Rewards of Showing Up

 

I get to show up for friends and it means I see something I wouldn’t have ordinarily been exposed to on my own.  This has meant trying an amazing Albondigas soup at La Velvet Margarita Cantina and celebrating a birthday.  It means attending a company launch party at Couture Nightclub and seeing that I can be comfortable walking into the unknown, unaccompanied, and fiercely confident if vastly over dressed. I have had too much laughter to not snort watching the Unsupervised Sketch Show at Bar Lubitsch.  I have been able to show up for movie screenings at the Mondrian hotel on Sunset Strip where I’ve sat with great friends, deepening friendships and connections. I bought a book and got it signed by the author while being inspired by a teacher of creative writing.  She’s awesome.  Find her at That Kind of Light. Her book inspired this post.

This week, I got to show up for a friend yesterday at the Artists and Fleas event yesterday in the Arts District in Downtown LA.  It’s a fun farmer’s market, shopping space that had vegan deodorant,  body oils, and cold process soap.  They had jewelry and candles with crystals embedded in them.  I was also at the Shop to Give event hosted at the CTRL Collective in Playa Vista Thursday. That space alone was worth the visit.  I know it’s a work space, but it was like visiting a fun museum with open work spaces.

It might appear to be a sacrifice on my part . . .  taking time out to drive across town to say hello, but it’s really been terrific for me and maybe a bit selfish. My latest reward looks like this . . .

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This amazing and beautiful friend of mine that I first mentioned here, took a huge risk and this box is my reward. She quit a stable job to launch her baby into being, and it looks like the pictures throughout this post.  I love the cards with the wealth of history and lore they provide. As a lover of words, I can say that the writing speaks to me and says lovely things.  The kits are designed as a starting point to show you how to pamper yourself, while making it clear that body scrubs and self care is far more tangible than beauty industries would make you believe. The materials were all carefully chosen and perfectly compiled in a box that is a treat in itself.  I don’t need the pretty box, but it’s worth keeping.  Really, I would love to know where she finds her salt, because the crystals are smaller, gentler and they feel like they hold moisture to them in the way they move and clump.

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I believe the sugar might be raw sugar, but again it’s special.  My laptop really didn’t appreciate my curiosity though and I cleaned it without photographs because I can’t let this moment of excitement get away from me.

I made a mixture today.  It was my first, and it felt so great.  I didn’t mix the entire contents of each carefully labeled bag and container, because I like the idea of concocting what I need as I plan to use it.  I get my chemistry ya-yas out and it’s a tailor made expresion each time. You don’t have to be jealous.  Get your own at Mystic Dirt.

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I get to show up for friends.  I arrive with a smile and receive a hug.  I give them my words of hope and support.  I give them my belief in who they are and empower them with all of the hope and belief I get from their dreams being chased.

The biggest reward of showing up for friends is the part where I’m really showing up for myself. I’m not sitting at home waiting for an opportunity to invite me out, but seeing what my friends are doing and showing up for them.  I get to see interesting venues, and try new foods.  (Today’s snack of a curry lime almond dip came from Artists and Fleas.) I get to see friends and have deep conversations or share belly laughs.  I get to reminisce and create new moments that become treasured memories.  My selfies become group shots when I’m not too busy being in the moment to remember to capture them.

Yesterday I showed up for a friend’s annual barbecue.  I left Kid2 with my Mom because he begged not to go.  I sat with a friend in conversation and felt so welcomed by his friends.  I got to experience what I was calling magic and learned was babaganoush.  I joined in a relay race that had me riding a tricycle through an obstacle course.  It’s been more than 3 decades since I’ve been on one and my partner and I placed 2nd.  It was epic fun and I only regret not having proof of the shenanigans.  There was a moment where I felt guilt that I wasn’t just doing what my son wanted (staying home), but we discussed it and came to an agreement.  I got to go for a while. He got to choose who he would prefer to watch him.  We agreed that this way we are both doing what was best for both of us, and today, he got a full day to be at home and in his gaming cave of solitude.

This latest box of fun has had me in a place of rest and self care.  I’ve had a great week and a better weekend but the time to care for myself and rest was needed and playing doesn’t feel like wasted time that should be spent doing something else.  This box of fun has been about learning and mixing and smelling and exfoliating.  It’s a beauty care package that reminds me to slow down intentionally while my Kid2 is happily gaming and spending the day as an only child while Kid1 enjoys his Dad and Kid3 has had a weekend with grandma and cousins.  I have been recharged and I’m ready to Paper Tiger my way through everything I’ve been putting off all week.

This ability to show up means for the first time since I became a Mom, I’m no longer a martyr to my family’s needs.  I’m no longer staying home because of a need to always put others first. I’m standing for my wants and desires and trusting others to care for my children and showing my boys that it’s okay to do what is important to me.  It’s become important to me that we work as a family to stand for each other in what is important to us as individuals to show each other that this is where we place our value as a family. I’m no longer a short order cook on Saturday mornings while I skip breakfast.  We do what is best for our family as a whole and that means independence and the belief that we each matter, no matter who we are.  Our values are assigned by our love for each other and this love levels the field of importance.

