after

For years after my Mama died, I assumed that there would be a day when December wouldn’t sting–when the dark cloud that is this month wouldn’t follow me everywhere I went–when life wouldn’t feel heavier than it needed to be.

For years, I thought that–because I felt that way–that who I was–what I was doing–who I was with…was wrong.  Because, if it all aligned and I was in a good place, I’d be immune to that heavy ache of my heart.  Untouchable, even.  That December was my punishment for all the things I wasn’t.  Couldn’t be.  That if I finally became worthy, I would be normal–or at least look that way.

Last night, as I looked at snow globe music boxes, December snuck up on me…like someone slipped a suffocating cape on my shoulders and turned off all the lights.  Its familiar, penetrating gloom overtook my wonder and overwhelmed the nostalgia.  I clicked the Amazon window closed and started sobbing.

It came out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly as it went.  Some hideous, awful boogeyman that you hate, but who also feels like an old friend.  The kind of monster I’d greet at door with, “Oh, there you are–I was wondering where you’d gone to.”

A reminder I am not normal or worthy or enough or healed.  That I’ve never been these things.  That I will never be these things.  A reminder that this is just my life.  That I am just as fragile as I am resilient.  That I am probably too sensitive.  That I love beyond comprehension and let go of nothing.  And that this–as heavy and hard as it can be–is all okay.  That I do not need to fix myself anymore.  That I only need to accept, honor, and acknowledge.

That this–this ache–is the Universe begging me to pay attention.  That the Universe is not some rotten bitch plotting my destruction.  That it is as light as the angels on our old Christmas tree–begging me to be kinder to myself.  To let it weep.

It was not the music box that got me sobbing.  Or the things I used to love that now hurt.  It was the grief.  The ache of loss.  The hole in my heart.  And I had a choice.  I could stuff that hole with cotton balls and stop the bleeding by convincing myself the hole didn’t exist, or I could acknowledge it–let it bleed–and then suture it back together…knowing the steady thump of my heart would rip it open, again and again–until scar tissue formed that made it strong enough to withstand tears.

So, I yelled out to the Universe–in the ways I do–and told it–“I got it.  I will slow down.  I will accept this.”  Even if I don’t want to.

And so, I let myself cry for five minutes and pondered what happy and right really means.  And went back to my life.  A good life.  A life that doesn’t hurt most days anymore.  My life.

And the heaviness followed, as it always does.  In December.

###

Sometimes, I wonder what I deserve.  It’s the perfectionist’s way of playing poker.  Do I deserve to be happy and content?  Do I deserve the love I’ve found?  Or do I deserve all the death that’s invaded my life over the years?

Deserve is a tricky fucking word.

An unfair word.  A word I use a lot–but maybe should strike from my vocabulary.  Because fuck.

It implies that life is fair.  When we all know it’s not.  It implies that normal is some birthright, but normal is different for everyone and probably not that great, if we actually take the time to examine it.

But, oh, how I’ve longed to be normal.  It’s such a childish thing.  But even at the age of–hell–39 (?)–I wish for it.  Just like the pipedream of just and fair.  Knowing it doesn’t belong to me.  Knowing that it’s okay.  Knowing that I’m probably better for it.  But wanting to believe in the lie of just fine anyway. Because I am often, still, a six year old girl–just wanting to be enough.

In such a world, the shit that happens daily in this world doesn’t happen.  Little girls aren’t made into sexual objects.  Respected men don’t rape women and get paid for being fake journalists.  In such a world, old men and women don’t have to choose between buying ramen and paying for insulin.  Massive tax cuts for the rich aren’t enabled right before Christmas–at the expense of the most vulnerable–gutting people’s ability to surpass what they were born into.  And Mamas don’t die on their daughter’s favorite holiday.

We don’t live in that world, now, do we?

###

December is still heavier than it should be.  I’m still the girl who walks the Earth without her parents, with a partially empty heart where they used to live.  Who cringes when she sees certain things during this month of magic and glitter.

