are reaching out to hurt others.  Moments where I can't unhear what my ex told me or what his girlfriend texted me from his phone.  Moments where I see nothing but a physically unattractive woman.  I know that is only tied to them and that situation though.  Most other times I can remember the times men have given me things just to make me smile.  I remember the times I get smiles and winks at work and an appreciative sidelong glance because some people like watching me walk.  I'm beautiful to myself most of the time, but this week I've felt really ugly.  Last night I even put away the mirror I keep on my desk. I keep it there because my resting face helps me keep self aware. Am I happy? Am I stressed and can I use a few grounding breaths? Am I sad, and what is bothering me? Am I just thinking. . ? Because that look is a combination of cute and hot.   It got so bad I couldn't look at myself.

Earlier this week, a coworker was asking about my custody schedule.  We ran into each other in line at the 7-Eleven down the block.  The conversation went to my kids and weekend plans and I explained I don't do much when I have them.  As I explained what a 2-2-5 plan is, I forgot about the hole in the pocket of my skinny jeans and threw my change in my pocket.  His curiosity was gentle but I was so fragile, my answers came out like pennies being pulled from a toddler's mouth.  Reluctantly and messy with drool, and he didn't realize he was risking sharp teeth, eager to bite him. I focused on the $.51 that was slowly making its way out of my pocket, shocking bare skin with cold metal.  I held the coins against my thigh as we walked and talked, and the cold became comfortable, warmed by my skin and then seeming to burn with discomfort.  I had this inner dialogue to be polite because his questions were polite enough and he was doing his best to normalize my situations with examples of people he knows, because in his mind, their experience fits mine, but in my mind, each is a separate hell we're meant to grow from and those don't come in cookie cutter shapes. I got to my desk and worked the quarters and penny down my leg while breathing deeply.

My family has been asking what's going on with me.  I think that's why posting so much about what I'm getting into is easier for me.  I can post it and avoid deeper connections through intentional communication.  I've been hiding.  I nearly had a melt down at the latest request.  Don't ask and I won't have to think about it.

I had a questionnaire to fill out this morning and it asked if I'm single, married, or divorced.  It didn't even have separation listed, not that we're legally separated.  It's amazing how new couples try to define themselves to know how much faith to put in their relationship and I'm just over here wondering which box to check because this strange situation means I'm all three, depending on my mood.

Today at work I was feeling good.  I had a moment the night before where someone else gave me the perspective I usually have.  He is a friend I respect and care deeply about, so hearing it from him surprised and challenged the mood I was in.  In the end, I was amazed at what he said and better for it. Today I was throwing myself into work and fist pumping my accomplishments while dancing and singing in my seat.  It was going well, until it wasn't.  I needed a moment because throwing myself into work meant taking my focus off of myself and I'm too selfish for that.  My brain kept wandering away from my computer screen. Nothing was making sense. I wasn't making sense.

I took a moment to sit alone on the back patio and sing out loud while reading old blog posts.  I read A Profusion of Gratitude to the Men in My Life and A Moment of Gratitude and they gave me warm fuzzies.  It reminded me of the many amazing times men showed up for me in a great way. I re-read Closing The Book and Starting New Chapters and How My First Crush in 16 Years Is All About Me and these posts made me feel better.  They made me feel stronger.

The ex wasn't full on trying to pick a fight tonight, but I could feel his antagonism in his texts.  I decided to ignore him and keep working, but when a coworker was leaving and said her farewells, I couldn't ignore what I heard in my voice, and a short while later I left because I couldn't see through the tears.

Yeah, transparency can be uncomfortable, but if I can suck it up, you can too.  I won't know who has read this post, just how many times my homepage was seen. You can hide.  I'm not going to.

So, to recap . . .

I'm afraid of the unknown and what it will be like to be alone tomorrow.

I feel like a failure and it feels bad.

I don't like needing to define what relationship I'm in or not in when it feels and looks like I'm a single and occasionally lonely cat and dog lady.

I'm fragile.

