In Case I don’t See You…

We rush everywhere. We rush for the perfect gifts for Christmas on Black Friday, we’ll wait for hours just to be first so we don’t have to miss out on that item we “need”. We rush to be first in line at Carpool so we can be the first to leave. We rush to grab all of the toilet paper at the start of any emergency, or in the case of this year, a pandemic (and, lol, I am still not sure why that happens, but selfishness is the first word that comes to mind and not wanting to live without luxury is the phrase that comes afterward).

We, as human beings, don’t like to wait.

However, what I’ve noticed over the course of my life, we will wait forever to say things that need to be said right away, things that should be said over and over again. We don’t mind saying things too late. We are okay with acknowledging people and what they mean to us AFTER they are already gone. Funerals, Rest In Peace wishes on Facebook, hitting share on the obituaries, sharing meaningful anecdotes and, “I can’t believe its”, on memorial pages…in our feelings, we are overcome with emotion, and we rush to say them, only that person is gone and they’ll never hear it-at least from our own mouths with their ears.

And you know what? Maybe they needed to hear these things in person.

I look around and I see wars, backbiting, jealousies, envy, political debates, etc. What we have forgotten to do is rush forward with being authentic, grateful, and brave.

Because it takes authenticity, gratitude, and emotional bravery to be honest and sure enough of yourself to look the people that matter the most (that have shared special moments of your life with you) in the eyes and tell them that they matter to you and that you love them. Too many people DO NOT do this until it’s too late and we tell ourselves that “they knew”, but I think we also rush to make ourselves feel better whenever we experience pain and thus, to quote Friends, “How do we really know that they know that we know” how special they were to us? There are more of my friends and family on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication than friend and family who are NOT prescribed medications or seeking help for these disorders. I have to see a therapist for my own acute anxiety and work through the issues I have from not receiving love or affection whenever I needed it most.

And so, I ask, why? Why are we not communicating these simple and significant words of affirmation in our relationships? Why are we not “rushing” to do these? They are free, they don’t cost money, they require very little effort. They are the gifts that mean the most. We rush and we rush in order to not be out of time, and yet, not one of us can control time and not one of us can stop the clock of anyone else. We are all mere mortals who really don’t know how long we have with someone.

This week I discovered that a childhood friend of mine, who is dear to my heart, is extremely ill and now in the ICU in critical condition. I see all of the outpouring of love and memories and they are heartwarming and poignant. What saddens me, though……

………….is that she can’t see them right now. I hope that she does see them, I hope she sees how much she is loved and I hope more than anything that she sees it soon. I hope we are not too late.

I have stared death in the face before and I remember whenever people (who truly meant well), started to send well-wishes and thoughts and prayers, but it was only after they found out that an early death was a possibility. Although they meant well, I was already too deep in the diagnoses of thinking, “this is it”, that it mattered very little at the time what anybody said, no matter how kind or nice. As much as I hate to admit it, I had thoughts like , “I wish I’d seen this earlier,”or, “I wish you’d been around when I needed someone holding my hand at the doctor’s office”.

Now, I get it. I completely understand that we are all busy, we don’t live near everyone that matters to us. We have all of this technology at our fingertips, though. We have smartphones, laptops, Facebook, Zoom, thousands of apps, etc. Yet, our time on it is used to argue politics, follow celebrity gossip pages, gain likes from selfies, or to promote brands.

So, wouldn’t that mean, though, that we don’t have an excuse? We have the technology, we have a little time, we’re just not putting a priority on people.

I just wish that would end. As I sit worrying about my friend, worrying about my sick toddler, and worrying for a cousin who is in the hospital with COVID-19- I recognize once more that this is a year of a pandemic and whether or not it has affected me, I should (at the very least) let this year be a reminder of my absolute mortality and the definite mortality of everyone that matters to me. There were more lessons to be learned of 2020, but that’s another story.

