Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Just Keep Swimming...

I sucked at life last week. 

Truthfully, I had been setting myself up to have a bad week for a while now. For the last month or so, I’ve been progressively making decisions that weren’t... shall we say... goal-oriented. I’ve just been doing some stupid shit. And I feel pretty crappy about it. 

I’ve been focusing my sexual energy on men who are emotionally detached or unavailable. Or both. So now I’m lonely. I’ve been focusing my financial energy on those damn little keno balls. So now I’m broke. And I’ve been focusing my physical energy on stretching my days as long as possible but not taking the time to nourish my body or my mind. So now I’m sick. 

I can recover from all these things. I’ve done it before. It just takes grounding myself again. And nothing like a good old case of Shingles to ground yourself. 

I mean, seriously? Shingles? 

As frustrating as it’s been to deal with, it’s really not all that surprising that I got it. I mean, Shingles is basically a physical manifestation of stress. And while I don’t always feel like my life is stressful, when I take a step back and look at everything I’m juggling and how I choose to handle all of it, it totally makes sense. 

I finally had a little breakdown this past weekend. My son is going through a less than desirable whiney stage and we had spent a long and challenging morning together. My parents had been out doing their usual Saturday morning routine and when they got home, I left him with my mom for a minute, went upstairs, sat on my bed and cried tears of exhaustion and frustration. I really felt like I hadn’t nailed the whole mom-thing that day. Or the last few days, really. I felt bad that I was so irritated by his crying. I just really, really needed a break. 

It’s times like these that I am so grateful that I’m not completely alone in raising my son and that my parents are there to help pick me up. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for all those women (and men) out there who are truly doing it all by themselves. Because parenting is hard. Like, really hard. 

Anyway, crying it out helped. And going to work that night helped too. I worked a shift alongside one of my closest friends and talked it all out. I felt better about myself and knew that not only was it time for an energy shift, but I knew I could do it. 

Sunday I relaxed. I watched football. I hung out with my dad. Johnny came and took Xander for a few hours so I napped (for the love of everything good..I fucking napped). I hung out with my mom. I ate good food. I drank some tea. I watched Westworld. 

I recharged. Both my brain and my body. 

So today, I woke up ready to mom the SHIT out of this day. I got up early and cleaned my room and the nursery. I did a bunch of laundry. I made food for Xander. I took him for a walk around the park. I helped my mom with our Halloween decorations for the house. Then I went to work and rocked out a banquet. And after I post this, I’m going to go to bed instead of staying up too late watching Netflix. 

You know, grown up shit. 

It’s very easy to get lost in my head. Instead of being thankful for all the things I have, I start to get frustrated with the things I don’t like about my life. I start to worry about things that haven’t even happened yet. And I start to feel resentful that others have it easier than me. But that’s no way to live. I have to remember that I can’t count on others to ensure my happiness. Only I can control how I handle life’s little challenges. 

So, back at it. Falling down, breaking down, being down... all of these things are normal. As long as I’m not staying down, I’m winning. 

I was finishing up the banquet paperwork tonight at work when, out of nowhere, one of the bussers that was cleaning a table near me looked up and said, “Tina, I wish there were more women like you in the world.” I looked back at him, but he had already started walking back to the kitchen. And once again, I started to cry. 

But those tears... those are the kind of tears I’m okay with.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Celebrating My Soulmate

My sweet boy is one tomorrow. 

Everyone asks me, “It went by so quickly, didn’t it?” And while the answer is yes, I also feel like so much has happened in his first year of life. I’m actually relieved we made it to this milestone mostly unscathed. 

I was talking about my hospital stay with a friend of mine the other day. It was awesome. I delivered at Mountainview Hospital. It wasn’t a busy birthing time and I was lucky enough to get the largest suite on the floor. The room even lived up to the hospital’s namesake and I enjoyed beautiful views of the mountains off in the distance. Because I ended up having an emergency c-section, I got to stay one more day than originally planned. My mom kept saying how it will be so nice once I was able to go home but I was in no hurry. Not only was every nurse that came into my room nicer than the one before (and the first one was amazing!), but it was pretty wonderful being waited on hand and foot for three days. Yes, there was a tiny human sharing a room with me and scaring me to death throughout the process, but my mom was with me almost the entire time and when she wasn’t there, I had Johnny to be frightened with. 

