Friday, August 30, 2013

On Being a Stay at Home Momma

I spent the better half of a decade teaching public high school.  It was a challenging, often difficult career, but it was also fulfilling and rewarding since it wasn't just a career.  It was a calling.  I loved "my kids" even on the days I wanted to wring their moody, hormonal little necks.  I was protective of them and often felt like a substitute parent to many of them.

Pregnant Woman by Nooshin Zarnani
When I left my classroom in May of 2010, it was bittersweet.  It had been a long year since on top of the regular "teacher stuff,"  I'd also struggled with morning sickness (that often lasted all day), swollen ankles and feet, agonizing sciatica, untreated anxiety, and the regular exhaustion that comes with pregnancy.  I was ready to stay home, put up my feet and wait for my daughter to arrive in eight weeks.  But her arrival would also mean I wouldn't return to the classroom since I'd made the decision to stay at home with my little girl in lieu of returning to work. I was excited and thankful that I had the opportunity to be home with my daughter, but I also feared I might be unhappy and lonely and bored.  I knew women who admitted that they returned to work not out of necessity but because they didn't enjoy being home full time.  As the days crepppppppt by and I awaited my baby's arrival, my future as a SAHM became a source of additional anxiety.

Fast forward three years.

I'm sitting in the recliner with Peanut in my lap.  We're watching The Rescuers for the first time since it's one of her favorite bedtime books. Both of us are still in pajamas with unbrushed teeth and hair, even though it's almost one in the afternoon.  Our breakfast--well, brunch--plates are stacked on the end table, sticky with the remnants of homemade strawberry preserves I made this summer.  There is a tiara on my head and at least a dozen bracelets on my wrist.  Peanut is sporting a Rapunzel wig and every remaining piece of jewelry from her dress up box.  It has been a deliciously lazy day with my favorite small person.  Bored isn't on my radar, nor is unhappy, lonely or unfulfilled.

Every day isn't like this, though.  I never realized how busy I would stay as a SAHM.  I never imagined how stressed or frustrated or CRAZY I would feel.  It's not that I thought it would be easy, but I always visualized being this super hands-on mom and "on top of things" woman with a happy, well-rounded child, a clean house, home-cooked meals on the table each evening, and a free minutes left at the end of the day to write.

Surely I can handle one child and a home if I don't have to work outside the home, I thought.

Well, I can do those things.  Just not on the same day.

Love and Despair by Sandra Butler
There is nothing that can truly prepare you for the mind-numbing exhaustion of a newborn or infant.  There were days that my biggest accomplishment was not falling asleep and dropping my baby during feeding time.  Some weeks the only laundry I finished was cleaning poop out of her onesies.

There is nothing that can truly prepare you for the anxiety that accompanies a child in motion.  Even ten years of keeping an eye on 30 teenagers at once wasn't training enough for keeping track of one crawling 10 month old.  One time, I left the room for twelve seconds.  I know it was twelve because I later timed the same task.  During that minuscule frame of time, my child managed to seemingly disappear  from the gated living room.  Where did I find her?  Behind the entertainment center.   Cleaning the house?  Not likely unless I strapped her to me (not the safest option if I'm bleaching toilets) or stuck her in the Pack-N-Play (commence meltdown).  My clean house was limited to whatever rooms weren't closest to her during naptime and whatever tasks wouldn't wake her up (what's a vacuum?)  Making dinner was hectic and stressful with tiny, moving stumbling block maneuvering around the kitchen.  And by the time I got everything on the table, got Amelia fed, picked up her spoon 8,000 times, and made my plate, the food was cold and I wasn't even that hungry anymore.

And there is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for the roller coaster ride of spending 24 hours a day with a toddler.  They're like miniature tornadoes.  With vocabularies.  And attitudes.  It's a constant balancing act of learning, playing, teaching, disciplining, eating, napping, potty-training, reading, pretending, driving, scheduling, arguing, nurturing, and loving.  That's on top of the laundry and the grocery shopping and the cooking and cleaning and the sweeping and the wiping and... oh my Lord, did you really just dump out the entire contents of your toy box while Mommy was peeing???  Did you paint the couch with iced tea? Why did you kick the dog?  Why did you separate and throw all of the socks in your drawer?  Did you just stick your head in the toilet?  Why are your teeth blue and where is the rest of that crayon?  Don't climb up there, you'll get hurt!  Don't put that in your mouth, you'll choke!  Don't pull that on top of you!  Don't run with your toothbrush in your mouth!   Is this poop?  Where else is the poop?  

I know, I know, First World Problems.  

Look, I'm not saying I have it harder than working moms.  If I had to get up early every morning, go to work, teach all day, spend the afternoon grading and planning and STILL have to be a mom and homemaker, I would probably dig a hole, climb into it and beg passers-by to shovel in some dirt on top of me.  And even though it sounds like I'm complaining about staying at home with my daughter, I'm not.  That's kind of the point I'm trying to make.  Even though this has been a total challenge and I've lost more hair that I care to discuss, I wouldn't trade this life for anyone else's.  It's taken three years to get to a point where I don't feel like a constant failure because I always have more on my "to do list" than on my "done list."  I've had to give up on that "super mom" life I had planned and just focus on being the best mom I can be.  

I treasure being at home with my Peanut.  I love being her mother, her teacher, her best friend (at least she thinks I am for now... oh, how soon that will change).  I love getting to witness her milestones, to watch her accomplishments.  I love being the one she runs to when she's proud of herself, the one she reaches for when she falls down.  I start my days with her little gap-toothed grin and end my days with her arms around my neck.   For every tantrum or sassy comeback, there are ten "I lub you, Momma."  With every mess, there is a new adventure or memory to be made.  My house is dirty but my child is happy.  

I'll admit there are times I get lonely, that I miss being with adults.   There are days I wonder what it would be like to drop her off at day care and return to the land of working outside the home.   There are moments I feel like I'll drown in the lake of Legos and plastic food and princess crowns and puzzle pieces.  I've cried while I've picked Playdough out of the carpet.  I've cursed when I've heard her door to her room open for the 17th time after I put her to bed.  I've counted down the minutes until nap time.  I've called my mother to just come and TAKE THIS CHILD so that I can have a few minutes of rest (that I usually instead spend doing dishes or paying bills).  

But those moments are only a fraction of the rest of the life I have as a SAHM.  And I don't let myself get dragged down for too long when we do have a bad day.  

