Monday, July 7, 2014

Oh, You Mean You Want me to *Say* it?!

Within this romantic relationship that is clearly and smoothly moving forward, both my boyfriend and I acknowledge and accept that we are both basically engulfed in fear. Not so much paralyzed, but fully aware of the demons knocking. Luckily, one of us is always willing to stand guard for the other while a minor (or major) freakout occurs. (Let's face it, you know I'm the one responsible for the major freakouts.) I would say his freakouts are more of a slow boil just underneath the surface; they don't really explode so much as there is a peak where a major realization is observed and/or accepted. And then there is growth within us as a couple.


A few months ago it became absurdly clear how silly it was that we each were sustaining entire households by ourselves. Not that one of us has even begun to stay with the other so much (he never stays at my place and I've only recently been staying the nights with him when I am kid-free. We each pay the same landscaper, the same HOA fees, the same APS bill, the same city for the same trash, the same water company... He pays for cable and I don't. But I pay for Netflix and Amazon and he's welcome to hook us up with cable if he wants.

There was talk a while ago about making this transition right around our year-anniversary (next month in August.) But it's coming up rather fast and there are tons of plans otherwise.

It's interesting to be in your 40's and dating someone whom you can clearly see far off in the future with. But when it comes trying to decide whose house to move into, neither of you have any real desire to move to the other. We are not in a position at this moment to sell both houses and go get our own, but we will in the future for sure. There are two complete households. One has 3 kids, the other has 2 dogs, all of whom have to be accommodated. The house with the dogs has fewer rooms, and the house with the kids has the detested stairs and no carpet downstairs to lay on. His bed is too soft for me. Mine is too firm for him. I love my bedroom set but have to go get him his own nightstand since one of them went off with the ex. He has a TV in his bedroom and it is on while he falls asleep. A timer turns it off and he turns it right back on the moment he wakes up. Many of you know me well enough to know that this is a big F'ing HELL NO! No TV in the bedroom at all! And if you are going to go to sleep why not just turn it off?! Why do you have to go through the trouble of setting a timer so it will go off in 20 minutes?!

He is a night-owl who believes the best sleep occurs between 4 and 9 in the morning. I wake up with the sun - usually a bit before - and am useless by 10PM *if* I can stay awake that late.

Typical:
"Please don't tell me it's 6:00AM."
"OK, I won't. It's 5:30. Wanna ride to the Grand Canyon? I made you fresh scones. I've done three loads of laundry, finished a manuscript, and am waiting on an Amazon Prime delivery."

These are the times he has actively wants to strangle me.

If I stay at his place and wake up normally, I can walk across the street and start my day. He has yet to experience a Team Dean morning. Although he did spend the night Christmas Eve to help me with the kids Christmas morning. When my daughter was heard downstairs at 4:30AM he told her it was too early and to go back to bed. It was precious in a way: him thinking he could tell a 6yo girl to go back to bed Christmas morning when she had already been through every stocking and neatly separated and piled the presents for each kid.

But deeper than the logistics, the fear of one of us sacrificing a great deal to move in with the other, the disinterest in the discomfort that would come from trying to combine two households that include dogs with a non-dog person and three kids with a man who consciously chose to never have children of his own... is simply not something either of us are jumping at.

Soon after we met I asked if we could never get married. I was sure with two ex-wives behind him he would be thrilled to agree with me. Nope, he immediately explained that he loves the concept of marriage and wants the experience he sees so sweetly and genuinely in his own parents who celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary this year. I was crushed.

If money were no object I have no doubt we would keep both houses and continue on exactly as we have. Or build a bridge over the street, or buy out one of the neighbors directly next door. But realistically, it makes no sense.

It's been this thing that we have sort of touched on from time to time, but neither of us really deciding anything. Just yesterday, it came up again and I asked more directly, "Would you like to come join Team Dean?"

He got serious. "I will never be a member of Team Dean. I will never have that name added to mine." Pause.  "Do you want me to move in?" he asked.

And then it hit me (notice that happens a lot?): neither of us actually asked the other to move in. And when he asked, "do you want me to move in" I felt fear begin to strangle my neck a little. (It does that. I have a throat thing, I swear.)

