Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let it Go, Let it Go, Turn Away and Slam the Door

I was asked this week to draw my family tree for a homework assignment. A daunting task when you need to fit so many people onto one sheet of paper. But I did it, and it ended up being a great assignment.

Prompt: Letting Go.

The assignment was designed to make me address the relationships and patterns on both sides of my family. Who am I especially close to? Who are the "favorites," and who do I have more limited contact with? Is there anyone in my family who is actually hated or who feels actual hate towards me? Where are patterns of disease, mental illness, cancer? Where are drugs and/or alcohol prevalent? Is there anyone in my family who is especially controlling or manipulative, or is anyone abusive? Which of my parents' siblings get along best with each other? Why?

I learned a lot from doing this assignment, and it has opened a lot of doors for further discussion and understanding about why my family functions the way it does (both sides) and why I function the way I do within each side of my family.

For example, in my mom's family, I have a very take charge manner; I like to make plans, I like to be the one to plan holidays or help organize things. I tend to reach out and invite my cousins to do things. I am also very vocal and have no problem expressing my feelings to my family on my mom's side. If someone does something that bothers or upsets me, I can express that without fear of consequence - I know that I am respected, loved, and cared about, and that I am free to disagree with the pack.

On the other side of the fence, in my dad's family, I am more quiet and don't generally stand up to take control over something. I know that the way I would do things is different, and I've learned - through my whole life - that going against the tradition is bad. So I don't do it. In my adult life I have also learned that expressing my opinion, or admitting when I am upset, bothered, or hurt, is generally not welcomed. So I have learned to just be more quiet, and to be more selective with whom I share my real feelings.

It is interesting to see it all on paper, and has made me think a lot more about my need to let go of the rotten apples in my family tree. My blood family is huge. But the circle of people who accepts me for who I am, who lets me be real and speak my truth, who supports and lifts me up, is nowhere near as huge. And that's fine. In grieving the loss of the family that I once had, I have been able to appreciate so much more the ones who have encouraged me and validated me all along.
 The good news is, I have finally learned to let go of the people who have let go of me. Why do I need to bother with feeling sad about my family who doesn't feel sad that I'm not there? I certainly don't. So I don't anymore. I've worked really hard to let it go. To focus on the people who are still here, the ones who take care of me and respect our differences.

And I tell ya what, once you learn to just let it is much more pleasant. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mama!

Today is my mom's birthday. My mom is the very best mom. 
You should all be jealous. 

Happy birthday, mom. I love you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Visible and Validated

Have you ever stood in the middle of a crowd, and yelled at the top of your lungs, only to realize that no one can hear you?

Have you ever looked at a toddler in a store, throwing a kicking, screaming, wailing tantrum, and felt like that was exactly what you have looked like for ten straight years, to no avail?

For ten years, I have felt invisible. Not invisible to everyone, not invisible in every circumstance or in my daily routine with the people I love, but invisible, unheard, and completely invalidated in several very vital scenarios.

At one point about ten years ago, and I don't know exactly when, but at some point when I was in my late 'teens or early twenties, my Uncle Mike was diagnosed with cancer. It was the first time someone in my close family had been given this diagnosis, and I was scared. But I was also wounded from a fight taking place in my family, and this put the fight in me to do my part to mend it. I reached out, expressing my feelings, my mom's feelings, the way that cancer can scare the fucking shit out of you and make you rethink all of the bull shit fights you're involved in. All I wanted was for the fighting to end and everyone to move on together, because together, we are big enough to kick cancer out and get past it.

I screamed, but nobody really heard me. Or they heard me and chose not to listen.

Not too long after, when I was a senior in college, my own daddy got a cancer diagnosis. I was broken. Scared. No, terrified. I have never been such a wreck, nor have I ever been so in need of being loved and embraced by everyone in my world. The only thing I wanted was everyone to take care of us, to make it better, to help get to the end of each day.

I continued to scream, but they didn't hear me. They were busy fighting and yelling; they were busy being hateful.

In 2009, Grandma and Grandpa Stacey both died, just a few months apart. I was devastated. I thought the way to mend my broken heart would be to make a better effort to bond with my Grandma W, who was now my last living grandparent. And I did. I picked her up and together we went to visit her old house - the house that holds all of my childhood memories - when it was for sale. I asked her for her old recipes and she gave them to me on handwritten cards, in her shaky cursive script. I went to her house to bake holiday cookies with her, and tried really hard to not feel broken when I left in tears after a few hours.

