Let the Caged Bird Sing…

I have spent the better part of the last twenty minutes carrying on a conversation with a dog. Now, that is either super relatable or cause for concern, depending entirely upon who you are as a person. For me, it’s a little place somewhere between “totally normal, everyday behavior” and “what the actual hell is wrong with you”. But the reason why may not be what you think.

I spend way more time than I care to admit talking to myself, and sometimes (read: a lot of the time) that happens in the form of me talking to the dogs so I feel slightly less crazy. Typing this all out, however, has only served to make me feel even crazier, so there’s that. Anyway. The talking (to myself or the animals) is not the part that has me freaked out, because as I have said, I do this often. Actually, in the spirit of full disclosure, I spend more time talking to the bearded dragon most mornings than I do my kids. There. Okay, we have established my level of crazy, are we happy? I am incapable of sitting in my own silence.

Which is where the actual problem comes in. I have never been incapable of this. Now, wait. Let me clarify. That is not to say that I like to sit in total, worldly quiet. Absolute quiet makes me really uneasy. Like I’m two minutes away from the Cuckoo’s Nest if you get my drift. I like sound. I just like it to be my sound. A sound of my choosing. Music or a book, or inner narration (because if I’m not talking out loud, you could put money down that I’m doing it in my head). Get my drift?  I’ve always enjoyed being in the sounds of my choosing, but away from the noise made by the rest of the world.

A really simple way of saying this is that I’ve always enjoyed being alone.

Better? That took an astonishing amount of words to get to.

Anyway. I am alone, right now. This minute. As I speak. Type. Honestly, I’m talking as I type, so you get the damn point.

And I am completely undone.

Which is screwing me up in ways you cannot imagine.

How have I forgotten how to be alone?

I’ll tell you how.

This is the first time in exactly six weeks and one day that I have been utterly without human company inside a house for more than 5 minutes. And I cannot recall a time before that in the last year.  I’m sure it must have happened, but I genuinely cannot remember it. The only other times I am ever alone, I am driving, and really, are you ever actually alone when you share the road with a bunch of other unpredictable people who may or may not be too busy looking at themselves on their phone to notice that the right lane is closed ahead (you know, the same one they’ve closed every day for the last month) so you have to slam on your brakes to prevent little miss sassy-pants from sideswiping you with her fancy little Mazda when she finally looks at the road? No, you are not. Driving is no longer a lonely business, it’s a death-defying feat of insanity.

Good God, I’ve turned into Tristram Shandy.

Look, I am alone. It’s just me and the dogs. Not my dogs, mind you, if they were my dogs I would be at home and I wouldn’t be having this little crisis of identity. No, I’m (happily) enjoying a weekend stay-cation with my mom’s dogs. This is also exactly what I was doing the last time I was alone: six weeks and one day ago.

And I did the exact same thing then that I’m doing now.

I had a total freaking meltdown. Because I forgot how to be alone.

Don’t panic.

I’m not panicking, or actually having any kind of freak out. I’m just… well, I am a bit baffled, a lot irritated, and quite frankly, stunned. I mean, seriously.  I pulled a Mel Gibson from Braveheart all the way here. “Freedoooooom!” But no. Not really.  I’m just at a loss of what to do with myself. I had goals, and I met them. I did a ton of schoolwork. And if it were possible to measure digital media in terms of weight, I could believe that it was truly a ton. Okay, but now what? I started to do a bunch of busywork. No shit. I am alone. My kids are not near me. I love them, they are my whole entire universe. But they are a lot sometimes. And right now, they are not even in the same town as I am. I am alone, actively seeking busy work? It’s just sad.

But I don’t know what to do.

How’s that for a screwy situation?

I slept, and it was awesome, but there’s really only so much of that a person can do before it gets old. I went for a run, and it wasn’t awesome because it’s raining outside and the dogs kind of freaked out and I was worried the whole time that one of them would burrow out of the house using some kind of magical dog weapon and I’d end up chasing them all over this neighborhood again and my parent’s snobby asshole neighbors already hate me, so that’s a miserable prospect.