And yet, I'm okay again while writing this.  After work I went to the beach and walked the pier.  I saw a seal swimming in silent prayer for bait from the anglers.  I watched a bird fishing for dinner.  The coast guard was flying their helicopter over the water, and over a boat that must have been experiencing some sort of distress to still be on the water after the sun set. There were a couple of young guys surfing next to the pier.   I listened to live music, and music I would have been okay not hearing.  One of my favorite vendors moved on to a better opportunity. The world goes round in good ways.  I'm up past my bedtime but it's about laundry because I can't keep putting it off and I won't leave wet clothes in the machine because I'll forget them.  Again.

Even the finest china is delicate, but still a treasure to be able to touch and embrace.  I can be fragile.  I can be strong.  I accept me with all of my limits and boundless abilities.

 

Unreleased Offenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Self

There's an elaborate covering.  It's my protection.  What you see, is who you see, and who I am is the woman I've created.  There's nothing organic in what I present.  It was burned away during the refining and the smell still haunts me but the wind is cleaning what was and what is still wears proud singe marks but you need an expert eye to see what is hidden. I don't know what healed looks like but it's close to what I feel on days unlike today. I moisturize then shade layers of shadow on my eyes.  I line my upper lids in black and mascara on my magic because the goal is to conjure a glance that might lead to more.  My lips are rarely lined, but usually smeared in red.  I pucker a pop with "O" rounded lips and imagine others would think of love or sex or death and want my lips to be a parting gift before sweet surrender into nothing.  Sex brings life but can also leave death in brokenness and the balance is struck with intention past lust.

I've been told I have great legs and a terrific rack.  I've been told I have a great body but I'm not offering it so every thought that bounds out of my brain is torn to nothing by what the lustful imaginations directed at my body are thinking at the same time. I grew up in the 80's where it was safe to walk to and from school when I was in the 3rd grade.  It was safe to stop in polite acquiescence for the man in the red car that was lost and thought I might know where he wanted to go while he held his rigid cock in his hand and I slowly backed away from what I couldn't understand.  Street harassment is nothing to aggressive teens that believe their hands belong on my ass and an inept electives teacher with an overhanging belly laughed that boys will be boys and there were no options for me because all through the 8th grade I would remain a victim to what was found as sexy on my body and I just wanted to get lost in a book.  The books I read told me that romance starts like aggression and maybe touching places that were uncomfortable would lead to excitement and angst and eventually love.  Leather and lace and bodice ripping romance started as violence and maybe this was the way to the happiness that comes in 300 pages and ends with marriage and a baby. I eventually named my butt, scrawling "my name's butt" on the bottom of a phys-ed t-shirt. I laughed at their aggression, acting as though it was invited.  It took my authority back in a way that became their disinterest. It was perceived that I was asking for it, and by that point I didn't care anymore.

I strut to the beat that is blaring in my ears.  One foot directly in front of the other, swaying slightly and stepping confidently.  I walk swiftly.  I glide slowly.  Chin up and shoulders back, I am ready for what is coming, even if it's just ice cream that I have no intention of finishing.

I sing loudly to stop the thoughts that bounce and roam into the corners of quiet that I want to claim as my own.  There is no respite from the world I can't control and the bell I can't unring is resounding in ways I wasn't prepared for. There was a shift and the future once planned has unraveled and is now mapping slowly before me.  I can choose the paths that I want to take, but to take them means I have to commit to a choice that is elusive when I keep changing my mind.  How do I avoid the paths I already took? How does the familiar become the chains of control I once handed over to someone else to map a destiny I didn't want? How do I share who I am and still keep who I am to myself? I choose being alone.  I choose me.  Over and over the songs on repeat are love songs I sing to myself because I get who I am.  I think.

In the quiet and calm when words flow from my mind through racing fingertips, I piece together what I feel, as I can't just think it.  I process out who I claim to be.  I bounce it off the walls of my being like unfinished spaghetti that isn't al dente and won't stick to the wall.  What gives my life meaning and in what actions do I place merit? How do I believe life should be?  I don't follow politics because I'm still deciding what I think is best for me and my children.  I know what I think I know and I feel what should be the same for all, and I share those thoughts when it's safe.  But who I am says I can't force or change what I believe to force and reframe anyone else. My ideals are still pliant and malleable under my shifting perceptions.

