Posted on | March 11, 2014 | 3 Comments
Seventeen years ago, I lost a friend to drunk driving. I’ve posted about it before and I’m not going to go into great detail here except to say that when you lose someone tragically, that loss stays with you. It drapes around your neck like a shroud of sorrow and mostly, mostly, you can set it aside and press the feelings down until they fade into the slightest reminder of sadness. Mostly. Then you wake up and everything seems off, everything seems confused and mysteriously sad and it takes you more than a few moments to recognize that the date on the calendar is blackened with seventeen years of grief, built up and pressed down… built up and pressed down.
For years, this week has marked an ending for me. For years, this month has marked a time of reflection on loss, thirty days to remember those who left too soon.
It’s marked the end of my innocence, the end of my belief in invincibility, the end of my youthful sneer and snarl of importance. It’s marked by a hatred of cancer, and the loss of my confidante through divorce. It’s a month marked by loss. And then last year, in mid-May, I was introduced to Banks. And what I didn’t know at the time was that his presence in my life gives me something special… something he never intended to give me. Something maybe someone else… maybe two Jennifers gone too soon, planned to share with me.
You see, I lost one Jennifer to drunk driving on the 10th or 11th of March (technically the 10th, I didn’t know until the 11th), and I lost another Jennifer to cancer on the 1st of March. Two Jennifers. Two special people who made a lasting impact on my life. Both gone in the same month, fifteen years apart.
I like to think they’re up there, getting to know each other.
I like to think they’re conspiring and giggling and somehow working together to help me get through the month of March… a month that has been marked by loss and sadness for seventeen years.
It wasn’t until mid way through our relationship that I found out. It wasn’t until just this week that I realized how much I needed it.
Banks’s birthday is the 12th of March.
And finally, thankfully, I have something to smile about in a month marked by loss.
Posted on | March 7, 2014 | 2 Comments
I’ve always heard the mantra that “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” and I’ve always sort of thought it was silly. I mean, we’re people, right? How hard can it be for people to communicate?
Then I started dating.
And I realized that yeah… it’s true. We are totally from different planets when it comes to how we process information, how we approach problems, and even how we communicate. Let’s take for example my relationship with Banks. If I’m being honest, we rarely fought at all during the honeymoon phase. Both of us were too content to nod and smile and smooth everything over because we were putting our best foot forward. As time ran on, it became harder to do that, and eventually I had to let all of my crazy out of the bag. Mostly, he deals with it well. But it’s become so apparent to me lately that there are some fundamental differences in the way we look at the world.
The other night, I was being a raging you know what. I had a rough day. I was exhausted. My kid wouldn’t go to sleep. It had just been one of those days. And I was on the phone with Banks, trying to have a conversation while simultaneously watching the end of a close basketball game, which basically means I was tuning in with half an ear to him and the rest of my attention to the game. I don’t remember what he said but something rubbed me the wrong way and I got pissy, as I’m wont to do. Because of the rest of my day, I basically just threw up my hands and said we should just say goodbye and talk later. I could actually hear him shrug before he said goodbye. I hung up angry and watched the phone.
In a moment of epic truth…. he didn’t call back.
As a woman, I KNEW he was supposed to call back. Because he should have been all “Baby, don’t go to sleep mad! I love you!” So after about twenty minutes of stewing on how he hadn’t called back, I called him.
Obviously my brain went in the RIGHT direction… right to the fact that he was clearly mad at me and was ignoring me because OH MY GOD HE DOESN’T LOVE ME ANYMORE. I texted him to call and that I’d wait to hear from him.
He didn’t text.
“We’re breaking up, I know it,” I thought to myself, getting more and more worked up. Finally, I crawled into bed and had a good cry about how sad it was that I loved him so much and he was never going to let me tell him because clearly he’d stopped talking to me forever.
The next morning, I tentatively sent a text saying good morning or something similar.
He responded back in normal fashion.
How could he be so normal? How could he not tell me that everything was okay and that he wasn’t mad anymore? WHAT DID ALL OF THIS FAKE NORMALCY MEAN?
Turns out, he’d fallen asleep when we’d said good night, because, you know… we said good night.
Men are from Mars.
Women are from Crazy Town.
Posted on | March 5, 2014 | No Comments
When you’re divorced, you tend to want to see the world in black and white: He hurt me, he was wrong. I was hurt, I was right. That fades over time but when you get into a serious relationship after divorce, those sharp dividing lines seem to reappear.