Then I got some more school work done.

Then the thinking started.

Which is when I tend to get myself into trouble.

But really now. I hate this. I hate that I’m even sitting here writing this, because more than anything it’s an attempt to pull my own thoughts together, and what I really should be doing is enjoying a book. Which I cannot do because I left my book at home. And also, I apparently have the attention span of a fruit fly right now, so Terry Pratchett and I probably aren’t a good combination. Okay, fine, no book. I’ll watch television… I’ve paused this episode 18 times already. The show is good, but I’m not paying attention. I’m too worried about what else I should be doing.

And here we hit the heart of the problem.

I haven’t forgotten how to be alone.

I’ve forgotten how to relax.

It’s not a new realization, so I guess it’s lost some of its wow factor, but it’s still a crappy one. I don’t know how to shut my mind off anymore. I mean, I was never good at it to begin with, but I could at least get immersed in something, some other world, or game, or book, or idea. But now?  Now I’m pacing around while the dogs pace after me because they think I’ve got treats hidden in my hair or something (which they both know is not true, because they are the reason I cannot even run a brush through my hair right now), while I try to figure out some magic formula of shutting off my brain.

I am not worried about missing this moment. I am not worried about missing moments tomorrow or the next day either. I am worried that I am avoiding self-truths with overthinking and stupid tv shows. I am worried that I started to do something healthy for myself, and the more into it I get, the more convinced I am that people in my life are going to work to sabotage it. And that, that my friends, is a fucked-up truth.

I am worried that the more good I do for me, the more negative shit I am going to hear. The more false-positive bull is going to get thrown at me. I’m stretching myself too thin, by going to bed an hour earlier so I can get up to run in the morning. Or, I’m booking myself up and not leaving any room for plans by dedicating a grand total of 5 hours a month to an event that makes me happy and motivates me to do more, be better.

I am worried that I have buried myself in a toxic environment. And I am more worried that I have created the foundation for it. I am worried that I will cave. That I will capitulate. That I will give up and give in because me doing good for me is too hard for other people to handle, and despite every fucking tough-girl-take-no-prisoners-give-no-shit attitude I have worn like a tattered cape since childhood, I still want the people I love to be happy.

Even if it means I’m not.

And I’m worried that I am growing out of that.

Finally.

I am worried that means other people will either have to grow or have to go.

And I am terrified because I don’t know which choice will be made.

So, I sit here, unable to be alone, and talking to the dogs.

They say “hi”, by the way.

Because I know that growth is painful for me. But I never realized how painful it would be for other people. And that hurts a whole lot more. Almost as much as accepting that it isn’t my choice to make. I made my choice. I cannot determine how other people react to it. I can’t decide what the outcome will be, beyond my own small role.

Gives a whole new meaning to growing pains.

And to finding freedom.

cocoparisienne

No Other Love…

So, today is Daddy’s birthday.  It’s also the day he goes back to work.

Of course the boys are being total terrors and we have what feels like a billion things to do while attempting to keep them from going at eachother like a couple of wild cats.

Anyway, I wanted to take a minute and write something for the man who is crazy enough to want to marry me (aren’t you supposed to get wiser with age?).

Eight years ago I met this guy in a bar I frequented after work.  And immediately had the hots for him.  However, life doesn’t work that way, and we were both on very separate paths.  Then out of the blue one evening a few years later I received a myspace message (yeah, that really was only five years ago.  Weird to think about, right?) from this very man, who was out of the country and wanted to hang out when he returned home.  As luck would have it, my friend and I had tickets to a Less Than Jake concert, and one of our friends had backed out at the last minute, so we had an extra ticket.  I asked if he wanted to join us, he agreed, and that was that.

