Just a dream?

A few minutes ago, I was falling into sleep when a flashback assaulted me. The visceral screaming of my mother. I am a teenager. Im at her bedroom door. This was a pain I was naive to until this moment. Whatever it was, I was certain there was no coming back. My mother would never be the same. I’m very familiar with the scene. 

What followed was the echo of my own wailing. A flash of a vision of myself crumbled to the floor. Desperation flooding my senses as I shield the life in my belly from the fury of fists. 

Then, a scene of myself clinging to my knees and Im rocking …crying…wailing while my own small children wonder about their mothers prognosis. Twenty something, three children and devastated by a failed marriage. 

Yet another scene flashes. A few months back…my husband and I are discussing with my son and father how we are going to move forward as co-parents as we “work on ourselves” and “take a break”. I lash out at my husband, my father lashes out a me. I feel the abandonment is imminent. I try to flee. My Dad physically restrains me. Husband walks out while Im at my father’s hands. My daughter pulls him off of me. I walk outside. I watch my husband leave. I watch my son climb into the car with my Dad. They both leave as well. I return inside and crumble. That visceral cry rises. Again. 

I hate myself for allowing my children to be witnesses to this suffering. How do I forgive myself for scarring them for life?

I was broken … so convinced I was over. 

Yet here I am. 

Sitting on the cold pavement on my patio trying to ground myself in this present time and place. Im demanding my brain be convicted by logic and leave the past there. 

It’s not happening. Not now. Not again. 

It’s just a dream, Stephanie. 

You are not alone. 

Go back to bed. 

Prom

As Pickle is nearing the end of his senior year of high school, prom is in the air. Pickle won’t be attending as he attended the Heart of Rock and Roll prom this last fall, but he is going to After Prom at Cedar Point the following day.

All of this got me thinking about my own prom.

Even though it will be 20 years ago come next summer, 20 YEARS, I remember it like it was yesterday …

Before I even started getting ready, my date had a dozen, long stem roses delivered to my house. I was still in my pajamas but I felt like a queen. I went to a salon for the first time that day. Got to be waited on by two incredibly gorgeous, well put-together ladies. One working my hair, while the other worked on my nails and make up. This would be a fantasy I would not ever again reach, even on my wedding day.

Then I went home and put on that gown. Classic Hollywood black, with Audrey Hepburn gloves to match and for good measure in attempting to leave my little girl ways behind, a low cut and high slit, paired with velvet pumps.  I don’t remember what he said when he saw me that evening for the first time, but the look on his face, I’ll never forget.

 I remember trying to be very sophisticated as we made our promenade into dinner. All eyes smiling on the two of us together, wanting to make him proud. I also remember the highlights of the actual  dance. Getting our pictures taken. Rocking out with my girlfriends but taking every opportunity to slow dance with him.

But my favorite memories came after we left. Just the two of us in the backseat of a stretch limo while taking in the sights and city lights of Washington D.C. after dark. All the memorials being lit up. The busyness of Georgetown on a weekend night. It all felt like a dream and I didn’t want the magic of it to ever end.

There’s something very magical about being young, in love and sharing a night like that. Something that can never be replicated. While a part of that girl still lives in me, wanting that kind of magic to grace my days again and no matter what happened in that relationship with that boy in the days and years that were to follow, I will always hold those memories close to my heart and be so appreciative of that night … and that magic.

Because of that night, I will always believe in magic.

This is what gets me: Part Two

Today I had my epidural spinal injection. They were at the same hospital where I delivered my kids. In fact, the recovery room was the room I actually delivered Jedi in. I’ve written about what a strange experience it is before. Just like I’ve written about watching the episode of ‘Friends’, the one where Rachel tells Ross she’s pregnant and they have the sonogram and how it sent all these memories flooding back.

Today, I found myself watching that episode again and coupled with being in the same room I delivered my son, I was struck with such emotional pain that it took me back a little.