Is it ever safe to be who I am? Who I think I am and who I feel I am are fledgling through the faith of my existence.  I'm fragile and breakable, but strong enough to hold it together long enough to fall quietly and completely when I don't have an audience.  How amazing would it be to find the one that thinks I'm smarter than I am pretty and be okay with my measurements of both?

I step outside for the warmth of a summer night and a few teardrops will make an appearance before a deep and shaky breath banish them away.  I'm having a night I hope to forget and never revisit. Moist cheeks shine under the reflected glow of a moon hiding in the shadow of the earth it worships in a monthly dance of adoration.  The earth doesn't see the beauty the moon sees.  The earth can't feel the warmth of the sun, but the moon knows.  The moon dances slowly and sullenly through phases blamed on the moon, but the moon wouldn't affect much of anything without the forces of the sun and the earth.  The moon is a rock.  The moon has to be strong and constant. She has no choice and her will is only to exist.

The rage of the afternoon and the fall of late night will cushion racing thoughts with exhaustion and the quiet of acceptance will fall on graceless limbs.  The dawn will come and morning dew will wash away any signs of sorrow.  The birds will worship the sun in song and California Poppies will race Morning Glories to open their petals in gratitude for another day to shine and I will put on my covering and brace for a new day and another goodbye as my sons go back to their Dad.

I'll think of the earth with its beautiful browns and perfect shape.  Its graceful path and predictable orbit will bring the peace of fulfilled expectation.  It's a celestial body so used to existing it will never see how strong and resilient it is.  It dances through life, circling a sun because it's what has always been done, but never noticing the clouds that love being around it, or the waters that push and pull and give life to a moving mass of rock that is solid and molten and perfect in imperfection.  I'll wonder at which points my intensity is too much and marvel that it's a question the earth will never consider.

I'll meander and rest through the week until custody shifts back and spend my time alone figuring out again what it means to be my self.

Poker Face

I don't have a poker face, but I could probably really use one.  Without that mask, I feel like I owe apologies because so rarely is my joy overtaken by my rage, but there it is.  A series of injustices against my littles and passive aggression directed at me have had me in a rage most of today.  I've had moments of distraction, but I've been lost to the underlying thoughts that won't let me focus today. When I was younger, my smile was my mask.  At some point that was shattered. There's transparency and honesty and a vulnerability that tends to make others uncomfortable.   Something in life cracked open and exposed my squishy parts and I have a hard time hiding it now. My smiles are genuine for the most part.  The uglier parts that beg for release are rarely hidden. It doesn't take a lot of trust, but just enough and I share more than would make the average person comfortable. I've seen my forced smile in a mirror and it looks a lot like constipation.

As a war Vet with PTSD, Dad was well aware of his rage and kept control of it at all times.  His threats were softly spoken and much more terrifying in some ways.  In one conversation, when I must have been in my teens, he started describing the realities of war.  I don't remember it, but he remembered the look on my face and never brought it up again.

I can't hide much.  I don't try to.  Often when really great teachers are explaining their artistry they can tell when it's not making sense to me.  Really good food is honored through my silly facial expressions and odd vocal sounds.  If I care about someone, they can see it in the way I look at them.  I can't mask my tenderness.  Babies and puppies can always see how open and inviting my expression is because I love the ones I can give back and it shows all over my face.

For the longest time, I loved Lady Gaga's song, Poker Face.  It's all about bluffing love so she can clean out some poor guy's bank.  I was never in love with the idea of using someone for his money.  It's not who I am, but the idea of being able to fake and hide behind an elaborate facade was what I was interested in.  So often I'm so transparent that it's my emotions that are abused.

Today I felt rage.  In my helplessness to protect my littles from behavior I no longer find acceptable, I feel I've fallen short because I can't fix every pain and every hurt.  Last night I could only hold my son as he cried in my arms and fell asleep exhausted, only comforted by my proximity.  I can only assure my other son that I won't do what has already been done to him. I can hope they listen to my words and witness my example and hope that I'm holding myself to a standard worthy of the sons I hope to raise.

I'm having a day.  It's been a rough day most of today and I feel as though I've been pushed and pulled by my emotions and rage because I have been.  It was a rough night and a blessed morning, followed by moments of rage and I'm having a hard time seeing beyond that, but in about an hour, I'll be home with my sons.  There will be messes and laughter and snuggles and somehow it will all settle and make sense.  My little one will want to help me cook on the barbecue grill and I'll be patient through it and tomorrow will be better.  It always gets better.

