The laundry is definitely not getting put away this week.

I’ve started watching a new show. I’d call it my guilty pleasure, but fuck that. I’m tired of feeling guilty about everything. I enjoy Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, and I don’t care who knows it. I don’t watch it for anyone else, I watch it for me.

This has brought to light, among other things, how little I do simply because I want to. Whether it’s because I don’t know how others will react, or my anxiety is too much to handle, I just don’t. Or I didn’t, I guess. I’m getting much better at it.

Anyway, this show is not overly relateable to me at first glance. I’m not a rich author, living in California, sending my kids to a progressive charter school alongside Gwyneth Paltrow’s. I have zero housekeepers, and my friends and I don’t air kiss every time we see each other at the overly hipsterish coffee shop. Which is sort of part of the appeal, really. I’m not invested enough that watching is exhausting, but I can still find them amusing, and even empathize every once in a while.

Tonight, I felt restless. This happens a lot when I’m feeling a whole host of emotions, and my usual reaction is to do nothing. Pace, perhaps. Get angry at myself for doing nothing. Tell myself all the ways I’m failing, while I eat gluten-filled cookies straight out of the bag. Which is how I started off this evening. I then decided to drown it in socialite divorcee mom drama.

The last episode I watched involved the much younger boyfriend of the main character fully realizing he didn’t deserve her lying, cowardly ways and telling her so. He calls her out for choosing to go back to suffocating (in her marriage) than risking something that was in fact real with him. This was the moment where I leapt into the show, and became a part of the story. This, I know about.

And I’m over it.

What hurt me most about this recent breakup was that I was maybe more vulnerable than I ever have been. I was ready. I was open. I loved the person he first showed me, the person I thought he could be, without holding back. And I was wrong.

But I risked it. It was beautiful, for a moment, and it was real. He was too scared, and went back to what he knew. There was a time when I would’ve done anything for him, and I don’t regret that. It’s a testament to who I am, and what happened is not what I deserve.

I wasn’t wrong to be open, to be vulnerable, or to love. I’m still ready, in a big picture type of way. I know what I want, and I’m even more sure I’m capable of handling it when I find it.

This life is mine. I’m not going to feel guilty about it, let people shame me into being who they want me to be instead, or go along with things I don’t truly want to do just to keep the peace. That’s not living, and I want to live.

Maybe sometimes that looks like sitting on my couch, watching catty women with boob jobs gossip about who is cheating on who. I’ll be having the time of my fucking life.

 

 

Gonzo is the coolest, anyway

I have had the fear that I am too much for one person to love for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid. I come from a weird ass family, but even compared to them, I was different. I was louder, more emotional, goofier, and more openly defiant. There are numerous family pictures where everyone is looking like an oil painting, and I’m doing jazz hands. I was a Gonzo in a whole room of Sam the Eagles. Eventually, it wore on people. They got annoyed, and some of them left.

Being told that I’m a lot to handle in this last breakup wasn’t shocking. I expected it, probably from the moment we got together, really. It still hurt, though.

But only for a minute.

I know who I am. I’m still loud. I’m still emotional. I’m still a big ol’ fuckin weirdo. And I love it. I’m also so much more than that. I’m a good friend, great partner, and a wonderful mom. I’m a decent cook, adequate crafter, and great singer. I have no problem dorking about to make someone laugh, and despite not being able to talk to most strangers, I don’t actually embarrass very easily. I get super into shows and movies, and I make weird faces when I watch them. Actually, I make weird faces most all the time. I get all worked up about politics, and religion, and any sort of abuse. I use a lot of pretty creative swear words when discussing these topics, but will always listen to other points of view (well, except maybe with abuse. Fuck that.) I have trouble asking questions, or admitting that I need help. I’m super jumpy, and it makes me angry. I hate being tickled. But mostly, I love like crazy. When I care about you, I show it. I tell you. And I don’t give up on you.

I’ll only get better. This setback was a reminder that I’ve still got work to do here and there. Rather than whining about it, hoping my flaws fix themselves one day and/or sabotaging relationships because I’m too afraid to change, I’m just going to jump in there and do it.

I’m not too much. I’m different, but that doesn’t make me wrong. If a person doesn’t want to be part of that, it’s perfectly okay. I’m done wasting my time on people that can’t handle me. Because as it turns out, I don’t need handled at all. Loving me would’ve been just fine.

 

Domestic Goddess I am Not.

