Monday, July 16, 2012

What Makes Your Life "Worth It"?

And for that matter, what makes YOU worth it?

What makes you "successful"? What ambitions are worth your time, money and devotion?

If you don't have material possessions, or a Ph.D, or a flashy job, was it a waste of your time?

Considering what I'm seeing from ... well, mostly the MEN that I've dated (which is just.. fucking messed up) but even a lot of women that I associate with.. if you haven't gone to college to get a degree for something that will make you a lot of money... if you aren't working at least a 9-5 office job... if you aren't driving a nice car and have a pretty lawn and a boyfriend or a husband.. if you can't put your kids in the best (or any) dance classes, soccer teams, etc...

Well, then what the hell are you doing with your life?  Apparently nothing worthwhile.

According to society.

Which would account, I think, for a LOT of the depression among mothers in the world. For the vast neglect of the needs of the small children of those mothers who are made to feel that caring for and being there for their children is NOT ENOUGH. It's not a good enough example (?!?!). If all you're doing is being a mom, then you are a .. failure.

And what if you're a single parent? I think the pressure is even bigger... to "make something of yourself."

Well, trust me, I have hopes and dreams, but have we become so deluded that we believe that raising children (really raising them, I mean YOU, not a nanny or a babysitter or a daycare) is not worth anything? That you are... "nothing"?

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was 19 years old, shortly to be 20. I knew as soon as the second line appeared that her father would not be involved or helpful.
I had a choice to make, and I made it. I made the choice to be grateful for her existence. To take joy in the experience. To never let it be known that yes, sometimes, kids are a burden. That being a single parent is fucking difficult and sometimes even soul-crushing.
SHE is worth it, and I was bound and determined to make the decision to show her that.
And I've done my best. You know how? Maybe in a different way than some other mothers, and I'm not here to tell you that if you busted your ass to go to college when you had young kids, or that you worked 3 jobs to get by that you were doing something wrong. We ALL have different situations.
But in my situation and my life, the best way I could be there for my baby was to live with my parents for a while, not go back to work until she was old enough to go for a few hours between breastfeeding sessions, and take a part time job close to home where I could actually go home and feed her on my breaks.

From there, when she was 2 and a half, I got a job waitressing, because the hours were flexible, and the money I could make per hour was far better than any full-time desk job I could find. Really.
I had people telling me I was "too talented" to be "slinging pancakes". That I was doing a job beneath me. That I should get an education and reach my potential.
Meanwhile, I was working 5 hours a day and spending the rest of my time nurturing my relationship with my daughter. To its full potential. Learning how to be the best mom I could be to her.
It was worth it.

I won't go over in tedium all the choices I've made over the past 8 years of my life as a mother, but I will say that all of them (as far as work, living arrangements, etc) were made with the best interest of my children and our family unit in mind. ALL of them.
Is that not worthwhile?
Does that make me lazy, unmotivated, unsuccessful?
Because that's what people are telling me.

Men are telling me, they've worked hard to become successful in their careers, in their lives, they make good money and are good at what they do, and they deserve a woman who is just as ambitious.

I want to say....
so here I am saying:

I have worked hard to become a good mom, and I continue to work hard at it every day. It is and always will be the most important thing in my life. ALWAYS. I have other dreams that I strive to work into my life every day. If an opportunity comes up to chase those dreams that won't interfere greatly with my life with my children, or damage our relationship, I take it.
I nurture my love of music both through work opportunities and by doing little things like taking voice lessons when I can, going to karaoke to keep away the stage fright and strengthen my performance abilities...
I keep music around the house constantly and it is something that binds my family, and has for generations.

I am good at what I do. I'm a good singer, I'm a good pianist. I get good jobs because I am a good pianist. I feel happy when I sing. I use my voice to soothe my children, to sing my babies to sleep. I use my hands to wash dishes and clean house and cook healthy meals and apply ointment and bandaids to scrapes and bruises, I exercise and dance alone when I can, and sometimes I dance at home with my kids. I use my arms to hold my kids when they cry and to cuddle them when we have quiet moments together.
I may not be rich or live in a nice house, but I work hard to keep the house I have in order, safe, and comfortable for me and my kiddos. I may not be the best accountant in the world, but I manage to keep my kids clothed and fed, and when I have surplus, I usually use it to take them to do fun things that will be treasured memories for all of us.