Show up.  So much good happens when you show up for friends and when you show up for yourself through prioritizing what you want to do, alongside what we do because it’s our duty and cost to the life we get to live. Live epicly!

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Symbolism and Interpretation

I’m starting with a picture of my (dry) hand and three rings.  The one turned is one that never leaves my hand.  It’s my college ring.  In high school I was so determined to finish college that I told my Mom not to waste money on a high school class ring.  It took 17 years but I finished school with the bare minimum that was acceptable to me.  I have my BA and one day when my nest is empty, I’m shooting for law school.

I spoke into a friend’s life many years ago.  I stood for her when she wanted to quit high school.  I don’t even remember what I said, but for her it was everything.  She’s the most badass warrior dragon slayer I know.  She’s a medical professional when she was once ready to skip her senior year of high school. She has stood for me in some of the deepest valleys I have been in throughout the decades we’ve known each other.  She showed up to speak to the darkness she saw that I couldn’t.  She showed up with a Christmas tree.  She’s standing for me yet again.

I wasn’t planning on going to my high school reunion tonight.  It’s been 20 years, but I didn’t value the time and connection over the daily needs of my family, but she stood for me and told me my ticket was paid for and her stance for me . . . Her unfailing belief in me made me realize not going was about not stepping into relationship and when I do that, I’m the only one accountable.  When I see this woman, I see my past.  I see my present and she helps me see my future. That’s what badass warrior dragon slayer best friends are for, right?

The rings . . . When I found these two small rings, there was a Reiki instructor selling her hand made jewelry and doing chakra readings.  I asked about the rings, and the infinity ring is about eternal love.  The arrow is a nod to her Sioux heritage.  I’m Choctaw in the way where I know it’s in my veins . . . I’m just not connected enough to my heritage to know how.  But these are symbols and meanings are assigned.

Self love isn’t a surface affection. You don’t love just who you are inside. It’s not the light as beauty and the dark as an absence of it. You love all of yourself as a whole. Broken or not, we are made of a whole and we deserve to love all of who we are. 

I love the idea of infinity.  I will always show up for myself, doing what matters to me, because I’m no longer a martyr to motherhood or marriage.  I get to fight for every moment of my existence like it matters because I do.  I have a few things going on this weekend.  Childcare isn’t an issue because my support systems are remarkable.  I asked the kids if they wanted the extra time with their Dad because giving them options offers them control and while only one is staying with his Dad this weekend, I’m getting a sitter or taking them with me because I’m worthy of doing what will make me happy.

The arrow spoke to me differently than the original explanation. I’ve seen enough memes and pictures from Pinterest to remember that an arrow is always pulled back before it’s launched.  I saw it and it reminded me that I’ve been launched.  I haven’t landed yet, but I’m free and flying.  I often hear things like, “you have a great smile,” or “there is so much love in you that it’s shining and beautiful.”  I never heard these things when I was being a wife.  It was a reality check a few months ago and I had another reminder yesterday.

I showed up last night.  A friend and my angel had a soft launch for her product line.  I didn’t tell her I’d be there.  I surprised her.  The look on her face and her hug said all I needed to know.  I showed up and the symbolism in being present showed her that she mattered, while the look on her face told me I was loved.

The argument wasn’t important, but I yesterday I heard the words that would have before told me that I’m a bad writer.  My followers and hits tell me I have enough people that want to read my words that this might not be a valid argument.  I was called a bad mother.  I’ve had enough professionals in my home and life tell me otherwise.  I was given the words that once wounded me so deeply: that is why I left you.  I hesitated for a moment because I remembered the way that used to feel and in that moment I felt freedom.  There was a disconnect between the past and the present.  I found no point in offering gratitude for what was meant to harm me, but I felt launched and free.  I’m grateful that the life I struggled through was taken from me because I feel a freedom I can’t hide.

In this life, I get to look for meanings where life used to be mundane.  I get to drop by the ocean any time I need to be refreshed and renewed.  I get to experience the sublime and see each moment as a gift to be kept or shared as I choose because it’s mine.

This isn’t a new concept, but it’s an extension of who I have always been.  These symbols are less painful or permanent than these or this one. At the end of the day, we see something, hold it closely or run from it entirely, and we get to assign or alter it’s meanings. 

 

 

Living in Intention and Outside of Expectation

I had a small emergency with my kids today.  They’re fine but for about 40 minutes I was freaking out.  Human error happened.  In reality, I’m sure my boys were happy with the way things unfolded. I’m fairly certain they were oblivious to what I was experiencing. My expectation failed to meet reality because I relied on past experiences to determine future outcomes.  When my response is to react (which looked like yelling at slow drivers with my windows rolled up, making calls and snapping in anger today), I (usually) try to remind myself that I get to choose my interpretation of a situation.  Life is neutral and any good or bad experience of it is an emotion assigned by me.  I mentioned the concept of intention vs. expectation briefly here. Now I’m explaining what it means to live in intention and outside of expectation.

