Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love letter

Dear sister,

I'm sitting here tonight in the dark thinking about you and your family on a plane to the other side of the country, ready to start your new life.  I've been trying so hard not to cry and put on a big smile for you and our kids.  There's a part of me that feels like I'm getting divorced all over again.  All of a sudden I'm alone on my couch again with my daughter sleeping in the other room and the family I once knew has moved on to a new life without me and I'm left wondering where I fit in and what I'll do on Sunday when we're not together.  Yes, I feel very small and selfish saying that and feeling that way since I know your family and decisions you make have very little to do with me.  But I guess that's the point.  I feel so very grateful that we've gotten to spend so much time together in the past few years.  I've seen you almost every weekend since you were pregnant with your daughter up until now.  I tried really hard not to take you for granted and all the times we spend together.  Every pan of brownies made me laugh.  Every shopping trip just the two of us was a victory.  Each time we jumped in the pool was the most fun I could remember having in that moment. 

I hope you know how proud I am of you and everything you've accomplished in your life.  I respect you as a person, a mother, and as a career woman.  I used to worry that you thought you were trapped in my shadow when we were kids.  Today, I smile thinking maybe I'm trapped in yours.  Look at the two of us and where we are in our lives.  You've been with your husband 11 years, you're a doctor, and the mother of two amazing children.  When your husband lost his job, you were brave enough to imagine your life another way.  Who travels across the country alone with an infant and 2 year old?  And I thought I was crazy for taking an 18 month old on a business trip.  You're strong, yet manage to be graceful.  You're calculating, yet act with love.  You take care of business, yet remain thoughtful and considerate.  It takes someone really special to cry and laugh then stress and be comforting at once.  I will certainly miss walking through your house each weekend with my daughter in tow, watching your family live out their everyday lives and being part of it.  Believe me when I tell you that nobody is more proud of you than I am.  Nobody supports you more and nobody loves you more.  I say this with such certainty because I've stood behind you your whole life, whether it was 6 inches away, 300 miles, or now across the country.

You were always such a gentle soul.  I think you were scared of your own shadow as a child.  My earliest memories are of you hiding behind something and peeking out with enormous eyes and bouncing curls.  I see so much of you in your son.  Such a darling lamb.  I remember when our parents divorced; I felt it was my responsibility to protect you from the world, even at ages 6 and 9. I guess a part of me never let that go.  One of my favorite stories to tell is still of that little boy who hit you in the head with a frisbee at a school picnic when you were in first grade and I came running up and threw him up against the wall and made him wet his pants in your defense.  I remember when I had gone away to college it was so strange not having you to talk to every day when I was home from school. I would drive home every Friday to pick you and your two best friends up and drive us to Del Taco to get Toppers.  I think about it every time I drive by a Del Taco.  Do you remember when you moved up to Northern California for two years and we ran up our phone bills talking almost every night?  We used to watch SNL every Saturday on the phone together.  Eventually those two years were over and you lived with me again.  Nights spent at 24 hour Fitness, wandering Walgreens, eating out, fresh blackberries, and cracker Thanksgiving still warm my heart.  I remember being so poor that we hung twinkle lights on a bookshelf one Xmas that we couldn't afford a tree, but I was never happier.

I know you're not my child, but I feel like I watched you grow up.  I was proud of you when you left me to start a life with your husband.  I'm a firm believer that proof of a successful parent is how quickly your child leaves you.  I can only pray my daughter does as amazingly as you did.  You never moved back in with me.  You never borrowed money.  Your credit was great and you made smart decisions with your life.  You took care of yourself and I was lucky enough to be friends with someone as smart, bizarre, creative, and hysterical as you.  When I think about it, you've really been my best friend my whole life.  I call you my soul mate for a reason. I really do believe that we'll be together in this life and the next.