I was screaming for the tight knit loving chaos that I had been missing. But I was screaming to myself, and no one really heard it but me.

There have been moments in my adult life where all I wanted was the chaos - those days where all of us under 18 had to sit on the floor because there weren't enough chairs, the days where we had to cook all week long to make enough food to serve everyone, the meals where we were physically unable to sit together at one table. Big, loud, and crazy is what I crave on holidays and birthdays. Having to sit on the floor is normal and it's what I miss, what I continue to grieve the loss of, what we will never get back. Being able to sit around one table feels like silent screaming. Feels like I am the only one who still misses the normalcy of the chaos.

It has only been recently that I have begun to let it go. No matter how angry or sad or hurt or invalidated I have found myself in the past ten years, I have continued to hope for normalcy, for repair and rebuild, for forgiveness and peace. I have wanted my childhood and all it's traditions and innocent ignorant bliss back, where everything was happy and fun, where no one was this full of anger. I am only very recently moving on, saying goodbye to the old normal and embracing the new normal. Finding a way to enjoy what's here instead of focusing on what's not. The people who have heard me yelling, are the only ones I need anyway.

But, no matter how able I am to move forward, to forget and let go, it is really hard to not be heard. Think back to that toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the store. Picture the kicking, the screaming, the punching...picture all of it in silence. That is how it feels to go about your life thinking that nobody is validating, or even listening to, what you're saying. My feelings are big. They're powerful. They're raw. And until today, I have felt like they were silent.

Last night I got a message that surely my cousin didn't think was much of a big deal. Letting me know she'd had a conversation in which my ten years of feelings were validated: someone heard me. My hurt feelings were understood and accepted, my sadness was not ignored. We did this; we hurt her, and we should be sorry for that. I felt like I won the lottery tonight. Not because I was finally right, not because I intend any forgiveness to take place now, not because I think anything will be any different than it has been for ten years. But because someone finally fucking heard me. And listened. And empathized. And felt remorse.

Because, to be quite blunt, I had no part in what happened. I was a bystander. I have been drug through the mud, the whole time yelling for someone to fix it. This will never be fixed, and I know that. But someone heard me. And listened to me. And validated me.

People need validation of their feelings. Whether we agree or disagree, a person's feelings are always valid. That toddler, throwing a fit in the store, is experiencing valid emotion, albeit inappropriately. But that doesn't mean the kid is wrong or bad; it simply means he needs someone to pick him up and listen, and validate his needs. You don't have to agree. Hell you may wildly disagree. But the way someone feels is valid. The way someone expresses their feelings is valid. The way someone interprets their version of reality, is valid. We are deserving of validity. We deserve to be heard and accepted, and nobody deserves to be ignored.

Don't let the people in your life become invisible. Validate their feelings. When they are kicking and screaming, don't let them feel like their screams are silent. Hear them.

We all deserve to be visible and validated.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Be Someone's Inspiration

Who inspires you?

Sitting in the first hour of an eight hour training meeting last week, the room full of my coworkers was asked by the trainer, who inspires you? No limitations were set; she didn't say, who inspires your personal life, nor did she target our professional mentors. She simply wanted to know who we were inspired by or who we looked up to.

As we went around the room, more and more people saying, "my mom inspires me because she's amazing," I got to thinking; who am I truly inspired by?

When it got to be my turn, I announced that I am inspired by Beverly Cleary, my favorite author, because she wrote what I dream of writing: a successful series of children's books about a famous character,  Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I devoured the Ramona books as a kid, and I love them, even now. Ramona was a character I loved and related to, and she is now a character I dream of finding in my own head. I told the group that Beverly Cleary was my inspiration because she does exactly what I want to do with my life: she writes, and people know who she is. And I love that.

But Beverly Cleary, while she is a professional motivator for me, doesn't really apply as far as personal inspiration in my daily life. And I left the training thinking more and more about who does, actually inspire me daily...

I am inspired by my parents, to wait for the right man, the one who will be my partner in life and who will treat me well. My mom and dad have taught me to fight for what I believe in and stand up for myself no matter what. They have taught me to be strong as well as to compromise, and to put the person I love first. From my mom and dad I have learned to blaze my own trail, not wait for someone to blaze it for me; they taught me to be me, and to love me.

