Moment of Truth

Sometimes I wish I could label myself with whatever mood I happen to be in on any given day or in any given moment, so that everyone can see. That way, I don’t have to pretend to be what I’m not. If I’m feeling crummy and I don’t want to deal with people, I don’t want to feign enthusiasm or be fake happy. Because sometimes, well, I’m not. Sometimes I’m irritated with life and exhausted from life and feeling scared and anxious and confused about life. Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes I’m really, really angry. And I just want to give up because I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of explaining why sometimes I go off the deep end; why there are moments when I just totally shut down.

And I’m alone. I’m always alone, inside. I mean, obviously, but it’s the kind of alone that you feel when you’re with someone and without them; it just doesn’t go away. And I don’t know how to fix that.

I love with my whole heart, I know that. I strive to be genuine in all that I say and do. I’m loyal and dependable. And sometimes, I’m a bitch. Anyone who tries living with me could tell you that. My kids could certainly tell you that. Because, hands down, parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and doing it alone just makes it all the more difficult. It tends to, you know, bring out the bitch in me. Lack of sleep, lack of sex, I don’t know. But at times, yeah, it gets me down. Too much to do for so many people. It probably doesn’t help that I manage people’s lives for a living. I am constantly juggling the needs and interests of others. Sometimes I want to put the balls down, but then I remember…

My children are the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t be more proud to be their mother. They’ve been there for me as much as I’ve been there for them, always pulling me through the toughest of times; always forgiving me for all the ways that I fail them. Every day I wake up I get the chance to start anew. I get another chance to choose love over fear and anger. *breathe* I get the chance to tell them nicely for the 10th time to please do this or please do that…

…Not likely!! I am giving myself a break on that one!

All The Love In My Life

This morning shortly after arriving to work I became fixated on something my 8-year old made for me when he was in preschool. To think that that was just over 3 years ago is bizarre. On the one hand it feels like just yesterday. But on the other it’s as though it were so long ago. Who I was then, where I was, what I was doing was completely different. And in that time my son has grown in so many of his own brilliant ways most assuredly.

heart

What the message reminds me of is a lesson I have found myself sharing with my son over and over and over again. Because yes, there are times when I’ll catch him feeling sorry for himself; he feels he’s been cheated out of something that someone else got and he didn’t. And what I’ll tell him is how important it is to focus on what he has instead of what he hasn’t got. It’s amazing to watch those little wheels turning inside his head as a shift in perspective begins to take place on his face and in the way he proceeds with his life. He moves on. He gets over it. He learns to appreciate what he already has instead of clinging to feelings of jealousy and insecurity. He remembers the love in his life.  (And the ice cream I just treated him to perhaps!)

There is something for me to take away from this, too. How often have I pined away for a love that couldn’t be reciprocated? How often have I wallowed in sorrow, loneliness, and discontent?  Or wondered why other people get to fall in love and live happily ever after and I don’t?  All the while forgetting–even deliberately–that I am already surrounded by so much love in my life.  And who am I to expect more than what is already given me?

Rules For Entering: A Mother’s Reflection On Matters Of The Heart

This morning before leaving for work I was struck by the sign on my 8-year old son’s bedroom door.  It was a list of “rules” for entering which you can see here:

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I thought it was a fine list of rules; he doesn’t seem to request anything of his bedroom guests that is too unreasonable.  Asking permission to enter, being kind, respecting his personal space, as well as his feelings and the times when he just needs to be alone… all good things.  What I was most intrigued by was the warning he attached below them: if you break the rules, you’re out.  No wavering, no mending, no talking about the problem. It’s a very move-along-and-don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya-on-the-way-out sort of mentality; Nihilist, even, black-and-white.  Fear ridden.  Destructive rather than constructive.

So while I was standing there reading the sign and having these thoughts I wondered, is that what my son has learned?  He’s seen me go through three relationships with men I invited into our home and our family yet who are no longer around, outside of his own father.  The other two just… disappeared.  Why?  Because they broke the rules, I guess.  And what were my rules?  Well, very similar to junior’s, actually:

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Seriously.  I asked for a donut.  Where the fuck is it?!  Right???  I think we all feel that way sometimes, or at least I have.  I just find it very interesting to see that feeling reflected here in my son’s rules for entering his room, his world, his life.  Poignant, symbolic, yes?  What I don’t know is how much of that is learned and how much of it is a natural part of being human and wanting to feel safe and cared for.  I guess if anyone regardless of their current situation or circumstances growing up can say that they would ask the same of anyone entering their haven, then we can all agree that these rules belong on every door to every heart.