I have several exes who can tell you that I am not a natural homemaker. I didn’t come stock with domestic tendencies, I don’t run a tight ship, and I am not someone that would be described as “neat and tidy” ever. I don’t live in total squalor, I just don’t make cleaning my house as much of a priority as some might.

When I do clean, I mostly just straighten.Push the junk to the edges to make the middle look clean, like veggies on a 6 year old’s plate. I’m a big fan of cramming things inside other things and putting a pretty sheet on top of it to hide the whole mess. Not so shockingly, this is how I tend to deal with emotional issues, too. I put them in little boxes to be gone through later, I straighten them out enough to pass for having my shit together, and I cover them up with a new hairstyle and fun earrings. (Don’t ever underestimate the power of fancy, shiny earrings.)

Turns out, this isn’t the best long term plan for either dwelling. The clutter eventually overpowers us all. (There’s a Shel Silverstein poem about this, actually. Ok, maybe Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout isn’t about this exact thing, but… close.)

The time came to clean house. First, I chose to focus on my emotional abode. I unpacked all the crap I had crammed away into random spaces, and spread it all out on the floor. I took inventory, got rid of what I could, and reorganized the rest with handy little labels. Really, that makes it sound almost fun, when in reality, it was a whole lot of me sitting on my couch staring at the wall, writing angry letters, and bursting into tears over the death of my fantasy TV alien dad (I can’t be the only one that wished they were part Vulcan, can I?). It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and it’s fucking exhausting. It’s making a point to think about things I intentionally block out, saying out loud things I’ve never told anyone before, and confronting people I’ve been terrified of since age 4. (Even if that confrontation comes in the form of a letter that will never be sent, it’s a start.) One day, it might also be telling my story. But today isn’t that day, so vague hints are all there is for now.

Re-shelving what remains doesn’t mean I’m done with it forever. It just means I’ve looked at it, I was honest about how I felt about it, and I put it where it belonged instead of just sweeping it under the rug. I could get rid of it later, but for now, it’s too painful to part with.

While all of this was happening, my actual house suffered a bit more than usual. It was taking all the energy I had to appear in public for 40 hours a week, masquerading as a functioning adult, and keep a teenager from starving to death. I had nothing left for my friends, I wasn’t really showing up for the rest of my family, so I definitely had no energy for things like picking up my shoes. (And seriously. I have a lot of shoes.) At first, I felt guilty. Partly, because that’s like breathing for me, I’m pretty sure most things are somehow the result of my negligence. But also because I thought I was being a terrible role model for my son. However, there was something else he needed to see. That we have to take care of ourselves, and sometimes that means letting ourselves be lazy. Like everything, there’s boundaries, and healthy limits, but sometimes, we just need to watch 3 hours of The Big Bang Theory in our sweatpants while eating Taco Bell, and that’s perfectly fine. Even if it’s 3 nights a week instead of just once in a while. Everyone needs compassion and understanding, and we need it from ourselves most of all. Also, I asked him for help. That’s not an easy thing for me either, but it’s something I want to try to teach to him. Without going into a lot of detail, I just told him I was tired, and I needed him to pick up a little of my slack, even when it might not be totally fair. Since he’s an amazing human, and I pay him $10 a week, he did it with very little resistance.

Today, I cleaned my kitchen. Not just straightened, scrubbed with a toothbrush. There’s still some major cleaning to do on every front, but I think I’ve got a handle on all of it. If I don’t, that’s ok, too. The multitude of stray shoes will still be there when I’m ready.

This is my fight song. (But don’t sing it at the dinner table.)

I thought as a child that when I became an adult, I would just magically know all the things. That I would suddenly be able to read out loud without crying, I’d figure out how to tell people what I felt, I’d instantly become responsible and confident, and I’d make Thanksgiving dinners. Though I do now have a pretty good handle on all but the turkey roasting, it definitely was not an overnight success story. I had to fuck a whole lotta shit up to get where I am today.

I control what happens to me these days. I alone decide who I am. And I accept full responsibility for my actions. But… it wasn’t always that way. Tiny Me had to learn things from someone. And oh how I did! How to tie my shoes, to duck if a lawn dart is being thrown at your head (and if you can’t duck, goose!) what to do in case of a fire, to always be obedient, how to count to 100, kids are usually lying where as adults are always to be respected, proper techniques for baiting a hook, how to outline the picture in crayon first to make coloring inside the lines easier, and to never, ever say “no”. So many things!