Balance and Family

Life is full of balance, and my weekend family vacation was all about that lesson.  It was a trip that seemed simple and even exciting to start, and as the party in my room grew, so did the stress.  At first it was me and Kid3.  He's easy and enjoys the shenanigans with his cousins.  My mom convinced Kid2 to go and I began to worry about sensory integration and his needs coming first because it's not always easy when you go on vacation but autism doesn't.  Then my Dad wanted to come and I was going to drive him and I was worried about him and his health on such a long ride and in extreme temperatures. Earlier in the week, I suffered for my procrastination by having to order my bathing suit online.  I have been blessed by my late grandmother and my Mom and I had a hard time finding a swimsuit that could accomodate my top as well as comfortably fit my bottom in stores, so I opted for a bikini I found online because at least then I could choose by bra size.  I got the suit and while it was slightly tighter than I liked, it fit my new body shape.  The suit I had last year doesn't fit.  I wore it one Sunday and the band no longer fits, but the halter top knot left my neck in so much pain for a few days.  It's a lot of weight to wrap around a neck that is used to holding my head. A while back I had to get past the fear of wearing a bikini in public without the protective and admiring gaze of a husband that was mine.  It was probably a bigger deal than I explained here, but I was excited to wear my new bikini. It was even better to realize the sarong I have now fits in many other ways because my body is smaller than it was when I got it. 

As we started on our long road trip, there were good moments, but I was with my Dad and there were not amazing moments.  I went into them here.  At the end of the day, he's my Dad and no one else can make me feel like a teenager.  Well, almost no one else, but this post isn't about him. And we're talking different ends of the spectrum on the fun levels of re-living my youth.

The real fun was all about Saturday.  After getting into Laughlin and being greeted with late night lightning that was fierce enough to startle the locals, we got up and took a lot longer to get going than I was happy with.  It was an effort with kids and Dad taking their time because it was vacation and I needed the reminder to slow down.  I just didn't like it. We stay in Laughlin in Nevada and drive into Arizona during the day. We got to Katherine's Landing where the family enjoys calm waters.

As we were on the water, my sister told me about an unspoken rule for the moms and wives in the group, as the family vacation includes a lot of her friends and all of our children.  It's a family outing and the moms and wives cover up their bodies out of respect for the group.  I was shocked by this.  My nieces were quick to point out I'm not a wife anymore, but I get the culture they are trying to cultivate and out of respect, I covered up.  It reminded me of an amazing Muslim woman I knew.  She was smart and confident and as a medical professional and business woman, I was in awe of the power and authority she commanded and like all muslim women willing to cover up, I admired her faith.  We talked about the hijab and burqa.  She explained that it is a woman's job to not tempt a man into sinning by covering herself.  I could see her point of view, but I left feeling thankful that I'm not Muslim.  That is a huge responsibility to carry but I admire the honor in their faith that is so strong it's announced before you ever get a name.

A short while later my Dad wasn't feeling well in the heat and I got to take him back to the hotel room with Kid2 who was happy to go with us. While taking care of my Dad, I was able to get him to mellow out because the stress of not feeling well was making him feel worse.  I put on my playlist of classical piano instrumentals that I usually write to when I'm trying to be creative.  I encouraged him to practice breathing deeply, and I brought him cool drinks and propped him up with pillows.  There was something calming about knowing he was being taken care of and comfortable and I didn't have to worry about him.  His blood pressure stabilized. He calmed down and he looked like he was feeling better and I got to take Kid2 down to the hotel pool, where I kept my phone by my side in a waterproof case, while I stood in the shade and watched my son enjoy looking at the bottom of the pool with his goggles on.

I stood in the shallow  water under the sun and enjoyed the warmth on my skin and the laughter all around us.  I saw a woman in a white version of my bikini and had to ask if her boobs kept trying to pop out of her suit too.  We laughed and agreed that Victoria's Secret needs to learn that mature boobs flop and float and we're both at the age where we really don't care.  I stood next to a few other people and chatted as they kept offering to buy me drinks, but I was on Dad and kid watch and not into the idea.

