She was fierce and beautiful at five, bursting with still-new life. She had adventure in her heart and an unclouded mind. Everything was sunshine, she didn’t yet know of storms. One night she ventured from her room in the dead of night, as silent as she could be. She met a familiar figure who changed her irrevocably. That night the shadow on her soul took shape and began to grow.
She kept quiet about her encounter, too young to know what to do. She was still vibrant but perhaps a bit more guarded. On the outside she wasn’t tainted.
She grew up into a fiery teen, who lived with reckless abandon and sucked life dry. Still no one knew of her secret, and, thus, the shadow grew.
She became a woman with a very blemished soul. Her secret festered and bloomed. Her vibrancy barely flickered through the shadow anymore. The storms were all she knew.
She gains wisdom with her age. She craves the light and yearns to see the beauty after the storm. She loosens her grip on her secret little by little. The shadow is heavy, but she is strong. She is determined to live in the light again.
I celebrated eight years of marriage this past May and it made me look back at all the things we have been through together. It has very rarely been easy, but, more than anything, that has made me appreciate our union so much more. I was 20 years old when we wed and we had our first child the same year and it was a big whirlwind of crazy and magnificent. I was asked more than once why I was rushing it and my response was, why not? I was young and in love and I knew what I wanted and I haven’t looked back since.
So what have I learned in the last eight years? I’ve learned not to take time for granted. After 14 combined months of deployments, and a nightshift job, those stolen moments in the early mornings are the most important thing in the world. I’ve learned that neither of us are the same people that we were in the beginning, and it’s always exciting to fall in love again with new versions of ourselves. I’ve learned to communicate and trust because at the end of the day, he’s the one that is there to catch me when I fall, and it’s so much easier to get back up when you have a helping hand. I’ve learned that nothing is more attractive to me than watching my husband play with our beautiful children. I’ve learned to love myself again because he loves me and he shows me everyday.
We had a rough start, and it still isn’t always easy, but there is not one single person I would rather journey through life with. Just remember, everything is more satisfying the harder you work for it.
I was going through my camera roll and I saw this picture of my mom with my kids. This was taken when she surprised me with a visit before Christmas last year because she knew how down I was not being around my family for the holidays. She dropped everything and flew out to me because that is the kind of person she is. She is so selfless and caring and she is truly an inspiration to me. She was a single mom working her ass off to care for and provide a nurtring environment for my brother and me. She had a firm hand that I hated, but I am so thankful for now. She listens to me speak about my life and my struggles and victories without judgement. She kicked Cancer’s ass with grace and dignity and I am in awe of her. She might look back at her journey through life so far and see herself doing what she had to do, but I see a fierce, independent warrior making her struggles her bitch. She is beautiful, kind, sarcastic, hilarious, a ridiculously talented bargain shopper, but most of all, she is my mom. She has taught me so much, and I am eager to learn even more. I will never be able to thank her enough for everything that she has done for me and given up for me. As a mother myself now, I understand a little bit better, and I appreciate her so much more. I love you so much, Mom.
An open letter to those that are tired of my shit:
I know that you are probably tired of my mood swings. You know what’s funny? I am too. I’m actually pretty fucking sick of not knowing which direction my brain is about to take me. I’m happy right this second, but don’t blink! This rollercoaster doesn’t stop!
I’m sorry for being insecure. And not just a normal or healthy version of insecure that is acceptable, but the kind of insecure that inspires paranoia and requires frequent validation from you. I know it sucks to have me ask you if I’ve made you mad 20 times, or if you love me. Trust me, I hate it too.
My bad for that anxiety. I know it’s a bummer to hear about the twisted and frankly improbable fears that I have. I would love for them to stop tormenting my brain all hours of the night when I’m trying to sleep.
Be a dear and excuse my sheer lack of ability to communicate. You see, that one is a combination of the above. I don’t want to complain about anything ever that you may be doing that’s effecting me because I’m paranoid you’re going to get angry with me and fight with me and all the terrible things I think you think about me are going to come out and then when you’re done with the horrible confrontation, you’re going to leave me.