My baby turned three this year.  We are officially on the downward slope toward kindergarten and to my return to the workforce.  It hurts my heart to think about dropping her off at school each morning and not knowing what she's doing all day.  I will miss our lazy mornings, our late night cuddles and all the days spent in between just getting to be mommy and daughter.  I know how fortunate and blessed I am that I have this opportunity to spend her formative years with her, and I am in no hurry to return to the busy "adult" world that awaits me.  

Wrap 2 by Katie Berggren
I've managed to type this entire post on my Droid because I didn't want to give up snuggle time, but I had all of this on my heart and didn't want to lose that "momentum" that I seem to lack these days when it comes to writing.  I could have left her in front of the television and gone to the computer.  She would have finished the movie herself.  Blogging from a phone is most definitely not the easiest task.  But I didn't want to give up this time with her, even though we're doing absolutely nothing.  My life isn't boring; it's the biggest adventure I've ever had.  

The end of the movie is near, and I can feel her weight shift in my lap.  She's growing heavier and nap time approaches.  Who knows when I'll have the time or energy to write again.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe next week.  It's hard to say these days.  

But these days are so few and so precious.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's Unfortunate We All Have to Share One Facebook Page (previously entitled "Why Your Opinion of My Facebook Page Doesn't Matter")

I obviously missed the in-service where Mark Zuckerberg handed out the "Facebook Rules and Etiquette" brochure because I have caught two gallons of shit in a one gallon bucket in the past few weeks (months? years??) over things I have posted to my personal social media page.  What follows is a partial list of complaints:

  • I post too many personal details of my life
  • I post too many pictures of my daughter
  • I post too many "what I'm doing right now" statuses
  • I post too many pictures of dogs in the local pound
  • I post too many silly pictures
  • I post too many statuses in general
  • I check in to too many places
  • I make people uncomfortable talking about depression/mental health (my own)
  • I make people uncomfortable talking about suicide (others')
  • I post links to other people's stories/articles that are too long 
  • I depress people
  • I annoy people
  • I offend people
  • I am too emotional
  • I am too honest
  • I am too needy and desperate for attention
  • I use "bad" language
  • I don't use Facebook the way it was "intended" to be used
Look, I'll own up to the majority of this.  I won't apologize for it, but I won't deny the parts that are factual. I do post details--often of the personal nature--about my life.  This is often done through this blog, the links to which I post on my Bad with Conviction fan page. I then share from that page onto my personal page.  I do post statuses about my life that some might consider to be "overshares."  Here's the thing, though:  it's nothing that I wouldn't say WITH MY MOUTH to someone in the "real" world.  It's not secret that I'm mostly an open book.  Yes, there are things I don't share with the world (or even my Facebook friends), but I just don't understand why people are so concerned with portraying such a damned perfect life on the Internet.  Why shouldn't I talk about difficulties in my life?  Aren't most of the people who read my statuses supposedly my "friends"?  Why shouldn't I be open and honest about my struggles with anxiety and depression?  I'm not ashamed of it, and I don't think others would be so much if it weren't such a taboo subject.   My life isn't always pretty, and my Facebook is going to reflect that.  I'm not oversharing.  I'm just being real and honest.  

Coraline cosplay.  C'mon, how
could I NOT post this?
 I post a ton of pictures of my daughter.  I love taking pictures of her, and I love to share them.  And guess what?  Her grandparents and other family members (especially those who don't live nearby) want to see them!  So what if I just posted 486 Christmas pictures?  Or an entire album of her birthday week?  No one is obligated to click through them and look at each one.  No one is required to look at any of them for that matter.  I can see how it would seem obnoxious, but it's not like I'm taking pictures of her with my cell phone every fifteen minutes and uploading them with a "Look what she's doing!" caption.  I upload an album at a time to share with loved ones and anyone else on my friends list who is interested.  Enough with the "we know what your kids looks like" comments.  I'm not posting them for you.  

I post to Facebook throughout the day, including statuses, check-ins, pictures, links to articles/stories I've read, "funnies," news items, personal blog posts, and so on.  I post thoughts or observations or everyday events.   Sometimes I post things that are humorous. Sometimes I'm angry or depressed or frustrated.  I don't limit my Facebook time to certain moods or times.  There are days I may only post a few times, and on other days, I may post two or three dozen times over a 24-hour period.  To be honest, my Facebook activity mirrors how I am in my actual life.  I like to talk.  I like to tell stories. I like to share information.  If someone doesn't like me on Facebook, chances are they would hate me in the real world.  The person I am on Facebook is who I am.  And those things about which I am passionate in my life are also going to be a part of my Facebook "life," whether it be dog rescue, education, parenting, literature, movies, or whatever.   That being said, I don't post updates on my child's bowel movements.  I'm that Mom, but I'm not THAT mom.  

Am I emotional?  Yes.  
Am I honest?  Yes.  
Am I a little too honest?  I don't believe such thing exists.  

I swear I don't have one.
Do I try to offend people?  No.  Do I offend people anyway?  Of course.  Do I care?  Not in the least.  If I were saying things that are intentionally hurtful to people, if I were spewing hate or racism or bigotry, that would be a totally different situation.  If someone is offended by my choice of words or the topics I discuss (whether on Facebook or on my blog), he or she has the freedom to not read it.  I'm a grown ass woman, and I'm not going to apologize for using words that are just words.  I'm not going to tiptoe around real problems because someone is sensitive or uncomfortable.  Oh, your 12-year-old read my status about suicide prevention week and asked questions that made you antsy?   Well, maybe that's a good thing.  Or maybe your junior high student shouldn't have a Facebook account.  Oh, you were offended by the profanity in a short story I linked to on my blog?  Then don't read it.   It would have been "better" without those words?  Then start your own blog, post your own PG short stories, and post them to Facebook.  I need literary criticism, not the morality police.

Look, I like Facebook.  I even love Facebook a little.  I love being connected.  I love having the people I love just a click away.   I love seeing my friends in far away places living their lives.  And I love knowing that at any time, night or day, I can find someone on-line with whom I can laugh or bitch or cry or remember. Not in some chat room full of anonymous people.  People I know.  People I care about and who care about me.  I don't sleep much at night, and it can get pretty lonely around here.  Facebook alleviates some of that loneliness.  Facebook has also been a source of comfort during the hardest times in my life.  Some of those posts that were "begging for attention" were actually begging for encouragement.  For comfort.  For words of wisdom and hope.  

Do I like attention?  Yes. Am I desperate for attention?  Absolutely not.  But there are times I'm desperate for friendship, for human connection.  I'd prefer that it be face-to-face with a loved one, but that isn't always possible with busy schedules and raising children and not being able to sleep at 3 AM.  

