Love Affair

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There are so many love affairs in this life. For instance, I have an ongoing love affair with thin mint Girl Scout cookies—I will selfishly not share the box(es) I buy and honestly, I normally consume, in one sitting, enough to kill a diabetic. It’s wrong, I admit it. But thin mints are literally too legit to quit (and if you love them too, we probably can’t be friends because I won’t share. Period. Worse, I wouldn’t be above stealing them from you. Also, I’d make no apologies about said stealing either.  #sorrynotsorry)

I also have a love affair with music, more preferably my apple playlists.  The quote, “can’t explain, but I’ll find a song that can” has almost become the mantra of my life.

But most importantly, I have an ongoing love affair with my tribe of women. These are the women who give me life.

As a collective whole, they offer the best entertainment (the laughs that rival any ab circuit), advice (with wine), and therapy (that doesn’t cost $150 an hour and is just as golden).  They let me exist in a space free of judgment, but have no qualms about telling me when I’m wrong without abandoning me, or chalking me up as a lost cause–even when I play the same broken record on repeat.

These women’s shoulders have held my sobs and squeezed me just as tightly when I succeeded as they do when I failed.  This circle of women, these beautiful souls, fill the emotional gaps that exist in marriage.  This pack of fierce lady wolves have grown me, celebrated me in ways I could never repay.  And my life is so much better for it.

Half a year into my thirties, the truest gift I’ve learned to date, would be understanding that women are one of the most beautiful creations. Period.  We are all things gorgeous, better we get “it” and the ugly. And best, we can speak to it.  There is nothing in this world like having a tribe of women who love, support, uplift, and honor women.

And as the mother of four daughters, this is a celebrated truth I wish to impart on my daughters–the liberation, power, and love that comes from the bond of having a strong connection to a tribe of trusted women is a sacred gift.  It’s a love affair that rivals very few others.

If I celebrated all of my tribe in this blog post…it would be a tomb and most likely take Proust’s Guinness record, so in lieu of that…I’ll settle on highlighting one.  Strictly because if not for her, I don’t know that I would love women how I love them today.  In truth, because of this, this woman has made me a better mother–which is an invaluable gift.

To date, I haven’t written about her specifically, probably because she’s the thin mint of friends, and I’m not good at sharing those. Ever. (And in a sick way, I’d hurt anyone that steals her. She is mine. *insert the knife emoji here*)

But, I have to celebrate her…it’s how I love.  It wasn’t until my twenties that I understood that a loving rhetoric, words of affirmation, was my default love language for all of my relationships. I believe we should celebrate individuals for who they are versus trying to hide who they are not.

I love through words in all aspects of my life. And because of that I can often be that “person” that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives: the inebriated friend that will make an incessant declaration of love, usually tearfully reciting how much they love a person…except I’m not drunk when I “overshare” why I adore a person. #imkindofalunaticbutlovemethroughitokay

I think it’s partially derived from the word loving harpy within me (that imaginary sparkly crown wearing, tequila wine consuming, type B personality, “I’ll keep you wild” woman that flits and dances on a string of romantic and cruel words inside my skull, and who is constantly at war with “domestic Sarah.” She makes me fun, but oh so hard to love at times).

But Melissa has loved me through all of it and still to this day, answers my phone calls.

I can’t remember the first time I met her (which family function it was). Nor remember having an epiphany that she was the ultimate friendship goals when I hugged her at my wedding, after saying “I do” to her sister’s son.

Truth was, I didn’t know over the course of the next decade that I’d grow to deeply adore and love this woman on a level that is two seconds shy of creepy.  Honestly, I think I fell in love with her and she had no choice but to be my close friend.

By fate, our husbands’ careers brought us together and often kept us in the same towns.  And as a result, I clung to her.  Which means I probably invited myself over, arrived at lunch, and then was that awkward friend that way overextended their stay (yep, I probably stayed past dinner, too) but (if I did that) I couldn’t help it.  She is one of those people…you crave their presence.  And finally, after a decade of friendship, I think I’ve finally figured out why I’m so captivated by Melissa.

She is that woman, the alluring one who owns every piece of her existence. I haven’t met anyone, to this day, that owns “human” like her.

And being witness to the sight…it’s enchanting.  She doesn’t waste time mulling over imperfections, plotting bullshit, tearing anyone down, obsessing, or being a victim of anxiety.  She just lives.

