Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Open letter to the worst year of my life

Dear 2014,

You won't be missed by me. If you were a person I would choke you to death with my bare hands.

You have taken so much from me. You have taken one of my best friends and role models. You have taken my father. You have taken my only sibling. You have taken my sense of safety in my home. You have taken my innocence. You have killed whoever I was before you showed up.

Thank you, you difficult terrible year.

You taught me that I can do anything. And I mean anything.  I made my father's funeral arrangements. I drove myself 4 hours round trip to pick up my brother's ashes. I have held my sons while they shook with grief over the loss of their favorite (only) Uncle. I went to bed in my house alone with a backdoor that barely shut after it was kicked in by thieves who stole my family heirlooms. I have eulogized the best person I have ever known. I have hired two lawyers, attended four funerals, and cried in public innumerable times.

But I have survived you.

I even found some ways to thrive.

I enjoyed dates with charming men (and some not so charming men). I hunted horseshoe crabs with my boys on a deserted beach. I laughed until tears rolled down my face with my best girlfriends on the dock by the bay. I have thrown birthday parties and lively dinners. I made new friends. I drank cold beer and sat late into the night by bonfires. I hugged so tightly so many. I ate fried green tomatoes and charred octopus. I danced in the street. More than once.

I didn't die. I'm still here.

I'm still here, but when midnight strikes you'll be gone.

The struggle and pain you've brought has opened my eyes to the beauty of this life, the great awesomeness of being alive. Without you I wouldn't know the depth of true friendship. Without you I wouldn't have risked vulnerability so easily or often. Without you I wouldn't have finally forgiven myself. Forgiven him. Forgiven us all. Without you I would still be afraid. I am no longer afraid.
I got this.

So 2014, I still want to stab your eyes out with a plastic fork. But since you are neither animate nor in possession of eyes, I'll be content just to leave you with these parting words:

Kiss my grits.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

8 years

Eight years ago I met the boy who would change my life in ways I never imagined. Eight years ago I gave birth to my sweet O.

With the haze of 8 years and myriad heartbreaks and joys, I can still see his little wrinkled red face crying, as his father stood awestruck and silent. I was still not sure if he was a boy or a girl, but I knew I loved this baby more than anyone or anything. Within 20 minutes we were nestled together in the recovery room, attempting our first breastfeeding and he latched on right away. It was the most beautiful physical experience of my life.

I hadn't given birth the way I wanted to, but I could feed my precious baby. And so I felt healed and whole, after the disappointment of an epidural and a c-section. Nothing could be wrong after that sweet baby slept in my arms for the first time.

Later that day relatives and friends came to see us and meet O. I barely remember any of that since I was so high on pain meds. But I do remember O and his daddy napping on the hospital bed, so peaceful and content. O with the little blue knit hat on his head. His father's face so full of love and contentment. I never saw anything more beautiful; that is until the moment my two sons met, almost 4 years later.

I have photos of both of these precious moments. The moments when I knew that my heart could never love any more than it did at that moment. The moments when my heart just about burst.

So when life gets difficult (which it often does) or I get angry or annoyed at either my sons or their father; I try to picture those moments. Those precious fleeting moments of pure love and joy.

No matter what else happens and how things change, the four of us are a family. The story of our family started eight years ago today. So today I celebrate more than just the birth of my oldest son, but also the birth of our family.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The 1 thing you should do when your friend is going through a difficult time

In case you didn't know, life really sucks sometimes.

Be nice to people who are going through whatever totally horrible sad and stressful thing. They need your love and kindness more than your advice. If they ask for your advice or opinion, then they want it. Otherwise, please keep your opinions and advice to yourself. You will be saving your friend from having a moment (or more) of hating you for being a know-it-all buttinski. 

When you have your crisis you can do it any old way you see fit. And feel any kind of way you want.

And I will get you drunk and make you laugh. I promise.

Friday, July 11, 2014

12 wrong ways to live your life

This post has been sitting around for months. So I decided to just let it go. So here it is.

There's no right way to live, but there are lots of wrong ways.

Wrong way #1: Living someone else's dream
You know this old nugget: follow your bliss. For real, do it. Other people don't get to tell you how to live. Not your kids. Not your parents. Not your spouse. Not your boss. Not me.