But it’s easier, somehow, now, even if the wounds still weep.

The world we live in is still pretty wonderful.  Full of things we don’t anticipate–things that surprise us just when we’ve given up hope.

Like, after months of breaking up with OKStupid, a man from the place where she came from could stumble upon an abandoned profile–read it–tell people he found his dream girl–and send a note starting a clock.

And the girl–drowning in what feels like the worst life–can find it in her inbox–smile and take a chance…in her way…and surprise him a few times.

And it can all feel so easy and nice…like the world is actually kind.  Like within all the bullshit, there’s a reason for all of it–and the reason is us.

And as much as you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know it won’t.  Because it hasn’t yet.  Because this is ours.  Because we share the same heart.  Because we’re the same person, in so many ways.  Because alone together is a thing now, and nothing feels like work.  And we’re not going anywhere.  And it just is.  And you don’t really know why, but you don’t actually need to know why.  All you know, really, is that it’s a soft place to land.  And finally, it’s okay to be exactly who you are.  Someone finally sees you.  So you land.

 

And maybe that’s the answer to everything.

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This blog post was written in response to this 30 day challenge. 

I’ll be writing every day in December.

30 days of blogging

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this year’s love

Long time no see, friends.

I’d say I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I’m really not.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to say hi.  I did.  I had things to share.  But I was mostly a bit exhausted by social everything and needed to process all the change in my life.  While I’ve been around, for sure, I certainly haven’t been sharing all that much.  And maybe that was a good thing.  But I always come back.  It’s my way.

So…

hi.