Yet, she is a vivacious conundrum, because she is the most laid back person I know.  She is beautiful, an awesome mama and wife, has the soft soul of a hippie (and is always the giver to anyone in need), holds the wisdom of a 100-year-old grandma that has lived an exciting life and learned from it and isn’t afraid to share what could rip your heart or bless your soul.  She holds an inner spark of life that makes her the life of the party, but only when she chooses.  She doesn’t own an ounce arrogance–it’s part of her enchantment.  She is everything and assumes nothing.

And she is fun. Cool girl meets wallflower with a touch of mischief.

The gift of her friendship has broadened what it means to me to be selfless, showed me that thoughtfulness and openness is a responsibility to self, but so is self-respect, and taught me the art of accepting others without compromising your values.

She lets me cry, whine, bitch, and bitch some more, constantly pulls me back from the ledge, let’s me talk politics, answers all my questions I have about faith and “what does the bible say about that,” has infinite patience with all my crazy antics (like the time I called telling her that I needed help, because Trav had buried his truck, up to the frame, in mud.  Thirty minutes later, she showed up, in the pouring rain, with two shovels.  After a solid hour of digging in the cold pelting rain and trying not to fall face first in the mud and getting absolutely nowhere, she said, “Sis, I hate to tell you, but I don’t think we’re going to get it.  But if you think we can, I’ll keep digging.”

Or the time I threw Trav an 80’s themed birthday party and asked her, dressed like a hot 80’s groupie, if she could please pick up the food at the caterers and she didn’t bat one eye–even when this meant walking into the speciality grocery store, filled of clueless people, looking like she just got done partying hard at Woodstock–green eyeshadow and crimped hair to say the least.

From being pregnant at the same time (me with my first and her with her last), for being a solid fixture (I will talk you through this) in every rough patch I’ve experience in adulthood, to choosing to stand for me against those you loved, for our Ada and Ardmore days, our vise nights, every room you’ve helped me paint and all the furniture you’ve helped rearrange, the f.u.n. we had at Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke concerts, for helping me move several times (and all the labor intensive projects I’ve roped you in and never once have you ever complained), for watching my beauties any. time. I. needed. you, for it all…

Melissa, you are one of the great loves of my life and I am so thankful for you.  For your love.  And your friendship.  Thank you for being such a subtle vixen, a true paradox, who I immensely admire!

I love you, always.

P.S. I hope if you’re reading this that you have a Melissa in your life.  Also, tell people how you feel, even if it makes you vulnerable, or them uncomfortable.  Celebrate those you love, they deserve it! #trustdoesnthavetohurt

 

 

Pity Party for One, Please…

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I cannot recall the precise day I started planning my pity party, truly I don’t think it was a conscious choice.

“I want to feel sorry for myself.” —said no one ever.

Or, “I want to buy a cactus and then choose to sit on it, repeatedly, for enjoyment.” —said no one ever.

But I admit it. I planned it, collecting imaginary decor ideas straight from Pinterest. I’d even gone so far as to creating a private board (you know the ones on Pinterest, where people hide what they really research, but are ashamed to admit…think “51 ways to get rid of your double chin”).

I pinned all of my emotional inspirations on its dark, secret page, labeled “I wanted to be an adult so bad. Now look at me, just freaking look!” With my dignity on the floor, I had a webpage full of sad sketches of animosity, resentment, isolation…

With it’s conception (months in the making) complete, I sat down at the head table of my ugly pity party, toasted myself and then completely denied all of it. To everyone.

“Are you okay?”

“Yep, I’m fine.” I’d answer evenly, using the most “I’m not fine” adjective—this is pity party rule number one (also known as passive aggressive syndrome), in case you’re wondering. I’d been ignoring, with a heavy dose of vengeful pride, the truth forming in the small grooves of my tongue. I’d been refusing to admit it out loud, but the lead weight of the truth was rapidly crumbling the frail shoulders of my conscience.

My honesty (self-induced suffering) was growing to fruition, sitting at the gate, ready to cross the threshold of my mouth. It wasn’t necessarily premonition, more acknowledgment that I was going to have to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with myself. I was on the verge of imploding.

My dignity didn’t want my less than stellar emotions to be formed, molded by my lips into an illustration of sounds. My truth would not be built, cemented as so, by words—you can think it, just don’t speak it.

Spoken words have a certain finality.

But it is also a testament that resentment will break you.

“I have been hating life for a hot minute.” I choked out, half surprised, and even more relieved by own confession. After four months, I’d broken my silence and it was unsettling—the moment those nine words tumbled out of my mouth, falling into the phone receiver, I was blindsided by deafening guilt and a sharp stab of shame.