Do you remember when your husband got a job 1.5 hours away from me and we sat on the phone and cried?  It seemed like so far away back then.  We were so young, weren't we?  We had time to sit and cry together and promise each other that we'd make an effort and see each other.  I could indulge in such things.  I feel like real life has hit us both really hard since then, don't you?  Between our kids, taking care of houses, my divorce, your husband losing his job, and the harsh realities of what it takes to maintain your sanity in the workplace with children, I think our perspectives have changed quite a bit.  For the better, to be honest.  We didn't sit and cry this time and promise to see each other all the time.  I didn't need to tell my little bird to find her wings and leave me.  I didn't reassure you that you have been blessed with the same brain as everyone else and you are just as capable, if not moreso, than everyone else who has ever faced this situation.  You've heard all my speeches before, haven't you?  Perhaps I gave you a gentle reminder here and there that your path will find you and that you just have to be brave enough to follow it.  Maybe a reassurance that it all works out in the end when I saw you flounder a bit.

The point is that you simply don't need me the same way you did as a child, rightly so.  I don't have to tell you that you'll never lose me because you already know that we will always be together.  I don't know how to deal with the reality that I can't get in my car and see you if you need me in an emergency--whether you're in the ER or just sad and need to jump in bed together and talk.  I will have to learn to deal with the fact that you are just a plane ride away and I can still get to you if we need each other.  I think we deny ourselves a lot of happiness by thinking that things won't work out as well as they always do in the end.  It seems arrogant to think we know how the story ends when it has just barely begun.  You haven't even set foot in your new house yet.  Our babies are still so small, and some not yet born.  Believe me, sister, when I tell you that I know this is not the end, but just another beautiful beginning of so many adventures for all of us.  I don't know if you'll stay in your new home for two years or for 20, but I do know that I'll be there for you to talk to and laugh with every step of the way.  While I may be sitting here crying because I'm scared to imagine my life without you near me each week, I'm also excited for the new paths our lives are about to take.  I know that we will cry many more happy and sad tears together.  Luckily, our happy ones seem to far outweigh the sad ones.

This next year is going to be so hard for you.  I can't imagine how stressful it will be for you with two little ones in a new state and home with no family close by or a support system to fall back on.  I promise you that I will always be a phone call or text away, and if needed, a plane ride.  If there's one thing I've learned over the past few years, it's that the world is a small place and love and family don't know any distances or time zones.  My heart and mind are forever tied to yours and your husband and children.  I want to tell you that our yearly family vacations will be more special now that you're gone and our visits more precious, but that wouldn't be true.  They were always precious to me and always will be.  I already miss you terribly, but my heart knows that you are doing the right thing for your family and I feel that you need to go on this adventure on your own, whether you move back in two years or relocate indefinitely.  I think you needed to see that your adventures are not done.  Not even close.  I know you already know this, but I'll tell you one more time just in case: I love you and no matter where you are or what you run into, your big sister will always, always be standing behind you just in case.