I am ambitious. I am successful. I have beaten many odds, I have fought severe depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc... alone. While raising two kids, alone.
And I have not failed, we are still fighting. We are still together. We are healthy. The kids are happy, smart, safe, and loved.
And as they get older and spend more time out of the nest and out of my care, as older children will do (*sniffle*), I will then spend more time using my hands and my arms and my voice and my body and my ambition and my brain to succeed in other things.

But when I am old and dying and looking back on my life, I know one thing for sure:
I will not regret spending these years being a mom. I will not regret being "unsuccessful" or "not ambitious enough" for the shallow minded men and women of this generation.
I will be glad that I spent the extra hours with my babies while they were babies. I will be glad I saw their first steps, and heard their first words.
I will be glad that even though we struggled financially, constantly, they always knew I was there for them and that somehow, I would find a way to take care of them. No matter what.
I think they will be glad, too. I think they would rather say "my mom was there for me. I have so many good memories with her as a child", than, "my mom had such a great job and a degree, and I only saw her for like an hour a day but she could pay for swimming lessons and dance lessons and soccer camp and expensive clothes and a pretty car".

I think.
I hope.
That is what I believe.

I also believe that in all actuality, a man or woman who doesn't believe that, is not worthy of me, and in fact, is not all that successful in life after all.
I won't be the one with regrets later, even if your comments and insults hurt now....
I will look back and be satisfied that I did the most important job in life that one can do, and did it as well as I possibly could. On my own, no less.
I have screwed up, I do screw up. I make mistakes. I have fallen down and had a helluva time getting up. I have had to ask for help. I still sometimes have no idea what I'm doing, except that I'm doing my BEST.
But any of you out there who haven't screwed up once or twice in your endeavors...? Let me know and I'd love to take a class or two from you.

I am ambitious, I am successful, I am driven. I'm worth it. My kids are worth it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

If It Makes You Happy (then why the hell are you so sad?)

So, sadly but somewhat amusingly, the relationship that I spoke of in my last entry is now over and done with. It was pretty sudden, but everything about that relationship was a clusterfuck of confusion and jumping the gun and being overly impulsive, but.. happy. For a minute.

A friend of mine (big time blogger Dan Pearce at once wrote a blog about how time is a relationship's friend. I will paraphrase it badly, but basically the gist of it was, we get so scared of things not working and WANT this happiness so badly that we force it, we jump too fast, we figure if we can lock things down sooner, then better, because then we're.. um. Trapped.

Yeah, trapped.. doesn't sound so good now, does it?

But the thing I've learned about life is that you're never trapped. If something isn't working, you can either try to fix it or you can let it go. If it isn't fixable you better let it go, or you're gonna be really unhappy.
When you have two people involved in the "will it work?" equation, then both have to be totally on board if you want to try to fix it. Obviously.
Or it should be obvious, but again, I've learned that people (ME) are silly and .. will try for ages to carry a relationship on their hope and love alone, when the other person has a foot or even both feet out the door.

In most of my relationships, one or both of us have had a foot out the door in some way. Maybe we didn't want to admit it to even ourselves, but we did.

I did it with my first long-term relationship.
The one after that, the other guy did it, in a huge way. And got me pregnant, and then had two feet out the door, running. And that was the beginning of me learning how to be dysfunctional in a relationship. How to have a backup plan at all times. How to assume that when a man looked me in the eyes and said he loved me, that was probably lying to get laid.

So, this time, I started the relationship with a foot out the door. And he started it without an ounce of trust. So the damage was done before anything got done... And we both just made it worse, day by day, meanwhile trying so hard to love each other and make it work.

We are both good people. We both really cared about each other. We both really wanted it to work.

But two good people do not a great relationship make, and here we are.

We lied to each other.. he went behind my back. He invaded my privacy, I broke his trust. He did things that put my family's finances in jeopardy, he lied when he told me everything was okay... he broke my trust too. The day I was ready to get my foot out of that door and be all in, he did some things that proved to me that WE would never be okay again.