I know this has been a bit "ranty" and I kind of hate to blow of steam like this.    I don't really feel like it matters what people think about my Facebook activity or even about me.  I also don't think I am required to defend or justify myself.  I just wish people would get over this whole idea of Facebook having an "intended" purpose.  We each have our own Timeline, both in the real world and on Facebook.  How we choose to spend our time is really our prerogative. I can't say there aren't things in my Newsfeed that I don't like.  I get annoyed by constant requests to play Candy Crush.  I get irritated when people completely ignore the rules of grammar and punctuation.  I get completely pissed when people post things that they haven't taken 30 seconds to verify, especially if it a blatant (or damning) lie.  But I remind myself that they have the right to post those things.  

And I have the right  to hide them from my Newsfeed without saying something mean or insensitive.

If someone doesn't like what I post or say on Facebook, the "unfriend" button works instantly.  I have zero problems with people disagreeing or challenging what I write; in fact, I welcome it.    But don't be cruel or condescending in the comments or via private message.  Don't tell me I "annoy everyone" or that I should "be ashamed of myself."  Oh, or my personal favorite--"Isn't your family embarrassed?"  I have enough problems in my life without being judged over something I typed in a status bar.  I mean, it says "What's on your mind" in the little box at the top of the page.  I'm trying to cooperate, y'all.  

Seriously, if I annoy you on Facebook, just go away.  Don't try to force me adhere to some imaginary set of rules.  Don't assume that you and I are the same type of person.  And for Larry's sake, don't post snarky, passive-aggressive status updates about my status updates.  That shit gets on everyone's nerves.

And yes, I'm going to end on that completely ear-shattering, hypocritical note.  La, la, la.  


Friday, August 23, 2013

Finders, Keepers

She had just answered Final Jeopardy when her terrier jumped from the couch and scrambled to the front door, alerting Dolores with his tiny bark of someone's presence.  She assumed it was the postman preparing to deposit today's stack of bills, catalogs, and magazines into the mail slot.  Instead of the familiar sound of swishing envelopes, however, she heard the dog emit a low growl.  Maybe a cat or another dog, Dolores thought.

"Hush, Tipsy.  Mama's coming."

Dolores grunted as she pushed herself off of the sofa.  She wasn't an especially old woman or even a large woman, but life had weighed heavily on her shoulders for many years.  

Since Dolores hit puberty, there had rarely been a moment in her life in which she hadn't cared for someone.   
As a teenager, she tended to her younger siblings as her mother slowly succumbed to cancer.  In her mother's final months, Dolores took on the role of both parent and nurse.  Her insomnia could be traced back to those nights of lying in bed, awaiting the sound of her mother's moan, of her siblings' cries.  She would rock her younger brother as he struggled against her thin body, reminding her over and over through his sobs that she wasn't his Mama.  She would cover his ears as her mother would howl in pain, demanding Dolores "put the child down and come to her aid."  

The Dead Mother by Edvard Munch
Though it had been 47 years, Dolores still carried the secret shame of her initial feelings the morning she reached for her mother's hand and found it stiff and cold:  relief.  

Her mother had insisted that she not be embalmed, pointing out that her insides had rotted so there was no need to preserve what was left of her outsides.  Dolores knew that her mother's decision could also be attributed to the modest woman's repulsion of being naked on the table of the local mortician.  Dolores still cringed when she thought of bathing her dead mother’s body for the last time.

Tipsy was dancing a four-legged jig by the time Dolores reached the door, his nails tap-tap-tapping on the hardwood floor.  There still hadn’t been a knock.  Dolores pulled back the curtains beside the door.  There was a man sitting on her front porch steps.  His back was to Dolores, but his gray hair and posture indicated he was of advanced age.  His head was cradled in his hands.   Dolores couldn’t help but think of her father.

Jonas Wilbanks was not a bad man, but he had handled his wife’s illness and subsequent death very poorly.   His wife had always handled the children and household responsibilities, and being at home was overwhelming and frustrating.   He felt completely useless and, eventually, hopeless.  Instead of rising to the occasion and stepping up for his family, though, he avoided them and generally came home only to sleep and eat.  He justified his shortcomings in his own mind by increasing the financial provisions which he provided, requesting first consideration for any overtime at the factory where he was employed.  People around town criticized the man for practically abandoning his children and ailing wife, but Jonas kept his head down and worked harder.  The morning Dolores met him on the front porch with the news of his wife’s death, Jonas wailed and wept like her passing was a complete shock and surprise.   He was drunk for an entire week following her burial.  And the next week.  And then pretty much every day following, especially once the foreman’s sympathy waned and he fired Jonas Wilbanks.  

Hands on Head by Immortelle
Jonas was a broken man and would remain so the rest of his life.  Instead of starting a life of her own, Dolores remained at home, playing the role of mother to both the younger siblings and her own father.  Just shy of her 26th birthday, her youngest brother quit school, found work, and left home.  Dolores felt like a very old woman, and she felt older every time her Daddy would stumble home, often bloody and bruised.  She would lie awake as she had over a decade before, only this time it was her father who cried in the night.  When he’d grow quiet, she’d tiptoe down the hallway and find him sitting in her mother’s chair, asleep with his head in his hands.  

It took her two years to finally walk away and begin her new life.  

Dolores unchained and opened the door but did not cross the threshold.  Tipsy ran to the man and began giving him a once over with his tiny nose.  


The man didn’t move, didn’t acknowledge her or the dog.  She noticed hearing aids on the back of his ears.

“Sir?” she said, a little louder this time.  

The man turned and looked up at her.  His face was friendly but lined with sadness.  He immediately grasped the handrail and carefully hoisted himself into a standing—yet slightly stooped—position.

He was dressed in a short sleeved button up shirt and wrinkled grey slacks.  His hair was silver but barely thinning as with most men of a certain age.  Behind his glasses were striking blue eyes, rimmed in red as if he'd been rubbing them profusely.  

Holding the rail, he made his way to the top step.  Dolores made no attempt to close the door or even back away. She couldn’t read minds, but she knew this man meant her no harm.

“Is there something I can help you with, hon?  Are you looking for someone?  Are you lost?  I have a phone—“  

“They told me you died, Bea.”

“I’m sorry?”

“They told me but I didn’t believe it.  I knew you’d be here waiting if I could just get to you.  But all those doors, those locks, those damned locks. I couldn’t get to you.”