I am inspired by my girlfriends, to create the life that I know will make me happy. My best friend wrote this today, and I find myself so truly proud of where she has come in the year I've known her. When we met, she was, as she says, a basketcase, unable to calm the fuck down. In the last 12 months, she has realized exactly who she is and what she wants, and has learned to put herself in the driver's seat to make it happen. I am inspired by her to do the same - to calm the fuck down, to decide what I want, and to go after it, full force, until I get it. I have a group of strong, independent, happy, driven girlfriends, who make me proud to be a part of their group, proud to be someone who drives and motivates them as well.

I am inspired by the number of babies and toddlers, as well as little kids, in my life who look up to me and who need me. I look at all those little faces, all of their impressionable eyes, and I want to be a better person, to be the best example possible for all of them. I am inspired to be proud of who I am and to not complain about my body, because I want Camille and June to grow up in a world where they know they can be happy no matter what they look like; and I want to give Blake, Finn, Archer, and Oskar an example of a strong girl, and teach them the best way to be a supportive and uplifting man, one who accepts and loves women no matter what. Being an auntie to all of these babies is a motivator for me to really be careful of the way I talk about myself or about other people. If I want them to grow up to change the world, I need to help give them the tools to do that.

I am inspired by my family - specifically by my cousins - who are unique and empowered women. None of us are the same, but in our individuality, we are each others' biggest support and encouragement. We make vastly different life choices but I know I can always count on them to believe in and support me, regardless of the decisions I make. And it goes both ways; they can always count on me to love them and to support the life choices they make, no matter what.

Sitting in this training meeting, with about 30 of my peers, none of whom could come up with anyone inspirational other than their parents, left me feeling truly grateful for the amazing sources of inspiration in my life; I am a lucky girl to have so many people to help me stay on track, to encourage me to blaze a new trail, and to support me when I fall out of line.

So the question is, who are you inspiring? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Many Places Could the Couch Really Be?

Prompt: Weird things you do when you're alone.

Well, for starters, we've already established that when I am home alone, I simply do not wear pants. Ever. I hate pants. I much prefer the comfort of my panties and a warm hooded sweatshirt and slippers (or a soft tank top in the summer time. I am just not a fan of wearing pants.

Weird thing number two, when I am home alone, I tend to talk to my cat, but I'm not sure that really qualifies as weird, as most of my friends talk baby talk to their cats and/or dogs. I think it'd be more weird if I expected a reply, which I don't. But I do talk to Juno, and more when we're alone than when people are over.

The real kicker, though, is when I am home by myself and am stressed out, I move furniture. Like, rearrange it. It's a strange form of stress relief, but it gets the job done. Maybe that's why I don't mind moving so often - because I enjoy breaking up my life stress with a need to rearrange furniture. And I am not talking about rearranging a few pictures or your books on a shelf; when I am stressed, I will rearrange the contents of my apartment, from furniture to closets to dishes in the cupboards.

There is something about finding a new place for something that just alleviates my stress. Like, maybe my life is in shambles, but at least my dishes make sense in the cabinets!

The same is true for work. When I have work stress, I cope by cleaning out my desk. The more stressed I am, the cleaner and more organized my office and work space are. It works for me.

There is something therapeutic and calming to me about having things look different. That really probably is part of why I don't mind moving, why I love to go new places, why I like to work at "takeover" properties and move around from job to job, and why I like to work at other people's properties; it alleviates my stress.

And if it helps me CTFC, it certainly can't be a bad thing, right?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Because I Love Carbs

Well it's official: I am an adult.

There are things we hide from our parents our entire childhood, and things that we still never admit to them because really, no matter what, they are still our parents. No matter how adult I get, I still do not discuss sex with my mom or dad. And even though I am not a kid anymore, I tend to avoid talking about money, spending, or financial responsibility.

And yet, after years of being under 21 trying to pretend in front of my mom that I was toooootally not drunk, I had her over at my new apartment last week and laughed hysterically as I told her I had recently spent a weekend snowed in at home, doing nothing but smoking weed and eating Cheerios.

 Now, I am not generally a pot smoker. Not because I don't like it, but because of how much it makes me eat. Specifically how many CARBS it makes me eat. Cheerios, even more specifically. My number one reason for not smoking weed on the regular is, how many Cheerios it makes me eat.

