Me, MomSelf and I

Life's journey is full of twists and turns and sometimes we get lost. This is my journey to rediscover myself.


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Heavy

This is not a happy post. This is not a Susie Sunshine post. This is a heavy post. Heavy with despair about the state of America. Heavy with the grief of so many black lives that didn’t matter to the point of their murder. Heavy with the accepted racism that is rearing its ugly head instead of staying hidden just beneath the surface. (Was that any better?)

I’m supposed to be working right now, but I can’t. I’m just too heavy. I’m supposed to be happy right now, its a “New Year, New You!” But I can’t. My year is just too heavy. My safety and security have been shook. I have seen myself reflected in too many who have lost their lives over a bag of skittles, a toy air soft gun, a loose cigarette, a pack of cigarillos, words. Words. I’m a writer, so I cherish words. So when I see a woman, not unlike myself, questioning a police officer about why she was stopped, using her words, and then see this woman murdered because of her words, I’m heavy. But then when I hear things like “well, if she had just kept her mouth shut…” or “just like a black woman, talking too much…” or “all you have to do is listen to the officer and respond to his questions and nothing will happen to you” type of words, this heaviness becomes too much to bear.

I have been asleep, dreaming that I was like everyone else. Dreaming that because I grew up in the suburbs and went to college that I had assimilated. Dreaming that because I grew up with a father and a stay at home mother, I was acceptable. Dreaming that because I spoke well, and had a diverse pool of friends that I was alright. Dreaming that because I was married, with a house and 3 kids and a dog, and working a full-time job I had achieved the American Dream. Dreaming that because I’m registered to vote and recycle and work in social justice, that I was honoring all those that gave their lives in the Civil Rights Movement. But then Trayvon Martin happened. And then Eric Garner happened. And then John Crawford happened. And then Mike Brown happened.  And then Freddie Gray happened. And then Sandra Bland happened. And then Tamir Rice happened. And countless others happened. And then #blacklivesmatter happened. And then #alllivesmattered happened. And then I woke up.

I woke up to a nightmare. We talk about progress to appease ourselves so that we feel accomplished. We tell ourselves, Martin Luther King Jr. dreampt of equality and now that we have a black President, we’ve achieved it. And that is a lie. I’m heavy with the lies. The level of disrespect he’s been subjected to as the President of the United States is unprecedented. And the disrespect is accepted, because he’s black. Right now today, there is an American City that is poisoning its residents. The poisoned water in Flint, Michigan has been acceptable because it’s mostly being given to poor black people. That water is heavy. Heavy with lead. #FlintWaterCrisis. It’s been 76 years since Hattie McDaniel became the first (of only 12 African Americans) to win an Academy Award yet, here we are in 2016 with no black nominees because #OscarsSoWhite. Some will say, “maybe blacks just haven’t been good enough to deserve a win.” More lies. The justifications for racism always fall back on “blacks aren’t good enough.” No matter what we do, or how we speak, or how we walk, or how we perform, or how we drive, or how we shop, or how we play, we simply are never good enough to deserve equal treatment. The racists say we want special treatment. Perhaps that is because they realize how special they are treated. #WhitePrivilege.

Being awake is not quite as comfortable as being asleep and dreaming. And now I fear I have insomnia. I’m irritable, uncomfortable, angry, sad, discombobulated. I’m heavy. I can’t go back to sleep.

 


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What’s Next?

I was recently laid off from a job. The question on everybody’s mind, including my own is: what’s next? File for unemployment? Immediately jump into the job search?  Start my own consulting business? Dust off my massotherapy license and practice? Panic?????