“Sir, I think you are mistaking me for someone else.   My name is Do—“ 

But before she could finish, the old man covered the two steps between them much more swiftly than she imagined possible.  

He wrapped his arms around her.  She could feel his body convulse ever so slightly as he quietly sobbed into her shoulder.  Almost automatically, her arms embraced his body.  She patted his back and soothed him, shushed him.  

It had been so long since anyone had touched her, much less held her.  Her husband had been dead for almost six years, but she had no interest in dating and had politely declined when her friends tried to introduce her to "eligible" men.  

She had been blessed with almost three decades of marriage with her dear Erwin, but marriage had not provided the kind of escape she so desperately sought from her childhood home.  

Self 24 by David Roman
She and Erwin met after he returned home from his tour in Vietnam.  He never spoke of what he’d done or witnessed while he served his country, but Dolores had a hard time believing he’d been so broken prior to his deployment.  Erwin was a kind man, an honest man, and he loved Dolores.  But she often wondered if his love stemmed mostly from his dependence on her.  For days, sometimes weeks, Erwin would “go into himself” as Dolores called it.  He wouldn’t leave the bedroom, wouldn’t eat, often wouldn’t even speak or acknowledge Dolores was in the room.  She would endure these days of living with a shell of her husband by keeping busy—cleaning the entire house top to bottom, planting a new garden, baking pies and cakes for all of the neighbors.  She would only stop to sleep, eat and check on Erwin.  Each time, Dolores waited patiently for the door to open and for her husband to emerge, to hold her, to live again.  She would then make the most of the time they had together, forcing herself to focus on the life they were living and not the imminent threat of withdrawal that always loomed in the not so distant future.  

Then one day, the door never opened.  

Two hours later, Dolores found herself still entertaining—or rather being entertained by— the older gentleman whose name was Robert Tatum.  She had made coffee and found two honey buns in the pantry for them to eat.  He wore a bracelet with the name of a nursing facility only three-quarters of a mile from her own home, which was also Robert's former home with his wife.

She had not encouraged him to call her Bea, but she hadn’t corrected him since they met on the porch.  Though he was obviously the victim of some sort of dementia, he still possessed wit and charm.  He was currently reliving the early 80s and asking Dolores if she remembered the name of this chalet or that quaint cafe.   

The afternoon passed quickly.  Dolores made grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup for dinner.  She hid a grin when Robert mentioned that her cooking had improved.    
They ate mostly in silence, broken up by Tipsy’s occasional whine for a bite of bread crust.  About a half hour later, as Dolores carried the dishes to the sink, she found herself humming a song under her breath.  When she returned to the dining room, Robert was staring at her.  He didn’t look upset or alarmed, but he wore the sad expression she’d first seen on his face.  

“You aren’t Bea,” he said, very quietly.

“No, Mr. Robert, I’m not Bea.  I’m Dolores.  I live in this house now.”

“And Bea—“

“I’m not exactly sure, but I think she passed away.  I… I can try to find out.  My neighbor has a computer with the Internet.  Maybe I could look it up?”

“No, “ he whispered, “no, there won’t be any need for that.  My Bea is gone.”

He slowly stood, his hands visibly shaking.  

“Are you leaving?”

He dropped his head and slowly sat down.  

“I don’t know how to get back there, back to that place.”  

Dolores had grown accustomed over the years to seeing men cry, to watching them crumble.  She had carefully, so carefully, swept up the broken pieces over and over.  She had gently, so gently, pasted them back together, using bits and pieces of herself to fill in the cracks left in those she loved.    

But watching the tears stream down Robert’s face opened a door inside her heart that had closed the day her husband had been carried from their bedroom.  Dolores had filled the years alone with weekend trips to visit nieces and nephews, with reading groups and ladies’ bowling league.  She had adopted Tipsy from the local shelter and nursed him back to health, both physically and mentally.  She filled her days with talk shows and crossword puzzles and subscriptions to a dozen different magazines.

If anyone asked, Dolores was doing just fine.  Some might say she had even flourished following Erwin’s death.  

But Dolores was lonely.  No, not lonely.  She was alone.

She hated coming home to an empty house.  She hated eating most meals by herself.  She hated having no one with whom to share the insignificant tidbits of her day that don’t justify a phone call to a friend.  
Most of all—and she had never admitted it to herself until this very moment—she hated having no one in her life who needed her.  She didn't necessarily desire love or affection.  She didn't need to be wanted.  

She wanted to be needed.  

After a lifetime of meeting the needs of everyone in her life, she had tried to convince herself that her senior years would be her time, that this time of rest and solitude could be the silver lining to the dark cloud that had followed her for so many years.  But Dolores didn’t know how to be alone and she surely didn’t understand how she was supposed to spend the next however many years she walked the earth solely meeting her own needs.  She couldn’t imagine anything less fulfilling or a more pathetic way to conclude her life.  

She walked to Mr. Robert Tatum and placed her hand on his shoulder.  He reached up with his own hand and, without looking up, placed it on hers.  

"Mr. Robert, I need to ask you a question..."

She had never been so sure of anything in her entire life.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Catching Up - Friend Me (or not to friend me)

Someone suggested that I write about whether or not I'd like myself if I met me at a party.  Considering the only parties I attend these days are children's birthday soirees, I'm not sure how I'd feel about myself.  Most of my time is spent making sure Amelia doesn't stick her hands in the cake, open the birthday child's presents, or maim herself or another child.  It's difficult to hold a conversation with someone when I'm constantly stopping mid-sentence to chase my child or tell her to stop doing something.  My only other frame of reference for parties are those which I attended in my younger (read: wilder) years, and I'm not sure how much I'd like that girl.  Actually, I might punch that girl.  

That being said, I'd like to at least attempt to adhere to my reader's suggestion, so I decided to write a pro and con list about being friends with me.  I'll attempt to be completely honest with my evaluation of myself. It's not that you have to worry about me glossing over the cons.  It's the pros with which I struggle.  

So let's get this party started!  

I talk.  A lot.  I have a problem with dominating conversations.  It's not that I don't care what other people have to say, I just really like to talk.  I get it honestly from both of my parents.  And I like to entertain, so if I have a story or anecdote that might make people laugh, I almost can't resist telling it.  This is something that I've grown more conscious of over the years, and I have truly attempted to talk less and listen more.  I don't want people to feel like I'm not listening to them, that I'm just waiting until it's my turn to talk again.  I know people have to feel that way sometimes.  The problem is that I struggle with this even more now that I'm a SAHM and spend most of my time with a toddler.  It's not that I really get lonely when I'm with her, but when I get around other adults, I realize how much I miss interacting with people my age.  