Unfortunately, written within those rules there is nothing to be said of loving for the sake of loving; giving when you don’t want to give; learning what that feels like in the end.  Even though it’s challenging, there is no implication in such demands that believing the pain of loving without guarantee or restitution is worth it; there is no resolve to lead with love despite the fear of getting burned.

What do we do not only for the other person, but for ourselves when we allow someone in even when they’ve hurt us… upset us… didn’t deliver what we asked for?  I’m 34-years old and I’m still figuring this out; I suppose I can’t expect my 2nd grader to really grasp it yet.  But as his mother, his teacher, his guide, I see it as my job and my privilege to show him the power of love, forgiveness, and working through differences, even when someone we trusted enough to welcome into our lives has hurt us, gone against the rules.  We would all want someone to show up at our door bearing donuts, chocolate, and ice cream.  It’s just that, not all days are like that.  Some days it’s a pile of smelly trash, baggage you don’t care to deal with, and horse shit.

itsy bitsy or teeny weeny?

Bikini Contest.  The other night I came across a video with this title when I was on YouTube listening to some tunes.  My children spend a lot of time on YouTube, much to my dismay (especially my daughter who is 11), so sometimes video suggestions will pop up based on things they’ve watched.  This video, I could tell, was geared for (presumably) a young teenage audience.  So, I decided to be a responsible parent and check it out.

What I discovered was that this video was posted by some self-consumed Barbie doll wannabe teenage twat who decided to try on and share with the world all 30 (yes, 30) bikini swimsuits that she owns.  Answer me this: who… the hell… needs 30 swimsuits?!?  And all bikinis none the less!  …that’s not very practical.  Also, who has that kind of time or money?  (Obviously not me so I should probably just move on…)

This poor stupid girl started off by saying how all of her friends were doing these videos, so she decided to join in on the fun (so this is a thing that other stupid girls are also doing apparently).  She proceeded to show her viewers each bikini, one by one, and described them in detail, as if we couldn’t already see what they looked like (it was riveting, let me tell ya).  She demonstrated what each one looked like by trying them on (offering a close up of her chest) and got really excited over STUPID shit.  Thirty goddamn bikinis later, she’s encouraging her viewers to “like” the video and “follow” her on YouTube.  But it was her closing remark that really made me sad and mad at the same time.

It was something along the lines of “even if you’re a creepy guy who just wanted to see some girl walk around in a bikini, that’s okay, you’re still a follower!”  She then winked and gave the camera a thumbs up.

What the…………. fuck?!??

I’m sad that there are actually young girls and women out there who feel they need this kind of validation in their lives…. the kind that comes from complete strangers who care nothing about them but rather what they look like underneath the next to nothing clothing they may or may not be wearing.  I’m sad that it doesn’t bother but rather excites this girl to know that strange “creepy” guys are using her to get off, but will later forget all about her.  BECAUSE SHE MEANS NOTHING TO THEM and because she will be replaced with the next girl feeling frisky enough to take her clothes off for an audience.  How sad that that is yet so important to her concept of self.  …And that there are girls and women who think and feel and behave this way EVERYWHERE.

I’m mad that this type of media not only shows a lack of self-respect, but also a lack of consideration for the young girls who have been victims of sexual violence as a result of the smut regularly available on the internet to creepy guys everywhere.  [Sort of as an aside, I was actually surprised recently to learn from a friend who worked in probation with pedophiles that when asked, offenders will oftentimes say that what they did to their sister, niece, cousin, neighbor girl… they learned by watching online videos; their curiosity got the best of them.  I guess I always assumed these fuckers were repeating what had been done to them or what they watched happen growing up.  But that isn’t usually the case as it turns out, at least in my friend’s experience.  And yet how often do we support this type of violence that is most often directed towards women and girls by supporting the porn industry in some form or fashion?]  I’m mad that I’m forced to raise my daughter in a world that begins sexualizing girls at a young age, exploiting them in a myriad of ways, only to turn against them in the end for getting old and fat.