###

A lot has changed over the last month or so.  A bit of catch up…

  • I turned a rather big corner with my therapy and am now doing double sessions with my therapist once a month.  I’ve really changed my brain in terms of how it thinks–and while there is tons more to do–I’m in a really healthy place now where I’m making great choices and don’t feel constantly tortured by the grief of the past.
  • My last session was pretty amazing.  We are now working on the next mountain of my healing–the ways I self-sabotage and my sense of self-worth.  Basically, the building blocks of my happiness so I can start making bigger, more meaningful changes.  It was actually pretty easy to figure out the core of it, but now comes the really hard work.  A key part of my previous healing was having conversations with my dead father.  This next piece will be all about my mother.  My next session comes smack dab in the middle of the hardest part of December for me, but it’s basically going to be me confronting the shit my Mama did and how it’s affected me, long-term.  It’s fairly terrifying, and I know it’s probably going to be painful to confront that–but I’m so very hopeful about it.  The sessions related to my father literally changed everything for me.  So, I’m nervous, but really excited, to take on this new emotional challenge.
  • I’m in a really good place, overall, right now.  Not perfect, by any means, but in a solid emotional state.  Since my birthday, the way I feel has improved significantly–which is sort of amazing because August was incredibly difficult for me.  I’m kind of blown away by how much progress I’ve made, but I’ve really pushed myself to deal with my shit.  I feel like this was necessary, and as much as California has been painful for me, I never would have gotten there in Colorado.  I think this whole year has pushed me to really see myself and how I create my own suffering.
  • Work has actually not been horrible lately, but it has been frustrating…as my work always is.  This work is always a roller coaster, so that hasn’t changed, but I’m dealing with it better and not in that really uncomfortable apathetic stage anymore.
  • I feel like I’m a bit back on track to where I was with my job last year–when I enjoyed my work–but this year has damaged a lot of my trust and faith in my company–to a degree that still makes it difficult for me to devote my time to this job.  But, as I realized, finally, this is still the best job I’ve had–and I like more of what I do than I hate.  So much of my enjoyment of it boils down to who I’m working for.  I have very little control over that, right now, unfortunately, but I have been better at advocating for myself and making my needs known.  It hasn’t always made me popular, but I find that my sanity is worth more than their comfort.
  • I’m back in a limbo state again of waiting for that client I’ve been waiting on–but it sounds like mid-January will be our launch date–so I’m just happy to be getting on with it and doing work I’m great at until then (even if I’m rather annoyed by the specifics of the whole thing).
  • I’m okay with where I am right now, professionally, but I need more than what I have now.  I need to take care of my personal needs more, and I’ve been making strides to do that.  Things like buying extra days off and applying to jobs that actually make me really happy.  Things that I maybe didn’t think I COULD do, but that I now realize are totally possible.  Just trying has helped me feel less annoyed and stuck–which makes dealing with crap here a bit less annoying.
  • A big part of my work self-care has been realizing I need fair compensation.  My company does not provide that, but I did get a raise and have been taking on more “lead” responsibilities–which means I may be promoted soon.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised that nonprofits are paying more out here than my current employer (due to the high cost of living), so moving in that direction is actually an option for the first time in my life.
  • I feel like the last month or two has been full of shit breaking.  My closet door, 2 work laptops, my keyboard on my home laptop (which made writing not so fun), the goddamn toilet seat, and now the heat/AC (which is currently suffering from a fried transformer–fun).  Is it Mercury retrograde, y’all?
  • Luckily, I have a pretty wonderful boyfriend who fixed all my stuff (except the AC).  He also helped me unpack half the living room in about 5 hours and is generally the best boyfriend ever.
  • Speaking of–probably the best thing about the last few months has been finding a love that feels radically different than anything I’ve been involved in before.  We took our time getting to know one another, in some respects, while sort of jumping right in, too.  (It’s a story).  But we’ve been doing big things, lately, and it’s gone shockingly well–so well my face hurts from all the smiling.  We are that ridiculous couple that used to annoy the crap out of me.  I’ve never felt so supported in my life, and none of my past bullshit is even a thing now.  I’m in a much healthier place where sabotaging love isn’t part of my anything.
  • I’ve really grown in the last month or so–in this regard–doing things that actually scared the shit out of me and surprising myself–hard-core.  All the leaps have paid off, though, and I feel like we’re in such a good place.  I kinda want to pinch myself.  Is this real?
  • The only issue we have is that he lives about 2 hours from me, outside of Sacramento, so we don’t see each other too often.  When he comes out, it’s almost like we’re living together because we basically are.  He was here for 3 days for his birthday and then 4 days for Thanksgiving.  It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in like forever.  We cooked together, and we made such a great team.  We have similar ways of being and understand each other really well.
  • Still, the distance is hard.  I’ve done long distance quite a bit, but never realized how hard it is to be at a short distance.  That short distance is torture because you’re constantly saying goodbye and having to restart when you say hello again.  Phone calls and whatnot are great, but no substitute for in-person–and being together for longer stretches and in much closer ways has affected our interactions a bit.  After our visits, we both feel the need to introvert quite a bit because it is such an adjustment compared to what we had before.  Still, our relationship is weathering all of it really well.  I feel closer to him than ever.
  • That said, I am seriously considering a move to Sacramento.  Not anytime soon, mind you, because I need more money for that.  But yea.  I have more of an ability to relocate because I do have a job I can do anywhere, and my work history is pretty strong and in demand out here.  Sacramento, thankfully, is much more affordable and seems to be more up my alley in many ways.  He’s in a state of flux with his job, too, so he may move down here instead.  But that would be more of a hurdle.  In any case, I feel like there will be choices to be made in the next year or so.
  • One of the things my boyfriend and I both connected on, early on, was our desire to live a location-independent life where we did a lot of travel together.  It was one of those funny coincidences, and he’s working on getting into a career that would support that.  I have that job now and the path I want to take in the future would continue to allow that.  It’s just a matter of making those things happen.  I think we make a great team together, so I know we’ll push each other and support each other to make the changes necessary for those dreams to happen.
  • I finally got to see the ocean!  And San Francisco.  Albeit for just a day.  We drove to Half Moon Bay and then hunted for Redwoods (which we didn’t find) on my boyfriend’s birthday.  It was basically the perfect day, and I found my happy place.  The trip gave me a lot hope because I realized the things I wanted from California (and haven’t had) DO exist.  I’ve just been in the wrong place to experience them and haven’t been in a supportive situation.  I can change that situation, though, and have more support in my life now.  So, I feel a lot better about California and more equipped to make this place feel like home until I make another location change.  I took some photos and will be sharing them soon.  I promise.
  • I’ve literally never felt so loved and seen and cherished.  It’s amazing to be adored for who you actually are.  It’s allowed me to open up in ways I’ve never been able to.
  • December is going to be full of more scary things.  I’ve decided to fully decorate–in a new way–for the holiday.  I actually have space for a tree this year now that 1/2 the living room is finally accessible, so I plan on doing my version of Christmas–not the traditional stuff–but something that honors who I am and where I’ve been.  I am also starting some new traditions to honor my parents on the tough days.  And the biggest news of all?  I’m meeting my boyfriend’s family for Christmas.  It’s the first time I’ve actually been around people (other than my roommate) for those tough days since my Mama died…so it’s a bit terrifying for me…but I’ve been surprised by how easy it was to decide to do it.  I think I’m able to do it because there hasn’t been any pressure to do so.  It was just an option.  I’m not sure how Christmas will feel.  I don’t know how I’ll react, but I do know I probably need to get out of my comfort zone.  And it is important to meet his family.  Though that’s a whole other level of terrifying.  Ha.