Despite my motor mouth, I DO have the ability to listen. REALLY listen.  If a friend has a problem, I will listen as long as they need me to do so.  And even if there are things going on in my on life, I don't try to compare all of my problems to theirs (unless it is the very same problem and I am commiserating).  We all deal with different things in different ways.  Yes, someone else's problem may not be a struggle in my life, but it doesn't mean that I have the right to belittle their struggle.  Life isn't one big pissing contest of whose life is hardest, you know?  Point is, I will genuinely listen if someone is hurting or just needs to vent.  I do have the ability to STFU when I should.  

I am really bad at staying in touch like I should.  I am eternally grateful for the invention that we call Facebook because it has allowed me a "one stop shop" to keep up with friends I don't often get to see. Even though I like to talk, I'm not wild about talking on the phone since I have a toddler (and as I mentioned earlier, toddlers are pretty lethal to conversations).  Plus, when I'm with my daughter, I want to focus on her. I am terrible about getting by to visit people, though, and am notorious for going months without even scheduling play dates with friends.  I have good intentions, but it just doesn't happen.  Part of it is a time management issue.  Part of it is a busy schedule.  But part of it is just forgetfulness and laziness on my part. I'm glad that my friends are pretty forgiving and accept my text messages and Facebook comments as pitiful substitutes for real human contact.  

I struggle with saying "no," especially to a friend.  To anyone really, but it's almost impossible for me to turn a friend down unless there is a valid, solid reason to do so (and even then I struggle with guilt).  In the past, this has set me up for some heartaches since, as we all know, there are people in the world who will totally take advantage of a "yes friend."  My solution to that problem?  I have whittled my list of friends down.  I try not to have leeches in my life or people who will take advantage of me.  When I know that a friendship is solid and based on love and loyalty, I don't worry that I'm being used.  The result is that I don't see it as a struggle to say "no" anymore; now it has become a matter of enjoying saying "yes!"   I think an important element of friendship IS service. I want my friends to be happy.  I want their lives to be less stressful.  If there is something small I can do to make that more likely to happen--dinner, babysitting, taking them out for coffee--then I WANT to do it.  Saying "yes" makes my life happier, too  :)

I have high expectations of my friends.  And it isn't related to me expecting them to do something for me or act a certain way.  I just expect loyalty and compassion and honesty and encouragement.  I guess I always thought those were givens in a friendship, but I've learned over the years that there are many people who call themselves "friend" but who will lie to or about me, break my confidence, dismiss my struggles and abandon me during the valleys of life.  These same people will then smile, hug my neck, and act like a bond has not been broken (if that bond indeed ever existed).  If someone is going to be my friend, I expect them to BE MY FRIEND.  And I don't expect them to get defensive or tell more lies when I address what they've done. A real friend would own up to the mistake and try to repair the friendship (which I am open to doing if the other person is willing).  I don't need half-ass friends in my life.  I call those "baggage."

I hold myself to the same expectations.  There are times I fail, but I do my best to make it right.  Friends can be angels in our daily lives, but we are all still human.  

I hope that some of you will share in the comments below.  I want to be a good friend--a better friend--so take a minute and tell me the areas in which I need to improve.  I don't need anyone tooting my horn.  I need people to help me be a BETTER ME.   If you comment on my blog, you may do so anonymously, so go ahead and give me an honest evaluation of what I'm like as a friend.  You won't hurt my feelings (unless you intentionally TRY to hurt my feelings, and then I can't promise I won't cry).  I appreciate honesty.  I appreciate constructive criticism.  Here's a chance for my friends to say, "I love you, but [insert something I do] gets on my ever-loving last nerve."  

It's August 8th (AKA I'm a Time Lord)

I guess it's pretty evident by now that I've COMPLETELY dropped the ball on this #31writenow challenge. Peanut's birthday festivities (and the "my house looks like we robbed Santa" aftermath) have kept me fairly busy on top of the rest of the obligations in my life right now.  I've also been dealing with some personal issues and an unhealthy dose of anger, so I didn't feel it was necessarily "safe" for me to purge onto my blog since I'm trying to keep it light around here now.  No one likes a little black raincloud of doom.  

I'm back, though, and am actually going to attempt to catch up on this challenge and keep up the rest of the month.  I'm going to jump in my TARDIS, travel back to the 8th of August and start writing.   Not making any promises, but I'm willing to give it more than the old college try.  

Last night, I asked my Facebook friend and followers to throw out some ideas or ask questions that would help me get to writing again.  My brain is feeling pretty constipated right now, and I needed a little intellectual Exlax to get me moving.  While I'm working on some of their ideas, I decided I'd recycle an old post from a few years ago when I was participating in another 30 day challenge.  I feel like I'm taking the easy way out, so I at least went through the blog and added a few updates/comments in red.  Those of you who know me or who have been hanging around BWC for awhile won't see much new, but I hope this will be at least a semi-interesting read for the rest of you.  

Anywho, here's hoping that the next time I post it will be something new and... well, new.  


from February 6, 2011 (with updates from today)

I've noticed several folks on FB doing a "30 Day Photo Challenge." While I feel the word "challenge" is used rather loosely, I thought I'd give it a whirl on here since I need to blog and currently have writer's block (actually that's a lie--I am actually restricting myself from certain topics at the moment which in turn has locked my brain down from thinking of different topics).  Crap on a STICK.  Why does this keep happening to me??????

So the first assignment is to write ten facts about myself and post a picture. I feel like I've done this to death between my "100 Things About Me" blog a couple of years ago and my up-to-the-minute status updates on FB. But Day One clearly states, "List 10 facts." I suppose the challenge then is to come up with ten facts that very few people know about me or to elaborate on things people do know. *sigh* I'm already regretting this...

1. Many of you know about my knee. It's been jacked up since 6th grade. Basically, it "jumps out" and my knee cap ends up dang near the back of my leg. It's excruciatingly painful. Seriously. It ranks right up there with labor. I need to get it fixed but have put it off forever. What people don't know, though, is how much I obsess about my knee. I can just think about dislocating it, and it completely shuts me down for a few moments. Sometimes I will have a passing thought about my knee and do a full out body shudder. I honestly think about it a least a dozen times a day. This is why I get so freaked out when I see anything about a broken bone. One time, a friend thought it would be funny to show me a snapped leg. I almost passed out. Then I threw up and came close to a full-on anxiety attack. So if you ever seen my hand fly to my knee or I draw my leg up suddenly and wince, please pay me no mind. I just had a passing thought of my knee and will return to my (semi) normal self in a moment.  On a related note, every time I walk down stairs I have a recurring vision of falling down said stairs and breaking various bones. Like 90 degree, bone through the skin breaks.  It's the reason I have to hold on to the hand rail.  This made my move even more difficult this year because it's kind of hard to carry boxes from upstairs AND hold the hand rail.  Thank Pfizer for Xanax.