So this evening I had a well thought out discussion with both of my children in which  I very deliberately said a swear word.  This isn’t something I do often.  Oh sure, I’ll let something slip in a fit of frustration or hostility or if I’m just not thinking.  Very rarely do I contemplate a swear word before using it around them.  But I felt, after watching this video and others like it, a word that is taboo and profane to them was exactly what I needed to describe what I thought of this online trend in order to leave a lasting impression.

And so I said to them, “hey… kids…  this video is SHIT.”  I made sure to repeat it several times and continued to explain the impact that videos like these have on both girls and boys and how it can affect their perceptions without them even realizing it.  Videos that are self-serving and attention seeking, that contain nothing but petty commentary and pointless dialogue (or just down and dirty raunch) just to hide the fact that a girl is insanely insecure (and why wouldn’t she be in our society) do nothing to enhance one’s character or improve the lives of others.  It is pure and utter… SHIT.  I just hope that none of the brainwashing has set in for either of my children yet. My 8-year old son just laughed when I brought it up (“Who would want to watch someone in a bikini?!”); my daughter insisted she didn’t see it and steers clear of those types of videos.

Nevertheless… this mama bear is tightening up on what she allows in her home.  I can’t control what my cubs see in the real world, but dammit if there’s going to be a lot less SHIT around here interfering with anyone’s potential to be their best, most confident and most ambitious selves.  I’m sorry but, trying to determine which of your 30 bikinis is the most liked by people you don’t even know isn’t very ambitious.  There is a lot of shit going on in the world, more relevant than the SHIT you contaminate it with, stupid fake pretty girl!!

 

 

Eulogy

When I’ve drawn my final breath

And my body, laid to rest

What will they say of my time spent here?

What will I have given

to leave a lasting impression?

Will there be pain in their laughter?

Joy in their tears?

 

And so it is this I ask of you, dear children:

Do not mourn the life I lived,

but rather rejoice in all of the love I had to give.

I assure you it will remain

forever with you,

wherever you go;

Even once you grow old and

your souls summon you home.

In that home I shall also be.

It is a place not built of walls, but rather

space for us to be free–

Apart, yet joined by eternity.

 

Remember, also, another thing:

You are the stars,

the moon,

the world to me;

You are even everything between

the spaces of the spaces.

All I know of love I learned from you,

my darling dears;

Have no fear.

Your love has carried me through this life,

as it will continue to carry me to

all the places I am meant for.

 

Close your eyes,

feel my hand warm against yours,

as though I never left.

Think of my love when you’re feeling bereft;

For it is alive and well

And it calls upon you to live your life

as though you might also die;

One day at a time,

Forgive through the pain,

Love through the strife.

Living By The Lists

When I was a kid I had lists for everything. I retained them in my head and I’d review them over and over until I could recite them perfectly. Whether it was some game which I would not allow myself to play until I mentally reviewed the instructions and object of the game precisely, or the lay out of a house in which I would not feel comfortable until I examined and approved every tiny detail. If I thought something looked off, I’d try to adjust it so that my mind could make sense of my surroundings. This was freakishly weird! (I thought at the time.) I assumed something was wrong with me and that I was the only one to ever suffer from the same obsessive mental madness. Years later, when I would go on to take various psychology and sociology courses, I realized that while still weird perhaps, there are actually people out there with similar Obsessive Compulsive Disorders …and there was a name for it! Of course, by then I no longer carried the lists around with me. At least, not to the same extreme.

However, now as an adult I find that the lists, while different in content and intensity, still define my life. And I have so many lists: things to do, things to buy, places to go, people to call and email, projects to complete… The lists are never ending.  Yet I write them with the anticipation of being able to cross things off, one accomplishment at a time, as if to prove that I am doing something with my life.  And as though there will soon come a day when I won’t have anything left to scratch off.  But then what?  Because I also realize that the day there isn’t anything left for me to do–no errand to run, no groceries to pick up, no person to get in touch with–is the day I will draw my last breath.

There will always be things to do.  And there will always be chaos. Making lists has just always been my way of bringing order to my life; of feeling in control. I suspect that even as I was growing up, when things around me didn’t make sense, this too was the purpose of my wacky lists.  I can’t see myself ever fully functioning without writing things down; my lists are little reminders of all that there is to do.  (And as a single mother of two, there is always lots to do.)  I just can’t help but feel sometimes that by living by the lists, I am also dying by them one check mark at a time. 