When Banks and I fight, which is rarely, I tend to throw up this brick wall between us, mortared together with all my insecurities about my judgment. I sit and sulk and wonder if I’m making the same mistakes again… after all, I fought with my ex and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED. I was talking to a friend of mine who is also divorced and we determined that allowing yourself to fall in love after divorce is pretty much like flying after surviving a plane crash. You don’t have to do it. You can live your whole life without ever stepping one foot on an airplane again… but think of how much you’d miss.
I don’t want to miss out on life because I’m too scared to fly for fear of crashing and if we’re being honest, falling in love with Banks has not been a puddle jumper.
This love story has been and continues to be… a trans-Atlantic flight.
And along the way, I swear there have been times when I’ve wanted to run so fast and so far in the opposite direction that I’d never see anyone who even knew him ever again. I’m sure he’s felt the same. But then where would I be? Where would we be? Still sitting in an airport, trying to decide if it’s ever going to be worth our time to get on a plane again?
I don’t want to be that person.
I don’t want to run every time Banks does something that reminds me of my Ex.
I don’t want to push him away just because he has back story, just because he’s not perfect… just because he doesn’t think I’m perfect.
Because we’re not… neither of us.
We’re these scarred and wounded and stitched up people who have decided, both of us, to get on this plane together. We’re survivors. And just as I expect him to embrace my faults, my insecurities and my particular brand of crazy… I have to do the same.
Disagreement isn’t indicative of incompatibility.
Imperfection isn’t a sign of disaster.
It’s time to start tearing down the wall, the one around my heart and mind that says “Your judgment is flawed. Your ability to reason is skewed. Your perfect match will be… perfect.” It’s time to look around and realize that just as I am capable of making wrong decisions, I am equally capable of making right ones.
And getting on this particular plane? Falling into this particular love story?
Yeah… I think that’s right. I really do.
Posted on | March 3, 2014 | 2 Comments
This morning on the way to school, J was buckled into the back seat singing. He sometimes makes up songs, and sometimes mutilates songs that he’s heard before. This morning, I’m not really sure where his tune came from, but his light voice traveled up to the front seat and I had to pause to listen.
“You have to earn your memories…” he sang, bopping his head in time to the music he was hearing from somewhere. “You have to earn your memories.”
At first I wanted to chuckle… memories aren’t EARNED, they’re made, right? But no sooner had the words crossed my mind then I knew they were wrong. I’d been living life all wrong, it seemed and my four year old was musically chastising me from the back seat. Because memories should be more than just made. Memories should be priceless pearls of a time and place you want to string into your subconscious and keep for always. Life should be about more than just… well… letting it happen to you.
I nodded my head to his tune and grinned a little. Once again, my four year old held out the keys to a better life, and I grabbed hold with both hands.
Memories should be earned.
The best thing we can do with our lives is to work hard to make our own unique string of memories the best they can be… sweet moments with a child, hilarity with a lover, accomplishments at the office. Because one day, we will be an old, sitting alone in motorized recliners, and all we will have to keep track of time then, is the worn string of prayer beads, the memory pearls of our time spent now.
Do I want those pearls to be the time the opposing counsel made me so mad I lashed out in anger?
Do I want to spend my time remembering the failures and the moments when I ached so badly for something or other that I could barely pull myself out of bed?
Do I want my string of memories to be a misshapen reminder of all the wrongs I’ve experienced, all the times life or love has let me down?
Or do I want to sit there, in that recliner, and reach for a badge of honor…. a string of well-earned memories, a sweet reminder of a life well-lived.
I am no longer setting out to just make memories… any one can do that. Now, I will strive to earn my memories, one day at a time, working hard to have a life worth remembering.
Posted on | February 28, 2014 | 7 Comments
There are times when I’m certain being a mother is the hardest job in the world. Times, like last night, when my son is hurting and I’m hurting double for the sorrow of him and the sorrow of my own heart at his sadness. Times when the world says something about your son is wrong, is different, is strange or weird and you want to stand on the top of the tallest building in the world and shout to the masses that NOTHING is wrong with who he is or who he will become.
Last night, someone on J’s t-ball team told him he was weird, or more specifically “the weirdest one on the team” and it hurt his feelings. He sat in the back seat of the car and thought about the words for a while, maybe wondering what they meant and maybe just wondering if he even cared. I told him “weird” was “cool” because dammit, my kid is cool. And I hugged him close when we got home and whispered in his ear that I was weird and he still loved me and if he could love me when I’m weird, then he better damn well love the weirdness in himself, too. Because weird makes us interesting, you know?