2. I can memorize a song extremely quickly, especially if it's a song I like. If I hear a song on the radio once, I usually know the chorus by the end of the song and sometimes even part of the verses. I've always liked songs that challenge me. If it's a song with a lot of lyrics, I will listen to it over and over until I learn it, which usually takes a fraction of the time it would someone else. I guess it started with "We Didn't Start the Fire" and the McDonald's commercial from the late 80s that sang the whole menu (I can still sing it). When "Semi-Charmed Life" came out in college, I learned it in one afternoon, including the verse that the radio usually leaves off. The added bonus is I can learn pretty much anything set to music. For example, when I was in college, I SUCKED at French. My answer to everything was je ne sais pas. The only reason I passed was because my professor had mercy on me and my linguistic pitifulness. The weird thing is that for our final exam she required us to memorize a French Christmas carol. I learned mine in about two days and sang it perfectly, even my pronunciation was correct. She just couldn't believe it when I performed it. (Side note: Years later I saw her around the holidays and sang to her.  She at least pretended to be impressed.) Maybe I would have been better in Chemistry if the teacher had presented his lessons as show tunes.  It would seem my daughter has inherited this talent (if it may be called that).  A song came on the radio last night that I didn't even realize she'd heard many times.  When the chorus began, she burst out singing at the top of her lungs and knew almost every word.  She's been learning the sing the Cup Song since it's one of my favorites right now.  She keeps changing the line "two bottles of whiskey for the way" to "two bottles of whiskey for me."  Yep, she's mine.  
Here's the Cup Song if you're unfamiliar.  

3. With the exception of a couple of things, I don't eat green. No, I'm not referring to being environmentally friendly. I don't eat the color green, mainly things that are leafy or look like small trees. I've tried over and over, but I swear it tastes like I'm chewing on dirt. I used to be embarrassed, especially when I'd go out and would be the only one with an uneaten salad sitting in front of me (I finally learned to order soup). Now I've just accepted it. It's not that I'm being picky. Green food just doesn't taste like food to me. I do eat zucchini and I like cucumbers (though only their skins are green). I will also eat spinach in a dip or casserole as long as it's not the dominant ingredient. Some people think this is why I hate pickles so much, but that's not the reason. I hate pickles because they are soaked in vinegar. I'd rather eat something soaked in gasoline than vinegar. Vinegar actually triggers my gag reflex. But that's another topic. Turns out I'm not weird, I'm just a super taster.  Well, I am weird, but at least this has a valid explanation.  

4. Vinegar actually triggers my gag reflex. When I was a kid and my mother and grandmother would make relish (or anything else involving vinegar), it would make me physically ill. One time I walked in Kroger and my eyes instantly started watering and I gagged a little. Someone had dropped a bottle of vinegar somewhere in the store. I had to leave and drive across town. I'm that sensitive. Pickles are disgusting because they take a perfectly good cucumber and soak it in vinegar, turning it into a crinkled, foul-smelling booger type creation. Pickles are not food to me. When I see people about to eat one, I have to resist the urge to slap it out of their hand to save them. I can't even stand to touch them because the smell gets on me and I smell it for DAYS. When I worked at Chick-fil-a, I would actually offer to clean the bathrooms to avoid being sent to the "pickle vat" to fill up the jar. Anything soaked in vinegar is vile. I don't care if it's a cucumber or a beet or a puppy. It's not natural.  After Amelia started crawling, I didn't want to use chemicals on the floor in our house.  I started making my own natural cleaners, which included vinegar.  At first I was afraid that I'd vomit while cleaning, thus defeating the entire purpose of cleaning.  I learned to at least tolerate the smell when it's completely necessary.  

5. I hate body hair. Not on other people, mind you, just myself (though I would make John shave his back if he looked like a Wookie, but thankfully he doesn't). If I had the money, I would have electrolysis on my entire body with the exception of my head and eyebrows. But since I can't afford such a procedure (and I'm a total poon who would probably cry while they did it), I'm forced to shave and wax--arms included. It's more than a little time consuming, but a necessary evil, even when I was pregnant. Kind of hard to shave your legs (or, um, other parts)  when you can't see over your giant belly, but I managed. I should have recorded myself and put it on You Tube. I could be on Tosh.0 right now.  Nothing changed here.  

6. Growing up, I had tics. I didn't even know what a tic was, only that I couldn't control these jerking movements in my neck and jaw. I wasn't really self-conscious about them until my mother told me to stop (I don't think she realized they were tics either). After that, I became very aware of them and worked extremely hard to stop them. Over the years they went away mostly, though they still creep up when I get anxious. Other tic-like motions have taken their place over the years, though. For example, I pop my thumb joints all the time, especially when I'm typing--or bored. I crack my jaws CONSTANTLY, too, but I'm not sure if that's a tic. Popping my jaw helps relieve pressure from my TMJ, but it's also become quite a habit. I'm not sure what all this stems from, though I suppose it's related to the general anxiety I've battled for years.  And now we can add cracking my neck, a side effect of tension headaches that hangs around even when the headaches are absent.  *sigh* 

7. Speaking of anxiety, I'm proud to say that I've been medication free for almost 15 months. Even though my pregnancy was relatively smooth, I was still very scared and anxious. I made a conscious effort to stay calm, though, since I'd read so much about mothers with high stress levels affecting their babies (and possibly even the baby's "wiring"). This was a challenge since I couldn't take my anti-anxiety meds during my pregnancy. Once I had Amelia, I pretty much assumed that I'd need them more than ever. Turns out, I can't remember the last time I felt so in control of my life. Since I gave birth in August, I have only taken medication twice--once when I had to spend the night away from Amelia and was feeling very sad and once when Amelia started sleeping in her own room and I was nervous. I've never been ashamed that I take medication, but I'm very glad that I currently don't need it.  Last year, when everything in my life began falling apart, I had to resume taking my medication.  Turns out toddlers are completely freaked out by witnessing anxiety attacks (and Mommy is DOUBLY freaked out by melting down in front of her daughter). Fortunately I've been able to get down to only taking my Xanax regularly in the evenings so that I can rest. The rest are saved for "emergency" situations, i.e., to prevent my head from spinning off into the stratosphere while I hyperventilate occasionally.   Hopefully I'll be able to be med-free again eventually.  If not, though, I'm at peace with that.  