Clearly not all of those are useful as an adult. Truthfully, some of them weren’t as a child, either, but that’s done with. It’s hard to relearn things, though. Some of us are rational thinkers. Logic can be used to find the flaw, it then gets replaced with the correct method, and paths reset. I am not one of these people. I am an emotional thinker. My reactions tell me what to do and where to go. Making people uncomfortable, upsetting adults (which I still don’t consider myself unless I stop to actually think about it) and saying “no” are painful. I have physical memories of what happens when you do those things, and I don’t want them repeated. (Even though rational thought might point out that my dad probably isn’t going to tackle me, sit on me, and while hitting me tell me he’s tired of hearing my opinion anymore, uh, I believe we just went over how “rational thought” and I are more like pen-pals than bffs.)

Sometimes, though, you have to upset that fucking apple cart. Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t at all make it right. I have a son, and I’ll be goddamned if he’s going to be 30 years old and panicking at the thought of having to call the landlord because the hot water heater doesn’t work. But I can’t just tell him, I have to show him. I’m also not trying to pretend this is all me sacrificing myself for him, either. I want this for myself, because I deserve better. I’m not being a martyr and jumping in front of bullets lest someone I care about suffer a grazing shot to the pinky toe. I set rules, and boundaries, and all kinds of fun shit, just for me. It’s actually really exciting.

It’s also incredibly exhausting. Once again, there is no switch. Tiny Me is still huddled up in there, trying to make us invisible whenever the threat of upsetting someone arises. Whispering to me that we’re doing the wrong things, and people won’t like it. It’s a battle. But it’s one I choose, and one I’ll win.

If this current battle had a flag, it would say this:

I’m done keeping other people’s secrets.

 

It would probably also have two giant hands, both flipping the bird on it, just because that’s how I roll. Taking the high road, motherfuckers.

 

My cape was at the dry cleaners.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. When last we left, our heroine was struggling with reacting to uncomfortable situations appropriately. Let’s review in a bit more detail, shall we?

I went on a date. On paper, everything was good. We had talked extensively beforehand, and there was much clicking to be had. But, trying to focus on reality and not get carried away, I needed the actual date to happen before any real decision making was to be done. Surface-wise, it was great. We talked, we laughed, we shared a basket of bar food. We decided to go watch a movie together, which seemed alright, given the clickiness.

First, he kissed me. Now, I’m no prude, I have kissed a gentleman before. Except this was not gentlemanly. In what I’m sure he thought of as a romantic gesture, he pounced (no really. There was jumping and everything) and attacked my face with a very intense barrage of liplockage. It was painful. Physically, as there was teeth involved (FYI – bad plan for a first kiss.) and somewhat mentally, as I have a personal space bubble, and it was popped quite forcefully. All I could think was, “I thought he claimed to be a feminist?”.

Then, some time later (because unbeknownst to me, the numbness that is my oldest and most hard-to-break coping mechanism was already taking over, and I was totally fine with still being there) we were getting cuddly and I said something sassy. I don’t remember what it was, some snarky comment that I make all the time, I’m sure. His response? A slap to the face, and flirtatious giggling. Again, I’m sure that in his mind, he thought he was ever so coy. I…. thought nothing. Other than “No sudden movements.”. So when he asked me if that was alright, I said “Yep.” and when he asked me if I wanted more, I said “Nope.”. That was it. That’s all I could do. Somewhere in my head, a little voice asked “What just happened? Are we really okay with this?” but it was immediately shushed, and silence resumed.

Upon later reflection in the safety of my once again intact personal bubble, I decided that no, I definitely was not okay with that. Aside from my hatred for domestic violence, WHO THE FUCK DOES THAT ON A FIRST FUCKING DATE?!? WHAT IN THE GREAT GREEN FUCK WAS THAT?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Anger set in. At him, for being a tool, but mostly at myself, for doing nothing about it. In his head, that ended on a good note, and he chalked that up as a successful date, surely to be the first of many. Me? I just wanted to vomit. How could I just sit there? Why didn’t I say anything? What is wrong with me?

As it turns out, nothing. Every human has a flight, fight or freeze response to shock. More often than not, mine is freeze. That’s just how I’m programmed, it’s not a flaw or failure. I just need to allow myself to resume normal thinking, and reflect on the situation from a safe distance. When I do, if I’m not alright with it, that’s perfectly fine. That’s all the justification there needs to be for me to walk away from something.