But, it was snowing. My car was broken down. I had not been to the grocery store. I was likely going to have to eat nothing but Cheerios anyway, as that was essentially all I had in the pantry. What choice did I have?

And so, because I had no other choice and because my arm was being clearly twisted by some higher power controlling the weather, I smoked weed. All weekend. And ate a lot of Cheerios.

In my defense, I also cleaned my apartment from top to bottom, watched a ton of TV, and napped several times. So it's not like ALL I was doing was eating cereal. But aside from the cleaning, I was incredibly unproductive and lazy, and essentially wasted 72 hours of my life being stoned in my pajamas, on the couch with Juno, in front of the fireplace and the boob tube.

And for someone who NEVER gets to slow the fuck down and chill, it was an epic time.

But, this blog is not intended to laugh at how lazy I was while stoned; but rather to laugh at the fact that I told my mom about it. Because no matter how old I get, I still somehow think I'm going to be in trouble. Like I'm going to get grounded for admitting to my mother that I was stoned for 3 straight days.

Life is much more fun when you realize your mom is your friend now. So go on, tell your mom the truth about something today. You won't get grounded. She'll probably shake her head and laugh. That's what my mom did. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Believe in a Beautiful Life

Writing Prompt: Ten things that I believe...

1. I believe in working to live, not living to work. I have a job. I have a job that I enjoy, and a job that I am good at. I make a decent living wage, that would be better than decent had I not made financial mistakes in my early twenties. I have growth opportunities, and a boss who is supportive. That said, I do not focus my life around my job. It's a job. It might even be a career. But I look forward to my weekends, my time off, my vacations. I know that I have to have a job, and I am an independent woman; I will never want to not work and support myself financially. I am not looking for money in a partner so I can quit working. More power to ya if that's what you want, but I believe that working is a necessary part of my life.

2. I believe that family is not forever. I was raised in a big family. Lots of grandparents and a million aunts and uncles and cousins. Huge family holidays full of noise and games and love. I don't believe in that any more; it is no longer my reality. I believe in the family I do have, those ones who are forever, those ones who love me no matter what I think or feel or write. Growing up, I spent my days in the honey tree on Kelvin, or in the "jungle" on Monroe. My memories are vivid and powerful, and I still feel a deep rooted love between all 4 of my grandparents and the child I was. I will forever be grateful and will always miss those loud, crazy, hectic holidays; chaos as a large, loving family was what I knew and loved, and I'll always treasure those first 19 years of my life. My anger towards those who are no longer supportive or loving has faded into a hollow sadness, and with some, a true absence of emotion. And yet in this lesson, I have learned to be even more grateful for the family relationships I do have, because while I may have taken my family for granted in the past just thinking they'd be there no matter what, I now know that those are bonds I have to fight for, because family isn't always a lifetime commitment.

3. I believe that life is better when someone is next to me, making me laugh. I learned this from Zach, who despite his shortcomings as a boyfriend, excelled in being the one person in the room you could always be silly with. Zach was amazing. He made me smile. He made me laugh until I cried. He would stay the night at my apartment and we would lay in bed laughing and laughing, for hours. Nothing better than that. Life is truly too short to not find something to laugh at every day. My life was better in the short time Zach was a part of it, and I will never stop being grateful for everything he taught me about letting go of my pride and just being a goofball.

4. I believe that being "Auntie V" makes me a better person. I don't have babies of my own, and I can't picture having full time kids in my apartment. It's so clean and quiet here, and I know what kids do to that serenity. That said, I am deeply grateful for my relationship with my cousins' kids. I love these babies. I love to spoil them, have them over to my house to make messes and eat candy, watch movies with them, and read them books. I love when Blake calls me on the phone to tell me something he learned or something he did, like when he pooped in his potty. I love that I can curl up on the sofa holding Camille and just listening to her little snore. I love how afraid of me Oskar is and the way that Archer yells and runs. I love getting letters in the mail from Madelyn, and watching Lily and Eloise chase my cat around the house. The kids in my life are amazing. They are smart and awesome, and they have such distinct personalities; it's great. They make my life better. I want them to always call me and look up to me, and find safety with me when they run into trouble. Whether or not I ever have babies of my own, the little people in my life make me want to be better so they want to be like their Auntie V one day.

5. I believe that everyone would benefit from a little therapy. No need to elaborate too much here. I need it, you need it...we should all just give it a go!