Kevin Bacon
8. I don't like raw meat, especially chicken. I don't like the way it feels, and I hate the way it smells. The freshest chicken smells rotten to me. My poor neighbors have finally gotten used to me walking across the street and asking them to smell my chicken. To be honest, I really wish I could become a vegetarian. When I bite into a hamburger or turkey leg, I force myself not to think about what I'm eating. I love animals and really do hate the thought of eating something that had a face. There are two problems, though: meat tastes really, really good and I would probably die of malnutrition if I were limited to vegetables (especially since the ones I really like aren't exactly healthy). I did go an entire year without red meat when I was younger, but I don't think I could cut it out entirely. I feel like a giant hypocrite sometimes.   I heart bacon.

Quite possibly better than Xanax
9.  I would much rather watch a Quentin Tarantino movie than a romantic comedy and I'm slightly turned on by Fight Club.  In fact, with a few exceptions, most of the stuff I like to watch is geared more toward guys than girls.  I especially like anything that involves people beating the crap out of each other, even if it's totally ridiculous (bonus points if it involves Jason Statham).    If you flip through the season passes on my DVR, there's a fair share of violent programming.  On the other hand, I also watch Glee.  And 16 and Pregnant.  I won't even try to figure that one out.  I baffle myself sometimes. Gave up on Glee and 16 and Pregnant.  I've developed an addiction to Doctor Who, however, which has filled the big Buffy-sized hole that I've had since I lost the Slayer. Still obsessed with the grittier stuff, including Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.        

10.  I've always loved kissing.  Even in elementary school, I got into trouble for kissing boys--lots of boys.  I was kind of a kissing slut.  Things didn't get much better as I got older.  I had a total "kiss 'em if you got 'em" kind of mentality that got me into hot water more than a couple of times.   Even though I've been quite liberal with my kisses in the past, it's not because I don't take it seriously.  A kiss can be more intimate than any other physical act (remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?) and I have had some very powerful, very memorable kisses in my life.   I've just always enjoyed kissing so much that I had a hard time turning down an opportunity to, um, sample the goods, so to speak.  And there are few experiences in this world that beat the thrill of  first kiss. The first time John kissed me (or I kissed him--we disagree on the specifics), I had no idea that it would be my last first kiss. In fact, it was a pretty big deal when I got married.  When they told John to "kiss the bride," there was a little voice in my head that said, "This is it, toots.  You'd better be happy kissing this guy for the next 80 years."  It kind of freaked me out, but it turns out I'm totally okay with it.  Still love kissing.  Been in a bit of a drought.  Have to work on that...

There's my ten.  Truly hope it isn't as agonizing to read as it was to write.  Thank Xenu I get to move on to a different topic tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Slightly Comatose

Well, I managed to make it to day #6 before I dropped the ball on the #31WriteNow blog challenge.  At least I have a good reason, though.  I spent all day yesterday with my daughter and my precious "honorary" neice and nephews.  Considering I got a total of nine hours of sleep in three nights, I was pooped when I got home last night.   There was just no blogging to be done.  Or so I thought.  I got ready for bed and went to the kitchen to take my nightly Xanax to help me rest.  More out of it than I thought, I took a PHENTERMINE tablet instead.  I panicked, afraid that I had just ruined my chances of a night of sleep.  I considered making myself throw the table up, but after seven months of nausea and vomiting during my pregnancy, puking actually freaks me out.  I decided to instead take two benadryls and hope for the best. Fight uppers with downers, I always say.  Actually I've never said that and I was halfway afraid that my body might spontaneously combust and/or melt during the night.

I got in bed and decided I'd give it an hour to see if I could sleep.  If I couldn't, then I'd get back up and work on my blog.  I never got back out of bed, but it wasn't because I was necessarily sleeping.  Last night I think I got a taste of what it would feel like to be in a coma but be aware of your surroundings.  I couldn't move, couldn't open my eyes, couldn't talk.  My brain, however, spinning in my skull like a ballerina on Red Bull.  It was a terrible feeling.  I don't know how long it lasted since I couldn't even pick up my phone to check the time. At some point I did doze off and got just enough sleep to make me feel like death before my daughter woke me up this morning.
I've hoped all day that I'll be completely worn out by tonight and will finally get the rest I so desperately need, but as of 5:45 PM, I'm feeling pretty alert.  I'm currently trying to decide whether I should go ahead and write Day 7's post now (though I haven't the foggiest what it's going to be about) or if I should save it for tonight so that I'm not bored.

I want to be the gold medal sleeper I was all the way up through college.  I feel like I'm aging three days for every one day I'm actually alive.  I hate insomnia.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

For those of you who have stuck around while I've been a total Debbie Downer, I tip my hat and offer many thanks.  Just getting those bad feelings onto paper (well, screen) and not having them bouncing around inside is very freeing.  Sometimes I just have to purge everything and clear my head so that I can write something else.  I'm sorry if I've concerned or worried anyone.  I've been in a dark place, though, and the only way out for me is to expose it.  I told y'all from the beginning that I'm going to be HONEST.

But today is not a day for gloom and doom.  Today is my 34th birthday, and DAMMIT I'M GOING TO BE HAPPY.  So how have I spent my birthday thus far you ask?  Well, I'm so glad you want to know because I'm about to bust out the old "what I've done today" post that I so intensely try to avoid.  What I've done today has been important, though, because it relates to what I've written about the last few days.  I want to be happy and healthy and that doesn't just magically happen.  It takes work on my part.  And that is exactly what I've done today--WORKED.

I made breakfast for me and the Peanut.  Real breakfast, too.  Not a bowl of instant oatmeal or cereal, not a Pop-Tart or granola bar.  I made each of us a plate of homemade French toast, complete with a powdered sugar and warm syrup.  We sat on the couch and watched part of Rise of the Guardians while we ate. 
After breakfast, I took the dogs out and fed them, too.  The backyard is in need of a good mowing and I knew rain was in the forecast today and pretty much every day this week.  I asked Amelia if she wanted to finish her movie while I mowed.  She said, "Nope, I want to jump on my trampoline."  

Alrighty then.

Five minutes later, she was on her trampoline.  I was in a lawn chair, feeling completely useless.  I decided to get up and sweep the carport.  Well, sweep what is visible of the carport since it looks like a family of white trash hoarders live here.  