The thing is, I’m really tired of saying sorry. Just like you, I can’t change the way I feel. While your feelings might be more rational, my feelings are still just as valid. And as much as you didn’t ask to deal with a basket case, I didn’t ask to be one. But if you’ve committed to being a part of my life, you need to accept me, and my crazy ass brain, in all of its seratonin-deprived glory. It’s not a piece of cake to be friends with or in a relationship with someone who has a lot going on upstairs. It is hard to excuse things that you can’t see. It’s hard to fathom how someone can’t see reason from time to time. But try to. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what it is like to be trapped in your head, looking totally normal on the outside but screaming to be seen on the inside. We wish we were “normal” too. We wish we didn’t have to ride the struggle bus when the wheels are falling off and the whole damn thing catches fire. And please know I’m not asking you to not feel whatever you may be feeling in reaction to whatever level of batshit crazy you may be witnessing from me. Just try to be empathetic to something you can’t possibly understand. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, “are you okay?” Or a hug, or some space to let me sort out my feelings. All I’m asking is the same respect you demand as a human being.
Watching your kids grow up is a truly amazing, humbling, hectic, mesmerizing thing to behold. When I had my first child I was thrilled at every milestone and “first” and while I enjoyed it, I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the next new thing because I was so enthralled with him. I loved watching him learn to walk, and talk, and learn to use a spoon and graduate from formula to real food and all the little things in between. I didn’t necessarily want time to speed up so I could see him develop more, but I was just so excited! I would proudly exclaim, “look at this masterpiece I created and behold his intelligence!” Let me tell you about this baby’s hair. He had a head full from the moment he was born. It started off as a deep auburn and then turned into a bright orange and he had some Shirley Temple ringlets that went down to the middle of his tiny back. We decided when he was 10 months to cut his hair because his daddy was deploying and he wanted to be there for his first hair cut. I welcomed the change, it was another wonderful “first” for me to witness.
Fast forward seven years and I’m sitting here with my 15 month old with wispy strawberry blonde hair that hangs in his eyes and is curly and long in the back. He has what can only be described as “Donald Trump” hair, but I just can’t bring myself to cut it right now. You see, he is my last baby. I had my tubes removed when I had him. So while I sat and watched my oldest with wonder and excitement, my reactions with my one year old are laced with trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I am still amazed at his milestones, but with each one that passes, I am reminded that it will be the last “first.” I watch him toddle around the living room and I’m reminded that in the not so distant future he will be potty training and going off to school and my days will be spent working instead of playing airplane and cleaning cereal off my floor.
I’ve had a lot of people ask and plea for me to cut his hair, and I know they mean well. But know this, I can’t control him growing up but I can hold off on that hair cut until I’m ready to experience that last “first” so be patient with me while I slow down time while I still can.
The PTO program at my 7y/o’s school is not quite as aggressive as the ones that are portrayed on television, but they have their moments. I remember walking into his school for the first time for the “Meet the Teacher” event before he started Kindergarten. We came in through the front door and we’re immediately accosted by a bright, smiling, as-stepford-as-she-could-get-in-north carolina-mom. She asked my husband and myself if we wanted to join the PTO. Her smile pierced my soul and I vaguely remember shaking my head yes, as if I were in some sort of trance. She asked us for five dollars and then cheerfully says, “Here! Have a Smencil!” The fuck is a Smencil? It’s a scented pencil. I distinctly remember ours smelling like root beer and myself being pregnant at the time, wanted to vomit. I walked around feeling dazed as we visited all the booths for kiddie sports leagues and clubs and then we went to meet our son’s teacher. After it was all over, we went to leave and had to pass the PTO booth again and were accosted once more and urged to join. After reminding the far-too-pleasant PTO seductress that we had already signed our lives away, we left with our Smencil, and without my soul.