Things That Ought to be Said More Often Before it’s Too Late:

  1. I Love You— There really isn’t much of an explanation for this one. However, whenever we say it, it shouldn’t be casual and we shouldn’t take it lightly. We should mean what we say and say it often so that the person we care about never has to doubt that it’s true. If you are my child, relative, friend, “I love you.”
  2. Thank You— One of the definitions of “gratitude” and “thankfulness” is the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”, and thus, belonging to a kinder world begins with a, “Thank you.” If you have ever given me anything, whether it was as small as a tight hug or as huge as financial help, I hope you know I am beyond grateful and treasure all of it. “Thank you very much”.
  3. I Am Still Learning– I think we should take ownership of our mistakes more often than we do. Let us stop pretending that we are perfect and our children are perfect, that’s such a wasteful pastime because it is not the truth and it is NOT authentic. Whenever we pretend to be perfect we are teaching the world comparison and comparison is the thief of all joy. Whenever we hurt someone or make mistakes (and it is bound to happen eventually), let us not point fingers but own it. If we don’t know something, instead of pretending we do (which is how misinformation becomes a thing), let’s be brave enough to say, “I am still learning,” because the thing is, that’s how our mind works. We always have something to learn and we should always be willing to learn until the day our bodies stop. If we all knew everything already, I would expect the world would be a better place than it was. Saying, “I am still learning”, is to be open-minded and humble. To anyone I know, if I’ve hurt you inadvertently or on purpose, or if I’ve offended you: “I am still learning” to navigate life and I am working on myself daily. It’s an ongoing process until I’m no longer here, so be patient with me.
  4. I’m Sorry— I’ll never understand why it’s so difficult to say these words. My kids will say it whenever they get scolded for something, sometimes meaning it and sometimes just saying it to get out of their consequences. This definitely works the same as, “I love you,” or “I am still learning.” It’s important to sincerely mean these words and it’s important to say them if you know you’ve played a part in someone else’s hurt. It’s crucial to stop the behavior that warrants the “I’m sorry”, but again, we’re all still learning, right? I don’t know if there would have been as many wars in our history had people been better at saying this phrase in the past. That’s something to think about. For anyone still mad at me about something in the past or the recent present, “I’m sorry.” There are no motives here, “I’m sorry,” again.
  5. I Forgive You— because I also want to be forgiven. I don’t want to get to my next life weighted down with the burdens of grudges. I’ve had my fair share of people who have hurt me deeply, abused me, and taken advantage of me. I can discern that these are things that should never have happened but judgment is not mine to give. “I forgive you” is something that is kind to say to others but kinder, still, to ourselves. “I forgive you” is granting peace to another human being who “is still learning” and all people deserve to feel what peace can do for them. Peace doesn’t mean strife doesn’t exist, it just means that the bad things in this world won’t control our lives. Peace gives everyone a chance and doesn’t discriminate. “I forgive you” is the start of a more peaceful life. To those who’ve hurt me, abused me, taken advantage of me, you know who you are and I do not need to call out anything other than, “I forgive you.” Judgment, again, is not mine to give but forgiveness is something I can give out in abundance. “I forgive you.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I Will Vote for You

I was raised in a time where I was taught that discussing for whom I casted my vote was considered rude and ill-mannered. Of course, this was before social media became interwoven into all aspects of my life. Today, alone, every other post on my newsfeed consists of political propaganda or a snarky/petty, “I voted” sticker selfie of how one of my friends is voting for their very superior candidate and whenever their candidate wins, “that’ll show y’all”, (insert Kindergarten-esque-stick-out-tongue emoji).

According to what many friends and family are posting, if their candidate wins, they’re going to win something. Maybe it will be an Honorable Mention ribbon from Trump or perhaps, all of that comment arguing they did back in March during the Stay-At-Home-Order will not be for naught (because if their candidate wins, they win that argument from months ago, which means they live righteously and anyone who disagreed is a huge “loser”). Perhaps Biden is going to send us all a box of cookies if he wins and we cast our votes for him and then we will eat those cookies on Instagram Stories like, “Yeah, in your face, we have some Thin Mints, what do you have, Trumpsters? No cookies, that’s what!”.