In the weeks leading up to this life event, my 3-year-old was desperately unhappy at his new daycare. He’d transitioned there after his former one closed a little less than a year ago. We started the daycare search, again. We were on the waiting list for 2 different schools. In the months leading up to my lay off, I was fiercely looking for a new job because I saw things going in a direction I didn’t agree with. But I couldn’t find anything that really got me excited. In the years leading up to now, I H.A.T.E.D. my boss (a sub par replacement for “the best boss in the world,” who relocated for his wife’s new job.) This boss was passive aggressive, and took pride in manipulating people. She lied to everyone, so I couldn’t trust anything she said. She created an environment that ran off 2 amazing employees and broke the spirits of the rest of us on a daily basis. It was torture to walk into work each day. While I liked the work I did, I didn’t like the person I was becoming-someone filled with anger and hate and letting work consume me. My blood pressure remained elevated. On a conscious level, I knew her actions were due to issues she had with herself that she projected onto the rest of us, but it was hard not to let it affect me. So many times, work comes to define us. I regularly received praise from people I engaged with in the community, but I would return to my office to be belittled, micromanaged and pitted against other coworkers. I prayed for relief for me and my workmates. I prayed for relief for my son at his school. In therapy, I begged for help in overcoming my fears in order to really pursue my lifelong passion to write.

So here I am, immersed in the relief I asked for. The question remains what’s next?

What I’ve chosen to do for now is withdraw my son from daycare so we can spend quality time together. I’ve renewed my blog. I registered for a writing workshop. And I have applied for some jobs. But the most important thing I can do right now is breathe. Take a moment to decompress from the toxic situation I’ve been in and embrace what my life is today. I believe that struggles exist to make us stronger and push us closer to our purpose. And life events, like losing a job, not only show us how fortunate we truly are, but force us to acknowledge what we’ve chosen to ignore in the struggles. I needed to get out of that job, I just didn’t know how. I worried about what the next job would be like. What if it was worse than where I was? How far away would it be from my kids’ school? What if I didn’t like my coworkers as much? What if it called for more time away from my family? Or what if I was bad at it? We make unlimited amounts of time for worry and stress, but none for processing and living. Today, I will surrender to this moment in my life and l will decide what’s next.

Stay tuned!

Times, They Are a’Changing

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Autumn Sky

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The weather is beautiful as the warmth of the sun energizes you in the day, while the crisp nights make for perfect sleeping weather.  The landscape transitions as the leaves start to change into vibrant oranges and reds and deep shades of brown. The air is full of hope with a new school year and a new football season. Fall is also when my birthday is.  Because I love it so, I chose to get married around this time.  I almost named my daughter Autumn.

But recently I realized that I’m not as comfortable with change in reality as I am in theory. And this time brings about a lot of change. In rapid succession. The jump off point is my baby’s birthday, followed by my husband’s a week later. Two weeks after that is our wedding anniversary (the big 1-0 this year!) Two weeks after that is my oldest son’s birthday, followed by my birthday a month later (another big one this year, the Big 4-0!!) In the midst of that is the start of school and at work, a new grant cycle.  Trying to keep up with it all, I’m spinning. I feel like I can’t even catch my breath….

Besides me not liking change, I put a lot of pressure on myself to plan the perfect birthdays for everyone to make them super special. So then I get overwhelmed. And exhausted. Then irritated. And resentful.  I invest all this time and energy into everyone’s else’s happiness, that by the time my birthday caps off the season, and no one has invested the same amount of time and energy into me, I feel let down and angry.  It’s a vicious cycle.  But this year, this BIG year will be different because I recognize the cycle. Which means I can stop it.

I can accept the inevitable transitions and embrace them as my life moving forward the way it’s supposed to.  Yes, my children will continue to get older (God willing) as will I (God willing). I will be thankful for each year I get to have a partner and be loved by my husband and celebrate another year of commitment. I will take pride in the time and effort I put into creating these wonderful memories my family will have of their birthdays and first days of school that they can hold in their hearts long after I’m gone.  And I will, like the trees losing leaves, release the things that no longer serve me in this time to make room for the greatness that is to come.


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Generation X’s Legacy

 Thank you Past Generations

My grandparents were from the “silent generation.” I can only assume they were called that because it was the era of ‘children are to be seen and not heard.’  I guess it’s good they weren’t talkers because they were doers.  They seemed to be all about their business.  I could never really get good stories out of my grandparents or older aunts and uncles until very recently.  I think they’re tired of being silent. They took things very seriously and worked really hard.  They were also called “The Greatest Generation.” Great Depression babies.  If they were depressed, they took it like men. They didn’t wallow in their own self pity like subsequent generations. They believed in this country and its preservation. They also popped out babies like they were going out of style.