So, yea…good things are happening.  I will try to write more, now that my keyboard is fixed.

different

It’s ridiculously early–or ridiculously late–depending on which end of the whatever you’re on.  I have not been to bed yet.  I was up late, smiling with my favorite man, and then stayed up later to watch various television shows. Because it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done that, and I was also napping most of Saturday. As one does when they’re utterly exhausted from working too hard and being sick/in pain for the last…oh…year or so.

I think I may have dealt with everything plaguing my body.  I’m actually feeling decent lately, though there’s still this mild aching and sensitivity from that problem child tooth I’ve been dealing with for all of 2017.  There’s a chance I need more dental work, if the pain doesn’t go away. Here’s hoping my stupid sinuses stop being dicks and it’s just inflammation–not a nerve-related issue requiring endo work.  So, yea–been a bit tired and basically passed out yesterday.

The good news is that life is, actually, good right now. Like good in the way it is when you actually start believing it’s all going to be okay.  That the BS that’s been so prevalent in your life might actually work out.

Other than the exhausted thing, I’m feeling strong physically and have new resolve to take care of myself in a way I’ve never committed myself before.  Work is imperfect, but I’m feeling much more calm and at peace with my day-to-day.  I have goals to work toward that excite me.

And lots to say about love.  Many big things happening there that I never thought would happen.  Things I won’t share here because, well, it’s ours for the moment.  I feel really good about all of it and am just really grateful to have found this.

Several years ago, this day was the day that changed my life forever.  A friend of mine shot himself in the head in a park I’d later live next to for 10+ years–extinguishing a brilliant talent and a cherished life.  I was in a dark place at the time.  That man never knew how much he mattered, and his death changed my life forever.  It inspired me to live–to really be myself–and to love.  Oddly, right after his death, I met and was engaged to a man born on that day–this day.  That relationship wasn’t mine.  We didn’t work out.  But it allowed me to survive many other tough days and opened my heart to this really great thing.

I’ve loved a handful of men in my life.  Each one added things to my life that I will always carry in my heart.  They changed me in ways that sometimes felt impossible to heal, too.  I’ve lived a life where love was abundant, but feeling loved was rare.  This relationship feels different and has from the very first hello.

I think, maybe, I’m different.

Leaving Colorado was really tough, but I needed it.  I needed time to sort of hibernate and reset.  I needed room to be surprised.  I feel more like myself.  More committed to healing.  More capable of dreaming.  More dedicated to change.  It’s been an uncomfortable blessing, but one I feel is leading me to places and people that support my best self.

