Choices

I left Divorcee years and years ago, a young mother, barely able to understand herself much less the vows she took. I stayed and so did he, neither of us able to look at our life and imagine a day without our girls in it. We settled and didn’t even question the distance, the cold empty space between, the void, the growing ball of self hatred, the elephant I┬ápretended not to watch just stomped me instead, over and over again.

In the leaving, I saw two girls so heartbroken over their daddy, I could die from just the memory of it, a stain so drenched in shame of their innocence, the smell of their blood on my hands could make me vomit in their presence.

I knew I had made choices that defined my life early, choices that led me to stay home, daddy coming home to the bills and a mortgage, my shirts drenched in breast milk and baby vomit paid my homage, a role I believed I had to endure. The truth is I loathed him for his freedom, the flippant way he hated his job, my thought of working and providing made my heart flutter like air. My very shame in wanting to work was the bondage he could never seem to make peace with.

And so, with my father vanishing, Divorcee’s tears and heart gripping hugs to them, I couldn’t take it anymore. They didn’t ask for this pain nor did they ask to come into the world to a young mom shocked and horrified at her own unconscious life, a life I couldn’t remember choosing, the constant look of longing and questions, their little hearts longing for the Daddy I knew loved them. And so, he moved in to take over, paid the bills, fed and clothed us, my mother and brother roommates as we all passed by, the girls in the circle, a circle I depended on for refuge.

And so they have soared, my little angels, healing and growing, Kat’s reading conquered, Lola’s first day at Kindergarten a blow we took together, friends and mostly a team, Divorcee and I. I told myself the room I had was worth it, the tiny little room with a mattress I did not own, a side table and lamp borrowed, my home long gone, all the “stuff” we collected together a vague memory of what was. It was worth it, the pain easing over time, the work of forgiveness and healing showed up like little lights in their eyes.

Only he knows what this cost, the harsh criticism, the judgments and assumptions, the weird looks, and strange distance of potential relationships, a blow I took for not having known my worth or passion. This new roommate role I settled into felt more comfy, like my favorite converse shoes, and was a better trade, so I took off their pain and wore shoes that said more lost than comfy, a bewildered zombie of a woman I did not know ran and ran, watching them grow from a different angle, but it was all just the same.

Again I was outside a life I did not want.

And like all things, courage came, the death of a dream in another form, the understanding that I wanted to live in a home I owned, with little towels that smelt like me, sheets I paid for, a bathroom I could visit without a turtleneck and deadbolt, which is pretty much how I feel every time I sneak to the community shower, never knowing if Divorcee or Baby Bro will have beaten me first.

I am an artist and nothing here is owned or decorated by me, strange glass vases and foreign colors make me weary and depression came down like a whip lash, my girls laughter in the back yard was nothing less than the cost of myself, my eyes vacant and hollow, joy a feeling I had lost long ago.

Until now. I found me. I found my joy, the passion for a work I could only dream to want much less own, and truly the shock and gratitude comes and goes like a slap, the pain and longing for my babies just as strong, my inner pull to do what I love.

The truth is I did not choose this job but it has instead chosen me, my body and soul a channel for the demand to create, no matter the cost.

I have not eaten from having spent my quarters, prayed as I shake from the gas tank on empty, not even able to buy the birthday presents much less the big party, I watch in sick envy as Divorcee clumsily picks the Halloween costume, nails the Christmas list, works tirelessly as a single Dad while I come home deathly afraid I have missed it, and the fear is not an illusion, but a truth, because I always miss something, every story or lesson plan or book read is a shock to my system, and I watch Lola miss me in her baby love, Kat shrug away in her silent anger, no longer a hero at her ripe age of 9.

And has it cost me. God, it has cost me everything. I eat, breathe, sleep, think work and art, my own presence vanishing off the map, my little girls holding my legs and crying for me not to leave, the hours have been brutal to them, and so I have promised them.

I have promised a girl house, with girl stuff, where girls where panties and dance and laugh, and this house has been the taste of freedom I seal the wound each night I miss the bath, the reading, the stories off the bus.

So, I have this passion, this creative talent and unheard of passion and drive, but for what?
You never get Mrs. Smith’s second grade concert back.

Kat has struggled the most, her needing me screams like a cat caught on fire, my heart screaming no as she turns her back to me, my sixteen hour day has nothing but “YOU LEFT ME” written, a pain I cope by working harder, certain the dream and the house and the ability to own a bank account certainly will make it all worth it.

Perhaps I will fail, miss every moment for a poor substitute, a dream is a waste for many or all of us would pursue ours.
I don’t blame them. I sometimes hate my own.

I tell them about Disneyworld and the house of girls and i see myself disappear in their eyes, and only God knows how I don’t just bury my soul in the grief, the guilt, the belief it has to be worth it and so I push, and push.