xo

Friday, June 14, 2013

Momentum

I find myself nesting and I don't know why. I'm combing through my pictures and ordering prints of the most meaningful ones to hang on my walls: one of me and my daughter when she was four months old after nursing in my bed, one of me with my younger sister on our way to a baby shower all dressed up, and one of me at Esalen looking out towards the ocean.  I'm surrounding myself with good memories.  Maybe I'm trying to protect myself.  If you couldn't tell, I'm a Type A personality. Controlling, dominant, and basically petrified of the unknown and having someone else be in the driver seat, no matter how good their intentions are.  I used to think that if I were in control, then there would be no mess.  Turns out that's not true at all.
Today it feels like the momentum of my life is stronger than I am.  I feel swallowed by my projects at work and helpless to do anything about them.  My financial obligations strangle me.  My sister moving to a new, better life seems more than I can bear.  Somehow, at some point, it seems like everything spun on without me.  Why didn't I get a say?  How come nobody asked me?  I'm just walking along, shuffling my feet, and it feels a lot like it did a few years ago when my ex left me.  I'm just standing here, except this time there's nothing bad or negative going on.  I'm lucky to have my job and be a part of important projects.  Lord knows my new boss is amazing and goes out of his way to book me for conferences and force me to take time away from work to make my daughter a priority and even gym time or getting my nails done.  My sister is moving on to a better life.  Her husband got a better job and she will have more financial freedom, the ability to buy the house of her dreams, and really start her career on the East Coast.  I feel like they had every reason to move and I'm the only reason to stay, which is no reason at all.  I'm not angry or abandoned or resentful.  Of course I want what's best for her, but I feel very small all of a sudden.  I know I can function without her near me. I just don't know how yet.
My house is finally in escrow.  My ex came over tonight to sign the first set of disclosures, so we each had a glass bottled coke and got out our pens, just like when we bought it.  Do you remember when we were the buyers and we inspected the owner's signatures?  Who do you think the buyers are this time?  Isn't owning a house such a pain?  We laughed.  Then we looked at each other for a brief moment and the sadness was there.  Are you ready to move on from this?  We're already done, but now we're going to be done-done.  Done.  Do you want to talk about a plan to move our stuff out?  Neither do I.  At least the Coke was just as good as I remembered it.  I didn't even know how to sign the damn papers.  They're in my married name and that's not me.  I don't know who that is anymore.  Is it weird that we still care about each other so much?  That he knew I was sitting at my desk all alone for my birthday so he came to pick me up because my boyfriend works too far away and my birthday is very important to me?  We talked about my birthday and what my boyfriend had done and his girlfriend's birthday and what he had done for her and we smiled and laughed.  Like it never happened?  Like we pretend we wish it never happened...except I hand him his Father's Day card handmade by his daughter, who we both love more than anything in the world.
He asked me if I thought it was smart to start an engagement with a man that didn't know me well enough to know that I hated surprises (and nearly ruined my bday over it). I smiled and reminded him that we got engaged after just a few months.  He points his finger at me and says "bitch, we're divorced!" and we both laugh.  But it took him years to get to know me and lack of knowledge of my personality certainly is not what caused our divorce.  When I met him, I was sure he was someone special. He promised me we'd always be there for each other.  I remember screaming that promise broken to him when we were getting divorced and he assured me we would still always be together, just not how I thought.  And it's so true.  I think you can look into someone's eyes and see their heart. Their soul.  I certainly can do that with my boyfriend.  I'm not afraid to start an engagement with him for that reason.  I know he'll stay with me based on who he is and the amount of love and respect he has for me and our relationship.  It's my protectiveness over his good heart and our new bond that will keep me vigilant over our relationship.