As the day went on I kept thinking about how I had really not asked him to move in. And why would I when the concept is so terrifying?!?! However, by the end of the day I said to him, "I would like you to move in with us. I will accommodate you and your doggies as much as I can. I will put carpet in the living room so they have comfy sleep spots. I will give you as much room as you need to bring the stuff you want (even though, let's face, most of that shit better not even enter the street, it's going to Goodwill, dammit! The Kung Fu master is going to have the most epic garage sale! Who needs THREE motorcycles and a gazillion punching bags?! And 2456 back issues of Kung Fu magazine!)

I recognized that I had not actually asked him to move in because that would open me up to the terror of rejection and major discomfort as we go about the task of combining households and integrating him into the family that has been me and the kids (and the polyamorous whore of a cat, Cupcake.) But the thought brings up just the right amount and kind of fear that indicates this is the next step. This is our next frontier of growth.

He has his issues too about this. And the only part about the kids that scares him is finding his place with them. But it isn't that he doesn't like kids or can't stand to be around them, he simply knew that in the relationships he has been in he has never wanted to have children with them. And now we are just way too old and selfish to want to have one of our own.

His fear lies in having been in a marriage to a woman who made gobs and gobs of money and used it as just one of her manipulation tools: he had no say in anything, ever, no matter what. When he finally divorced that one, he landed in a long term relationship with another version of his ex-wife. He heard, "Get out of my house!" more than once. And his fear is that he will hear it again.

Intimacy has been defined to me as risk and trust, over and over. Slow and steady over time. I have never felt more intimacy with another human being in my life. And at almost a year, it's finally starting to feel normal and comfortable, as opposed to disaster-waiting-to-happen, or "this could end at any moment so just drive him away now."

The risk of moving in together is a big one for each of us. The trust is in knowing we are both dedicated enough to figure it out. Who knows, this could very well be the easiest step I've ever taken. Why do I assume it will be the biggest, craziest, most horrific experience of our entire relationship? Oh right, because that's what I'm conditioned to expect: disaster.

Luckily, I'm working on that one.

Today I Vow to have a little more faith that doing something I am fearful of may end up being wonderful. And even if it has some rough spots, I will be OK anyway.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Saying No to the Discomfort of Shoes....and Friendships.

Let me ask you this: how many pairs of shoes do you own that are adorable and you wanted so badly that you constantly justify the fact that they don't quite fit? They match an outfit perfectly and you swim in the compliments you receive because they are so damn adorable. But the ugly truth is you carry a roll of bandage tape and Band-Aids in your purse, and packages of moleskin in your car and in every bathroom so you can wrap every toe, the back of your foot, and basically any part of your foot that touches the shoe.
My brilliant girlfriends pointed out that my foot
is clearly too wide for my shoe.
Sometimes we really need someone else pointing
out the obvious.

At the end of the day you are peeling the shoes off your swollen, red, blistered, and angry feet and you wonder, for what?!And you might swear, "this is not worth it!" But you put the shoes back in the closet on the shoe shelf, because you can't let go of the hope that maybe next time it won't hurt as bad. And besides, they are soooooo cute!!!!

In my world, just this past weekend, two interesting realizations collided and I finally saw them clearly. First, I need to hunker down and figure out why exactly I experience the same horrific pain in my favorite type of shoes. And this has nothing to do with heels, I'm lucky that I'm rather tall so I don't have the desire to wear extremely tall heels, but I do love to wear small heels. The issue is that my toes become mutilated after the smallest amount of time in my favorite types of shoes. Second, I caught myself trying way too hard to hold on to friendships with a couple of girlfriends who clearly no longer want to remain friends.

In essence, I've spent way too much energy applying bandages around all of my own rough spots to try and make them (these women) more comfortable; to try and make the friendship work. When in reality, I walk away peeling off the time spent with them, and my heart is still bruised and blistered.

In reality, there is no reason in existence why I should make myself someone I am not because they just don't like me anymore, or they don't like who I'm dating, or they don't like how dramatic I am, or how needy I can be. Well, what the fuck ever! Because you know what else I am? Loyal and compassionate, and I would do just about anything to help anyone if asked. And I *try*. I put in a great deal of effort to organize lunches with my girlfriends, or to check in with them and keep the relationships alive. I worry about my friends and want to know if there is anything I can do to help, even if it's just to be a listening tree.