I was so scared to let that relationship go, even though it was a weight on my shoulders.. always being watched, always being judged, never being good enough. I was scared because for the first time in years I felt like I was LOVED. I felt stronger because of it.. I got more done in that month than I've gotten done in a year. I was motivated and... mostly happy.
But I was sad, too. I cried at night after he fell asleep. We fought because he made me feel inferior, because HE was insecure.
We were the perfect mirrors for each other to see our own ugliness, magnify it in the other person and hurt each other, all in the name of "happiness".

The thing is... I'm not upset.
I'm a little sad, and I will be for a while, but this time, I KNEW when it was time to let go. And I just did it. Cut the ties and walked away and kept walking, and amazingly, instead of walking back into the arms of someone from my past like usual, I'm just walking ahead. Alone. And it's okay.
For the first time, I feel like I can do this. And I don't need to be loved my anyone but me and my kids. And we're okay.

We are okay.

I'm redefining my happiness, and it's kind of cool. I love learning lessons... I love finding out how strong I am. Even when it hurts.

I don't like this sunburn, I could go without that, but at least I won't forget sunscreen again. Like, ever. Ever.

And if there's another relationship in the future, I'm either putting both feet in or none at all, cause that's the only way to do life. All in.

Now if I could just get my house put back together.. I will be sleeping on the couch for a while. :-p

Monday, July 2, 2012

So Scary: Healthy Relationships after Dysfunction...

When unhealthy relationships become so normal, so par for course, that you actually begin to crave certain aspects of them...
well, that can perpetuate years and years of unhappiness.
It begins an addictive cycle like unto that of drug abuse, where the majority of the time, you are fighting withdrawals, pain, emotional and physical trauma, lower and lower self-esteem by the day, and trying ever and always to mold yourself into whatever someone wants you to be so you can get your fix. And you get your fix, and it's this huge, crazy magical high, and then the next morning you wake up alone and it starts all over again.
And you like it, for some fucked up reason. You love it. you can't get enough of it. And a "normal" relationship looks like .. boring. it looks like "settling". It's not psychotically passionate so it's not love, right?

eh, wrong.

Luckily for me (I can't believe I just said that), the main "target" of my dysfunctional affection (and I, the main target of his) was so unwilling to commit that we never got in far enough for it to be an outward, financially, life-habit-changing difference for me when we finally said enough is enough, and went our separate ways. For good. However, it was and has been one of the most painful emotional experiences of my life. I have been in pieces.

This was in March... though I saw it coming for months. And held on like the family of someone who is dying of a terminal disease... hoping and praying for a cure... disbelieving. In complete denial.

And so began a lot of soul-searching. And writing. And traumatic events. And revelations.
And all of it led to me finding that instead of 1 day out 20, it was more like 2 days out of 5, I was waking up and feeling like I could maybe LIVE through that day. Like maybe I could get up and take care of my kids. Maybe I could sit and hold my son on my lap and just bask in the moment instead of my head wandering off to places I should've kept closed and locked. Maybe I could listen to my daughter tell me one of her long "riddles" or stories without wanting to scream "STOP TALKING" just so I could listen to my own dismal voices in my head.

I was getting better.

I still missed him. But I was getting better.

And one night, this random guy I'd talked to a few times on facebook posted that he was having a hard night. His son's mom had effectively kidnapped him and taken him to live 6 hours away without even allowing him a goodbye...
He needed a friend. I didn't have my kids that night, and for once I was in a place where I felt like maybe I could be the one who wasn't falling apart. in fact, maybe this was my chance to finally lift myself up by lifting someone else, again...

That was June 7th.
Last night, we finished moving his stuff into my house.
in the middle of all that, we haven't spent a night apart yet.

I didn't know what was happening. I still missed my ex, every day. I still cried in quiet, lonely moments. I got scared, I had doubts, I talked to other guys, I tried to "keep a few on the line". I told people I didn't think this would last very long and I had jumped in too fast. I sabotaged.
so did he. We were both scared.

But what I KNEW was that in the middle of all the confusion, when I was in his arms, or holding his hand, I felt good. Happy. At peace. I haven't self-harmed for a month now. My drinking has slowed to, generally, a glass of wine or the equivalent (in wine coolers or something) each night before bed, or sometimes no drink at all. On nights out with friends (which are becoming rarer due to work) I will drink, but still not extremely heavily. I don't think I was ever a full-blown alcoholic, but I was using it as a crutch. And I don't need it anymore.