Unconditional Love

In some ways I started the concept in writing about unconditional love and what it means to me.  It comes without expectations and leaves without disappointment.  It’s not bartered affections, expecting emotional repayment.  To borrow a line from my favorite poem, it’s knowing kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises. It’s offering love in the ways you express it, knowing you will be happy if it’s not returned, and even if it’s rejected.

Expectations

Expectations can drive us mad.  My day included two separate conversations with friends that have reached a space in their relationships where they get to shift their expectations of the lives they envisioned. Break ups are hard because it’s not just the person we part with, but the expectations we’ve often assigned to their existence in our lives.  When we start to invite them into our private spaces, and include them in our present and future lives, we are building a future that is connected. We are seeing our lives as a reflection of their lives.  We speak love and life into each other and our echoes resound in the darker places of who we have become, shifting us into better people, empowered by the love we’ve been given. We grow what we have into something much bigger and often outside of ourselves.  How easy is it to build up the person we love, in ways that we often neglect to love ourselves?

When we flip a light switch, we expect the room to be illuminated by the bulb that is feeding off the the electricity we just closed the circuit to.  We water a plant, and give it sunlight and we expect it to grow.  When it doesn’t flourish, something is wrong and we look for fertilizers and check the soil ph and moisture levels.  We offer attention, affection and vulnerability and we often expect it returned.  We hold back until it looks like there’s reciprocity.  We imagine a future and feel like it might be love but we withhold those words until it’s safe to release them.  We expect a return on investments.

People are changeable.  We change our minds.  Priorities shift.  I went to bed earlier this week excited about a date, and woke up this morning thinking I’d prefer to spend my free time alone than with this particular man.  I expect to have a good time at every opportunity and I woke up knowing my intention remains the same, but the expectation that I would find that with him would be a failure on my part.

Intentions

When I focus on intentions, I’m focusing on my goal and what I would like, but I don’t hang my expectations on it.

It’s where I can openly love someone unconditionally, without the expectation that my love would need to be returned or my affection exchanged for something of value.

It’s where I imagine receiving a back rub without a foreplay label or expected tip might be.  I’ve never experienced it and I’m not sure what it would look like.

As far as writing these blog posts, my intention is to write something every day.  I don’t expect that I will get it done every day and I’m pleasantly surprised when I do. Often it looks like a post started later at night, with heavy lids falling and fluttering through words that come out with eyes closed, and meanings shifting into lucid dreams.  I’ll hit “Publish” and drift off to sleep, only to edit the same post throughout the next day, forgetting what I wrote within a week.

It’s expecting to grow old with the person you find and hang your hopes on without giving them permission to change who they are to you.  It’s deciding your fate is tied to them, ignoring the fact that you can untangle the most complex knots.

It’s a first date that looks like a second would be promising without considering the other person hasn’t even put her purse down and her keys are still in her hand . . . Is blind intention and expecting a bit much. No. 

Putting it Together

It’s a pleasure we rarely afford ourselves to live in the moment.  We grow up with emotionally detached parents and unavailable lovers mimic what we crave.  When we’re able to step outside of what’s expected, we are able to reach out to the best of our ability into ways that will help us grow. We give of ourselves in vulnerability and when we do it without a cost attached, we’re often surprised by genuine reciprocity. It’s about being in the moment, without the rushed pace of living in the future or the sluggish sorrow of reflecting on the memory of yesterday.  Be.  Be flexible.  The plans we plot can shift in an instant, and we can’t survive by trying to stitch back tattered shreds of a broken promise and fading memories.

You’re Overthinking it, Love

Me: I hope you aren’t drowning in my dark.  It can be a bit heavy if you aren’t me.

Him: Yes.  Stay in the light.  It’s warm.

Me: I get the impression you can handle it, but don’t let me overburden you.

Him: What does that mean?

Me: You have a strength about you but it’s not a strength that you can put on like a jacket.  It’s who you are and it was born through survival.  It’s easy to lean on you and borrow what you have.

Him: Wow.  You’re not wrong, but how did you get all of that?

Me: We hung out and talked for like 20 minutes in my car.  You were there.

 

I overthink things.  It’s a default setting for me.  For years that skill was put to use in advocating as an autism mom.  My Mom had a few wars to wage and my research superpowers were called to action.  As a student and mom and wife, I was able to do it without sleep and not always remembering to feed myself with a kindergartner on my back, asking me how to spell things. Now it’s about people and interactions and I can’t shut it off.

It’s funny sometimes that I can see what I’m doing and call it out in others, but it’s hard to stop.  A couple of weeks ago I was at La Velvet Margarita Cantina in Hollywood with friends, having fun playing wing woman to the men with me.

I gave one friend advice that got him affection from his girlfriend:

Me: buy a rose. Call her up. Tell her this rose was handed to you by the guy walking around and selling them. It wasn’t until you touched the petals that you missed her because they reminded you of her skin. Then ask if you can drop it off.

Him: you’re good.

Me: yeah . . . When you see her, make the rose an extension of your fingertips along her cheek. She needs to feel what reminded you of her.