But the best time of all was my final night. My mom had gone home to get some sleep and Johnny was at work. The television was on in my dark room but only to provide a soothing dim light and hum while Xander and I nursed and spent some quiet time together. Of course I had no idea at that time the tumultuous year we had ahead with Johnny and I breaking up, me giving up my lifestyle of drinking and smoking and ultimately moving in with my parents, the tears, the struggles, the stress and the fights. In that moment, I remember just looking down at his little face and thinking, “Okay. Now it’s you. Now it’s all about you.” 

So last week after my brother, who stormed out of my son’s birthday party because I politely asked him to control his misbehaving son, sent me a text calling me spoiled and encouraged me to start putting my son before myself, I felt heartbroken. Spoiled? Really? And putting myself first? That’s actually almost laughable... but I didn’t laugh. 

Call me narcissistic, sure. A loudmouth? Absolutely. Self-righteous? That goes without saying. But how could anyone who has spent ANY time with me in the last year imply that my first thought when making any and ALL decisions hasn’t been what is best for my son. 

I liked drinking. I liked smoking. Cigarettes AND weed. I liked staying out all night. I liked having no one to answer to. I liked living independently. I liked my life. It may have been slowly killing me, but I didn’t care. I LIKED IT. And if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I can guarantee you, I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way I was living. 

THAT was being spoiled. THAT was putting myself before anything and everyone else. I may get into Mama Bear mode now and then these days, but I was a straight up asshole before my son was born. And I didn’t give ANY fucks about it. 

So, yeah, it sucked to hear my brother thinks that about me now. It either shows that I have a long way to go to be the kind of mother I want to be... or that he doesn’t know me at all. 

Even though I stopped nursing Xander at nine months, I still hold him while he has his last bottle of the day. We sit together on the chair in his nursery, in the dark, with nothing but the white noise from the fan to soothe us. It always reminds me of that night in the hospital, our first time alone together. I like to think that he remembers it too. 

We have lots of love and support in our lives and for that, we are extremely lucky. But there is also something special that he and I have. A “Me and Xander Against the World” kind of feeling. I hope he always knows my intentions and that my new life is being truly, deeply and 100% committed to his. 

Happy 1st birthday, beautiful boy. This is not the first time I’ve said it and it will most certainly not be the last...

Thank you for saving my life.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Recipe of Mixed Emotions Bakes a Random Cake

“Nobody talks anymore. And so we’ve all become a bunch of unopened love letters.” 

- Erin Van Vuren

Via text: 

“I’m not sure when it happened, but it was fairly recent... I found myself thinking about you. More so than just wondering how you were doing or thinking of something funny to text you. You were just there, on my mind, day in and day out and I couldn’t shake it. I know it’s not appropriate for many reasons and I would never act on anything because of both your personal relationship and our [friendship]. I respect both very much. And honestly, I kind of wish I’d stop thinking about you because it DOES prevent me from pursuing other options. So I just wait for this all to pass, but not knowing how that works exactly.”

That’s the closest to a love letter I’ve written in a very long time. I wasn't sure I should’ve written it at all, let alone actually SEND it. But I did both. 

It’s been so long since I’ve had a genuine “crush” on someone. Something beyond just a sexual attraction. This is the kind where you get excited to see the other person. You wonder what is going on in their lives and what made them laugh that day. You seek opportunities to cross paths and start conversations just to have some sort of interaction. You wait until they aren’t home and take a bath in their bathtub..

Oh wait.. not that last part. That was from Orange is the New Black.. 