But there is a limit and I've reached it. Just like I now know I have been buying the wrong size shoe and am calling in a shoe expert to help me go shopping (Thank you Anna and Marianne!) I now understand clearly that I have been trying to stuff my heart into relationships that don't fit. I'm done. It doesn't mean I will stop caring about these women but it does mean I am done wasting my energy crying and pining over "what have I done wrong?"

Besides, I'm fucking 40 years old and having the time of my life as I grow with my children and am in the midst of the most incredible romantic relationship I have ever been in and my education is going strong. I no longer have time for uncomfortable shoes OR relationships.

Today I Vow to honor my heart as well as my feet.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"But how do you pay your bills."

Money is a fascinating concept: it's something we all have to have in order to build the tangible life around us, tend to medical needs, educate ourselves, and gain experiences of life through travel. We are each fed our knowledge of money through our immediate caretakers, whether silently or obviously. The emotion we attach to money is mind-boggling. I can feel like I am on top of the world when my bills are paid, gas is in my working automobile, kids are clothed to play with needless toys, and I can grab food from a restaurant with my girlfriends. But the moment I am praying the bill that is late can hold on for a week more and that the landscaper doesn't cash his check immediately, I feel like the smallest, most worthless creature wasting air on this earth.

Many years ago I was in a car crash caused by a red light runner. This young girl blew through a red light - never applying her brakes - t-boned my Mazda Protege sending it into the lightpost, killing my 17-month old son and putting me into a coma with severe brain damage. IF you have to seek the silver lining in the situation it was that this young was on the clock driving a truck for AutoZone.

At the time of the crash I was a single mother working at a restaurant and going to school at the local community college. I never brought home more than $40 a shift, and that was rare! I was new at this restaurant so I got a couple crappy shifts a week. There was no child support. I had amazing friends and some family who would watch my son for me because they could, even though I could not pay them gas money. In fact, only a week or two before the crash I had to ask an Aunt and Uncle to borrow money to make my car payment.

I didn't qualify for any government assistance because I was in school. The thinking is, if you can afford to go to college (aka rack up tons of debt to try and better your chances at getting a better paying job as a single mother) you don't need any further assistance. My son was getting health care through the state and I had been given healthcare only a few months before the crash because my ex-husbands income no longer counted towards my own income.

Much later in the year, as part of my rehab, I was able to volunteer for a few hours a day for the Red Means Stop Coalition and the Brain Injury Association. And I do mean a few hours. I was unable to stay awake for more than 4-5 hours without needing a nap. I could sleep for 3 hours in the afternoon and still able to sleep all night long. My brain became exhausted easily.

Litigation with AutoZone lasted almost 2 years. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I have ever had to go through. These days when I meet someone who wants to "sue", I cringe and think to myself, "You have no idea what they will put you through. Please think again." I had to walk into my son's pediatrician's office and ask for all of his medical records in order to prove I was not covering up that he was already dying. I had to find all of my medical records and account for every single counselor or mental health record to prove I was not a crazed lunatic who had a death wish and pulled in front of the oncoming traffic on purpose.

I had to read through several character statements written by my ex-husband's friends and family stating that I was a horrible, absent, unfit mother. (He had gotten his own lawyer immediately after the crash, he felt he deserved half of the wrongful death suit. Did I mention he never paid child support and rarely saw his son after we separated?)

After AutoZone offered $150,000 total to cover everything I begged my lawyer to not let me be involved anymore and just let me know when it was done. He refused and explained that I needed to be part of the case.

During this time I was also enrolled in a neurorehab program. They didn't want to deal with my grief. One day I was pulled into the program director's office and told they were worried I was faking my abilities so that it would be better for my lawsuit. In my mind I'm telling them to fuck off. Unfortunately I don't think I was strong enough to say that at the time. I never fit in there. A couple years later when I was awarded "Survivor of the Year" by the Brain Injury Association, the neurorehab facility had a table of at least 10 people that were all my doctors and therapists while I was in the program. Only one woman said a word to me. The rest ignored me. I'm telling all of them to fuck off now too, in my head.

The case finally came to a close almost 2 years after it began. We were 3 weeks away from trial and I was not going to back down at this point. Someone I met in the same office as my lawyer introduced me to some amazing men at NY Life. I met with them and told them what had happened and that the case was almost over. It's these two men, "My Money Guys", as I affectionately refer to them, who have handled this money from the moment I got it. So although I do not have direct access to my funds, what's left after buying a house, a couple cars, and lots of life for almost 11 years, is still mine, and it's still working for me.