I can’t decide if living with them poor and broke when they are on their own paths, a cord they can never untie for needing to carry my weight is the destiny I am avoiding or if the truth of my mission will one day reveal itself to me, all these broken promises made good, a pride for my work and courage renewed by our love.

Until then, I sit in a room written with words of affirmation, words written to convince me I could do this and be happy, dependent on a man that never wanted me, who is releasing my title, living my dream, the one I have to go make space for while he is brushing their hair and hearing their stories, and I feel like a ghost, my life playing through a window pane, but he is in it while I am chasing it.

I sobbed and sobbed with Kat tonight, a breaking I had to have, my forgiveness I beg, my title of mother not worthy of such a precious little girl, and she is going to let me hold her tonight, a rare thing for her growing pride, to watch a movie in my teeny room, and yes, no closet door for extra storage space, my mission to make a magical sleepover in this once fearfully loved home, a space I never occupied but pretended to love.

The truth is, no space or dream can take her away, for without her I am nothing, and so I silently weep, a grief I know must be shared by millions of women all over the world. But right now, I hear nothing but the shallow ache of a hollow heart, wondering if any dream or art could give me back her, all the days, not just the moments, and I can not hear my own voice, the echos of these women I assume know answer not, and I sit in the breath of my choices.

I sit in the weight of my dreams.

“Booty Calls and Chips, Who Knows the Difference?”

When it comes to work, I have something to be grateful for.
I believe Chips N Salsa are responsible for a booty call.
He said he wanted them from the restaurant I work, heated in his microwave, and so I brought them, pretty sure he was ordering me into his house for a night out, or at least my ego would like to believe that, for God’s sake.
It was a random malfunction of untimely events that the two most spontaneous people by nature would collide, Harpua being the only other person I know who doesn’t know what he is doing from one hour to the next. I am notorious for this so it makes me laugh to ask, “What you doing tonight?” to be returned with the obvious text being, “I have no idea.” I laugh because that is what I am supposed to say, and do, so our attempts to meet up never happen, until last night.
At once, the ingredients of getting off work, the girls not having school linked Harpua’s unplanned chain of events to me, an episode of “COPS” just waiting to happen.
Here are some of the highlights.
Harpua orders Oatmeal Cookie shots, ignoring the fact I say, “ABSOLUTELY no JAGER,” signaling back to me that a “teeny” bit of jager doesn’t count.
His local bar, and by local, I mean we walk to it as if it were a trip to the basement from your living room couch. Ridiculous.
No one should be that close to liquor, or a jukebox, at any given moment.
It gets him banned for playing too much Phish, which I love him for that, and me screaming Alanis Morrisette at the top of my lungs with a random older black dude. That guy was awesome.
We bonded at the jukebox, him stumped still over that one song where she starts off slow and has lyrics that have to do with her headed up stairs, just to jolt into shouting rage. What is the name of that damn song?
We never did find it, but I would love to know who invented the jukebox, a genius move, so on top of chips, I am thankful for jukeboxes.
The elevator taking him back to his apartment was suddenly stopped by a ridiculously drunk dude. It is rather precarious to be in a stunning Buckhead tower, elevator adorned with mirrors and touches of gold, unbelievable views, and front desk security to be interrupted by a stranger stopping the door on his floor with his hand in dramatic flair, yelling, “SNORTING OXYCONTIN IS THE WAY TO GO!”
Of course, a friend of Harpua.
So, we were informed of a mission, to find the DVD, “The Last Waltz” because the INXS party had to be stopped.
The INXS party, hosted by a woman with three inch cowgirl boots and no pants with a thong, was happier to see me than any family member I have ever known, yelling and hugging me, her first words to me were, “I am going to be a fat bride.”
The adorable man that reminded me of a Koala bear kept telling her to put some fucking pants on, who I soon pieced together was her fiance, the two of them were in a week getting married in Vegas.
He was apologizing for the mess, cigarette in hand, upset that it was going to smell like cigarettes the next day, in attempt to clean, dumping a whole box of Chinese food all over the floor.
I laughed, noticing one guy on the phone in intense conversation on the couch, with his eyes closed.
Harpua was being humped by Cowgirl, a fact that was cool with Koala bear, except that she had no fucking pants on, he said over and over, asking for advice as to how he was going to marry a chick who wouldn’t wear pants.
This just made her slap her own ass, fall over, and pass out, face first, next to me on the couch. Koala, the fiance, pulled her shirt down a half inch, patted her back, motioning the control towards the t.v., people shouting at “Chatty Kathy” to stop talking, his eyes still shut.
No one hesitated. Let “The Last Waltz” begin.
It WAS awesome. The wasted commentary made my sides hurt from laughter, the music was incredible, the singing along horrific, the night ending by me begging Harpua not to let anyone stop our elevator door.
I had a blast, not being the Circus for once, but coming to visit it, Harpua in town. We had breakfast with fluffy french toast and bananas surrounded by cages of exotic birds, all saying hello and goodbye.
It was then I found out that Cowgirl was a playboy centerfold, but even more entertaining, a rocket scientist, some kind of brilliant engineer of chemical formulas she works to find solutions for lubrication, or something like that. The Koala fiance, a lawyer.
Who knew?
I told Harpua not to text or call me, EVER, which is what I always tell him, who laughs in response, a total agreement.
Of course it doesn’t make sense.
It is just our way, two childhood friends colliding, mysterious chemistry drowned by bold statements made to each other, both our fingers pointing to lines clearly made in the sand. I was certainly not the woman for him, unable to produce six kids and undo my divorce and two offspring, which I agree as well, pointing out I could not live like a circus monkey, his life ridiculously absurd and beautiful, but just for a visit, not for a stay.
But there is a spark that somehow keeps it rolling, a text floating here or there, landing, a chemistry I can’t see, but feel, an illusion, but not. “If I’m inside your head, don’t believe what you might have read,” I hear him singing on his balcony, in his tower in the night sky, his glass of wine next to his bare feet.
It is good advice, in perfect tune, and so I try not to read his mind, but instead close my eyes. He is inside my head, and I may be just a memory fading away, a disappearance on a long list of short lived acts, but I hope I am wrong. I want to believe the reality I will always visit his tower, waste my time, and when he sings, I will always dance to his songs.