Everything else though. And it’s nice to feel that way. I have been so wrapped up in my own bullshit for so many years that I never really took the time to have a true, real crush on another person. And while, in this particular case, it will never become more than that, I’m still enjoying feeling the butterflies, fleeting as they may be. Good, well-intentioned crushes are good for the soul, I think. 

* * *

Fifteen years ago today, people said their last words to thousands of loved ones without knowing it. It never gets easier when this day comes. Whether it's the specials on television, the touching statuses and pictures on social media or just the memories of where I was that day, it’s always difficult. Because it’s not just the act itself that was so destructive. The aftermath of sadness, frustration, hate and retaliation has been absolutely heartbreaking. We were united as a country for such a short period of time. Now, racism and social injustice are more rampant than ever. A country divided, that’s what we are. And I don’t know how we are going to fix it. 

Mother Theresa said that if you want to change the world, go home and love your family. Sadly, it doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t going to happen. But I need the people most important to me to know the difference they make in my life. I need my parents to know how much I love and respect them. I need my brother to know that I understand how hard life can be. I need my son to know that every decision I’ve made since finding out he was going to be mine has been with only his best interests at heart. 

And I need my crush to know that he’s... well... my crush. Because everyone deserves to feel good about who they are to someone else. Even if it never has a chance to go any further than that. 

I hold so much negativity about choices I’ve made in my life. I get frustrated when I think about all the people I let in that I shouldn’t have and all the other ones that I let walk away without them knowing how much they meant to me. So as I continue working on being the best person I can be, this is another area in which I hope to improve. 

This is not a day to be happy. And even though I plan on spending it with my favorite people (my family) doing my favorite thing (watching football), I still have a heavy heart. The world may never, ever be good again. We may never figure out how to live happily as a society. Our next president may just be the worst and scariest one we’ve had. And Colin Kaepernick may never stand for the National Anthem again... 

But I kissed my son. I hugged my friends. I loved my family. And I sent that text. I feel like Mother Theresa would be proud. 

I know it sounds a bit cliche... but if you are reading this, maybe you will tell someone today what they mean to you. Or just that you are thinking about them. It doesn’t take much but it could mean everything. Not just for their happiness... but for yours as well. Who knows? Maybe you'll choose to reveal your crush too. 

I'd probably go ahead and skip the creepy bath thing though... 

Monday, August 29, 2016

"I am the Master of My Fate; I am the Captain of My Soul.... "

Existentialism - a philosophical theory or approach 
that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free 
and responsible agent determining 
their own development through acts of the will. 

Today marks six months of sobriety for me. I decided to do something very important to celebrate. 

I got dressed up and went out by myself. 

I picked a nice location not too far from the house. 

I went inside, grabbed a seat at the bar, held my head up and... 

I ordered a glass of wine.

And then, I drank it. 

Yep, you read that right. After six months of not drinking, I no longer have a “sobriety date.” And it feels amazing and liberating. 

My life is so, so different these days. I never thought I’d be a mom. I never thought I’d be spending my evenings making baby food and washing diapers. I never thought that the few hours I get after my son goes to sleep would be dedicated to a quick workout at the gym or squeezing in an episode or two of whatever TV show I’m currently into. 

And until just very, very recently, I never thought I could have a healthy relationship with alcohol again. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not planning on having another drink anytime soon. I have no desire to nor do I wish to put my body and mind through all of that again. But sitting down tonight and slowly sipping that glass of wine meant a lot to me. 

See, I didn’t fit well with a 12 step program... because even though I was absolutely accepted for not believing in a god, I was still told that I needed to look to a “higher power” for strength. My “higher power” needed to be something outside of myself. Many Atheists considered the group itself to be their source of strength. One man said I could use my son. But while my son was definitely my motivation to quit drinking and straighten up, he didn’t pull the bottle out of my hand. 

I did. I quit drinking. I decided I was better than the person I was being. I chose to remove myself from an unhealthy relationship and create a new life with my parents and son. The choices I made got me into trouble just like they got me right back out of it. I knew I was fucking up and said nope, that’s not the person I want to be. 