No really, that was that.  In those hours I spent time with a man who made me laugh, challenged me intellectually, gave me goosebumps when he looked at me, and (this was pretty close to a first when it came to my dating history) wasn’t totally insane.  A month later, after meeting a very large portion of my family, we became an official couple.

Over the last five years we’ve had so many ups and downs, highs and lows.  We’ve had good times that were really good, and bad times that couldn’t get much worse.  And through it all, we’ve managed to grow stronger.  Raising children is difficult enough.  Raising special needs children is a whole different beast.  Doing it while halfway across the world is another thing altogether.  Yet we make it work – we make our family work.  It’s not traditional, it’s not anywhere near normal.  But it’s ours, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

I know you often feel unappreciated, and I wish I could find a better way to convey to you just how untrue that is.  We appreciate you more than you’ll ever comprehend.  We appreciate the sacrifices you make for the sake of our family.  I can’t imagine having to spend more time away from our family than with them – and I know you do it for us.  I know you push and work, and struggle to make sure that the kids and I have everything we need, and often everything we want.

I know how much it costs you to provide the way you do – and I love you all the more for it.  But so often we focus on the big things, that we lose sight of the little things.  So, pay attention here because it’s high time the little things got some recognition.

I love you for…

  • I love you for keeping Mason out of the bathroom so I can shower in peace.
  • I love you for listening every time I need to rant and rave about something – even though you’d already forwarned me and I didn’t listen.
  • I love you for not outright laughing at me every time I manage to get myself in a stupid situation.
  • I love you for buying me a guitar based on some random stories I told once (and no, I still can’t play a single chord).
  • I love you for dealing with the flower bed because you know how much I don’t want to.
  • I love you for not banging your head against the brick each time I sign myself up for something, only to discover I overstretched myself once again.
  • I love you for not going crazy every time you run out of clean clothes because I have an absurd aversion to doing laundry.
  • I love you for going along with every harebrained scheme I come up with to help the kids.
  • I love you because you step on a Lego, curse a blue streak, and then walk right past it (sometimes I really think you are trying to get me to step on it).
  • I love you because after all these years you still haven’t learned not to play card games with me.
  • I love you because you’re just as sore a loser as I am when it comes to video games.
  • I love you because as much as you hate the kiddie pools, you let me get one every summer.
  • I love you for every small seemingly insignificant thing you do for me and the boys.

Never feel unappreciated.  The boys and I appreciate everything you do – from big to small.  I know this is a long trip around this time.  And I know you’re doing it so you can be home to marry my crazy self (and yes, it’s too late to back out).

I want you to know, every time you start to feel a little crazy, or homesick, or you just miss the sound of the children screaming loud enough to break the sound barrier – we love you.  We’re here waiting for you.  We know this is tough for you – just know it’s tough for us too, and we aren’t going anywhere.  I could keep writing for the next few hours, but you have to leave soon.

So, I’ll leave it at this.

It doesn’t matter where you are.  It doesn’t matter what drama is unfolding, or if we’re having a spat.  It doesn’t matter if the kids are making me crazy or I have too much on my plate to focus clearly on any one thing.  It doesn’t matter if you’re going stir crazy or over analyzing the world.  I love you.  I have always loved you, and I always will.  WE are here.  WE are your home, and we will hold your heart with pride.

“It’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by”

Happy Birthday Love.  Have a safe trip, and know that we miss you already.

I love you.

marsh13

 

Only Mama Knows…

Today is Mother’s Day.

Growing up I never thought I’d celebrate this day for myself.  Motherhood wasn’t in my ‘plan’.

And then this perfect, screaming little person turned my entire world upside down, and in the blink of an eye, everything changed.  My hopes and dreams were no longer for me – they were for him.  My actions were no longer a reflection of me, they were his.  Being awake at 3am held a whole new meaning.  I was able to fit the whole world in my arms, and each time I did I found myself less surprised by how absolutely right the fit was.