After checking on my Dad and finding out that Kid3 was really happy with cousins and my sister was taking great care of him, I took Kid2 to an all you can eat buffet.  I have wheat sensitivities.  It's extreme.  I try my best to avoid wheat and anytime I think there might be wheat flour in a dish, I will ask to be sure and avoid it to be safe.  I ate something at the buffet that I reacted to.  I was planning on spending time poolside with the family but ended up in serious pain and vomiting. Being ill means I try my hardest to think about anything other than being ill, and I may be overthinking things, but I started replaying the bikini situation in my head.

This was a third trip for my family, but the rest of my family has been going for over a decade.  My ex never wanted to go, so we didn't go, but the first year I wore a one-piece and the second year I wore a bikini. Last year the trip was cancelled and this year I was called out on my bikini.  My first thought was no one complained the year I had a husband and over 30 extra pounds.  Then I really started to think of the implications of expecting the women in the group to cover up.  I know a few readers have already considered the internalized rape culture that runs through the group.  If you haven't, I'll unpack it for you.

I had my partying days in my youth where I was weather proof and wore tiny dresses, no matter how cold because I wanted to be cute.  Those days are long gone, but it was hot, and I was wearing a bikini, which covers just as much as the matching bra and panty sets I'm in love with lately. It was totally appropriate considering that was what everyone else was wearing, except the women in our group that wore a one-piece or swam with a cover up.

I actually had to dig for the courage to wear a bikini in public alone.  I was proud of that.  Then I was asked to cover up because I'm expected to help the men out by wearing more clothes.  The situation made me angry because the moment I tell my sons their gender excuses them from responsibility for their own actions, is the moment I've failed as a mother to my sons. Saying a woman should dress a certain way is assuming she's responsible for the actions of someone else.  It wasn't the men policing the issue, or even making me uncomfortable with their looks.  It was the women in the group, policing other adult women. This excuse is a slap in the face to the men that have self control and respect for women.  This rationalization opens the door to victim blaming and slut shaming.  I've already touched on those thoughts.

In my life, I have been honored with being secret keeper to more than one woman who has shared her experiences with rape and physical violence with me.  I've stood between a man with raised fists and his victim because I was willing to fight for a sister.  Once was right after high school.  Another time with different people was with a toddling Kid1 near my feet and after the ex realized what was happening, he chased the guy off for us. It would dishonor that trust to ever imagine anything they could have done or done differently would have affected the choice of one human being to violate trust and the personal rights of another person.

As I was feeling sharp pains in my upper back, and writhing in pain, from a bad food choice, I had both Kid2 and Kid3 surrounding me in bed.  They needed to be close to me.  I would toss and they would adjust and throw little legs and arms back over me, in a protective embrace of sleep.  At one point my Dad was on the bed across from us, and he saw this and laughed because it tickled him to see my boys treat me the way he and my uncle treated my grandmother. It reinforced how important it is that I import the value of respecting a woman in my sons, no matter how strong she is, or how much she needs their protection.  They trust me and it's my duty to offer my best. 

There were other great moments with my Dad.  There was singing and laughter.  My kids caught a glimpse of my Dad's discipline and the way I grew up.  It gave them appreciation for my parenting style and reminded me that I really did marry a man just like my Dad.  It was a bad visual, but it was necessary.  I needed to notice.  I need to do what's right, and I need to not do what hasn't worked out in the past. The ride home included laughter and singing and it wasn't just my perspective that was shifted.  The good came with bad, and that is where there is balance.

People Pleaser

I had the benefit of a friendly send off from my muse before embarking on a long drive with my Dad.  We’re just friends, but he has this shadows and light effect I enjoy.  The light is about the purity I see in him.  He’s genuinely a nice guy.  The shadows are about the muted grays and soft blues.  There's an edge of sadness and it bites softly - tentatively. There’s just something about him that brings out my gentler side that wants to Momma bear and protect him.  That and he thinks I’m selfless when it comes to being Mom and it makes me enjoy keeping him around. Some of our interactions are his attempts to annoy me.  It’s lighthearted and silly.  I think it’s fun because he sees someone that is generally happy and hard to ruffle.  I’m an autism Mom that has been in controlling relationships where I couldn’t choose what I wanted to do, let alone have free time to do it in.  I’m a bit of a challenge in that way.  I don't even realize he's trying to annoy me until it doesn't work and he tells me he was trying. As for him, he’s just incapable of the darkness that was offered as love by boyfriends in my youth.  There’s just too much good in him to be capable of true malice.