As I tucked him into his bed and kissed him good night, I felt particularly blessed to be this particular child’s mother. He’s weird in all the good ways…. funny and insightful, curious and loving… it’s his awesome weirdness that makes me love him so ferociously. But it got me thinking about how we see our children, years and years after they’ve left childhood behind. Do they ever get older in our eyes? Do they ever stop being these sweet, weird, precious beings who we want to protect until the life is sucked from our bodies? Somehow I doubt it. Somehow I think that no matter how big, how accomplished, how “grown” they become, they are always three and four in our eyes. So maybe the next time I start to think someone is weird, maybe I’ll try to see them with the eyes of their mother. See the innocent, wide-eyed wonder on their face. Picture them as they must have been and remember that to someone, somewhere, they are still that person.
I wondered what it must feel like for the mothers of sons and daughters who are told by the world they are “weird” because of how and who they love. How badly does it hurt to know that people in the world look at your child and whisper to them that they are wrong, that they are weird or strange or somehow broken simply because they love differently. How badly do those mothers want to climb to the top of the tallest building and shout out “I made this child in the depths of my soul and he/she is PERFECT just as they are.”
Because they are, you know. They’re perfectly weird… just like the rest of us.
To those moms… the ones who are doing that on a daily basis, who are rising up and taking charge and getting mad and stepping outside the neatly drawn lines to fight for acceptance for their babies, even if they’re grown… to those moms, I say well done. I don’t know how you don’t slap or punch or kick people on a regular basis. Because my son got called weird and it almost broke me. May the world one day realize that we’re all uniquely special no matter what we look like, who we pray to, or who we love. May the world realize that we are all amazing and worthy of love and respect and yes, deep down in our souls…
We’re all perfectly weird in all the right ways.
Posted on | February 26, 2014 | 1 Comment
I don’t know these days, guys.
I just don’t know.
Yesterday, I was privileged enough to ride a bus up to Atlanta to see the Capitol and schmooze a bit with some politicians. We arrived for a photo op with the Governor and promptly waited around an hour for our turn to stand on steps behind an elected official. While waiting, I wandered a bit around the Capitol building and what I saw there was… concerning. In almost every room, there was some form of “free breakfast” being offered by this or that lobbyist. On each level, there were people offering croissants for votes, coffee for a voice, sausage and eggs for a chance to get their special interest group a little extra attention from this or that representative.
And this was just Georgia.
The thought of what DC must be like made me shudder. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting your special interest group heard, but because unlike the majority of the people, these special interest groups represent approximately 5% of the constituents of our elected officials. (These numbers are made up in my head because I can do that). There was the energy room where power plants and yadda yadda yadda were handing out something sweet, there were the insurance rooms… there were rooms of people with more money than you or I could ever dream of, and they were shuffling that money into the hands of people who are elected to protect OUR interests. You know… we the people.
We the people who may not have millions of dollars to funnel into a re-election campaign.
We the people who may not be the best and brightest but who dammit have a voice.
We the people who are what make or break this country.
Every day I hear about legislation being created to do damage to someone. Legislation to allow businesses to discriminate freely under the guise of “religious freedom.” Legislation to take away the right to bodily autonomy for women or children or the dying. Legislation that is poked and prodded by men and women living and working in a box called “Capitol” where real life is little more than who is down stairs with the best breakfast and whose bill do I need to support to get my bill supported.
That’s not real life, people.
Real life is what happens outside the “Capitol.”
Real life is when the bill you’re trying to pass would ultimately allow anyone to refuse to do anything for anyone simply by saying “My religion won’t allow me to.” Real life is parents moving to Colorado because their daughter can’t have access to medical cannabis in Georgia… the only medicine that stands a chance to help prevent her seizures. Real life is what’s happening to “we the people” while you shuffle papers around on your desk and sip free beer and wine with your fellow representatives.
Georgia is considering a bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to anyone who they believe serving would “violate” some “religious” belief they may have. Georgia is not considering a bill to allow medical marijuana for seizure patients. There should be more reasons to sign a bill than “I need this guy’s support on something else.” There should be more reasons to vote “yes” or “no” than “everyone else is doing it.”
Is this really our real life?
Is this really the way our forefathers envisioned things going? Is this what they meant when the expounded on “self-evident truths” and what it means to have a government by and for the people?
Is this really what is important, when your state is swimming in poverty and your education system is desperately trying to come up to par with the rest of the country?
Is this really what’s important, Georgia?
If your answer, dear Legislators, is “yes,” then I think it’s time we start talking ’bout revolution….
Posted on | February 20, 2014 | 6 Comments
Last week, I penned a short sympathy note to a judge in my district who lost her mother. In writing the note, I thought about who I am BECAUSE of having my mother and who I would be without her. The words flowed off my pen and I found myself wiping away tears as I told this judge, someone I am not even close to outside the courtroom, the words I hadn’t even realized to be true before that very moment:
“There are two things that have made me the person I am today: having a mother, and being a mother. I can not imagine the sorrow I would feel at losing the privilege to align myself in either category.”