There are days it seems strange and others it's completely normal that he's with me.  I've started to rely on him on a daily basis.  Taking out the trash or hugging me when I'm sad.  I feel those protective layers slowly falling away from my heart as I let him see that I do like to snuggle and I'm the kind of woman who will grab you and hug and kiss you in the middle of the street if the mood hits me.  It's nice to see my heart is still young and happy underneath all of the damage.  It's as if the scab is slowly falling off to reveal the soft, new skin beneath it.  I don't daydream about babies any longer. I plan for them.  It's yet another momentum that I'm not scared of, but I can feel.  This one date turned into a relationship and is fast becoming a forever.  I feel very fortunate to have been given another chance.  Maybe one day I will buy another house and watch my kids play in the backyard and ride their bikes down the street.  I'll have my family portraits that include a dad.  I'm not sure how all of this modern family stuff is supposed to come together, honestly.  I'm so used to me and my kid traveling the country and being on our own that I still don't understand how to invite someone else most of the time.  She helps me, though.  That's the thing about kids: they know how to follow their hearts.
I feel like my daughter is my emotional salvation.  She shines the light for my heart to see the way.  When life is moving too fast, she insists on resting her head on my chest.  I close my eyes and just listen to her breath. I smell the shampoo in her hair, touch her soft skin, and enjoy the weight of her in my arms.  She shows me that my primary job is to love and use my heart and I do my best to listen.  There have been nights, like tonight, when she got out of bed and told me I needed a hug, so I sat with her on the couch and held her until we were both peaceful and she returned to bed and immediately fell asleep.  This past weekend she told my boyfriend that she was thinking about his very small house and how he is alone there and it made her sad. She told him to sell it and move into our house since there was plenty of room and he could be a family with us.  How do you not cry when your daughter proposes to your boyfriend?  She always articulates the words my heart cannot.  When we were leaving my sister's house for the last time before their move, she hugged her auntie and uncle goodbye and told me not to cry.  She reminded me that they are just a plane ride away.  Life is so simple in the eyes of a three year old, but maybe it's for the best.  Aren't they just a plane ride away?
People rob themselves of happiness by believing that things will not turn out as well as they will.  If everything has to work out in the end and nothing is in place, then it's not the end yet.  It can't be.  The heartbreak from my divorce has faded.  What I have left is a friend that I love and respect as a parent to our child.  As painful as it is to sell the house for both of us, it must be done.  We joked that we'd rent until we were 55 then move into a retirement community and launch marshmallows at each other from across the street.  It's funny because it's entirely possible.  I find myself newly in love and in a relationship going through the same getting to know you aggravations that any couple goes through.  There is peace in my heart seeing myself with a man who is willing to get to know me and be a real partner in my life and family.  My sister is moving to the East Coast to a better life.  Not a life without me, just further away.  It still makes me cry, but it is nothing for me to change.  Just adapt to.  So it looks like I will be making quite a few trips back East to visit, which is probably for the best since my best friend lives on that coast, as does my boyfriend's family.
So here we are, right in the middle.  I wouldn't say I'm standing in the eye of the storm exactly.  I feel a calmness in my heart, even though the winds are blowing.  Today, my world is certainly in flux and we're nowhere near the end.  I've waded this far in.  I might as well take a deep breath and find my way out the other side.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Countdown