Wait, not looks.  Looked.  It looked like a family of white trash hoarders live here.  Why the change in verb tense?  Because the sweeping led to filling moving things around.  Moving things around led to opening boxes.  Opening boxes led to a box or garbage bags.  And so on and so on.  Long story short, I found myself three hours later with a mostly clean, organized carport and a massive pile of garbage to carry off. My mother also graciously came over in her pickup truck and carried a huge load to the local donation center.  

By the time I finished, I was filthy, sweaty and itchy.  And achy.  And exhausted.  And proud.  

And happy.  

I'm sure this sounds like a completely bizzaro way to spend a birthday, but this is exactly what I needed. I couldn't have given myself a better gift than to walk out my back door each day to a clean carport.  Plus, Peanut now has clean toys and a shady place to play.  Everyone wins!

Deep down, my brain knew what it was doing when it made me pick up that broom initially.  Being productive makes me happy.  Accomplishing something makes me happy.  Order makes me happy.  

I've had so much on my plate that I've struggled to keep up with all of my responsibilities (which currently include two homes).  When I've had a little free time, I've rewarded myself by being lazy and then wondered why I continue feeling so awful.  I know I need to rest and that I can't work all the time, but I'm not happy when my environment is in complete chaos.  I'm restless and anxious when I go to bed with a still full "to do" list.  

Being busy is good for me.  It's therapeutic.  Right now, I can feel a little bit of the real me peeking out. Working outside today allowed me to get rid of pent up frustration.  It gave me time to think about the things I need to contemplate, but gave me something else to focus on when the sad thoughts started creeping in.  

I know I need rest. I understand I need to focus on myself and getting better.  And I'm doing that, too.  After working outside, I came in, gave Amelia a bath, put her down for a nap, and took a long, hot shower.  Now I'm drinking a glass of tea and working on the blog I've ignored for so many months.  And in 45 minutes, I'm going to have a massage.  

It's all about balance.  Balancing the good and the bad, the happiness and the hurt, the work and the rest. I'm going to find it.  Hopefully, I'll be writing an entirely different type of post when 35 rolls around next year.  

Shit, did I just say 35?  Well, now I'm sad again.



(On a related note, do you know who hates productivity?  Toddlers.  Ain't no toddler got time for some productivity.)

I'm 17 times 2

I am 34.  Well, I guess not officially for a few more hours, but who's counting?  I'm going to sleep and then give myself a happy blog post for my birthday.  If any of you need last minute gift ideas, I posted one below.  No need to wrap it.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Post I Retitled "The Mask"

Today I was going to post a story I wrote, but due to the subject matter, I don't feel it is in good taste considering the battles some of my readers are facing tonight.  I'll save it for another day so that no one mistakenly thinks I'm directing it him or her.  

That being said, it's only Day Four, and I'm hitting a wall.  My motivation was at its highest on Day One.  
Day Two was my yearly recycled blog for August 2nd.  Yesterday's post was extremely difficult, but it was my daughter's birthday so at least I had inspiration.  I had planned to share a fiction piece today and take an easy way out, but I can't even do that.  It's not that I have nothing to say. Make no mistake, I have plenty I wish I could share.   I'm sitting here with a million things to say and no freedom to say any of them.  Today reminds me of why I stopped writing:  I can't be honest.  It's not that I have to lie.  I just can't say what I really want to say.  It's too personal.  Too painful.  It would affect too many people.  I struggle to write when I'm totally consumed by something (unless I am able to write about that which consumes me).  

So where does this post go from here?  What do I do for the remaining 27 days of this challenge?  Is this going to end up feeling like yet another part of my life that is failing?  

This used to be so damned therapeutic.

I guess I could always fall back on the old "here's a recap of my day" post.  I might die from eye rolling, but at least I could fill up part of the page.  It hasn't been a bad day.  I spent it with family, and we celebrated my daughter's birthday (again and we still haven't had her official party).  I was surrounded by people who make me feel loved.  But there was still the struggle to put on a happy face and pretend I'm "normal."  I've worked so hard to perfect the appearance that I'm okay, that I'm happy and healthy.  It's not that I'm trying to mislead people.  I don't do it to be fake or to convince people that I or my life is perfect.  If any of you have known me very long (or have read this blog), you know I try to be pretty honest about how I feel and what I believe.  It's like the time someone told me she was glad I "finally got pregnant."  I'd only tried for four months and asked her what she meant.  She said she assumed that I must be having fertility issues since we had been married so long and didn't have children.  I reminded her that if that had been true, she would have read about it on Facebook because I have a (bad?) habit of putting my shit OUT there.  

Artwork by eddietheyeti
But this time it's not like that.  There are some things that can't be "put out."  There are some things that only those on my very inner circle can know, and some things that I can't even share with them.  And the damnable misery of it is that I feel like I'm going to explode sometimes from holding it in.  

Let me tell you what happens to people who put on the proverbial happy face for too long: they stop being able to show their real emotions in a healthy way.  They become angry and scared and anxious and bitter.

I've become angry and scared and anxious and bitter.

I hide these emotions behind the "happy mask," though, so that I can get through the day.  So that I don't worry or burden those around me.  I've worn this mask for a little while now, long enough that I don't have to remember to put it on.  It's like I'm programmed now.   The problem is that eventually The Mask has to come off, and what's behind it is scarred and ugly.  It reeks of insecurity and desperation.  

For those who are very fortunate, there is somemone in their lives who recognizes that the smile is fake, who allows them to remove The Mask, who even encourages it.  Someone who touches the scars and says, "You're still beautiful."  Someone who won't be pushed away, who refuses to give up.  Someone who will make the mask unneccessary, obsolete.  It isn't an easy task. It's often difficult to love someone who is hurting.  Just like a wounded animal who won't let anyone close enough to help it, a broken heart will build walls to protect itself even from those who would attempt to mend it.  A broken heart will encourage us to push people away just to make them prove they'll stay.  It takes a brave person to love a broken heart.  

I don't know how long I'll have to wear my mask.  I don't know how long this hurt is going to last.  I'm just going to chip away at it a little each day until I find myself underneath.  I'm going to break down the walls around my heart and love myself.  I'm going to be brave.  

Photo by Ria Pereia
Soon, I'm going to look in the mirror and see what other see--a smile.  A genuine smile.  

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I'm going to have a good day.  I don't know what I'll do or how I'll celebrate.  It will most likely be a day like every other.  I survived the past year, though, so it will be a good day.  And I promise a happy post for my happy birthday.   Peace and love wherever you are tonight.