Having a mother and being a mother.
Is being a woman more than that? Certainly.
Is being a woman less than that? I wouldn’t know.
Because to me, being able to sandwich myself in this world between the two people who made me who I am, who taught me to love and to fear in ways I never knew possible… that is the greatest gift of all time.
I call my mother most every morning, not because I have to, but because being J’s mother makes me so damn grateful to have a mother that I want to remind myself she’s still there… still breathing… still warmly answering the phone in her brand of southern drawl. I call her to remind myself that there is still someone on this planet who believes that I am amazing and beautiful and practically perfect in every way. I call her to remind myself that someone on this earth loves me way that I love my son… fearfully, honestly, with a rush of angst and horror and admiration and heart wrenching warmth. A rush that only comes with the realization that you love something tangible with an intangible sense of guilt and awareness that at any moment they could be stripped away from you.
My God, at any moment I could become motherless.
Dear God, at any moment I could become childless.
This morning, I yelled “I love you” at my four year old as he climbed the steps to his classroom, basking in the few remaining moments of my morning when I am still near enough to wrap him in my arms. I waved and blew a kiss and then I called my mother as I pulled away from the school, basking in the remaining moments of my life, the hopeful years and years of time where she will still answer the phone with her smiling Eastern North Carolina voice, ready to hear what I have to say and to remind me that I am so lucky to call myself two very special things:
Mothered and a Mother.
Posted on | February 10, 2014 | 7 Comments
Lately, my dating life has felt a lot more like a cooking class. Strewn around me are all the ingredients for something wonderful but I’m having a difficult time mixing them appropriately into something that resembles delicious more than disaster.
Banks and J have a good relationship.
J and I have a good relationship.
Banks and I have a good relationship.
But the three of us together are basically running full speed towards the same point, heads down, eyes closed, desperately trying not to slam our heads into each other but failing at almost every turn. People have told me that “when it’s right, it will just work” and I’ve got to be honest… I think that’s horse crap. NOTHING just “works.” That’s like saying if you marry the right person, you’ll never have problems.
This is life.
It’s not a picture perfect fairy tale.
And y’all, I love the hell out of Banks and I think we make an amazing team along with J. But to say that it will just fall together? To BELIEVE that it will just fall together? To say that a four year old child will just happily accept a new authority figure in his life who is not his father and who is sort of infringing on his time with his mother is just asking to be disappointed. Blending a family takes work, whether it’s just a man and a woman or a freaking Brady Bunch. And we are all working so very hard at this.
The thing is, Banks is a single guy. He doesn’t have kids. He’s never had kids. And though he loves kids and loves my kid in particular, he is stepping in at four, not at t minus one hour. It’s tough to sidle into a child’s life. It’s tough to be a child and have someone else sidle into your life. And though I think both of my guys are doing really well with the changes, I’d be lying if I said it was seamless.
I struggle with letting go of some control over J and sharing that responsibility with Banks. I struggle with hearing him tell my child “no”. I struggle with knowing that (hopefully) from here on out, there’s going to be two of us, playing a “good cop/bad cop” routine with my child. I just… struggle.
Because it’s hard to share what has just been mine. It’s hard to share this sweet boy and watch him cry when he hears “no” from Banks. It’s hard to not rush to his side and sweep him up in my arms… it’s just … hard. I don’t like giving someone else any part of my child… even someone I love as much as I love Banks.
So I find myself standing here in this over-crowded kitchen, sprinkling a dab of understanding, splashing a cup of kindness… and I wonder if we’re doing it all right or all wrong. I stir and sift and start again, over and over, wondering if this is working… wondering if we can make anything special out of this craziness.
Yesterday, I watched from the wings as J ran to his bedroom and slammed his door after Banks told him he’d done something wrong. I clenched and flexed my muscles, every bone in my mother’s body wanting to say “DON’T YOU HURT MY BABY!” and run to his aid. Then I watched Banks calmly walk down the hall after him, knock on the door and let himself in. I listened to the murmur of voices and then watched as they both came from the room, all smiles. They left, arm in arm, back outside to play another round of “Power Rangers Attack” and I looked back down at the bowl before me. It was still lumpy, still bubbled up with strife and a dash of conflict, but when I dipped a finger into the smoothness, I tasted that it is finally right.
Yes. It is finally (mostly) blended, though the baking will still take some time.