Wrong way #2: By the book
I know people who are always saying things like "I can't" or "I shouldn't", because whatever the idea or activity is falls outside some proscribed way to be alive, dictated by a mythology/religion, gender norms, cultural baggage or just straight-up fear. That's crap. You can do whatever you want with your life. There really is no one true path. There are zero rules. There is wisdom. There are good ideas. But there are no rules.

Wrong way #3: Only for other people
Other people are so awesome. I know some I love almost as much as I love myself. It's like thisclose. My kids. My mom. My closest friends. You have them too. But I don't live my life for any of them. I live my life for me. And the byproduct of me living my own life is that I'm happier, more able to be present with the people I love. I can also be an example of someone who does her thing. And you can do your own thing while being a responsible, ethical, and dependable adult. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Wrong way #4: With a never-ending to-do list
Put down the list, ladies. For realz. Holy hell. Here's some TRUTH for you:
You will never do everything on your list. And that's ok.

I love a good list. I make a short to-do list everyday but rarely pay much attention to it afterwards. Lists are my way to think through the day and maybe prioritize, not the map for my life. Because there are things that I will never write on my lists that are more important than calling the dentist: sitting with my little guy and cuddling, texting a friend who needs a smile, grabbing a beer with a buddy. You know, life stuff. Life is not a list. It's an activity.

Wrong way #5: Holding a grudge
Let it go. Seriously, that anger and hurt is just weighing you down. It's not doing one thing to the other guy. Seriously, stop wasting your life focusing on the past. Let it go.

Wrong way #6: Too safe
It is way too easy to play life too safe. It's easy to listen to the conventional wisdom (which is often wrong, by the way). It's easy to fall into the grooves and traps of adult life. Don't do it. Take a risk once in a while. Get a new haircut. Buy the red dress. Change jobs. Go salsa dancing. Whatever. Just go do something new and exciting.

Wrong way #7: Quietly
Speak up. Take up space. Do not apologize when you speak up. Do not minimize yourself. You have a right to take up space. Be big.

Wrong way #8: Waiting
What in the hell are you waiting for? "The right time"? It's never coming. It will never be the right time to get married or have a baby or change jobs or learn French. Sure, you have to think about things like an adult, but after a certain amount of planning you just have to go for it. Or else you never do. No one is prepared for the big stuff, but once you're in it you figure it out.

Wrong way #9: Taking it personally
The best advice I can give you is that it is almost never about you. When people are assholes to you, its just them venting some hurt. You are just a target. Sometimes they are afraid of you. Sometimes they are jealous of you. Sometimes they are just assholes. Don't internalize their bullshit. You have enough of your own hurt to deal with. Let the haters hate, but don't ever think they are really talking about you.

Wrong way #10: Without gratitude
Be grateful everyday for this life you have. It is a miracle to be alive. Don't just say the words. BE grateful. Your life will expand and light up in so many ways.

Wrong way #11: Passionless
A life without passion isn't really a life. If there is nothing or no one who captivates you, makes you want to just eat them up, nothing that stirs your curiosity, well then get to it. Start trying things out. What would you do if you could do anything at all? Go do it, in whatever way you can. Make time for your writing, your art, your volunteer work, your lover. Seriously, schedule that stuff in there between the gym and the dentist. You NEED it.

Wrong way #12: In another time
Be here now. There is no other place to be. 

The reason why I haven't written in over 6 months

Sometimes life kicks you in the pants. Other times it kicks you in the ass. Life has kicked me in the teeth. And then stabbed me in the back for good measure.

In the last six months one of my best friends and role models died from cancer, my big (only) brother died suddenly, my house was burglarized and my family heirlooms stolen, and my Dad had a heart attack and died. Many of my friends suffered losses too, of pets and loved ones. Other friends have struggled with health crisis after health crisis. Two colleagues died. 

I know?! Totally unbelievable, but I promise you it is all true. I'm hoping to have the grace and courage to share some stories with you all about this epic journey of shit and sadness. I'm hoping I can do this journey and the people I love some justice by sharing their wonderful spirits with all of you. Mostly I hope that through writing I cauterize some wounds and exorcise some demons. I promise not to get all emo on you.

Well, maybe just a little.