Today there was a moment where I was telling him about my plans to drive to Laughlin with my Dad and the parts I wasn’t looking forward to.  It was a moment of transparency where I was not shining in the best light.  We were texting and in a space of quiet, I panicked because I want to be the person that gets along with others and I didn’t look like that.  We found something to ruffle my feathers and yet he didn’t pounce.  Later we were in my car and I asked if he wanted windows or air conditioning and he asked what I wanted.  He was calling me out on being a people pleaser without saying it. Maybe he said it, but is was a gentle nudge.

On the nearly 5-hour drive, I spent quiet moments singing along to the playlist I made, talking to my Dad about anything and everything, and thinking about the ways in which I don’t speak up. I spent about an hour picking out a playlist to drive to.  I was enjoying it, and thinking about the look on my muse’s face when he commented about my pop music.  It was disdain, but there was fun in it.  As I was enjoying the memory, my Dad mentioned he wanted to listen to Christian music.  Just like that, I switched, not paying attention to my wants.

Several hours later the conversation drifted to the point where I talked about my upbringing. I was telling my Dad that I know he always did what he thought was best and I never doubted he loved me, but I’m only now beginning to speak up for myself.  I brought up the playlist. It wasn't to hurt him but to show him I was taking notice of my actions and responsibility for my choices.  As we talked, I brought up one of his favorite phrases, “children should be seen and not heard.”  He defended it saying that he was doing it to prepare me.  I said it prepared me to follow someone else’s lead because I shouldn’t have to fight myself to say what’s on my mind.

With my upbringing, it’s hard to speak up for myself.  I was taught to make others comfortable.  I was expected to follow my Dad’s leadership and I spent a life looking for a man worthy to lead me, without fully appreciating the fact that I can lead my own life. I defer to the comfort of those around me instead of deciding what I want for myself.  I will remain silent.  I’m still figuring out what I like to do in my time alone because for so long I didn’t have time alone or I didn’t have permission to do what I like, so I have no idea what that is anymore. I have to teach myself something different – something new.

Right now my lessons revolve around my ability to move forward without looking toward the past as a point of reference.  I can do different and be better at it because I won’t live in the fear of yesterday and tomorrow.  I have this moment and right now, I want to BE.

 

What you are telling me is . . .

In my restlessness last night I called my cousin and told him I was due for shenanigans.  I went to his place and he took me to a barcade.  We grew up together and he's the same special guy that talked me through a night of self discovery here.  There were figurines and dolls that were all about the 70's and 80's all over the bar and walls.  I saw all of the classic arcade games that we used to walk to 7-Eleven to play when we were kids.  I picked out songs, three at a time on the jukebox and loved that it reminded me of all of the nights we hung out at my place or our favorite pool hall.  Of course we were in a bar with other patrons and they played their preferences which I had never heard of and I had this moment of realizing that if the music is setting the tone, I may be overthinking things. Before I got hitched, I had a bunch of guy friends and not many female friends.  It's not about female drama I needed to avoid. It was about friends that wanted to be around me.  They accepted me and all of my damaged parts that allowed me to destroy a few of my female relationships.  I was one of the guys.  Apparently I still am.

I was at the bar with my friend when a few hours later we were joined by another friend I had not seen in over 16 years.  The hugs were huge and it felt like home.  It was a night of catching up and being silly and for a while I found that confidence I had when I was in my 20's.  During the laughter and catching up and selfie sessions being posted, there was a moment of jealousy from a significant other directed at me.  I had lost touch with my snarky side, but she was ready to play.  I'm not sure if I regret that right now but it opened a discussion about our current relationships and the people we're talking to.  The conclusion is we're all doing what works for us because in our damaged ways, the people we've chosen fit the needs we have. We've found the right fits for our dysfunctions.

None of us are in a serious or committed anything with anyone.  It's all very casual and in the moment.  We're not complicated people and very straightforward about what we want but as we talked, I thought about the many ways people will always tell you want they want, assuming you aren't too focused on your selfish needs and wants.  You watch the actions, listen to the words, pay attention to the body language, and don't over think it.