So I did, and I feel much better. Yay me.

Then, yesterday, the inevitable happened. A friend informed me that my ex is dating someone new. There were even pictures accompanying this news. I looked at their happy faces, at her pretty hair, and I felt nothing.

This time, though, it was a different kind of nothing. It was a relieved emptiness, knowing that these people have no affect on my life. I don’t need him to be miserable, and I don’t care if he’s happy. I don’t despise this woman who took my place, nor do I feel like warning her of what could be in store.

I made my choice. I chose the life I now lead, in this little apartment with this adorable boy, the two of us making our own way in a crazy ass world. Sometimes we’re broke, and have to eat terrible concoctions of cheap food, because there’s only one person to pay all the bills. Sometimes we have no one to do the heavy lifting, or the nasty chores we don’t want to do. Sometimes, we feel a little alone. But there is not one day in the whole lot that I ever wish I had chosen differently.

Nowhere Girl

I am not just who I am right now. I’m also the shy girl I was at 5, who dreamed of being a ballerina, but was too scared to dance in front of her own mother. I am the angsty 18 year old, who had dreams and plans and potential, that were all changed in an instant. I’m the brand new mom who is terrified and just discovering what true, unconditional love really means. Sometimes, I’m even a me that I haven’t met yet, who is older, wiser, and much calmer.

But there’s always one I forget. There was once a little girl who was so scared, so hurt, that she made herself invisible. She said everything was okay, she told everyone they were right, she never had an opinion that might oppose another, and she tried to be as small and as quiet as she could, hoping to disappear altogether. She didn’t know how to deal with the terrible things that happened, so she pretended they didn’t. She locked herself away, and dreamed of being someone else. Anyone else.

I’m an adult now, and though it’s been a process, I have better skills and tools for life’s difficulties. But, every once in a while, if something happens a certain way, if there are reminders I wasn’t expecting, I find myself reverting back to this. I say I’m alright with things I’m not. I agree with everything someone says. I roll with the punches, and I do what I’m told. I do anything I can to avoid any discomfort on their part, because I see it as them being angry with me. I want to please them, because I am afraid. It’s quite dangerous, and more than a little frightening. That at this point, a person, a situation, a random scent, can still pull me back there so quickly, and I don’t even notice right away.

Eventually, though, I catch on. Then I get angry. Not just about whatever incident caused this, but a protective anger, over my former self. If someone had just helped her, if they just listened… but the time for “what ifs” are over. Now, we pick ourselves up, and we deal with it face to face.

Maybe I’ll never be “fixed”. But I’ve always been whole. I just need to give space to all the pieces. Even the invisible one.

I stare blankly at you because I care.

A friend posted this on Facebook the other day:

I immediately liked it. Because honestly, as soon as I see quotes on inspirational backgrounds, I’m in. It could say “Crapping your pants in public will win you all the friends ever” and as long as it was over a picture of a butterfly, I’d agree with it. There’s a reason for this, but that’s a different post for a different day.

After I stopped to actually consider the words, I changed my mind. Perhaps there are people that this is true for. It makes sense in a way (glossing over that whole ‘soul mate’ thing, anyway). But there’s a whole other set of humans that this doesn’t work for: those suffering from anxiety.

As one of these folks, I can fairly safely say everyone we meet gets the first reaction out of us. Even people we’ve already met. People we’ve known for years, too. I get nervous when I have to see my own family. But it’s not necessarily because we’re ready to recite poetry under the stars, it’s just that… there’s a person near us.

This little quote actually increases this anxiety. Upon reading this we think, “Oh crap. Has that ever happened to me? Have I ever felt calm around anyone? No? Is the person I’m with now terrible for me because I get flustered and stammer around them? Am I going to die alone, unsoulmated, surrounded by my herd of semi-feral cats? Does everyone else see this and already know? AM I RUINING MY ENTIRE LIFE???” By then we’re just a little huddled mass of nerves, rocking back and forth in our security blankets. (That part may just be me, not all us anxiety-ridden peeps.)

For most of us, there’s not a person in the known universe who will ever make us feel calm, especially not at first sight. Perhaps we will feel less twitchy, and our breath will return sooner. Or after getting to know them, we’re calmer in general. Maybe there are people around with whom we find it easier to talk about these things, without judgement, and that’s as good as it gets. For me personally, that’s more than enough.

It still doesn’t make this person my soul mate, no matter what kind of font they write that shit in.