I want to be the kind of person who has control of their life. I am not a victim of my circumstances. Nothing has power over me and my own free will. 

I am a strong, competent and intelligent woman. I answer to one person and she looks at me with my eyes every night through my reflection. No one expects more from me than her and no one believes in me more than she does. 

I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin. I’ve never been so confident in what I have to offer and the kind of person I can be to my friends, my family and my son. I’ve never felt more important and more worthy of love and respect. 

I did that. 

I asked my mom if it was okay for this to be the last month that we celebrated by using flowers. Of course she understood and was happy, as always, to support me in my decision. I will always keep these flowers as a reminder of who I was and who I've chosen to become. 

I’ll never be done growing. I’ll always learn more and more about who I am and I look forward to the process. My son teaches me every day how important it is to be patient, to be kind, to be stern and to be loving. 

I will make mistakes and I will have regrets. I will never be the person that gets a tattoo saying the opposite. In fact, I regret most of my tattoos... but I will move forward, knowing that the person I am today is because of every choice I’ve ever made. Good or bad, I will always cherish that. 

I imagine there will be some judgment as a result of this blog. It’s cool. I can handle it. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. I respect that everyone is fighting their own battle and that they may not understand the weapon a person chooses. But at the end of the day, I know I’m winning the war I’ve waged. 

I am not a drunk. I am not defined by a sobriety date. I am not “in recovery”. I do not have a “disease”. I am just a person who doesn’t want to drink. And I’m tired of talking about it.

Thank you, as always, to those who support, those who hate and those who just observe. I learn from all of you and, in my life, knowledge truly is power. 

I am the master of my fate; 

I am the captain of my soul. 

- William E. Henley, Invictus

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Even My Ego Has Sobered Up

A friend of mine had her baby right around the time I had Xander. It was also her first, also kind of unexpected and also frightening for her. We had a lot of good, relatable conversations during our pregnancies. It was nice to be able to connect to someone going through the same emotions I was. 

A couple of months ago, she sent me an email to touch base and see how things were. I explained that while my baby was doing well, I was incredibly stressed and sad because my relationship had failed, he had chosen his addiction and lifestyle over us and that I was moving out. I told her I was confident that we would be able to co-parent pretty well as the love for his son was never in question, he just wasn’t able to make the decision to be sober with me and I knew I could never make it work if he kept drinking. I was heartbroken and worried that my son would resent me for not staying and trying to make it work. But I knew that I wasn’t in love anymore and that it was more important for Xander to be around a positive and sober influence and that hopefully one day he would understand that my choice was because my love for him ran so deep and true. 

She then opened up to me about struggles she was having with her own relationship. However, she was unable to go into detail for fear that he would read her messages. She said that she wasn’t sure they would be able to make it work either. But she was also sad and distraught because she said what kind of man would want to be with her now that she had a child to take care of?

That thought has crossed my mind. However, she is much younger than I am so I can see how it would be more of a concern for her than maybe it is for me. For one thing, anyone around my age that is also in the dating pool (not that I plan on swimming anytime soon) is probably either a parent themselves or at least has experience dating someone with a child or children. 

My first table last night was four guys around my age, all pretty good looking and having a typical “Vegas” time. They joked, flirted and I was happy to have the attention. When one of them asked me if I was married or had a boyfriend, it was strange to say no. I immediately became self-conscious and followed it up with “Guess that means I’m crazy, huh?” and laughed it off. The least drunk of the four asked for my “story” and for some reason, I told it. The Reader’s Digest version, of course. I showed them pictures of my son. They were all very sweet and wished me luck with him. They left me a very generous tip but the flirting ended pretty quickly. Well, except for the drunkest of the four which basically just asked me to have sex with him. It is still Vegas, after all.  

This is about the right time after a breakup where, in the past, I would have been starving for male attention and hitting up bars, online dating sites or past flirts and begging for validation that I was still attractive, still desirable and still worthy of at least a one-night stand. I would be ready to jump into another superficial relationship built on drunken conversation and narcissism. Anything to get away from the voice inside my head reminding me of how alone I was. 