After we got home, I called my mom and was telling her about the teacher and all the sports my son wanted to do and then I casually mentioned that I joined the PTO. Radio silence. And then my mom started laughing and asked me in between her hysterics why I would do such a thing. Let me explain something about myself, I am not the group activities kind of person. I am not introverted, I just don’t give a shit to sit in a circle jerk making bright colored posters that nobody pays attention to. It’s not that I don’t support their efforts, and I have no problem donating to the cause, but I don’t want to be involved like that. I quickly realized my grave mistake and I was horrified. When the time came for the first meeting, it turned out that only one of us would be able to attend, so my husband went. What a guy, right? I felt a little sorry he had to go. I’ve seen enough pornos to know what happens when you get a group of sexually frustrated moms together with apple juice and ginger snaps. It’s nothing anybody wants to see, so I didn’t feel THAT bad. He came home an hour later and reported that they just announced upcoming fundraisers and then were sent on their merry way. We paid five bucks for them to read off a piece of paper they sent home with my son for free? Needless to say, neither of us went back again.
Good on those parents that are willing to sit through those meetings and to come up with the different ways to raise money for the school, but I will not be one of them. I will, however, buy your doughnuts and your wrapping paper. You can keep your fucking Smencils though.
I was three years old when my parents split up. I still remember the day my dad left. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but I remember following him around the house as he packed things up and handing him random odds and ends. I remember him saying goodbye to my older brother and myself at the end of the driveway. He kissed my forehead and one of his tears spilled onto my cheek and then he was driving down the road in his Dodge Shadow. After that I can recollect seeing him at random intervals, and it was often in different places because he moved around a lot. I was discussing this with my mom the other day, when I have these flashes of memory, they rarely include my father, but I can clearly see the place the memory happened. My dad was not super present in my life. He often didn’t pick us up when it was his turn for visitation, and when he did, there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction. He worked third shift and we spent most of the visit playing quietly while he slept. None of this really registered with me until I was older. In fact, it didn’t hit me that I had an absentee father until my 16th birthday. My mom had remarried at this point and we lived in North Carolina with my step-father. My dad was suppose to drive up from Florida to pick us up to spend the Christmas holidays with him. He didn’t show up and he didn’t call until New Year’s Eve, my birthday. I remember sitting on the living room floor talking to him and wondering in my head why he didn’t even mention his reason for not picking us up. When we got off the phone I broke down and I was sobbing into my mother’s arms asking why my dad didn’t want me. This was a defining moment for me, it was the moment that I stopped making excuses in my head for why he wasn’t there, and it’s when I stopped seeing him as my dad.
I had another father figure in my life. My mom remarried when I was eight. He was a very different kind of man than my father. He had a hard work ethic and he did his best to make up for my own father’s shortcomings. He taught me how to cook and introduced me to new food. He used to take us on these amazing cross country trips every summer. I got to see and experience most of our country and Canada because of him. We went camping and had barbeques and we looked like a nice perfect family. He had a lot of physiological problems and it ultimately led to his company forcing him into retirement. This did not sit well for his mental health. He became agitated and sullen having to sit at home and the man we used to know faded away. I had begun rebelling and getting into drinking and recreational drugs use at around 17 years old. Two days before my 18th birthday he kicked me out. I stayed with a friend for a while and then ending up moving to Florida with my dad. I got a phone call from my mom a few months later telling me that my step-father took his life. By this time my mom and he had moved to Texas for the drier climate. I flew out there to be with her and we began repairing our relationship.
I made a lot of questionable decisions in my life and a lot of them had to do with these two men in my life. Most of the bad decisions I made involved getting into equally turbulent relationships with men who were horrible to me and ignored me. I was borderline obsessive with trying to make these doomed unions work because I didn’t want more men to leave me. I was convinced there was something wrong with me that made the men in my life leave and I was determined to fix it. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I sought out other broken men because they (have you guessed it by now?) reminded me of my father. I became stronger and I developed a voice for myself. I’m still not “fixed” by any means, but I am working on it.
I still have some contact with my father. I see him about once a year, but he is still very much the same person he was all those years ago. I wanted my children to have the opportunity to know the man who aided in my conception, but I do my very best to make sure that they will never know the hurt and the pain, and that they will never have to seek his approval. They have a wonderful father to look up to and I am so grateful for that. They have a strong mom, like I did, to shelter them from the worst of it and I have faith that they will turn into reasonably well balanced individuals who use their formative years for personal growth rather than attention seeking.