It’s easy to be disillusioned—plunged, drowned by the conditioning of social media—the make it illuminate in all shades of beautiful regarding my not-real time social media feeds. We all on some level live the lie that life is only as meaningful as a glowing highlight reel.

In the slight space, the tiny pause before my closest friend could respond to my statement, I had severe verbal remorse. I wanted nothing more than to rapidly grab my declaration out of the airwaves, like it was ugly butterflies, and strangle them, squeezing the truth out of my words. (I’m aware that strangling innocent butterflies sounds slightly violent. I promise I’m not a butterfly killer, nor a psycho. *insert rolling eyes emoji here)

I nearly followed on the tail end of my confession with, “I was just kidding, har har har!” Or add some self-deprecating humor directed at motherhood that alluded to my current depression level, but I couldn’t.

It’s hard to justify sadness against what you know are your blessings. How can I feel sad, overwhelmed, lonely when I have so much to be thankful for, when my highlight reel SCREAMS I AM HAPPY?

And at the very same time, stress is plain stress, a silent breaker of souls.

“I was worried when you told me you were moving to Kansas. You know that moving is one of the top-rated stressors in life, right?”

I wanted to laugh, and then balk at the truth of it all. (In my adult life, Travis and I have moved nine times. I have the act of moving down to almost an art.) My pride, in support of my husband’s career, didn’t want to admit defeat. Do not complain, Sarah, I have often told myself. Nobody likes a complainer (also, an act I’m extremely efficient at).

So how did I respond?

I went on an incessant bitching rant about life and how heavy and frustrating it can get.

“I think you’re lonely. Being in a new town is rough. You need to get out and make some friends.”

“I have friends!” I huffed. “I don’t need new friends.” I wanted to be mad at her, because the black well of my sadness needed her commiseration to keep thriving. At this point in the conversation, I was basically jumping up and down on my cactus.

And my sad, sulking state needed her to take a seat at my pity party table, not stand at the podium offering solutions, like a real life motivational speaker there to motivate me to change my life. #poursomeblacktea #dontgivemerealtalk

“Sarah…(more real talk that started shredding my self-pity).”

It’s semi-painful when you have to cut your own bs—nobody at a pity party wants to be dethroned of the Petty Queen title. In the past couple of months, my resentment had been at work building the sloppiest proverbial “pig pen” and I’d been transitioning into the fattest pig.  There I was—an obese pig rolling in the mud and (insert shocking curse word here) loving it.

Except I really wasn’t loving it. My confession, and the relief I felt by it, to my closest friend (and also to my sister and Mama) told me so. My heart covered in all of its depressive mud knew I needed her to breathe some light into my moment of darkness. My confession was a plea for help.

And she was there (and they were there)…not because I was giving her something, or offering a highlight reel moment—because I needed her to acknowledge that it’s okay to be sad, and it’s even okay to own a damn cactus—just don’t sit on it.

You can be frustrated, stressed out of your ever-loving mind, but at the end of the day, when you can’t stomach yourself another day, you have to do something about it…you can’t be a pig forever (unless of course, you are one of those adorable pigs that swim in the bahamas—they are real my friends. It’s worth a google. Cuteness overload).

This is why relationships with people who deeply care for you (in all the right ways) are so important—they can bring you back to life. The art of soft, loving accountability that lives in them are a lifeline. There is something to be said for the friends who grow you (the ones who show kindness in the face of your ugly madness, who want only the best for you, and truly, truly mean it–even when you refuse to accept it. #sigh).

“I don’t know what I would have done so many times in my life if I hadn’t had my girlfriends. They have literally gotten me up out of bed, taken my clothes off, put me in the shower, dressed me, said, ‘Hey, you can do this,’ put my high heels on and pushed me out the door!” —Reese Witherspoon

To my closest friends, my sister, you are my haven, my village…thank you for toasting me at the ugliest party you’ve ever not attended (because my denial is still real), for letting me roll in the mud and not judging me, for picking me up—angry and dirty, for washing me off, and then forcing me to seek joy again. I love you all, and yes, I threw away the cactus, are you happy now?

P.S. Be this friend to someone—grace changes everything.

Torment…

A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDo

“Do you get energy from people, or do people drain you?” My therapist asked me a year ago. In silent retort, I burrowed my shoulder blades into the scratchy couch in his office. To be honest, I didn’t wholly understand the question.

Define people, I thought.

I stared back at him, my features tightening with enmity. It wasn’t the question I found unsettling, it was the resilient, glowing peace, the kind manufactured from life lessons garnered from seven plus decades of life, that lit his eyes. Wisdom. Often, in its presence, it feels intimidating, because of its authentic conception. It cannot be store-bought, or gifted. True wisdom is a result of your own applied living versus existing despite life’s unfairness. It’s the gift of not giving up.