Broken Nudity Contracts

I wandered into this small consignment shop hidden on my regular work route. Hanging up front and center was a low cut, ridiculous sexy, the most beautiful shade of red, a color unusual and bold, with the price tag dangling. Being a typical single mom who wears jeans as her work uniform, it is unusual for me to show a lot of skin in the first place, much less my every curve, half my back, cleavage with just tiny spaghetti straps to hold the girls in place. This dress gave me a total stare down, the stare of a woman who hates you for no other reason than her boyfriend exists on the same planet as you.

All women know or have been this woman.

It was quite an argument at first. I looked around first to check the price, certain no one would think it would be something I thought right for me, the tag claiming $180.00. I felt relief until I saw the sale tag for $30 bucks, and on top of that, a clearance sign for 25% off.

Call me nuts but I swear the dress mocked me, my hair in a bun, my ugly black work shoes pointing from beneath my worn blue jeans, slightly shredded.
Damn it.

That kind of sale meant a visit to the dressing room. I felt immediate regret, my body having delivered two children, an act of war in itself. This kind of thing always demands a contract. Mine has been the following:

Nudity will only occur with the lights off or dim.

Mirrors are to be avoided fully naked.

Forgotten towels are to be run for past the mirror without looking up.

Bikinis have a special place in hell. Women who are hateful become fat and bloated, sporting muffin tops and cottage cheese legs next to Victoria’s secret models for eternity. God could end much of the world’s suffering by adding that one to the Bible.

I would keep myself in check for sure.
Lingerie is to be bought by catalog and tried on after one important fact. My contacts have to be removed. I do have one disclaimer. If hell froze over, for true love, under any lighting, I would take it all off, piece by piece, baring it all to Marvin Gaye if I so pleased, an option I have decided would never happen without having lost five pounds first anyway. Oh, and wine would be heavily involved.

And yet, I never back away from a dare.

I made it quick and painless as possible, flinching at what may mirror me back, waiting for the loud speaker in my head to inflict pain and humiliation. Ever since I was a teenager, I somehow get the room that screams at me. It is baffling all the ways a bull horn can say what you wonder what people could be thinking.
Brutal things like,
“You’re supposed to swim with the dolphins, not sink them!”
“I can’t believe you already have a baby and are pregnant. My God, are they twins?”
“Does the booze cruise have a weight limit in Cancun? No reason.”

I feared and hated that dress, suddenly falling down my back, ruffling softly against my legs. I waited. I didn’t hear anything. So I actually forced myself still, sighed, and looked into the mirror, waiting.
Still nothing.
Perhaps I hadn’t really looked hard enough.
It was definitely shocking. Maybe that was where the voices were hiding, behind the shock. I was confused, wondering who I thought I was, if this was completely out of line, reminding myself I was of course, a mom.
Being a mom makes you lose your mind, and suddenly being a single woman goes out the window. You wonder weird things about the moms at PTA. A lot of them are sporting a Girl’s Scouts patch or a Christmas sweater, so you definitely lost that mom award, so a sexy red dress may just buy you the man hunting hell raising sex crazed whore award. Armani suddenly could cost your children play dates with the troop leader.
Can you live with yourself?
I

must say my boobs announced their arrival loud and clear, a fact I have had to live with most my life, regardless of how I have begged God. I learned at ten that God will not give away your boobs if you promise to make straight A’s.