For my other friend, I kept offering my friendly “hello” to random women and nudging my friend in their direction.  He’d chat and come back for a debriefing, and I kept telling him, “stop overthinking it, love.”

That same night there was an Andy.  Walking past him, I called out, “You’re beautiful.”  We had a couple of separate moments where the conversation started, and I walked away, but I have fun rejecting men and I was looking for an excuse to let him go.  I wasn’t lying.  He was beautiful, but that is never enough. His rejection came in his passivity.  He let me initiate each interaction and I was okay letting him go because I wasn’t interested enough to accept the mixed signals he was sending.  I watched his body language and the way he had moments of turning out toward me and moments of turning his back to me.  I noticed way too much about what he was doing to appreciate the short conversations we had.  I was over thinking it.

I’m really great at over thinking things.  I’m exceptionally talented at over complicating the simplest things.

Today I’m working on bold authenticity because it’s easier to hide in something false.  I’m working on accepting that life’s events are neutral and I can guide my response by defining my interpretation.  I’m living in intention and outside of expectations.  (This should be a post one day, but don’t hold me to it.) I’m working on being present in the moment, because it’s not a super power right now. I’m working on self love because when old patterns emerge, I can no longer ignore them and beating myself up over them is my default.  I get to see what I’m doing and what my motives are and face them so I’m no longer controlled by them.  And I get to release the need to over think things by addressing them boldly, no matter what that may look like.

 

My Musical Legacy


There was a conversation with an adorable ginger Monday night.  I was at the Mondrian hotel on Sunset strip and watching Empire Records after a short Q&A with director Allan Moyle. It was an amazing event all around, hosted by GenArt.  This very attractive (if shorter than I like) redhead was telling me all about his experience with vinyl and my experience made me come off as so much older than I am.  Part of it is being the baby for nearly two decades with older parents.  My whole household was older than my generation. Then Mom started adopting and we don’t fit much of any family’s identity anymore. We call it the zoo and it’s who we are.

I’m a native from L.A. and this man with freckle kissed cheeks was from the east coast.  From what I remember of my short trip to New York in 1997, everything was about the latest in everything.  The latest music and style was what mattered.  Status revolved around replacing the old with the new, as quickly as possible.  The wedding we crashed showed me that hairstyles were more of a decades heavy throw back, but everything else was about finding the new things that were the commodification of a generation and nailing down that zeitgeist in any way possible. It was insane and overwhelming to me and I was there only about a week. Vinyl records died and then came back on that side of the country.

In Los Angeles, vinyl never died.  Growing up I played my Dad’s Diana Ross records.  He had a small collection of R&B records. I loved smaller 45’s because they were mini-records and cute. Most of them were black, but sometimes they came in yellow or red. As I got older I went to house parties. My best friend and the man I named my firstborn after would learn how to DJ, and keep everyone dancing at every single house party I threw until I got married and the parties stopped.   He still DJ’s although I’m not sure where and when, but I know he “spins” his records at a Barcade in Koreatown.

I remember hitting record stores with my friends and I would wander for hours while they would go row after row, digging in the crates.  Of course Tower Records was everywhere.  I remember running to the Wherehouse for singles on cassette tapes or the latest Mariah Carey or Madonna albums on CD.  We’d go to Amoeba, Rockaway Records, or Aron’s Records and just look for music. It was about hanging out to avoid going home but it was about holding onto a heritage passed down from parents and older siblings.

There’s something in the sounds that carry our emotions either through lyrics or melodies.  There’s magic in the flow that wraps around us and wrings us dry.  There are still record stores in Los Angeles because they never went away. They evolved.  They re-emerged, but they never went away.

There are kids and adults that geek out on vinyl.  There’s something about an automatic arm that moves with precision.  Or sometimes I would hold and guide the arm with the needle onto the dark and smooth outer edge of the record, and watch the needle move towards the center as the songs played through the crackle of imperfections laid into a record.  You can’t get that in digital media.  Even modern songs that incorporate the sound that tries to imitate a record can’t get it right.  It’s too precise.

I’m not a fan of live music usually.  The first time I heard Mariah Carey singing, “I’ll Be There,” over the sounds of applause, I was bothered.  She didn’t sing it the way I wanted it to sound.  I wanted it to be perfect and I wanted to be her only audience and I couldn’t feel that way with the sounds of the crowds she was actually singing to.

As I get older, I miss the nostalgia of records.  I miss the sound of melodies woven through white noise and the soft hum of a muted speaker, waiting for it’s duty to be lived out in song.  There’s a heaviness on a record when vocals dip into sotte voce.  It begs for a physical reaction. I can’t remember the artist I used to listen to, but I remember the feeling of her lower ranges gravelling through a record, and that sound memory is a gift.

My kids have never known the sound of vinyl imperfection. With digital media, computer programs modify voices and instruments into perfection so we can take it for granted that if it’s on the radio, it will be perfect.  My sons don’t know the way Ethel Merman could cut through a room with the way her voice rung out, unassisted.  You are offered that taste on a vinyl record. That was true perfection.