I have been told by dear, close friends and my own family members at a recent wedding that if I vote for Biden, I am a baby-killer and I must like to sniff people inappropriately. I’ve seen posts that have said that if I do vote for Trump, I hate everyone except white men and I am economically ignorant.

Here’s the thing, I don’t need to say who I’ll vote for. I’ve NEVER had to say who’s on my ballot because I live in a democracy and for freedom’s sake, that’s the beautiful thing about our country that I’m going to grasp onto tightly, a thing of which I do not want to let go. We are able to vote with our neighbors, we are able to have free will, we have choices (maybe they aren’t the best this year, but this is the hand we are dealt until more people look in the mirror and believe they can make a difference and actually TRY to make a difference instead of spending all of their time on what my father calls, “Waste Book”). We have free will. I repeat, we have free will. Insisting that our friends only vote for who we vote for means we are actually being very shitty friends. Insisting that our family is wrong unless they agree with everything we say is beyond polarizing and it suggests that you actually have control issues. Power and control are traits of dictators and cult-leaders, wouldn’t that be the opposite of how we ought to be treating our family members, our coworkers?

You guys, no one president-elect is going to represent who we are as a country, perfectly. They are not here to save your lives or our lives. They don’t know our names. Yes, a president is very important for the 4 years he (or she, come on, America) is in office, but they are not a Higher Power. So why are we willing to sacrifice our friends (who’ve been there for us in more ways than one) or family members (aren’t we supposed to love our children unconditionally, aren’t these the people we are supposed to love the most?) at the altar of who they voted for? I repeat, why are we willing to destroy our relationships with the people we treasure over a vote? Who we vote for are not who we are. True change starts individually and setting examples for those around us so that (hopefully) goodness spreads like wildfire. True change starts with an open mind, knowing that we can feel the way we feel individually but that our feelings don’t constitute what is good for an entire nation of so many varying cultures.

I will NOT tell you who I’m voting for, for that is my freedom. My personal feelings are that it is completely rude to demand that people tell you who they voted for-otherwise why wouldn’t we just cast votes at an assembly and yell them out while someone walked by tallying it all? We have that privacy in our voting system and for now, I am going to treasure it. I WILL tell you I am going to vote today, proudly, because there were too many women who fought for that democratic right long ago in order for me to have that luxury. If you offer your voting information freely to me, by all means, I am not going to judge you. That is your right. Will I be offering you my voting information? No, I will not. I am an Independent voter and that is that. I really dislike that we are so bipartisan that we are this limited in candidates. Will I be demanding that you tell me for whom you voted? I promise I won’t.

What I will tell you is that I will vote for you.

No, you are not running in the election. However, if you are my friend and family, I vote for you to be in my life. Though I may disagree with your stance in this election, I remember the times we laughed, the times we cried, and how long I have loved you. True love and friendship doesn’t just stop because we don’t see eye to eye or because you don’t share my views. True love and friendship goes on beyond all of that and it doesn’t demand its way. It doesn’t say, “All of that sacrifice and the years of hugs, happiness, and holidays are forgotten today because of who’s on your ballot”. True love and friendship doesn’t dissolve over something so temporary, an election and a presidential term. If it does- (and I would be sad, but again, free will and freedom has its downfalls)- and this is a tough pill to swallow-then it’s safe to admit that we were never truly friends in the first place. True friendship, true love is a choice. Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, it is an active choice. It’s a vote in a never-ending election.

You can vote for whomever you please today and despite how this election turns out, If you are my friend, acquaintance, loved one, I will still vote for YOU. I will still elect you. YOU are still a candidate in my heart.