My skin was bare and my neck defined, my legs the only part of my body comfortable, half hidden, and I wondered if I looked slutty or sexy, or if it even mattered, because being a mom means dressing accordingly. I could be called out as as cougar, approached as a puma, which doesn’t make dating life easy, not with man cubs now out on the prowl. I’m terrible at discerning fake ids these days.
Anyways, I did not see myself.

I turned, lifted my arms, touched my bare arms, watching the girl in the mirror do the same. She was me.
The girl in the red dress, was me?
It made me want to cry for all the strangest reasons.
I was nowhere perfect, the bulge of my tummy noticed from the side, my cleavage lower than I’d like, the stretch marks covered by Armani’s red spandex silk, the best part of my body, my legs, not too visible, something I always count on for reassurance.
I have been trying to love my body my whole life. I have failed miserably. I have spoken hatred into my breasts, stomach, the very part of being woman that gives life. We all feel it, this collective hatred of ourselves, of our femininity. I know this when I see the marches of women in pink, for I can’t help but choke back tears every time, clutching my own breasts, feeling my soul resonate to all these women as a part of me, feeling their pain, the loss, the grief.

We don’t think about our daughters, the other women we hate for making us feel less, the hatred so deep, we call our very own, our sisters, words like, “whore, slut, bitch, and cunt.”
I don’t know how to change the world, how to heal this timeless issue, how to give my girls what I don’t have.

I don’t know what to do with my own envy nor how to take away the hatred of those who want me to be less. I can’t hide myself away, afraid to be found, complimented, hated, approached, desired.
Perhaps I finally reached 30 and just don’t give a damn.
Perhaps that dressing room had decent lighting for once.
Or just maybe, just today, for a brief moment, I can look into the mirror and feel my own worth, see that it was always there, and let it be. I like to think this may be my moment to buy a dress I would never else afford.

Or even a possible chance that one day a very nice man will come for me. It will be in my closet, waiting. Every time I reach past it, I will smile, wondering who he will be, if his mouth will drop wide open, a wise dress for the right man.

No matter if I wear it for a man, a night on the town with the girls, or in my room with a bottle of wine in some Bridget Jones fashion, I want to believe in it. I will wear it and own it.
If I could pick my personal favorite, I would like to believe I could heal the whole world of women.
Not a small task for a clearance rack. I have to start small. I must love women by first loving myself, and I will do just that, one sexy red dress at a time.

You can do that and wear Spanx at the same time, right?

Dreaming

To know someone deeply is to know what their dreams are made of.

I have been thinking a lot about dreams, yours and mine, the ones I have carried my entire life, tucked securely away in the pockets of my heart.

We don’t know if we can endure the pain, fear, doubt, and failure, but we learn to persevere, to hope, to climb.

It is the best part of being alive to see our dreams come into existence, to have that baby placed in our arms, to find the partner you dared hope for, to have that diploma, that business, to be the reason a child reads his first book.

I remember being a young thing in Charleston, the place I love with all my being, riding in the car with the man who would soon be my husband. We were driving over the Folly Connector, the windows down, my feet out the window, his hand on my knee.

The sunset was more beautiful than usual, leaving us to our thoughts, and he looked into the rear view mirror, back at me and smiled.

Soon you are going to be my wife. Can you believe it?” I took a deep breath from excitement.

“And one day,” he said, “we will be on this same bridge, but we are going to look back and see not just one car seat, but two.

He said it more like a fact and although it was a concept I couldn’t conceive of at the time, I nodded happily, placing my head softly on his shoulder.

And so here, with this thought, began the birth of our dream.

The birth of that dream brought two beautiful girls, friendship, family, pain, joy, death, love, destruction, and transformation. It was our dream, and God did we fight for it, both of us stubborn and neither willing to admit defeat, not to something we wanted and created in the first place.

We didn’t know yet how to let go so instead, there was kicking, screaming, fighting, crying, pleading, avoiding, and ultimately, leaving.

I realize now I was almost willing to die in order to keep a dream alive.

I am learning to dream again and I feel a lot like a lost little child trying to find her way home. It is a painful beautiful process to know myself deeply.

For all the dreams I have lost, I want to tell them they were beautiful, that they mattered, that they made me the woman I am today. I have new dreams to make, some bursting at the seams, others just forming thoughts or questions in my mind.

I want to tell all my new dreams that I need courage, perseverance, and a lot of hope. I am done dusting away the old, and in my heart, on top of a lot of tears and finally a smile, have placed one big welcome mat.