For me, vinyl records mean the sound of the needle first hitting the spinning record with the crackle and groan of the grooves speaking before the melody flows and is met with the power of human ability.  That first sound fills you with anticipation.  I don’t plan to get into records again because I only had the by product of my Dad’s love of music before.  Really, he had 8-tracks and I’m not going there either.  There are some things I am willing to part with.

My contribution to the legacy I was given is the willingness to sing powerfully. I’m not a singer, but I sing.  It is strong and loud and in my voice are the emotions that won’t be held back.  I sing to my sons, looking into their eyes, unashamed and unafraid.  I give them all that I have and maybe one day they’ll hear a vinyl recording that speaks to a memory they can’t place.  Maybe one day they’ll feel the power that I did as a child and it might be one day when they move out or when I’m gone.  It will feel like the memory of their mother singing her heart out to them like it matters, because they do.

I am Yessica Maher. 

I had a hard time sleeping last night with the to-do list that comes with Monday’s usual custody swap and an evening appointment for the kids. That and my childhood asthma has been making it hard to breathe as an adult. In the early hours of this morning as I was contemplating all that would be coming with the sun, I started to think about my last blog post. I love myself and yet I’m still hiding behind my blog.  I don’t want to diminish the wonderful feeling that in my words, all you get is the voice in which I write. Aside from my last post, and maybe a random other post where I buried a picture of myself in a slideshow, you really don’t see what I look like.  Okay, so in recent months I may have shared pictures of me in my childhood or 15 years ago.  But nothing too recent until really recently. You don’t really know who I am.  I’m hiding. Unless you’re one of my Facebook friends and probably annoyed with the posts that link to my latest ramblings on a daily basis. I really don’t even know how many of my friends read my blog and how many just like the pictures when a post comes with a visual.

If you follow closely, you’ll know that at one point about a year and a half ago, I couldn’t even string together a whole paragraph.  I still have a hard time getting lost in a book. Focusing on getting lost comes with the guilt from spending so many years escaping from my family in young adult paranormal romance. I’ve grown in ways that I didn’t expect and yet, here I am, hiding in anonymity.  I love myself, and yet, I’m hiding my identity like I’m not proud of the woman I have become.

I started writing under a guise because I was thinking of the damage my words could do to a job hunt.  After a conversation with a friend today I realized I really don’t party all that hard.  I don’t do anything that is extreme or dangerous that would label me a hire risk.  I’m just not that exciting.  Hiding my identity was supposed to be about potential jobs, but the reality is it’s about protection and hiding.  Loving myself means I get to own up to what I say.  Not only is my face on my blog.  I am in every single word.  I don’t hide behind a pseudonym on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.  I don’t hide in other areas.  In the most meaningful expression of who I am, I hide the most.  This place is my playground and I hide from everyone even though I give the most honesty here. You won’t see a feminist forward or a fur baby moment. This is me.  Not borrowed or shared.  Just me.

After last night’s post, I realized I was holding onto old fears.  I had a blog years ago that focused on being an autism mom.  My ex didn’t want me writing about him or the boys and I realized it was hurtful to put my kid’s lives on display for my therapy.  I write about my family now as they’re relevant to my exploration of who I am, but I try to be mindful in keeping this about me.  I get to be selfish here.

There was a short while where my latest crush  and I would talk about writing.  I haven’t seen or talked to him in a long while. He is a dedicated writer that will spend time in creativity every single day.  He crafted his words for hours at a time in a way that I don’t.  My writing comes out in spurts of inspiration.  I scribble out a thought and hammer it out in moments before dozing off.  I wake to finish my posts.  I don’t treat it like a job and he always did, encouraging me to write because he’s just a really great person.  He was really uncomfortable with my observations of him.  I saw him in a way that was intense and writing about him made me happy with an equally taxing cost to him.  In all of the ways a conversation with him made me want to write, he never once discouraged me from what I wrote or how I wrote or even the times I wrote about him.  I realized today I was hiding from my words based on a situation with my ex, when my latest crush showed me that the censorship imposed on me was based on someone who no longer matters to me.  He didn’t say anything to persuade me of anything.  He simply existed as he was in a way that shifted my perspective while healing old hurts. Talented and special.

Here I am.

I was named Yessica by my Dad.  He was studying Hebrew at the time of my birth.  In honor of the Hebrew alphabet missing a “J” sound, he named me Yessica.  It was a name he’s always translated to “God’s Gift.”  That’s what I get for making the 7 year old baby a middle sister.  I get to be his gift from God.

My Mom chose my middle name, which is Ruth.  It’s biblical and I held onto my namesake for so long as I stood in prayer and hope for my marriage.  It was the belief that no matter what kind of husband my ex was being, I could choose what kind of wife I would be.  It was over 11 months before I realized I was more attached to my role as a wife than I was to the man I married. I get to be someone else’s wife one day.

My paternal heritage gave me a typical Egyptian name and it blends into the legacy of a woman brought into the United States on a slave ship from Africa.  Her name was Americus Starks and I’m almost certain it wasn’t a name given to her at birth. I have educators and preachers in my lineage.  There was a State Senator.  We are Choctaw Indian, English, African American, and Mexican. When my divorce is final, I’m reclaiming my birth-name.