I refuse to forget our journey-our slumber parties, our Christmases, our memories, the times you held my hand in the hospital or the fact that I looked at you more times than I can count and made the decision that you were always enough, that I’ve consistently campaigned for you. I will not dehumanize you because you don’t agree wholeheartedly with me, I will not devalue your position in my life. I hope for you to do the same and I understand that if you do not, this is your freedom of choice. I hope that others will see that we disagree but still vote for each other because we are friends, because we love each other, and that others follow suit. I hope that this example sets a new tone and breaks barriers and that it shows others that we never have to pigeonhole others into our own limited beliefs to love them. I cannot imagine telling my sons, who I shared months of heartbeats with, that they were “dead to me” because they didn’t check all the boxes that I checked in a temporary election. I imagine I’ll continue to teach them that while voting is important, it is NOT everything, and that any logical American human being knows that leaving all of our hopes, wishes, and aspirations on a candidate is like placing all of the money in our bank accounts on a roulette table and believing we are going to double it. Real change begins with sharing my bank account resources in good measure and investing the rest in things that benefit other people as well as myself. Real change begins with us and how we act.

I act, therefore, I vote and just know…

that today, whenever I cast my vote, I am still casting one for you, too.

In the Midst of the Hurricane

The winds of Hurricane Delta howling around me have nothing on my teenage son.

The destruction and devastation that occurred earlier this afternoon definitely make the goings-on outside feel like a springtime thunderstorm. Hell hath no fury like a teenage son’s rage directed at his mother and Jim Cantore can’t throw a tarp over my heart’s debris and tell me I could have predicted this damage.

“I hate you, fuck you,” shouted my (sweet) almost-16-year-old son as he stormed off through the front door and left me crying with his brothers in tow. I’ll admit, I felt shell-shocked at first and I didn’t think I’d heard him right because the ringing in my ears just wouldn’t stop. It was like lightning crashing right in front of me. I did, however, hear him right. This vitriol spewed from his mouth quite easily after a morning filled with, “I love yous.”

Because I asked him to get off of his cell phone at 3 pm and eat lunch. At 3 pm. On a Friday. During the COVID-online-school-riddled-crapfest that is 2020.

I didn’t back down, but he wouldn’t stop howling groans, eyeballs rolling, shouts and disrespect. I immediately asked him for the cell phone so I could keep it for the weekend and there was flat-out refusal, followed by my taking it off of his dresser, anyway, which escalated into a screaming man-child in my face yelling, “Shut up, you’ve ruined my life since day one!” and his grabbing me and attempting to head-butt me in the face. At my very lowest I think I’ve ever been, I went into straight survival mode and slapped him across the face. Hurricane Cam went into full Category 5 after that, throwing things around in his path as he spun around with the final blow that you read above-leaving me with the shattered shards of this broken heart.

There is no pain like this in the world. I feel as if I’d experienced raw pain before this moment what with the surgeries, abuse, child loss, death, treatments, abandonment, and molestation in my past. However, I was very misinformed. This is it. This is the kind of pain and devastation that leaves me in this outer-body state I am in now, wondering how the hell do I get past this moment in time without finally giving up?

My Cam is such an artistic teenager. He’s creative, funny, he can draw like no one’s business. He loves to laugh, he has never had an awkward phase. He was beautiful since the moment I locked eyes on him and he only ever grows handsomer. He has always been confident and up until these past few years, he has always been intuitive of others’ feelings: sensitive, caring and has always been able to read the room.

Then, his Daddy died in his arms.

I think some part of Cam’s childhood died that day with Ricky. He was only eleven and he had to grow up too fast. Except he didn’t have to grow up too fast, I lied to myself, because he had me. Apparently, I didn’t matter in the equation as much as I wanted to and no matter how hard I pushed through the difficult circumstances that are being a single mother to a boy who’s been through the some of the worst events that life has to offer–I am failing. I tried my damndest to run against this wind and it has all but flattened me. I don’t know what I’m doing, I didn’t act like this, I never would have been able to speak to my parents like that and live to see the day. Honestly, I still have some of my old diaries, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have tried it. I’ve always expected the typical teenage attitude, I’ve heard teens become moody and angry… but whenever it grows to full-on temperamental shouting and physical rage (especially whenever my former preemie is taller than me) it just doesn’t sit well with me. How is my son ever supposed to respect any women in his life if he can’t respect the one he started life with?