6. I believe that Juno saved my life. You've all read the story. I don't need to retell it. If you missed it, HERE is where I give all the credit to a fluffy, little black kitten who saved me from the worst black hole I have ever fallen into. The next time you think I am spoiling the cat or seeming a bit crazy cat lady, remember that I don't love Juno because she's a cat; I love her because she rescued me from my really unhappy existence. And that's why I let her bite you when you come over.

7. I believe in my ability to write, and to write well. This blog has given me so much more confidence in the past year! I love that so many of my friends read it, and that so many strangers on the internet read it - it's such a compliment to me that people actually tune in daily to read what I have to say. The day I find out how to make a living wage on a blog, I will be a happy woman! I am so much more confident, and also so much more practiced, as a writer since starting this blog - I am less worried about what people think, more confident in my opinions and my ability to express them, and more excited about growing as a writer. So thank you for reading!!

8. I believe in my best friends, their hearts and their souls, and that they are amazing people. I have the best friends I've ever had. I have learned from them the meaning of a true friend. It's not about how many friends you have or how often you get to see them. Some of my best friends, I very rarely actually see. Some of the people I see the most often or talk to fairly often, I know are not the ones who will be here for me long term. My best friends - Rachel, Kattie, Heather, Adelle - have taught me that whether you talk to someone once a day or once a month, friends are friends, and they're the ones you can always count on. I am lucky to have them, as coworkers, roommates, and especially as friends.

9. I believe that being at the beach reminds me to slow down and by happy. How can it not? How can the sun and the wind and the waves not just make you stop and think about how amazing life is? The beach is my happy place. Always has been. My grandparents lived there, and I was always running down to visit them on my days off work or on spring break or winter break. I do the same now; pack a book, a 6 pack, and Juno, and run down to curl up in the rocking chair for two days. It makes me happier than anything or anywhere else. When I publish my first best-seller, I'm gonna buy myself an oceanfront condo where I can spend the weekends whenever I want.

10. I believe in living in the moment. Be happy. Do whatever makes you happy. If you want to take a trip or stay in your jammies all weekend or go out dancing, it doesn't matter. Do it. Make it count. You never know when you might be living your last moment, or when someone close to you may be living theirs. Embrace that. Don't let it bog you down, but really cherish those moments with everyone who matters to you. Say good morning and kiss goodnight. Snuggle for 5 more minutes. Play toys, read books. Go somewhere. Try something new. See something different. And for the love, LAUGH about it! Just be happy with every passing moment; no regrets.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea...But I Wish Some of Them Would Drown

Writing Prompt: Online Dating. Have you done it? How do you feel about it?

I met my last boyfriend online. On, specifically. I think online dating can be a legit way to meet people, to get your feet wet in the relationship pool, and to possibly, maybe eventually actually meet someone you really click with.

That said, there is definite risk - outside of the potential that you are about to encounter a serial killer, of course.

Recently, my counselor gave me a homework assignment to sign back up on Match. Not because I have turned into a hermit or anything, just because I am not making it a priority to meet anyone. And I'm really not. Because right now, I am my priority. My new apartment and making it a home. My job and learning/training/growing. My friends. My family. My health and fitness. I am being incredibly selfish with me "me" time...and that't not a bad thing. But I decided I could probably squeeze in some interaction with guys who want to take me out, and see where things went. We decided that it was a great lesson in how to continue to maintain that even if I am dating someone, or casually dating a few someones, I can still focus on myself and not lose that.

I went on the WORST date, ever, this week. This guy was a cocky ass. He was rude to the server, he was condescending of what I do for a living and how I support myself, and he seemed to be interviewing me much more than conversing with me. Needless to say, we've not spoken since. But what I realized, as I walked the opposite direction as this dude back to my own car to text Rachel and Kattie about what a dick he was, was that I am much stronger than I used to be.

I did not tell this guy I'd call him, nor did I give him any sign that I was interested. I very clearly wasn't. I shook his hand and thanked him for the beer, and made it clear I was parked this way and could walk myself there. Years ago, I would have played some song and dance, or let him walk me to my car, answered the phone if he called again - I would have let him believe he had a chance.

This guy had no chance, and he left knowing that.

I am happy and content, and I know that when it's the best time, I'll meet someone I don't want to punch in the face. And this way, at least I'll have some entertaining stories along the way!