On my maternal side, there is a family that is strong enough to rely on each other through extreme developing country poverty.  We are from Thailand and my Dad just informed me we are also Burmese.

I married and gave my children their father’s name. It comes from his Irish side, although the family remembers his Dutch side most. Taking his name was the first fight I lost.  I wanted to hyphenate my name or just add his name after mine, but taking his name was important to him.  It identified me as his wife.  It bound our family under a single name that I adopted as mine with a history to claim as my heritage and a future to forge in the legacy of our children.  It was a blessing that became a curse in shame.  It is a burden that daily reminds me of the road I’ve traveled and grown strong through.  I’m happy that I get to let it go.  When I think of the day I had his name covered on my arm with a tattoo of my son’s names, I can easily recall feeling so free and empowered.  I imagine my name change will feel like that except getting a tattoo of his name was always my choice while the name change never was.  I’m sure it’ll feel better once I get past the paperwork.

I am Yessica Ruth Maher.

I made a contract with myself a few weeks ago:  I am a brave, courageous, heart led leader.  Whether I lead only myself, or my children, or a horde of people ready to reclaim their voices in the shadows of an experience they share with me, I choose this identity.  I am brave through fear.  I am courageous through discomfort and pain.  I lead from the heart, choosing what is right over what is easy.

I am a daughter to the parents that raised me and the parents that claim me.  I am a product of their contributions to my identity and the support they never cease to offer.  I am a child that knows love that looks like duty and feels like honor.

I am a sister.  We are a combination of blood relatives, step siblings, adopted siblings and siblings through marriage.  Our gatherings are huge, but we know that family is bound by duty and we’ll always be there for you, even if we don’t like you at the moment.

I am a Mom.  I’m an autism mom.  I’m the mother of a sensitive but neuro-typical child. I’m the mother of boys. My firstborn and I survived the baby blues. My youngest saved me from my deepest depression while in my belly. I was a surrogate mother and helped families grow in ways that healed parts of motherhood that ached in painful shadows of comparison that I could never touch in ways that I wanted to.

I am a woman that lived in constant depression from 1992 until I was pregnant with my youngest child in 2006.  He saved my life with every tap and jab to my womb at precise moments when our lives were hanging in a precarious balance.

I’m Yessica.  You can call me Yessie.  Just make sure you don’t forget to call me for dinner.

 

Living Like I Love Myself

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I love me.  I really, truly, and with an open heart, love me.  I love me when I’m insecure. I love me when I need to be alone.  I love me in my silliness, and through my intensity.  I love me when I can slip into  being me, whether it’s as Mom, Sister, advocate, one of the guys, or Freakzilla.  Yeah, she’s still around. This self love hasn’t always been my reality.  At one point it only meant I had fresh batteries.  I can admit that and love myself in spite of the times I hated being who I am. I hated living in isolation when I wanted to reach out. I hate that I have to learn to be social again, pushing past my loner tendencies. I hated what I thought and felt to the point that I offered lies to cover my truths.

In depression, it’s easy to disregard your amazing for the ideals we envision.  It’s easy to think we would be better if we were just . . . thinner, prettier, smarter, more confident. We don’t see that “just . . . ” is the most devastating weapon of self destruction we could create. It’s easy to think, “I’m an okay person,” ignoring that you are the only person capable of loving yourself with the complete understanding of what makes you uniquely different from every other human being on this planet at any point in time. We hold ourselves to a standard of someone else’s creation, not valuing the unique design of our own rubric based on our own awesome attributes. My reality check came a few days ago when I was looking at my old Facebook pictures.

I was fairly committed to my massive ass expansion and I was content in it.  I was smiling and happy in the moment these pictures were taken, but I didn’t love myself. In the first one, I was surrounded by family at Christmas.  The second was at my brother-in-law’s birthday party.  Number three was my niece’s sweet 16, and number 4 was a couple of months before my ex ended our marriage. I felt I was happily married and didn’t know he wasn’t.

I’m big on selfies lately.  They make me happy because they capture what I was feeling in any given moment.  I can go through my Instagram, look at a picture and tell you what happened in that day, and at that moment. My joy is what inspires my vapid selfie moments and they capture a feeling so that at any other moment, I can recreate it.

What my lack of selfie moments pointed out to me was that I didn’t like taking pictures or looking in the mirror for that matter.  For years, the only mirror in the house was the bathroom vanity mirror.  I didn’t want to see myself.  I was only in pictures that someone else was taking and I was asked to pose for. There are years of my life where I don’t have pictures of myself.

It amazes me sometimes how an idea becomes a tangible reality when I’m explaining it to someone else. I was talking with my Dad this afternoon and as I’m telling him he should really start treating himself like he loves himself, it really began to solidify for me that I really do treat myself like I love myself.  Before this conversation, we were sitting down for a meal at Burger King. His choice.  I was telling him he needs to take better care of himself and treat himself like he loves himself.  The irony of the moment hit me when I took another bite of my open faced protein style burger.  I was eating food I didn’t like, even though I wasn’t hungry.