I folded my arms over myself, vulnerable. Therapy, ugh. The voluntary act of gathering as many scattered “pieces” of yourself that will fit in to your arms, only to lay those jigsaw puzzle pieces on an invisible table and give into the resolve of trying to fit them together, solving small parts of your own widespread puzzle, in under an hour. Then with those pieces constructed, your big picture produced by your own hands, you get to wrestle with believing whether it’s reality or fiction all while an unbiased stranger stands over your shoulder observing. Again, therapy, ugh.

I needed clarity. “What do you mean people?” I asked. Because if ‘people’ are the small-in-size, yet large-in-wildness, army of emotional manics—my four daughters—I created to test, terrorize, and overwhelm me with a deluge of heart bursting love on the regular, I’d say drain till I’m a hollow corpse. But if ‘people’ are adults than I’d say they energize me. *Translation: I will drain you, it’s who I am.

Over the course of the past month, I’ve witnessed my narrative change and negatively morph. I’ve gone from a lover of people, to being plagued with a persona that is fearful of people. I’m not sure if it’s implicit of my future, or only teetering on my hopefully temporary and somewhat broken spirit.

Currently, I’m exhausted and coated in outrage-meets-heartache. My timeline, the straight, but curvy line representing the past month of my chaotic life, holds a plethora of emotions. The colored dots, bleeding together, are a virtual mood ring defining my ugly emotional state. Black and red. The line has short stretches of undisturbed, un-dotted spaces due to sleep, but even those small spaces dominated by my subconscious are an angry, steaming black night train. I am restless.

As a result, I’ve been a bone-tired, one-dimensional caricature, only capable of reacting from a self-defensive standpoint. It feels like liquid, the medium more watercolor than oil.

That’s anxiety. It clouds your judgement, left unable to pinpoint the source of your grievance, or even recognize a true threat, because anxiety also holds hands with paranoia. Everything feels like an attack.

Lets rewind to the start, before I make you (if I haven’t already) think I’ve gone completely mad, yet for the record I’ve always been a slightly emotional maniac—love me through it, kay?

My daughter’s 5th grade year started off rocky, to say the least. The landscape was an interval of unscalable boulders, designed by bullies. These bullies led with disturbing agendas, one’s that define ‘rape culture’ with an undertone of vulgarity.

I’ll admit, for a minute, I was so blindsided that I fought my own erratic rationale first. My frantic heart chiseled at my ribs, my chest filled with rage.  Coming to, I fought back with a strength I didn’t know I possessed. I was my daughter’s advocate, protector, and activist on a mission. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. Halfway through the fight, I was blindsided again. And I never saw it coming.

My ideals were shot in the head.

For most of the last decade, I have been wrapped in the euphoric state of mommin. I have four daughters ten-years-old and younger, each nearly a two year stair-step in descending age of one another, and I’m not saying everyday has been euphoric—this phase of life has been ugly hard, but for the most part, it’s self-induced.

As a mama to young children, you are often your biggest critic. You’re main enemy is your own tiredness, stress, and frailty. It’s worrying about your child’s schedule, nap times, health, nutrition, the milestones, knowledge of the alphabet and eventually sight words, and whether they are getting too much screen time. The enemy, while they are young, doesn’t feel like it’s the outside populous—aside from the occasional “judgy” mama, or the insane maniac you see on the news.

It sounds disturbing, ideals being shot in the head, but it’s the truth. Nobody warns you about the ‘real world’ wake-up call you will receive as your child steps into adolescence. Yes, nearly all say, with an air of survivor humor, “wait till they are sixteen.” Together, you share a laugh at the forewarning statement. You laugh at the threat and they laugh at your naiveness. But where was my warning, “just wait till their ten. When children the same age will vandalize your child’s innocence. The mean classmates who will label your child, stealing titles crafted from a demeaning list of words they surely can’t understand.”

When it happened, I didn’t know where to start. I was mad at myself. And I knew it stemmed from Mama Guilt—the responsibility mother’s place on ourselves to make our children’s life perfect.

This was the very tip of the serious matter iceberg—my child’s value of self.

Here is the cold, ugly, and hard truth that started my downward slope: Nearly a month ago, she was punched in the face, called a bitch, and then this boy went online and told eight other classmates, in a thread on Instagram, that my daughter sucks dic (because he isn’t mature enough to know that the slang word for penis is actually spelled with a k, too—it’s the one syllable rule), and other boys in the same thread called her a loser, an idiot, and other words…

I nearly threw up writing the above paragraph.