I watched, encouraged, molded, shaped, and spent my every waking hour loving this little person.  I was there to clap and cheer the first time he sat up on his own.  I took video after video trying to capture him standing up in his crib blowing raspberries.  I listened as he squeaked and squealed and cooed in his swing.  I barricaded my living room off day after day just waiting for him to crawl from one side to the other.  I watched him cover himself in blueberry pancakes for the first time, and laughed as I cleaned the mess.

I waited patiently for his firsts.  First time holding a bottle, first steps, first words.  Some of those came later than others.  Some came early.  And I cherished every single one.  I watched as little pieces of him developed into the independent, sweet, quirky child that he was growing to be.  I soothed and sang through the night terrors.  I watched as some of his quirks became more defined, and less ‘typical’.  I spent hours with therapists and specialists, reading books and sifting through article after article.

I fought with friends and family over things they weren’t able to see.  I fought with this perfect, screaming little person.  Most of all, I fought with myself.  Was I making something out of nothing like everyone seemed to think?  Was I overreacting?  Was I doing something wrong?  Was I doing the right things for my little person?   And then the day came – three years ago, the day finally came.  My little person finally said something I’d been waiting all his life to hear.

 “Mommy.”

And I knew.  I knew I was doing what was right.  I knew I was fighting for the right reasons.  And my first real spark of confidence in myself as a mother was ignited.

Four months later I was handed another perfect, screaming little person.  And all of the worry I had carried with me for the long nine months was instantly eased.  How could I possibly worry I wouldn’ t have enough love?  I didn’t have to be afraid that my heart wouldn’t be big enough – because it grew twice as big as soon as I saw those little eyes look at mine.

Now I was given a whole new set of hopes and dreams.  Ten new fingers and ten new toes to tickle and count.  A whole new little person to mold and shape, to teach and play with.  I watched with awe as he studied the world around him intently.  As he fell in love with cars and balls.  I watched as he took his first steps and laughed with him as he promptly landed on his diapered rump.

I tuned in to the quirks and oddities as he grew bigger.  I heard intuition whispering that things weren’t quite as they should be – and I listened.  And when my own fears and worries were acknowledged by the people who had fought with me the first time around, I felt the flames of my confidence in myself as a mother grow brighter.

Over the last six years I have laughed, and cried.  I’ve celebrated and commiserated.  I’ve learned what it means to be a mother, and a friend.  I’ve learned how to teach and be taught.  I’ve discovered what it feels like to truly love someone with all of my soul.  I’ve found a strength and an inner fighter I never knew existed.  I’ve been introduced into both the magic and the cruelty of the world we live in.  I’ve developed a patience and compassion I never thought myself capable of.

I have been changed by my children, by motherhood.

I have grown to understand and appreciate all of the mothers that have walked into my life.  And my children have benefited from the traits they have given me.  The fierce protective love and loyalty that my grandmother instilled in me.  The welcoming love and acceptance that was shown to me by the mothers of my friends, both as a child and an adult.  The humor and light shared with me by my aunts.  The honesty and faith given to me by the mothers I am lucky enough to know as friends.

All of the amazing mothers I have had walk through my life have molded the mother that I am today.  They all have had a tremendous impact in how I raise my own children.

But more than anything, the love given to me by my mother.  The respect, guidance, and endless love I have been given.  The unwavering faith and hope shown to me through tough times and through joyous times.  The laughter and the tears.  Through the wins and the losses, she has stood by my side, even when I thought I was alone.  I would not be who or where I am without her.  Without all of the amazing mothers I know.

As I sit here on Mother’s Day, tired and sore from a long night of battles with my boys, I have never felt more blessed.  Even when my heart is bruised and battered, when it’s hard to find the silver lining – I am the luckiest woman alive.  Because I have the most amazing family I could ask for.  The difficult times make the wonderful times that much better.  The triumphs made more brilliant by the tragedies.

I never thought I’d be a mother.

And I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you beautiful women out there.  To those I am lucky enough to know – you are an inspiration, and I couldn’t imagine walking this unknown road without you by my side.

I love you all.

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