This morning I made myself breakfast.  It was eggs over medium on honey ham with shredded cheese on top.  It’s not healthy, but it was delicious.  I enjoyed every single bite.  When we were out, I wasn’t hungry, but we were stopping so he could eat.  I looked over the menu and couldn’t find anything that screamed out, “this will give you intense food joy!” I settled on a burger without a bun, which somehow translates to no salt and pepper or sauce of any type. It was depressing to eat, and I was still eating it.  My doodle moment at the top of this post was about treating myself like I love myself and it was something I found on Pinterest and gave to a co-worker that wanted encouragement, and I’m hammering that out now. (I need more deskside doodle moments.)

Don’t say mean things to yourself.

There are so many thoughts that run through our minds.  It’s hard to shut them off or slow them down.  Sometimes random thoughts filter through and I’ve had a full conversation before I realize what exactly I’ve said to myself.  I have to be intentional with myself.  The self criticism has to go out the door.  It’s not easy.

At one point when my ex was still here, but he had told me the marriage was over, he did his best to let me know all of the reasons I killed our marriage. Single handed, because I am a powerful marriage destroyer with the ability to control someone else’s general happiness. (I should really learn to use these powers for good, right?) He handed his phone to his girlfriend so she could tell me (from the phone still in my name) that I was a horrible mother, physically unattractive, and deserved the way I was being treated by my husband.  I was treated like a mistress by my husband of 15 years.

I’m fairly confident now, but I still have moments when my confidence dips and I feel like I might be ugly or undesirable, ignoring the men I turn down because I am so picky.  Often, it just takes a walk.  I play music with my earbuds silencing all else and it makes me happy. Sometimes singing along, I take a short walk with my head held high.  I stride with one foot directly in front of the other, hips swaying in the imbalance of my gait.  I get appreciative looks. I’ve gotten strangers to pull over to get my attention and I’ve made shy men smile like I just handed them my last lollipop as a promise I might intend to keep (I never do).

Treat yourself the way you would treat a small child.

As a new Mom, I used to eat after my kids.  I don’t mean when they were too little to eat table food. At that time, they got to taste little bits of what I had.  When they got older, I would make dinner and help them through their meals, only to eat the rest of the food off of their plate.  I treated myself like a garbage disposal.  I would never make my kids eat my scraps, and yet that was good enough for me.  I would insist they eat what tastes good to them, and I wouldn’t force them to eat if they weren’t hungry, but I would keep offering them food so they had what they needed when they were ready for it.  You would think I would do the same to myself, but that has been a more recent development and it looks like it did when I was a teenager.  I loved myself then, too.

 Put yourself to bed early.

Being Mom means you’re constantly touched and pulled on and needed all day.  As a Mom that was also a wife, there were many nights when my whole house was asleep, but I was wired.  I would watch television or read a book, or just try to sleep but sleep wouldn’t come. Laying in bed next to the ex when he was ready for bed, I would try to fall asleep with him and even faked sleep many nights to appease his desire to go to bed at the same time. Then I would stay up and make a midnight snack of a can of chunky soup, a fist full of sharp shredded cheddar and topped with another fistful of French fried onions (I did mention massive ass expansion).  By 3 or 4 a.m., I would go to sleep.  At 7 in the morning, I was getting the kids up and out the door, helping the ex get out the door, and falling asleep around 9.  I woke up by noon, ran errands, made calls, and did a crap job of housework.  When the kids were home from school, I would help with homework and start on dinner, because all meals were homemade with fresh ingredients.  My Dad introduced my kids to frozen meals when I needed help with groceries after my ex left.  I gave them fresh foods and learned how to cook new meals because I love them.  I would give myself cans of soup, piled with tons of unhealthy. Crazy, right?  Add 12 units of English literature and that’s how I worked on my BA. Writing about it and the ways I had to argue my case for school with my ex each quarter got my 6 scholarships in 2 years. I did mention I’m a badass, right? I know I say this to myself all the time.

I go to bed fairly early now.  I spent this week going out.  I was at a friend’s house Wednesday.  I went to a sketch show at Bar Lubitsch Thursday.  I celebrated a friend’s birthday at La Velvet Margarita Cantina in Hollywood on Friday and met more friends at the Arts District Brewing Co. last night.  I’m making an effort to step out of being a loner. This in no way means I left at closing time.  Each night I was in my bed by midnight and happy to be there.  Cinderella has no idea how awesome her curfew was.

Go play outside, and allow naptime after playtime.

I love pretty things.  I love the beach at sunset and hiking trails where I’m surrounded by open skies and can see far out.  I love nature and museums and mostly I love my city.  Lately I’ve made every effort to be a tourist.  Just yesterday I explored the secret stairs in Hollywood. Hollywood was originally planned as a gated community called “Hollywoodland.” The famous sign has nothing to do with the entertainment industry and everything to do with real estate.  It was built in the hills before cars were popular and staircases were put all over so young families could get around the neighborhoods with ease.  It’s worth the Google search for the PDF.  I take myself to places I want to see because even without company, I still want to see it all.  I prioritize what interests me.  I have a whole list of places I want to go to and I keep that list at work. On Friday, I go through the list and decide what I want to knock out on my weekends alone.  It’s a trip to see something pretty but it ends up looking like exercise and at the end of it, there’s always food I like, and a nap.