I sometimes wonder if I would have ever loved my exes had I met them as the woman I am now.  I still love hard and fast, but it’s not in a way that sells me short.  I attract different men now–men who are in it for the long haul & accept me as I am.  There are boundaries, and it’s all brand new, in a way.  To actually feel loved and wanted for exactly who I am.  To not be just another endless option or a compromise.  It’s good in a way that heals me more each day–even if I’m a little terrified of it.  It fills me up and allows me to be the woman I want to be–not just someone chasing some ideal that doesn’t exist.

It gets different.  And sometimes, different is exactly what you need.

befores and afters

Certain days mark a before and an after. You go to bed being one person, living a certain life–thinking you know things. You wake up to a new reality–sometimes, literally–and suddenly the entire world is different. And then you spend years figuring it all out. For me, this is one of those days. A worst ever day. The start of a whole new life. Eventually, the day that ripped you apart becomes your healer.

mama

Two years ago, I started a concerted battle for my own happiness–which was part of a longer journey. I had been at war with myself for dozens of years and had fought the good fight. But, at some point, I realized I had no more tools. I had reached a point where, despite the personal progress I made on my own, I just accepted that my life was going to be about suffering. I thought it was just part of my DNA. I couldn’t change it. I just had to find some way to move on and stop the suffering that came from not being able to change. So, I started working with the best therapist ever–someone who intimately understood where I had lived emotionally for my entire life. She was someone I admired instantly because there was no lie in her story. She didn’t believe that suffering was mine. She believed in my ability to be fully myself and created a path out of the misery I just lived with. I did the hardest work I’ve ever done–facing myself. Telling the truth about my life and about the things I endured–the people I loved–about the stuff I made up and the things I minimized. While I went to every session and fully committed, half the time, I wasn’t sure if this was working. I often didn’t want to make the investment in myself. I felt like I was talking to a friend more than I was getting on with it. But then, I’d have breakthroughs and I realized that each session brought me closer to the person I always was and wouldn’t allow myself to be. Earlier this week, it was amazing to review the progress of the last year with her. We celebrated because that stuff I always claimed as mine is now so clearly not mine. Who I am has opened up. I am honoring myself. I am setting boundaries. I am operating from a place of self-love rather than duty. I will probably never be fully healed. Trauma isn’t like that. But I am not broken or maimed. I am in a place of authenticity and vulnerability more often than not. I am closer to freedom than I’ve ever been. And I’m ready to climb the scariest mountain to get past even more of the trauma I’ve lived through. Therapy works, y’all. I’m truly scared to tackle this next challenge. But I’ve also never been so excited to see how I surprise myself.

I’ve come full circle.  I wrote the following blog entry 7 years ago, when I was starting the journey I had toward realizing I couldn’t do this work alone.

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In six minutes, another anniversary will be in full swing. A few days ago, my heart started shutting down a bit–like it does every year. And I decided I had nothing I really wanted to say. Or, rather, I just wanted to talk to people who knew me well–or who I wanted to know me well. Because anything–anything at all beyond that–was just too much. And, so, I took a break from Reverb and my blog and Facebook…and I focused on work and school and getting through. Like I used to, when I was a kid and never felt anything. But it isn’t so simple now.

###

I was six years old on December 11, 1984. I remember I was sitting in Mrs. Martinez’s classroom. And I remembered a certain fleeting, sinking sensation as I lost control of all my bodily functions. And I remember Zelda being horrified, pointing at the puddle on the floor. I remember the teacher’s aide walked me to the nurse’s office. And I remember they didn’t have any clothes that would fit me. And I remember them calling Mama. Mama was at the hospital–that cold, scary building where Daddy lived that week.

An hour later, Mama was at the station–her face red and drained and not right. And the first thing I said was, “He’s dead, isn’t he?” But it didn’t come out as a question. And I never heard her answer–though she told me later what I said. I don’t remember that, either.