In a very similar fashion that stay at home mothers are asked, "But what do you do all day?" I have been asked a million times, "What do you do for a living?" Well, I'm a mom. It was most convenient for me to also say I was a student. The most rude woman shoved both of those "reasons" aside and asked, "But how do you pay your bills?"

Sometimes it's fun to unload: Oh, you wanna know? OK. Here it goes. In February of 2000 my 17-month old son and I were hit by a red light runner. He was killed. I was in a coma for 10 days and when I came to I had to be taught how to walk again. The driver was driving an AutoZone truck and there was a litigation from that, which I'm still living on. Anything else?

But there was other stuff. Soon after the crash I had family telling me things such as: don't talk to anyone about your money, ever. Because people get really weird when it comes to money. And you better watch it, because that is all the money you are ever going to have so spend it wisely.

One day, I arrived to my parents house with a computer as a gift and was told, "You better stop spending your money or its all going to be gone."

There was a CPA who did my taxes one year. She had no idea what my money was doing but she did feel it her duty to tell me that if I kept withdrawing so much money a month it would be gone in 4 years.


I have it cemented in my head that the money that I have put away really will be all the money I will ever have. This keeps me from spending it on things I really want to spend it on. it also keeps me feeling horribly guilty every time I have to contact my agent and ask for money - MY OWN MONEY! And I get scared to make it look like I have money because I don't want that judgment either. I live way too much in lack. And I am aware that's something I am going to have to change mostly because I don't want to spread that to my children. I'm finally focused on a career goal. That is going to take some more school, which I am glad to do.

But I want to tap into believing I am worth more than thinking I can only shop for myself in thrift stores or on clearance racks.

 Today I Vow to being open to prosperity and believing I am worth more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Distrust.

Last week I started writing about commitment and how I don't know how the concept works, what it looks like, or how it feels. Basically, I'm clueless on the concept. I was writing on and on about the details of my childhood and parents and trying to get to the reasons I am so in the dark about commitment. But then I got tired of hearing my thoughts and shut the laptop in aggravation (and turned Six Feet Under back on.)

During my two years of psychotherapeutic psychoanalysis there were some devastating discoveries I made about myself. Realizations that rocked my world so deeply, that parts of my soul were accessed and nothing but raw emotion dumped out, usually in the form endless wailing and tears.
Intimacy was an experience I had never had or understood; my throat closed at the thought of the word. I struggle to ask for help because I learned early on to depend only on myself. I have control issues because of being unable to rely on anyone else. I walk through life with a grenade in my hand ready to pull the pin at any moment because my experience of people is: everyone leaves, so just run first. There are several more that I have no interest in getting into at the moment, but the latest one: I don't know what commitment means, is a big one.

It applies to everything in my world. I've had countless jobs: if I don't like them, I leave. Have ended tons of friendships: It's not perfect? I'm out. You know I've been married three times and the first two lasted less than a year. (I'd like to think of them as practice runs but really, they were just more practice *at* running.) I've changed my education route so many times: I've gone to almost every major college and community college in Maricopa County at one time or another. I've lost count as to how many different subjects I've studied. Finally graduated with my first degree this past December. And I don't know if the speed at which I finished my undergrad education was based on commitment or sheer will and issues with perfection.


Being a mother is an interesting concept when mixed with the idea of commitment. I would say I am dedicated to being the best mother I can be. But I don't know if that has to do with commitment so much as it has to do with a paralyzing fear of having them hate me when they get older. I am starting to recognize that I can not be completely responsible for the people they end up being. Much as I am starting to recognize that I am more responsible for my own life than I have believed in the past.

A new memory: when I was in 7th grade I tried out for the basketball team at school. I wanted to play basketball and be like my Aunt Sabrina who was an amazing athlete. There was something about me that believed I would be good just because I had an aunt who was amazing. The part that I never saw was her commitment and dedication to practicing, which is the part I never did. Not once did I practice free throws outside of scheduled practices. I was not any good at basketball. I made every team through my junior year of high school - only because not enough people tried out. To this day I can't stand it when everyone who tries makes the cut.

A few weeks ago when I had "the incident" with my boyfriend and tried my damndest to blow the whole thing to smithereens, I caught a glimpse of the concept of commitment. It was woven through the countless emails and texts from girlfriends who had successful marriages who said to me quite honestly: it takes work, every single day. I had heard those words so many times but they meant nothing to me until I had it sitting in front of my face: I had an amazing relationship and no, it wasn't perfect. But we each had the most important part: we were both willing to make it work. To commit every day to the relationship and all that it entails.