After coming full circle—the school, police, child, parents—I realized how broken our system truly is.

The school is limited, the rope of their control is a short leash. Two police officers and a clerk offered me sympathy, one officer told me that this is really a “parent’s job” to handle. They should, along with the school, discipline the child, because he doubted the DA is going to press charges against a ten-year-old. The child said “sorry” but he clearly didn’t mean it, because he still went online after his written apology, on a social media account he isn’t even technically allowed to have due to not meeting the age requirements, and wrote lewd acts about my child because I assume he’s mad he got in trouble at school. The parents are still silent—either too embarrassed to communicate with me, or too uncaring to extend any responsibility or restitution.

There is a ton of finger-pointing, but little accountability. It’s EVERYONE else’s problem to handle. The system we rely on, formal jurisdiction, says it has to go to the worst possible scenario, and even then it’s dependent on age and background, as to what they will charge. Two words: Brock Turner.

I have never been more disgusted with our state of affairs regarding bullying and ‘rape culture.’ The dominant response I got was “maybe he, or they just like her…” I wanted to scream, nearly uttering ‘bullshit’ when people said that to me. Is that the generic, but acceptable excuse?  If you like them, and aren’t mature enough to communicate it, then by all means, physically and verbally assault them.

To be fair, I don’t want one experience marking every young boy as a perpetrator in my eyes, making me live in a constant state of fear for my daughters. But the sad fact is that it wasn’t one occurrence, one boy. It was four boys, who cyber-bullied her, influenced by one boy’s anger. This bullying extended over two weeks.  The ugly truth is that one bad apple can influence the weaker will of others. If one isn’t held fully responsible then this does become a theme, an epidemic. And we are there.  And the masses don’t want to believe it.

I was guilty, too.  Somehow, to this point, I’ve lived in my stay-at-home-mama bubble, shielded from the tragic state of this epidemic, until it directly affected my life.

I’m sick with myself.

It is happening and here, in the Midwest, it’s taboo—only to be whispered. The audible gasps I received when I, in a tone that is nothing close to a whisper, mentioned this child, who called my daughter a bitch and punched her in the face and then told her classmates that she commits lewd acts, in the same sentence that included Brock Turner, the rapist, says it all.

And we, myself included, have the gall to wonder where the “Brock Turners” come from? They don’t just emerge, at twenty-one, committing heinous, violent sexual acts against women. It starts a decade before then. The same way young girls are taught to undervalue and loosely define themselves for the sake of sexuality (just look at the clothes sold at Justice to too young girls).

We are missing a vital step that protects our children from rape culture.

Or are we content to be blind and spoon-fed that this pornographic, morally decaying world, is too far gone to change?  Are we all okay settling for relying on ‘hope’ that our child doesn’t become a victim?  Or have we become this freaking lazy? Or we just naive?

I don’t know the answer, but we are something–read the statistics on rape and sexual violence and not be sickened and outraged.  Better, read Brock Turner’s victim’s letter to him here.  This is real.

My stomach is in knots, bile and anger eating at my insides. I’ve been slapped in the face with bitter reality. In the course of a month, I’ve shed so much of my own naiveness that my skin is raw, I feel like I’m on the underside of a third degree burn.

It has disturbed me on a depressive level. Ever have those moments days when you are confused, hurt, and disgustingly angry that the sight of a beautiful, cloudless day, the kind where the temperature is agreeable and the breeze is the perfect strength to just lightly feather across your skin, but not prick it with coldness, that it pisses you off?  You crave the storm, pelting rain and a blanket of darkness. You want a greater power to commiserate with you, reveling in the shadows.  Some recognition, an omission that your inner tirade is justified.

The honest truth: as a mother of four daughters, I’m terrified. How do you protect your daughter from a silent enemy? Because that is what ‘Rape Culture” is and it’s lingering around our children.

The images on tv that objectify and label women, the sexists that push women beneath men, the culture that says it’s unacceptable, but not truly punishable at ten because he’s immature and maybe just likes her. If there isn’t any true recourse, who will this child become? And how do I protect my daughters from him?

The sick part is that I can’t, not fully–wisdom, this experience, says so.  It’s an uncomfortable fit, this new awareness, but it’s the first step in protecting my daughters, and I refuse to remain silent, letting the torment of rape culture be a bi-line of my daughters’ childhood.

Hell hath no fury like a scorned Mother…