Everything Happens When and How It’s Supposed to

I love my car.  I wrote about the car issues I had with my last car here. That reminder was perfectly timed for my emotional strength and momentary weakness last night.

I was picking out colors for my living room at Home Depot and as I was leaving their lot, my car notified me that I had low tire pressure. Having had so many cars with slow leaks I used to ignore, I just drove home.  It was normal when I had dented rims, or used tires to have issues that are slow to show up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dreaming Big

Dreams vs. Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreaming and Real Life Goals

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

Self Limitations

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

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

In love, I haven’t started dreaming big.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the Monday of Your Life

I was driving Kid2 to school this morning, and I asked him if he was excited.  He gave me the usual “what the hell?” look that teenagers are supposed to perfect.  I laughed.  Then I looked at him and said, “really?”  And I explained what I’m so happy to share with you.  Right now.

A friend once pointed out that we get two lives, and the second begins the moment we realize we only get one.  This is your Monday.  No one else gets to wake up in your body, (unless you are having a frisky morning) and no one else gets to live your day.  This is you in all of the amazing ways you get to exist.

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

Make good choices you can be proud of.

Do the epic and live in the sublime.

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

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

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

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

High School Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got to show up.

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

True to who I am . . .

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

The nostalgia feels . . .

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

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

The homecoming game . . .

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

The end of the night . . .

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

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

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

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

Saving Space and a Place Called Home

I was on a journey through home yesterday, if that makes sense.  I am an Angeleno.  I was born at Cedars when they first moved from the blue Scientology building near Kaiser and Children’s Hospital in East Hollywood.  I’ve lived here my whole life with all of my addresses in Los Angeles County.  I’ve always just lived here in the shadows of existence I let others define.

I went to bars my friends wanted to go to, or the ones close to home when I was alone, never making space for the opportunities I wanted to create.  I would go to restaurants chosen for me, and I have an amazing knack for finding something on the menu I can enjoy . . . Even if I really hate Island’s or In-N-Out (I know, sacrilege but I’m over it, you should get there too). Those were my ex’s favorite restaurants and we were there most family and date nights.  Sucked to be me. It’s part of being Kid4 for 17 years before becoming Kid4 of 12 plus the siblings that married into our clan making us a sibling force of 16, not including ex spouses (no, mine doesn’t count).  I can go with the flow because I’m not a special snowflake that has to have her way.  This looks like existence and is hardly living.  I’ve taken notice.  I get this and I get to change it. I can own my voice and be heard in a room full of din beyond my creation because I’m more powerful than I’ve even given myself credence to be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oceans and Waves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Micro Midlife Crisis

When I was younger, my dream was to have enough disposable income to have someone else clean up after me.  That’s as far as I got. When I started college, it was about doing what my parents wanted me to do.  I didn’t want to go.  My mom wanted to send me to Thailand for the summer and I refused.  (It was about a boy and not my smartest move.) I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I was one of those students that kept taking electives, hoping it would point me in a direction.  It pointed me in many directions and nothing was really calling to me.  (In hindsight, taking your core requirements will do the same and keep you from wasting time.) I ended up taking classes on and off for so long that by the time I got my BA, the kids starting in the fall were born the year I graduated high school.  My 20 year reunion is in less than 2 weeks.

When I became a wife and mom, my goal was to be really good at that and put my family ahead of myself. I wanted to support my ex. Unwinding after work was his right, even though I was exhausted with an infant. He wanted to disappear for a weekend of paintball, then it was deep sea fishing and eventually his rap concerts and I stayed home with our kids. It never occurred to me to have a night with the girls. When I finally did get “me time,” it was time spent running household errands alone. (I know how to party.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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