Baby Boomers. They grew up without much of anything, so they decided they wanted everything. All about revolution and change.  Fighters.  They knew what they wanted and deserved and they demanded it.  Civil Rights. Free Love. To be young forever.  They were so caught up in themselves and their movements, I think they were too busy to raise their kids.  Or if they weren’t, they seemed to have the motto that they weren’t going to let kids get in their way. I mean, I can’t really blame them.  They had a lot going on, putting people on the moon and what not.  But the generation that followed-my generation, the generation of latch-key kids, got lost in the shuffle.

Generation X.  X, as in Who are we? What do we stand for? X marks the spot where we got lost, I say.  The 1960s was such a time of upheaval, that my generation were left to deal with the fallout.  Perhaps we should’ve been called Generation “C” for consequences. The consequences of all that free love was AIDS. The consequence of the Vietnam war (among other things) was a disproportionate ratio of women to men, and who subsequently had to re-think the whole ‘finding a husband game.’ The consequence of all that liberation was we were free to do anything……or nothing.  For years they called us the slacker generation.  It felt like our parents changed the world, so there was nothing left for us to do. We learned about all of the people who died for our luxury of opportunities.  Then we watched the Spaceshuttle Challenger explode in front of our eyes. To me, that almost represents what happened to us.  We were primed and ready to blast off into the next stratosphere and then in an instant our dreams were dashed to pieces.  It’s as if Generation X suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Is it a coincidence that most of the people I know from this generation are either social workers or in therapy themselves (or both)? At least  we can say we created reality TV (no doubt an off-shoot of all those social workers wanting to study ourselves!) And we create Hip Hop.  I’m very proud of that.

Then here come the Millennials, who are all “selfies!” and social media mavens and “I can be/do anything I want to.”  Almost as if they’re what Gen X was supposed to be. Which is so annoying! But it’s also what I admire about them: their fierce determination and feistiness.  They declare themselves something and pretend like they are until it becomes true.  That is a useful skill.  They have so much self confidence. Self promotion is a way of life. They are always camera-ready.  Does anything embarrass them? I don’t think so. I’m embarrassed to say I keep waiting for reality to smack them in the face.  But they operate with an alternative reality. I think they’re more likely to smooze reality up and make it their bitch.  They’ve got balls.  Where did this come from?

Nevertheless, I appreciate them all, despite Generation X’s wayward journey.  The Silent-ers taught my father to commit to a job for 40 years and provide a good, stable life for our family.  (You don’t see that anymore!) And Boomers paved the way for me to have options, like a career and to grow up in a diverse neighborhood where I didn’t have to use separate water fountains or bathrooms from white people.  Generation X gave the world Hip Hop and Reality TV (and some other things I can’t think of-I’m sure of it!) And the Millennials gave us facebook and twitter, and the audacity to have a second act in life. (I say, take a page from their book and become what you are!)

So here’s what I believe about Generation X.  Our legacy will be our children.  I think we are the best parents in the history of the world.  Maybe because we had more time to decide what it means to be a parent, many of us having children later in life than any previous generation. Growing up amidst all that change gave us permission to defend traditional ideals, while being flexible to make our own rules.  We chose to be involved in our kids’ lives, but have balance so that they don’t become our lives.  We learned how to reward our kids without spoiling, teaching them that hard work pays off in the end, but it doesn’t hurt to have some fun along the way.  We know how to discipline without beating the essence out of them.  We strive to teach them respect by respecting them as individuals.  We know when to speak up on their behalf and when to be silent, so they learn to fight their own battles.  We have an abundance of resources at our disposal, (including therapy!) We have fathers more involved than ever before.  I know so many wonderful Gen X parents!  We apply Depression-era work ethics and Boomer-style revolution to our parenting.  (We also learned from boomers how NOT to parent.) So, I think our kids will change the world the way our parents did, but waaay better.  Gen X was the recovery period, a regrouping, if you will. But when our kids grow up, by then, the world will be ready.