And I found that I was falling asleep easier. Fewer nightmares. I had moments when I was excited about the future.
moments when I would look at this boy and just smile because he was there.
Moments when he would walk in the door and I felt myself heave a sigh of relief, like... he's home...I'm home.

I'm not going to lie, I don't know what's going to happen. When I made the choice to have him move in, it was largely out of a need for a roommate. Yup. Financial convenience. But I also enjoyed his company, knew we got along, trust him with the kids, and we were consistently spending the night at one another's houses anyway. He had to move, so why not here?

Then one night, I passed out at his house, exhausted from the lack of sleep that most "honeymoon phasers" suffer from, and he took me and my phone to bed. My daughter's dad texted me at 2:30 ish am about some things we'd been talking about the night before, and thus, my boyfriend got to read every insecurity and every doubt and every assumption I'd made... he got to hear how much I still miss my ex. He got to read that I was still considering running off to California to be with my daughter's dad.

And the next day we fought and I knew it was over because I learned over the past ... 7 years? That in a relationship, if I screw up, if I piss the guy off, if we fight.. if something cracks, we throw it out. We don't even try to super-glue it before it gets worse, we just throw it out and run. Go find a new version.
And sometimes come back later after we've superglued OURSELVES back together and try again, until the foundation starts to falter again. And then we run. Again.

And then the rain started pouring... my utilities were about to be shut off. My car has been without insurance for months. My front tires were bald and one had a bubble in it. I have to start my community service for my "driving impaired" charge... the A/C in my house died THAT day (it was 98 degrees inside the house and 95 outside, with the week forecasted to be near 110 every day, and it only gets worse in July...). I was inconsoleable.
And I just wanted my boyfriend's calming presence, I wanted him there to tell me it would all be okay, but I had ruined it.

And then he called me, and he told me it was all going to be okay, and that I don't have to do this alone.
And he has told me every day... that I don't have to do this alone. And instead of throwing it away, we talked. We made up. We worked through things, we set boundaries, we compromised, and the cracks disappeared.

All of this is such unfamiliar territory that I feel like a visitor in a foreign country, where I know nobody, I don't speak the language, I don't know the laws or rules or how to act properly and not land my ass in a foreign prison. That's how weird it feels.
But it also feels like seeing something extraordinarily beautiful for the first time and having this weird happiness that I don't really understand, that doesn't come from the satisfaction of groveling and begging and changing who I am externally to please someone and finally getting a few moments of attention from them.. it comes from knowing the person I'm with accepts me exactly as I am. Faults and all, faults that he sees clearly and knows may be a part of me forever. He accepts me.
He works his ass off. He has 10x my energy and understands that and encourages me to reach beyond that but also doesn't cut me down for not being able to keep up some days.

He is a good man. One who's been screwed over, but who didn't let it turn him into someone who uses that as an excuse to treat the women he's with like trash.

For the first time in my life I'm "in it together" with someone. Like, really. Equally.
And at night before we go to sleep, I feel so right it's ridiculous. I wonder if this is what love is supposed to feel like. I wonder if this is the foundations that real, lasting relationships are built on.
I hope.
I don't ever let myself hope, but I hope.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning after he's left for work and look at the empty side of the bed, and memories of my ex fill my head. And it hurts. But most of the pain now is just residual pain, from the ways he tore me down, the ways he squashed my spirit and my soul... It's the pain of wounds almost healed, but that will always leave scars.
It's the pain of knowing how wrong something was for so long and wondering how I could have thought it was right.
It's wishing that he could have loved me back the way I loved him, but in the same breath being grateful that he didn't... because it never would have been like this. I never would have felt completely safe... And I  never would have been able to be me.
Or hope. It would've been a life of fear of the next disappointment.

It still hurts.
But I have someone that's willing to walk with me through the pain, and every day, I find a little more joy than the day before, and a little less pain.
I know that things will come up. We will disagree, we may fight. We may hurt each other's feelings. But we are people who fix things, especially things that are this valuable. You can't just replace a person, and I found one of the best.

It's a good thing. Love. The real kind.

And now I need to go try to get at least a few things done while he's at work. Eek.