How do I teach him to open doors? How do I teach him to have daughters, to be kind to his wife, to respect his future female employees or bosses, when everything that happens to him he blames on me, takes out on me- the one thing I never knew I’d have to worry about. We’ve had counseling, we’ve had talks, he’s gone on a church retreat, I’ve tried being stricter, and lately? I’ve been WAY too relaxed compared to other parents I know. I’ve cut back hours at work, I am in a steady relationship with a kind fiancé. I am used to being the scapegoat of many, but I want to shout to the thunder crashing in the skies above, “WHEN?! WHEN DID I BECOME MY OWN SON’S SCAPEGOAT?! WHEN?! WHEN DOES THIS MADNESS END?! HOW?! HOW DO I FIND SHELTER FROM A NOW 5-YEAR-LONG STORM?!”

My beautiful son came into this world 5 weeks early after a long battle with preeclampsia. When I felt his first movements in my belly, I knew I had never known such love until that moment. I fought like hell to nurse him and get him to gain weight. I never would have been brave enough to leave my abusive marriage if he had not come into my world, because I didn’t ever want him to grow up experiencing violence toward women was okay and though I sucked at protecting myself, I wasn’t going to stay one second longer around any harm that could have affected my baby boy. I entered single motherhood at 21-years-old and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s the loneliest, hardest way to endure life if you have no one else to rely on but yourself. I am around 21-year-olds now and when I compare their lives to mine back then…all I can think about is how I don’t know how I did it except breathing in and out because it was the only thing I could control. I spent so many years working job to job, only leaving each if it was going to be better for my boy. I didn’t date much and the few times I entered into a relationship I thought I was being careful and doing something good for him more than myself. I thought he’d have a life that was more secure, that was easier, that had a father figure and whenever they turned out to be mistakes I always counted myself lucky that he never would have to settle for less or that he seemed secure enough with my love for him to not feel unwanted.

I thought I was in a better place until now. We have come so far in life, him and I and his little brothers. I was told yesterday in a conversation with one of my kind friends that I was “one of the most amazing mothers that she knows” and I’ve lived with this friend for a year before. She’s seen me in action. I was so grateful and yet, today, as he sits in his room in silence and I sit next to this window listening to the frightening howls of this hurricane, the kind words don’t ring true. They don’t hold precedence.

I am so tired. I have been for years. I am numb. My body aches. My eyes are swollen. I have 3 years left of the teenage years and I don’t know if I can handle enduring these moments for that long. I sit in guilt for thinking these thoughts and looking back on how I wanted to freeze time for each little milestone he hit in babyhood and adolescence, I want to hang my head in shame for wishing I could now fast-forward time until this storm is over. Each moment of his life has always felt like a precious commodity, I’ve always known I’ll never get back and yet, here I sit with this. No advice I’ve been given so far has been helpful. I know each motherhood challenge is unique to each mother and child and thus, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone and helpless. How does one vent to a friend about this nightmare without fear of judgment, gossip, or labels being formed (about either of us)? I truly never want to relive this afternoon and though I’ve always told myself, “It will all be worth it whenever he grows up knowing and understanding that loving him and being his mother was the only thing that kept me alive, the only thing I’m good at”, I swallow and realize that that may be only a fantasy and it might never happen. That maybe being a baby mom, a toddler mom, a little boy mom was terribly easy and I was never really good at loving my child, that the teenage years are the only true test, those last years before adulthood, and I’m a failure. I want to be okay with that.

But…I’m not.

So, I sit here in the warm bath, the only comfort I have mixed with the release of typing all of this out, I sit. I listen to the howling, I hear the thundering rain, I hear the crashing sounds of unknown debris outside. I feel them on the inside of my exhausted body, too. I feel it all in one of the worst years in history on my least favorite day of the week. I sit and wonder when it’s all going to give. When will the gusts subside? When will the storm end? When do I find out riding it out was “worth it”?. Will there be sunshine when everything goes quiet?