Of course, things are different now. 

I definitely think about what a future relationship would look like for me. I don’t drink because I can’t handle my shit. I live with my parents very happily and willingly. I lost my sex drive a couple of years ago and still haven’t managed to find it. And then the fact that any man who comes into my world from now on will, at best, be the second most important man in my life. Forever. 

It is kind of distressing. I can see why my friend would be worried about it. 

I started to write “no one wants to be alone” just now... But that’s actually not true. I have met many women - and men - that find alone to just be easier. Simpler. Yes, coupling certainly has its perks, but believe me, so does the single life. 

The refreshing part of all this is that I know whatever decisions I make with men from this point on will be made with a sober mind, which I can honestly say hasn’t happened since I started drinking when I was 20. That’s a pretty big deal. And I’m not nearly as hungry for attention as I thought I’d be. Maybe it’s because I get plenty of attention from the only man that really counts. 

A friend at work told me once that she wasn’t able to find the perfect man so instead, she created him. I feel this way sometimes. But I think we all know that the spot a son takes in one’s heart still has a few voids that only a partner can fill. 

I used to think any man I chose to be with would be lucky to have me. Which would then leave me angry and bitter when they decided they didn’t want me enough to change who they were when things got tough. I mean, the nerve! Didn’t they know who I was?? Ha.. Now I know better. The man that comes into my life now and loves me for my imperfections, my struggles, my son, my family and, most importantly, my truths... boy, will I be the lucky one to have THAT man. 

Funny how I always thought drinking made me more confident when, in fact, it just gave my ego the munchies. Now I know how to feed myself and it feels pretty remarkable. 

No shame in my work game though... if a couple of guys from out of town want to flirt with me and then throw down a 35% tip, I’m not gonna argue. Organic baby food isn’t cheap. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Plagiarism is the New Black

My mom has always been a big card giver. I probably have an entire moving box full of cards somewhere in storage that she has sent me throughout the years. A very large percentage of these cards were sent to me when I moved to Los Angeles to go to school. 

Her cards were funny... there was usually very little written inside of them. A lone smiley face most of the time. However, she always wrote on the envelope. A sweet little IMU right where it was sealed. Other times, she would write me a little something, but it would be on a post-it note inside of the card. She said that way I could reuse it if I wanted. And she also didn’t want to mess up the card itself if what she wanted to say didn’t come out right the first time. 

Mostly, though, she said she really didn’t know what to say. She liked cards because she could find one that said exactly what she was thinking and she was always able to find the perfect one for any occasion. 

But really, her handwritten IMU on the outside of that envelope was all I ever needed. 

There is a Facebook page that I follow called Word Porn. It is full of quotes and sayings that sometimes make me happy, sometimes make me sad... but mostly, they make me reflect. I can relate to so many. The words come right from my head, before I realize I'm even thinking them. I started saving the ones that meant the most so I could read them later and maybe find writing inspiration. Instead, I thought I’d just post them here.. the ones that really mean something to me right now as I continue moving through this transitional phase of my life. 

Sober. Single. Mom. Three things I did NOT plan on being at 36 years old. I used to be a pretty big planner. Now, I do my best to keep my shit together just long enough so that I can relax in bed at the end of the day and watch an episode or two of whatever random show takes my mind off of everything else. Things aren’t bad... they just aren’t... what I expected. 

Expectations. I guess having them is really where I make all my mistakes. Expecting people to be a certain way. Expecting my life to be a certain way. Expecting events to turn out a certain way. All that seems to result in is constant disappointment. 

As always, I’m trying to live in the moment. I’m trying to look past the world and its sadness, its problems, its despair. I’m trying to look at what’s right in front of me and enjoy it. I’m fighting every day to be the person my family needs, not the self-destructive person that chooses to be numb as a way to make life easier to live. 