Don’t put yourself in danger.

I love solitary beach nights.  I love going to Will Rogers State Beach and watching the sunset.  I love laying in my car with the windows down and listening to the waves crash.  I love sitting on the sand, surrounded by darkness and completely alone.  Unfortunately, it’s not safe so I often end up at Santa Monica Beach where performers don’t worry about their tips being stolen because the police are all over that pier. I didn’t make it to the beach all week and I’m not going to make it at least until Wednesday and I’m a little bummed about that but my week with friends was pretty epic. 

I went hiking a little while ago and ended up pushing myself too hard while unprepared.  I have learned my lesson and now carry much more water than I need.  I won’t start a trip with a near dead cell phone.  I really want to go back to Sunken City and hike down to the water again, but I can’t think of a person I would endanger like that and I won’t go alone again for safety reasons.  Yes, I really just wrote that.  I want to do the dangerous thing, but I would never put another person in that position.  I won’t go without a buddy because of the danger.  I won’t invite someone else because of the danger.  I want to go again, but I won’t because I can’t put myself in danger.  I say this repeatedly because I need to remind myself that I don’t put myself in danger when I love myself.  This is why I protect my boys like the fierce dragon slaying autism mom and advocate I am. But those were really pretty sights to see and I might go back without putting myself in danger. I might actually listen to the “No Trespassing” signs. 

Getting back to self love through not putting myself in danger, this also means I don’t drink and drive.  Texting while driving isn’t cool and I might offer a call that is hands free instead.  I don’t want to pick up an old smoking habit even if it does feel like teenage rebellion. 

In a way, dating goes under this section too.  I would much rather not date, than date a boy that doesn’t want to treat me like I matter.  I want to be treated like I’m beautiful and smart. I get plenty of attention from boys that want me to show them a good time. I want to know that if I’m handing my heart to someone, he will try to treat me the way I treat me, because I really love myself.  He needs to act like he might make me feel better than I already do when I take myself out for a good time alone. I want to be treated like a coffee mug. This is what kept my fascination with my latest crush from being consuming. I never could see that going anywhere solid. 

Feed yourself healthy food.

A few years ago, my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic.  It was early enough that I could make changes in my diet and I did.  I’m no longer pre-diabetic because I stopped eating like I wanted death to come early. I didn’t do it for myself.  I did it for my kids.  Around the same time, I was always uncomfortable and had severe gas pain almost daily.  I started limiting my sugar and keeping a food journal that included what I ate and how I felt.  I didn’t measure portion sizes or count calories.  I stopped eating 4 chocolate bars a day.  I loved almond filled croissants and grilled cheese sandwiches, but started limiting things that weren’t healthy.  Within weeks of cutting sugar, I learned I’m sensitive to wheat in a bad way.  After dropping the wheat from my diet, I lost about 10 pounds in a month.  At my heaviest non pregnant self, I was about 230 pounds.  I ate what I wanted to eat, whether or not I was hungry.  It was often junk food that I ate without paying attention to what I was doing.  I was eating out of boredom.  I was eating because it was there and I didn’t want to waste food.  I was eating because I couldn’t feel whether or not I was hungry, thirsty, full, or loved. Eating took away the need to feel what was so far out of reach.

Fast forward to a period when my survival relied on being able to love myself, and I started eating like I love myself.  Cravings for unhealthy foods slowed down. I don’t limit anything, but I no longer want it like I used to. I still eat sugar and I like it, but I don’t want it as much as I used to.  I have both sugared and sugar free candy at my desk, but often share it without eating it all. My favorite snack is raw sugar snap peas. I drink sweetened coffee and tea sometimes but I also love Perrier (L’Orange and Green Apple) and the original V-8 juice.  I don’t drink soda and rarely drink fruit juice. Just for the sake of the blog, I stepped on a scale today. I weigh 175 pounds, without exercising on a regular basis. Normally I don’t weigh myself. Without paying attention to the way my clothes fit, the way I feel or a BMI that I can interpret, weight is just an arbitrary number and I normally don’t torture myself with it. It’s here because it’s a standard we all use. I only take myself on field trips when I don’t have my kids, and that’s only every other weekend.  I don’t diet. I don’t measure my food or eat anything that makes me feel like death would be better than digestion. I eat like I love myself and the reward is I get to buy new jeans every time my pants start acting gangster, because that’s the only way I’d sag my jeans. I’m wearing the same sizes I wore in high school.

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October 2016

I get to act like I love myself.  I crave healthy snacks.  I eat when I need to, and not just because I can.  I’m not as fluffy as I once was and there’s very little effort in it.  And the confidence that comes with loving myself feels like that first crunchy, creamy bite of creme brulee.  It’s heaven.