Fuck if I know how to be in a relationship anymore.  It all seems like faded memories of another woman.  Considering someone else's feelings and agenda.  Caring what they want to do or what they've been through.  Taking the time to find out who they really are and what they want out of life.  It can be exhausting, especially when you've spent the past two years killing yourself trying to figure out who you are and proving that you can stand on your own two feet.  I used to think that I needed to be in a relationship to be happy.  I know now that's not true.  I'm complete alone.  I'm fulfilled.  I don't know what to do with these facts, but I can tell you they swirl around in my mind. 
I have sharing problems.  This little angry girl stomps her foot in my head and yells "I don't NEED you! I do what I want!" when I realize that my life is changing and I can't do things all my own way on my own agenda anymore. 
I'm sitting on a new couch tonight.  My boyfriend ordered new couches for my condo and a new bed for my daughter and they were delivered this weekend.  That means that the couches I had in my condo are now gone.  I bought these couches before I married my first husband.  I gave them to my second husband, so my daughter still sees them, they're just in daddy's house now.  Seems fitting in a way and I'm content that they're still in the family, although clearly confused about who constitutes my family since he technically isn't part of it anymore.  The thought has run through my head that if we break up, I'd be in trouble since I no longer own couches, but I'm not supposed to think like that, right?  We're not going to break up.  We're going to live happily every after--get married, have babies, and that whole bit.  My daughter also wouldn't have a bed.  I'm really not good at sharing my daughter.
It's been interesting watching my little girl get attached to another man.  I watch how she hugs him, involves him in our lives, asks him to spend the night, and tells him she loves him.  I'm trying to listen to my heart when it sings instead of my brain that screams in fright.  If I plan to marry this man, then it's necessary that she loves him.  I struggle with the idea that she is my priority and he has to understand that he will never really come first because of her.  How dare I expect anyone to love me and put me first knowing they will never be first with me?  Even if we have another child, that child will inevitably come before him.  Am I supposed to put my kids above my husband?  Do I feel differently or more protective of my first born versus the child I have with my current husband?  Who has these answers?  I sure don't.  All I can do is feel my way slowly through all of this and I mostly feel confused.  Walking into her room to see her beautiful new bed or sitting on these cartoonishly plush, large couches doesn't help either.  What has happened that I'm feeling dwarfed by the idea of a couch in my own damn livingroom?
I think I'm feeling like I'm losing my personal space.  When he moves in, which is inevitable at this point, my bedroom set will be replaced by his.  Logically it makes sense: it's newer and nicer in every way.  But this set was the set I moved out of my house in.  It's been my safe haven where I feel safe alone every night.  It's the place where I snuggle with my daughter and watch cartoons and eat muffins.  I bought the sheet sets when I was sad and they cheered me up.  Soon hopefully they will bring comfort to my cousin when I pass them on to her.  It doesn't stop my heart from feeling sad that it'll soon be gone.  All that will be left of me is the china cabinet and dinningroom table set that I bought with my second husband.  He hates that set.  To this day he curses it and I still laugh, filled with funny memories of him moving it over and over again.  It's funny how memories, even ones that should be bad like me moving out of our family home, still make me laugh, even when I'm crying too.
On nights like tonight, I don't know what to do with my past.  I feel like it's normal to have this full disclosure period in relationships.  You tell each other everything you've done and been through.  Your family tells embarrassing stories, your friends are happy for you, you reveal your regrets, and confess your past sexual escapades.  What if I don't want to tell?  Why can't my past just be my past?  Do I care how you've screwed members over of the opposite sex or how many people you've slept with in the bed you want to bring into my house?  I do not.  And I don't want to tell you about the things I've done either.  Here's the thing: most people's "bad" stories happened long in the past.  In their teens or early 20s.  Mine have all taken place in the past two years.  That means two things: 1. My stories happened with a lot more thought and experience.  I didn't hurt people because I fucking knew better.  All things I did were as an adult.  2. What I've done is still who I am now. I wasn't some reckless or careless kid whose grown up and learned a lesson.  It all feels like a current event.
So I find myself realizing that yet again, I'm the anomaly.  Maybe people are programmed to care about each others pasts. I don't know.  I can tell you I don't care.  Keep that shit to yourself.  I don't want to hear about any raunchy details from your college years, I'm not looking for confessions, and I've already done all the confessing I'll ever do here, so I hope you like to read if you want to unearth mine.  I'm not keeping any other secrets.  It doesn't mean I don't have some moments I'm not so proud of.  I'll always feel grateful to a certain boytoy turned real friend who was there for me and I could have been more considerate of.  It doesn't matter how many times he told me everything was fine, I feel bad now and I'll take his refusal to answer innocent "happy bday" or "how's your day" texts as evidence that I have something to apologize for.
Aren't these things supposed to be in the past?  If I stand perfectly still I can hear the clock ticking in my head, counting the minutes, hours, days, and months to the new path of my life that is slowly moving under my feet.  Soon all my furniture will be replaced or shared.  My room will be ours, my kitchen packed, and my bathroom shared.  I will not have my own space.  Soon a ring will be on my finger and a wedding dress ordered.  My last name will change yet again and I will have a new family to get to know and hopefully be part of.  One day my daughter will become a big sister and I will move into a new home with a bigger car for me to drive to work.  I asked for this, right?
I guess the trick is letting myself admit that just because I want something doesn't mean I know how to go about getting it or handling it once it's here.  I couldn't ask for a better man in my life.  So full of love and sincerity and consideration.  He's also from a different part of the country with a different upbringing and experiences of his own.  I'm struggling with the integration, no matter how much I want to do it.  Tonight when he told me he loved me, I heard myself answer "why?".  My mother's words coming out of my mouth.  I left the room before he could see the tears.  They now belong to the dark and my new couches as I write in the middle of the night.  Each day I'm realizing I still have a lot of work to do on myself as a person, a mother, and now as a partner to someone else. 
From the light of the computer screen I can barely make out the lettering on my Moulin Rouge DVD. So appropriate.  The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.