Back to a place I don’t like to be. I found myself back in the place where I question everything that happened in my previous marriage. Questioning how I ever let myself be in a situation like that. Examining every other moment we shared. Being disgusted at the way they have all been tainted. Wondering if I’m ever going to be able to look back on these memories that I should cherish with anything more than bittersweet melancholy. It makes me resentful and that’s a place I never want to stay. It makes me wonder too. Not that it would matter anyways but, I can’t help but wonder how he lives with the memories or if he ever thinks of us, or me, at all.

Foul Play

This morning I was accosted by a song. 

I recognized the melody immediately. Tim McGraw. 

When all our tears have reached the sea
Part of you will live in me
Way down deep inside my heart

I knew every word as it came, even as I tried to block the weight of it out. A song that takes me back to a time of bittersweet. I guess a time when I still believed the lines meant something. Something I wish I still believed. 

Just like the waves down by the shore
We’re gonna keep on comin’ back for more
‘Cause we don’t ever want to stop

But we could and we did and I want to forget. I want to forget that I ever believed that I was something more than small that could be cast aside.  I want to forget that revelation. 

Late at night when you’re not sleeping
And moonlight falls across your floor
And I can’t hurt you anymore

I wish that were true. No, I could not even pretend, as I may like to, that was true. Even now. It hurts. I don’t want things to be like this. 

Please remember me

No. I’d like to forget you as I know you now. I’d like to live with the nostalgic notion of you. Somebody that I used to know. 

Forget everything…& Remember this 

Via elephant journal

Everything that has happened along the way—forget it.
Forget about the first love that broke your heart.
And forget about the last break too.
Forget the time a friend you thought was best pushed a knife in your back.
Forget the words and the spite that resound in your head.
Forget the trauma that injured your flesh or your bones.
Forget the rejection you felt when someone failed to recognise your value.
Forget the tears that cleansed your soul.
Forget the mistakes that everyone makes.
Forget what you gave, without return.
Forget the mistrust, the resentment and the jealousy.
Forget about lies, betrayal and deceit.
Forget about the ones that got away—they were not meant.
Forget the time someone tripped you and caused a fall.
Forget the times you gambled but forgot you could lose.
Forget about whispers and gossips and stories—it is all an illusion, the truth only lives in one self.
Forget about rules and regulations—make new.
Forget about thinking—let the mind sit still.
Forget about time—let your heartbeat decide.
Forget about fear, it will paralyse—it is useless.
Forget about perfection, it is unobtainable—imperfection is true beauty.
And forget about forgetting—allow the release to happen. Naturally.
Then try as you can, to remember this…
Everything is already a part of you, the lessons have been learned, the memories etched and the effects have sunk in.
There is no need to hold on—it all already exists, so allow it. Let it just be. Without grasping.
Without pressing repeat.
It all had a purpose, once, long ago. Even if it was yesterday, or a minute ago—it has now passed. Past.
So just breathe…and breathe again. Deeply.
Right here, right now.
You are alive. You survived. In this very moment, this one… here…
You can choose. Choose to live.
Run. Fly. Wildly.
Begin again.
And begin to feel alive.
Feel.
Everything and nothing and all in between—feel it all. Flushing through your veins—let it in, let it sit and then let it go.
Slowly, but very surely, replace all of the forgotten with all of the new.
Add to it, mix to it, blend whoever you were, who you are now with who you are about to become.
Alchemy—turn it to gold. Turn you. It is easy. Try. All of you. Every part.
Stir the storms with the rainbows, the pleasure with the pain. Create.
Forget the old. Sprinkle in new.
Stardust. Magic. Wanderlust. Mystery. Moonlit skies. Forests. Deserts. Sparkle. Dance. Have faith. Go. Find. Don’t look far. It is there. It always was, always has been. Right there, right here. Right now.
Be free.
And each time you are overwhelmed, or hurt, or angry or in pain—go back to the top, read once more, unlearn, forget and begin again.