Life wasn’t ever supposed to be easy. I want it to be... but that’s just not its design. However, there are some things I can count on... my mom and dad, my natural instincts, and the knowledge that a decaf coffee is truly decaf if the cafe serves it luke warm. Those constants help me wade through all the bullshit of one day and wake up to face the next. 

So I get online, I read these quotes and it tells me I’m not the only one feeling this way. Which is why I started blogging to begin with, so people might find things I say relatable and it might help them connect with their own struggles. 

And in those times when I can’t find the words, at least someone else has found them for me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"I Love Lamp."

I bought a lamp the other day. It wasn’t given to me, I didn’t get it at a garage sale and I didn’t buy it simply because I got a good deal on it. I didn’t even really need it. But I saw it. I wanted it. I bought it. It’s MY lamp. 

I took a break from unpacking the other night and looked around my new room. It’s big. I got the master bedroom. In our new 2,000 square foot house, the master bedroom is almost like a small studio apartment. At least that’s what it feels like to me. Especially since I’ve been sharing a bedroom with my eight and a half month old for the past few months. 

My new room fits my king size bed, my two bookshelves, a DVD holder, a small computer desk and chair, my bistro set with four stools and a bedside table. Even with all the furniture, there is a nice open area where Xander can sit and play. The walk in closet is even bigger than my last one and I feel extra spoiled with the huge bathroom. Actually, a little guilty is what I feel for not insisting that my roommates take the master. After all, they’ve been married for almost 40 years. 

I was talking to one of my co-workers a few weeks ago. She asked me how things were going at home. I explained that I had officially separated from Johnny and that my parents and I had gotten a new house together and were going to combine our resources to take some financial pressure off of both households. She had made a comment that while she doesn’t make a lot of money, she always made sure she had enough so that she would never have to move back in with her mom. 

I wasn't offended or embarrassed. But I get it. 

No matter how I present the information (it’s seriously a roommate situation with bills split and everything), I still “live with my parents”. And while it is definitely an ideal environment, especially having additional help with my little guy, it comes with it’s own set of challenges. The most significant one for me being a feeling of lost independence. It’s hard not to have my own place. In two weeks, I’ll be turning 36 years old and the judge-y little voice that lives inside my head is disappointed that I have not done more to provide my son with everything he needs without having to rely on anyone else. But then, I’ve never lived that kind of life. Just getting by is kind of my thing. 

I know I need to get over it. My parents are amazing. They are great with Xander and have always been supportive of me, even when I wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing with my life. In fact, I’m not sure I could’ve made them take the master bedroom. My mom knows me pretty well and knows I need my space and as much independence as I can get. However, I think even she was a little confused by my excitement over my new lamp. 

You see, my bed was something I purchased with Johnny. My bookshelves I purchased in Long Beach with my ex. The desk, another ex. In fact, the majority of my furniture reminds me of past relationships. Even a lot of my pictures that I hang carry with them memories of the past. And while I have mostly made amends with my history, a lot of these things remind me of good times turned sour. 

It is, of course, ridiculous to think of getting rid of these things simply because they make me sad. But I was anxious to add something new. Something that would represent a fresh start. Something that could help me hold on to my sense of independence, even if I don’t entirely have it anymore. Something that has only been mine. 

And it’s this. This silly, simple and understated lamp. 

My son is happy with his surroundings. He sleeps well, he seems very comfortable and it makes me feel really good that he has a loving family to grow up around. For these reasons, I know I am doing the best thing for him. This soothes my judge-y voice... even if just temporarily. 

Still dealing with lots of shit as breakups are certainly harder when there is a baby involved. They are even more difficult when dealing with an adult who isn’t very good at adulting. While we will always be in each other's lives, I’ll definitely be thrilled to be on the other side of this initial drama. 

In the meantime, I’m adjusting to my new surroundings, working as much as I can, watching a lot of Netflix and now, enjoying my before-bedtime-read even more. I still struggle to find happiness in every day life, but even I can see that things are certainly looking brighter. 

Pun intended.