###

Death when you’re a small child is an odd thing–kinda like a kaleidoscope. Both fascinating and disorienting. You can’t stop looking at it, but you’re afraid to touch it–because it…you…might break if you do. And so, you stay away…but you always keep one eye on it.

I was not a child that grieved. I was not a child that cried. I was not someone who felt things. I was a child who lived. I did things. I set high standards for myself, and I worked. And I took care of everyone. And I convinced myself that the world rested on my shoulders. Mostly, because my world did.

The truth is my father dying didn’t ruin my life. If anything, it saved it.

If you’re a child of an alcoholic–a man like my father–someone who went to the end of Hell and back and still sank–someone who slowly died every single day I knew him–you understand this. You understand that, once again, my father helped me be born. Even if he taught me, better than anyone, how to die.

###

I grew up feeling like an alien. For a lot of reasons. I was one of the few white girls where I grew up. I was poor and had hardly anything. I didn’t have family, and I didn’t know how to be part of anything. I knew how to put my head down–how to stare at my shoes–and how to disappear. I was an only child of older parents, too. What do you do about that?

For me, I spent a lot of time exploring things…finding out how things related to one another…and watching. I was obsessed with learning. I read anything I could get my hands on, and I was always listening in on people’s conversations…looking for clues about how I might fit in. I did this for a really long time. And, then, when I was 13, I sort of stopped trying to adjust so much. I think I started to like myself, just a little…but it was enough to make me believe things.

And when people would tell me I couldn’t do something, I’d put my head down and work hard…as hard as my Papa worked to achieve the American Dream. I am stubborn just like him, and I wouldn’t stop till I proved your ass wrong. And then, I’d probably keep going. And one day, I found that I made it. That I was at some school, and it was all paid for. And so, I fought to stay. Even now, I’m always fighting to stay…or to make you stay, just a bit longer.

###

It’s taken me a really long time to like myself.

There are many things I struggle with. Like I get impatient with my impatience. And I hate my calves. And I have big feet. And I wish the boobs didn’t always get in the way of something. And no matter how thin I am, I will always think of myself as just a bit bigger. Like I know I’m smart, but I hate even the idea that someone might think I’m stupid–and so–I will try very hard to make sure you know I have a brain. And while I’m funny–sometimes–I’m funny because I’m making fun of myself…and, sometimes, it’s not a joke. And I’m afraid of you. I don’t trust you. And if I really like you, it’s easy to convince myself that you’re just being kind. And deep down, I question why anyone wouldn’t hate me. Because I so often do.

But, sometimes, I’m okay.

Sometimes, I am them. Sometimes, I am more than they could ever be. Sometimes, I’m the daughter they deserved.

And I am brave. And I am vulnerable. And I am hysterical. In the good way.

I am smart, but not obnoxious–in a way that uplifts me and everyone I know. I do everything with intention–like I mean it–like my life depends on it…whether it’s walking or talking or laughing or crying. I’m there, and there’s no other place I’d ever want to be. I am the person you will always rely on because I always come through because I want to and I can. I tell the truth, even when I feel dumb…even when it hurts like Hell…even when it means my world will collide with shit. I am bright and shiny. I help you fly.

So many of those pieces of me are my parents. And so many of those pieces come from their deaths. So much of my shit–of my crap–my stuff–exists within all of that. But, sometimes, I don’t mind it because it helps me recognize them in me…and it makes me realize I have changed and can change and will change. And that this is absolutely up to me.

 

 

very much myself

As a photographer with an iphone, I take far too many selfies.  A ridiculous number, really.  Most of which I never post or even look at again.  I’ve always been very hard on myself.  There are only a handful wherein I feel explicitly me–or even feel remotely pretty (oddly, they are usually the same photos)–where who I am is written all over my face.  No defenses.  Just me.  Lately, most of the photos I’ve taken have been this way.  So, I thought I’d share them all in this post. 🙂  Mostly because self-love has been a long journey, and I feel like maybe I’m closer to where I want to be.