An open letter to my little sister on her day of marriage

I don’t remember the first time we met, whether it was at the hospital or at home, but I do remember the first time I held you like it was yesterday. I can clearly recall looking down at your little perfect face. You were a magical wonder to me. I had no idea how you came to be. I just knew you were growing in Mom’s belly and then you were there in my arms and I was your big sister. I remember trying to help you not to be scared at night in our shared room. Telling you stories and singing you songs, like Lionel Ritchie’s “Ballerina Girl“, after we were tucked into our bunk beds. Decorating the underside of the top bunk like the night sky with puffy paint so that it didn’t look like spiderwebs anymore. Fighting every fiber of fear in my body to get up and throw the creepy clowns in the closet so they didn’t scare you. Teaching you to tell time on the wall size wristwatch that hung on our pepto bismol pink bedroom wall to distract you from things I didn’t want you to hear. Taking the blame so you didn’t in get in trouble for your experiments and inventions. Growing up fast so that I could protect your innocence when heavier things surrounded us. Looking over my shoulder to make sure you didn’t follow my own path.

I know you had some trouble as you forged your way into adulthood, attempting to navigate life and love.  It hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies. There’s been hurt and bitterness. You’ve learned some lessons the hard way. But I hope today as you leave life alone to join together with your husband, that you can look back and see that EVERYTHING that has happened, good and bad, has led you right to this point in your life and made you the woman that he fell in love with.

When you love someone, you can see all the things that make them wonderful very clearly. I know that you see your husband-to-be in that light. But I think you struggle to realize that all the things that are wonderful about him, that you love with all your heart, that you are willing to sacrifice for, willing to give everything you’ve got without thinking twice … finds it’s equal in you.

You are just as wonderful. You are just as magical. You are just as real. You are just as worthy.

As I sit here, with tears of complete joy for you streaming down my face and words failing me, I just want you to know this:

Sister, you are a beautiful, one of a kind, fully deserving of every happiness. Today’s the day. The day you are marrying the love of your life. Please allow yourself to be completely vulnerable. Let everything that has come before go and move ahead and risk it all.  Because you have to in order to fully experience the complete joy and love that is waiting for you. Know that love is the answer to most questions in life. You are ready and he is “the one”.

Go ahead and jump into the great unknown, holding his hand, with your beautiful smile and laughter.

I’ll be right here … always.

A post from my inner child

(I’m not sure what will come from this exercise but here it goes)

Stop listening to this sad music. Listen to the good stuff. How about some Lionel Ritchie? Remember that song Ballerina Girl? Dad used to play that song for us. Remember when he brought home the pudgy, stuffed, cabbage patch ballerina that hung by the pretty ribbon? You focus to much on the pudgy. That’s your own hang up. No one else thinks you’re fat. Yeah the mean boy at school said it but you see the way he looks at you when his buddy isn’t around.
That gym teacher in middle school who called you ugly. That guy was stupid. I don’t remember what he looked like but his heart was ugly. He is probably just a miserable human. Let it go.
That’s why you like that song so much. Because you have a hard time letting go. It’s become a prayer for you. You’ll figure it out. You’re almost there now.  You have to work on forgetting. You’re worried about forgetting but you shouldn’t be. Just remember the good stuff though. Clear out more space for that stuff.
Remember bowling and having Happy Birthday sung by the waiters at Denny’s, the way Amy laughed when she embarrassed you. The day Julie moved away and you sung ‘That’s what Friends are for’ all day while staring at the big tree branches through the bedroom window. Melodramatic, but you loved her. Exploring the woods and crawling across the fallen tree over the creek. You could’ve walked. It wasn’t that deep but the adventure was cool. Oh, flashlight tag! Even the high school kids would play. Remember the time that neighbor kid shot Julie in the butt with the BB gun? The open classrooms at Kerrydale? I wonder if they’re still like that, don’t you? Probably, since the high school was too. Seems like a stupid idea. Very distracting. Remember when that dentist came to visit? You still think about fluoride being instant throw up when you go to the dentist, don’t you? Did you ever try eating chalk instead of Tums? I wonder if that was really true.
Do me a favor and  stop worrying so much. You’re not dying. You’re going to be an old woman with children and grandchildren who love you so much. You will have a legacy of love. You’re a great Mom. You’re kids know you love them. You’re allowed to be grumpy. You’re better than your Mom and Dad. That’s what bothers you so much about Jer. You think he’s not paying attention and will give the kids bad memories, but he’s more fun than Dad. You just need to tell him you need more fun. He’ll understand that. Tell him about the piggy back ride and why it’s important. There will be piggy back rides and you’re going to figure out cartwheels. Dance more. You love to dance and you’re really good at. Just do it.AND spin. And lay in the grass. Roll down a hill. Even without the kids. Do it for you. Just for fun. There is still fun to have and you will.
I love you just the way you are. You’re awesome. Go to sleep. No bad dreams tonight. It’s happy in here.
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(This writing was done with my non-dominant hand. Turned out pretty interesting. I hadn’t thought of many of these things in years and had no idea where each thought was coming from or going to. I would challenge you to try it out yourself. I double dog dare you.)