I have heard over the past few year some amazing mantras regarding love, marriage, and commitment: Love changes. And Love is not a feeling it is a commitment, a choice.

Today I Vow to allowing myself the pleasure and experience of committing to another person and to other people while releasing my distrust in all of humanity, and mostly myself.




Sunday, June 15, 2014

This Daddy's Girl

For the past week I *knew* Father's Day was coming and I found my mind dismissing the thought as I became too overwhelmed at the thought of what to do for my children's father, what to do for my step-dad... that I never allowed it to occur to me how much the day would suck ass because my father is dead.

Until I woke up this morning and began glancing at my stream on Facebook: post after post of pics and gratitude sent to loving, attentive fathers. Also among the mix was several posts from girlfriends whose daddy's have died. And that, my friend, is what did me in. The house was still quiet and in the peace of my bedroom I began to cry. Then I began to sob so I moved to the bathroom trying not to wake the kids. I thought, if I can get this all out now, I will be good for the rest of the day.

It didn't really work out that way, but at least I kept from absolute sobbing in front of the kids (like I did on this past anniversary date of both my son and my daddy's deaths.) Ugh! Scared the hell out of all of them.

My heart breaks for all my girlfriends whose daddy's have died. And my heart swells with all the posts about the amazing daddies walking the earth. Amazing men who taught their daughters what to look for in a future husband, who were providers, protectors, unconditional, and dependable. The cynic in me instinctively wants to believe a lot of those posts are skewed, but I have to look at me and my reaction first. That particular father is not my experience, however, I had a really great Dad.

He called me Sweet Tooth.
With Kage. 2005.
This man taught me everything about baseball. He took me to Busch Stadium to watch the St. Louis Cardinals countless times. He also shared his other passion with me: fishing. Taught me to bait a hook and everything. That particular hobby does not continue within me, but I do still follow my Cardinals as much as I can. My daddy was a mechanic and taught me about cars. His proudest moment was when he arrived home and I had changed out the radiator in my car myself. All that was left was a couple drops of radiator fluid, as he recalled. I didn't have time to wait for him to get home.

My father used laughter as a survival mechanism. His laugh was unmistakable and authentic. And his love was unconditional. He was witty and would help anyone, no questions asked. I can remember as a young girl driving with him through pouring rain in a grocery store parking lot. Making her way out of the store in the blinding downpour, an older woman fell to the ground and her cart raced away from her. My father threw the truck in park and raced out to help her. He was my hero on many occasions.


There's no way to sugar coat it though, he was also an alcoholic who rarely took accountability for his behavior. He could be distant, unreliable, and unstable, I have yet to have any clear answer as to why we moved every 6-12 months while I was growing up. His love for sports of any kind was more of a tool for avoidance. He was not around when I was born and did not meet me until I was around one year old.

My parents separated when I was about 10 or 11 and I made my mother the enemy; my father could do no wrong. Until I was much older and could see for myself that he was human, flawed, and dealt a shitty hand himself. Like the rest of us, he did the best he could given the circumstances.

My father was the first person to confirm Blake's death when I was still in the hospital after the car crash. As I was slowly waking from the coma, every family member and friend was given explicit directions to never answer any of my questions about Blake. One day he was alone in the room with me and I said, "Blake's dead, isn't it?" There was a pause and he said, "Yes, babe. And I'm so sorry." He confirmed what I already knew, and he was brave enough to say what he knew his daughter needed to hear.

My father died unexpectedly in his sleep at the age of 53 in 2007. I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter. It was the most traumatic event of my life. Yes, the car crash was horrific and far worse, but I was immediately unconscious for that. (Silver lining?) The most surreal feeling I had surrounding his death was that of a book closing. The entire book titled, "Living With my Dad, Don Hodge" was closed. There were no details I would ever get from him, no advice, no updates on the St. Louis Cardinals, no clarifying answers about my childhood, nothing. The book was closed.

I don't know if Father's Day will get easier, I doubt it and I'm not going to give the thought any more energy. I'm just going to let it be, and allow whatever it will look like.

I'm grateful for the dad I had. He taught me a lot and I will miss him terribly until the day I die.