We all crave attention on some level.  We want to be seen and heard and looked out for.  The things we'll do to get that itch scratched will always vary.  On a daily basis, I will walk somewhere just for the attention.  It's not really a walk.  I strut. There is one foot directly in front of the other, and it throws me off just enough to pretend I have more junk in my trunk than I do.  I walk with my posture straight and making eye contact.  I don't just step.  My steps are forceful and intentionally overconfident.  I focus on where I'm going and when I catch someone's eye, they get my friendly smile.  A smile can make a scowling woman smile back because you're slightly less threatening. Usually my ear buds are in and I'm listening to something upbeat and I step to that beat. Sometimes it comes with catcalls, but often it's just a look and that is enough.  And then there are times when the stakes are higher and I'm nervous and clumsy.  It happens.

Is the attention worth the cost?

The attention we crave means we'll take a call from someone we would be okay not hearing from. We'll justify it by thinking we're polite people. For me, it meant online dating for two whole months instead of quitting after the first week and the second bad date.  For the guys, it means answering calls and texts just to show the women that won't leave them alone that they can be jerks.  They purposely made the women in their lives jealous and called it a taste of the dish they were being served.  I don't bother trying to get someone jealous.  They care or they don't.  Sometimes I don't care enough for the small things to matter.  It's wasted effort.  When I decided I was done with someone I told them I was done and if they kept reaching out, I blocked them.  There's no reason to give someone else that much authority over the joy I tap into.

If you really want it, you'll do what you can to get it.

We consistently put our time, energy and money into things we value. You call or text someone you want to talk to.  You ask them to join you when you are doing something or doing nothing because you want to be around them.  You tell them what you like and hope what you said was what they heard.  You make time or you make excuses and there is an answer in that if you pay attention.

What remains unsaid or unseen can have it's own library to study.

There are parts of who I am that I withhold.  Last night was so freeing but it threw into sharp contrast the parts of who I am that I keep hidden.  As transparent as I am here, and elsewhere, there is so much I hide, and it was so clear when I was with old friends and not holding back.  I feel it's about protecting my vulnerabilities but also about not frightening away others with other things. I can be intense and I'm not always nice. I'm constantly turning over a million things in my mind.  There's always a thought or reaction that I'm gauging.  Where does the conversation pause, and is it a comfortable silence? Do you feel like enough was said, or do you need to explain deeper or is withholding about trust that has yet to be earned?

What do you see in the body language?

Once I get past the beauty I'm ogling, I want to see what the posture says.  Is this person relaxed or is he a bird ready to fly away and why does he feel this way around me? Is my confidence intimidating or am I being mean and it's more than he can handle?  Is he reaching out for my hand or is he keeping polite distance?  Is he turning his body and head toward me? Is he looking away for the most part and reaching blindly because he's afraid of the rejection he might see in my face?

Are you invited in or being pushed out?

In this area I'm a bit cynical.  I have had some meaningful and beautiful relationships, but I've also had plenty of guys try to treat me as something they wanted to play with.  I listen for the familiar script that I've come to expect first. I really evaluate how I'm being approached.  Is it late at night and he's lonely? Is it just before lunch and he's gotten through the bulk of work and has a few minutes to kill before leaving for his hour and he doesn't want to start a  new project so I'm a distraction? Is he trying to see how I'm doing, or is he hoping I can make him feel good?  I pay attention to what is being said and I over think his motives because I do want to know if I've been crossing his mind just because I'm always on it or if he's bored and lonely and he needs me to fix that.  I don't always reach out when someone crosses my mind unless the moment becomes a while and then they deserve to know they've held my attention.  I've been known to shoot off random texts while letting them know they don't need to respond.  I want to see the spaces I'm invited into.  Do they want to tell me about themselves or their ideas and dreams, or is the topic of conversation generally superficial? Am I invited into his circle, or am I far removed from the people that mean something to him?

You'll always be told where you stand and what you mean, but you have to pay attention to what isn't being told to you in addition to what is.  Try not to paint their monologue with the colors of your desires and decide what you are trying to take away from what you do share.

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.