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Death, Birth, and Rainbows: All Love

My second son was born 7 days after my father died from a 14-month bout with throat cancer.  Part of the reason I wanted to get pregnant again was because I knew he was dying.  At the time, it seemed like the only way I could keep him alive.  It was during my pregnancy that I started therapy.  I figured I had a pretty good set up for postpartum depression, and I wanted to prepare for its inevitability. I was so convinced it would happen, I actually saw 2 therapists. One would listen and give me practical advice and the other would make me work to come up with my own answers.  I valued both.

As we were planning the funeral, we had to schedule the burial and the only day available was my due date. And the military cemetery was an hour away.  So I decided I couldn’t go. It rained all that day, which was appropriate, because my dad loved the rain, thunderstorms especially. Sure enough, that morning, as my mother and sister were driven to the burial site, I started having contractions.  They return literally in the nick of time.  My son was born at 7:17 pm and just minutes before he made his debut in this world, a bright, beautiful rainbow appeared outside our window.

As my son has grown, he has been fixated on pictures of my dad.  Since he began talking, one of his most repeated phrases is “Grandpa died.”  For the longest, I wondered, why does he keep saying that? It hurts me every time I have to explain to him that, yes, Grandpa died, but even though he’s not here, he loves you and your brother and sister anyway.  But what I now believe is that he says it over and over because he knows.  He met my dad in that space and time in the universe between life and death, and he is trying to tell me, Grandpa died, but his love hasn’t. Because it lives through him. He is Grandpa’s love.

So this year, as he turns 2 and we acknowledge another year since my dad passed, I will have a new perspective, a dual celebration.  I will celebrate my son’s birthday and the abundance of love that my dad still showers me with, through my baby.


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He Weans Me, He Weans Me Not

I’ve spent the last 7 years breastfeeding.  It sounds so absurd saying it out loud, but that’s the truth.  When I first became pregnant, I read as many pregnancy, motherhood, parenting books I could. Of course they all said “breast was best.”   I remember being in such admiration of my best friend in high school interact with her mother.  They had a closeness that I longed for, and I attributed it to their breastfed relationship-one that I lacked as a formula baby. Since then, I knew if I ever had kids, breastfeeding was the only way I’d go.  Plus, I’ve always been well endowed in the boobage area, so I figured a) I’d have no problems doing it (wrong!), and b) they must serve a purpose beyond being oogled by men since I was about 12.

From the moment my firstborn was placed on my chest, I became a breastfeeding mom.  And knowing I was the sole provider of this powerful, antibody-rich superfood, I was hooked!  Not to mention the euphoric high of possessing this tool that could instantly calm a cranky baby, I felt like a goddess.  Okay, so that was all ego.  But the deeper joy was this unique closeness I shared-that bond I longed for many moons ago-was now a reality with me and my son.  And he had no intentions of giving it up.  When I became pregnant with his sister 2 years later, the doctor told me I really needed to wean him for a variety of reasons.  I reluctantly (and half-heartedly) began to distract him when it was “that time.” But the truth is, he continued to nurse pretty much up until she was born.  Again, I experienced that joy with the bond I was able to form with my daughter.  She too, had no interest in weaning.  And she was 3 when her baby brother was born.  So here he is a week away from turning 2 and there are days now when he can take my milk or leave it.  I’ve never experienced this before and I don’t know how to handle it.

I now have a medical condition that requires me to take drugs that are not breastfeeding compatible.  So it’s necessary for us to cease that function of our relationship.  And I agonized over how I was going to do it. But it turns out, he’s apparently going to handle that for me.  He was my bonus baby from the get-do, and has always been what I needed him to be at the right time.  See, he was growing inside me while my father was dying of cancer.  And I wondered how I could bring such an important life into the world as I was losing one of the most important ones in my life.  And he knew that, so he made sure it was an easy pregnancy.  Then when my dad died, he gave me 1 week to grieve before he made his appearance.

So he knows for my health we have to stop the nursing.  Therefore, he has begun to wean himself.  And I am both grateful and incredibly sad.  How have I created such an intuitively caring human being, who wasn’t even planned?  And even though it’s been 7 years, how is this part of my life over already?

I feel so fortunate to have had this experience, when I know there are some women who never get the chance.  I just hope we find another way to express our closeness. I also know I will miss it forever.