Posted on | February 5, 2014 | 12 Comments
This morning, the alarm went off on the opposite side of my bed and I lie there and listened as someone else slapped the snooze button. Beside me, the lanky body of my four year old son lay sprawled out between us, legs strewn across Banks, arm tucked beneath my forehead. I watched the stillness for a while, the rise and fall of breathing in these two bodies beside me, the great distance between who and where I am today and who and where I was two years ago.
It was quiet in the room, the only sounds coming from the rattling ceiling fan and the pattering rain outside, until the alarm buzzed again and I felt the far away stirring of Banks as he moved into awake. I watched him stretch, carefully avoiding J’s sleepy limbs, and then watched as he picked up his cell phone. He had to try twice or maybe three times to enter his lock code and I almost laughed, feeling how tired he must be. I saw him scroll through emails and daily news as he tried to motivate himself out of bed and then I watched as he opened and immediately deleted a text.
All my old fears came rushing back and I spoke, keeping my voice light.
“Who was that?” I asked, a quiver in my voice, a tensing in my muscles. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I thought he’d snap at me for asking. Maybe I thought he’d hedge and run circles around whatever it was on the other end of his phone. Whatever I expected, it was not what I got.
“Silly woman,” he replied with a laugh and a smile in my direction. “I get a text when my rent check clears my bank.”
His half-asleep eyes hugged me close over the sleeping frame of my child, and there in his face I could see the truth. I smiled. He smiled. And he got up to face his day. He didn’t judge me for asking, didn’t roll his eyes or berate me for not having faith in him. He just answered. Truthfully.
“Silly woman,” he echoed with a grin, and I knew it was true. I knew then, without a shred of doubt, that this was it. This moment, me lying in bed next to my sleeping child, him standing with a stretch and smile on the other side of the room, ready to drive over an hour to work and not even complaining about the midnight visit and subsequent bed stealing from my child… this was the moment when everything became blissfully real. I have come full circle. I have learned to trust again… and to trust not just anyone, but him.
It seems that yes… he is my person… my penguin, if you will.
For better or worse, whether he likes it or not, he has become entwined in my heart and life and I am a silly, silly woman for not realizing sooner that there couldn’t be anyone else… not for me… not for him.
I smoothed my hair back from my face and settled back into light sleep, smiling into the pillow.
Silly woman, I told myself, holding in laughter. Silly, happy, ridiculous woman.
Posted on | February 4, 2014 | 15 Comments
It’s easy to fall into a slump when you’re dating someone… especially post-divorce. I mean, let’s face it… when I was married, I did stuff with my spouse. Sure, we took the kid most everywhere we went, but I rarely did anything with girlfriends because I had to do things with him. So when I got divorced, I made it a point to really try to invest in some girlfriends. Women to set up play dates with, women who ran half-marathons with me, women who really got me on an emotionally intimate level. I worshiped my women friends, y’all, because obviously you SHOULD and also because I had forgotten how awesome it was to have women around to talk to.As much as I’ve always said I have more guy friends than girls, there’s just so much that men can’t understand about, well… being female. I love my guy friends, but there’s nothing like a bottle (or three) of wine and a heart full of laughter while surrounded by some of your best lady friends. It was probably the best thing about getting divorced… rediscovering the power of female friendship.
And then I did something I swore I’d never do… I fell in love and subsequently forgot to make time for my friends.
It’s not ENTIRELY my fault, because when you’re a single mom and your boyfriend lives an hour away and you only see him on the weekends, it’s hard to convince yourself that you should NOT see him and see your friends instead. So I postponed and rescheduled and forgot to call back until I found myself staring at my phone one day and wondering when the last time was that I actually had a real, honest to goodness conversation with another female WITHOUT my son intervening in four second intervals.
That? That is not okay.
As much as I love being head over heels for Banks, I can’t make him my whole world. I can’t wrap myself around him to the exclusion of the women who let me unburden my soul to them on the phone, on the internet, and in person. I can’t just stop being me… not again… not this time. And unlike some men I’ve dated, Banks wouldn’t want me to. I miss that interaction… the warmth that comes from sharing souls with a girlfriend over pizza or beer or hell, both.
So tonight, all bets are off. Tonight, I’m putting on my good jeans and going to a fancy dinner with a good friend I haven’t spent nearly enough time with in the past 8 or 9 months. And then tomorrow… I’m shacking up at a retreat for the night with another good friend. Lest my sweet Jana and Sandy think I’ve forgotten them… they are on my list and they will be sick of me soon.
Don’t neglect your girlfriends, ladies. Not even for someone special. Not even for someone amazing.
Because who would we even BE without our girls???« go back — keep looking »