The Monster At The End Of This Blog

In “The Monster At The End Of This Book Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover” (from Sesame Street), a Little Golden Book I remember reading as a child and now read to my kids, the audience is begged not to turn any pages because Grover is terrified at the thought of there being a big, scary monster waiting on the last page. (I usually do my best Grover impression when reading this book to my kids, which I think I’ve nailed.) Besides warning us to stay away, Grover tries everything to keep that monster from rearing its ugly head. However, from building walls to tying pages together, nothing seems to keep the pages from being turned and what Grover finally realizes is that the monster he’s been so afraid of (spoiler alert!)… is him. That’s when he abandons his fear as he comes face to face with the only monster in sight–lovable, furry old Grover. Then he admits embarrassment after having caused so much commotion simply due to an extrinsic fear that no one but him could understand.

As a child I too was terrified of the possibility of monsters hiding under my bed or in my closet. But as an adult, the only monster I’m afraid of… is me.

I have been a monster. I admit to doing things to intentionally hurt others. A few of those things I can brush off as simply being part of growing up and learning how to process through my emotions. But other things, bigger things, more consequential things I have done as a mother to my kids.

The year following my ex-husband’s affair, during the bullshit that is the divorce process, I was a total mess. The anguish I went through was at the expense of my children so no one else could see that I was slowly unraveling. I’d scream and yell at them for no reason. Or at least, no reason good enough to make them feel so bad. I began spanking my son which is something I told myself I’d never do. He was 3-years old at the time, so melt downs and tantrums were inevitable, but not something I was equipped to handle. I’d grab him off the floor and carry/drag him to his room, sometimes plopping him down with no concern to hurting him, and then slam the door. I would yell in his face and on one occasion I slapped him (not with all my might, but that’s not the point). How traumatizing must this have been for him.  And his sister, just a stander-by, probably hating me for treating her brother that way. I hated myself for the same reason. Going through a divorce, feeling rejected and terrified and angry after my husband abandoned our marriage to start a family with another woman, on top of dealing with a tantruming toddler was just too much for me. I had become a monster.

But then things seemed to level off. My son got older and I moved on. I found love again. I found peace. But I’ve never gotten over the guilt of those days; those vital, young and impressionable days. The days I should have been reassuring my kids that although things were changing at a rapid pace (new home, new family, new siblings and live-in mother-type figure) I would always be there to comfort and love them. Not terrify and vilify them.

When I was going through counseling years later, I was asked why I hold on to feelings of guilt. I couldn’t answer except to say that I was hoping the guilt would be enough to prevent me from acting that way ever again. But that’s not how guilt works. Making someone feel bad doesn’t lessen the likelihood that they’ll repeat a behavior. In order for any change to take place there must be forgiveness. There must be an openness and willingness to accept our humanity, not resist it. We are all human and we are all capable of doing some pretty horrible things.

What I was encouraged to see is that guilt is a tool used to control. Through shame we seek to regulate the pain we and others feel. We award blame distinguishing one as right and one as wrong. I have historically blamed myself for every rejection I’ve ever faced. It seems I have a strong threshold for pain. If it weren’t for me, in other words, I’d be able to find someone to share my life with. In my head, I am always an outsider; always the unwanted one; inherently flawed. Rejection is my biggest fear and fear will bring out the monster in any of us.

When I acted like a monster to my kids, fear was at the root of all my destructive behavior. I was afraid of failing as a single mom. I was afraid I would never be able to offer my children the kind of family I have always wanted for myself. I was afraid no one loved me and no one ever could. If my husband who I had known more than half my life could just up and leave, what’s to stop someone else from doing the same?

People like myself strive to be perfect, aim to please, try to be everything to everyone. But faking perfection is friggin exhausting. And when we fall off some imaginary pedestal we look for others to blame so that for at least a moment we don’t have to face ourselves.

I’ve spent my life building walls and tying chains around my heart. Except now I’m willing to abandon my fear and start facing myself. I’m ready to stop pointing fingers and accept responsibility. It’s time to forgive myself so that I can teach my children to embrace themselves, imperfections and all.

Love is a tool used to scare monsters away. And I am surrounded by it. A week ago I was walking my son into his school. We were holding hands and preparing to say our farewells. “Who’s the best mommy?” he repeats out loud with a huge cheesy grin on his face. He thinks it’s me, regardless of all the ways I’ve hurt and frightened him. And that will always be enough to keep the monster at bay.