My Teenage Self

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about who I was as a teenager. I dont know if it’s because Jedi’s 13th year ends Sunday and so much of my teenage self started at 14…

When I was first inspired to write about my teenage self, I thought it would be fun. I dug up old pictures and listened to old music. It soon left me in tears and trying to wrap my head around it all mostly because my teenage self was a fucking mess.

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Just before turning 14, something happened that changed me forever. It turned everything I knew to be true to that point about love and family into a completely, useless shitstorm. It left me raw with emotion and not wanting to think. I was love sick. Desperate to know that something I had once known. I was silly and fun like what I imagine most teenage were like all while being sullen, pained and full of angst at the same time. Not your normal teenage angst, but one that still affects me now. It wasn’t that I never felt joy, but as a teenager, I felt happy through other people. If I could make someone happy, I was happy. People pleasing was my drug of choice.

I was also full of raging sexual curiosity. This wasn’t new to me. I can remember thinking and desiring sex at a very young age. I’ve written about that before. It was just that as a teenager, I was hell bound and determined to have it which was much to the dismay of the angel on my shoulder. Believe me, she was a real thorn in my exploration. Such is the life of a teenager who has grown up in an ultra religious home. I made a bargain of sorts with her. I reasoned that if I was in a committed relationship while having sex, it was ok because I wasn’t a whore.

No relationship + sex = bad, no-no. Relationship + sex = A-OK.

That’s how I became a serial monogamist. Having explained this…I feel the only real way I can tell the story of my teenage self is through relationships.

The first relationship, was a non-relationship.

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Kevin was the first, heart-aching crush I ever had. I was thirteen. I would walk nearly a mile out of my way to 7-11, knowing that he would be outside playing basketball with his friends. Just to walk by. I would never acknowledge him first. I’d pretend to be to involved with my Walkman even though it wasn’t even on. I mean, if he said something, how else would I hear him? On my way TO 7-11, he would always go on playing basketball and as far as I knew, didn’t do anything more than give me that slight, upward thrust of his jaw to acknowledge me. Then on my way BACK he eventually started tossing the ball to a buddy and would hussle over, all sweaty and stinky. I didn’t care. His buddies would complain. I loved it. He had a nerdy girlfriend who I did not concern myself with. He obviously like me better anyway because he broke up with her after I let him feel me up at a school dance. He put his letter jacket around me when it was cold and kissed me with his this annoying, turtle tongue, but I was certain that’s what love felt like. It wasn’t long before I found out that it wasn’t. This is just what he did with all the girls. So besides dressing pretty skanky and making him walk over to my house to get his stupid jacket, just to give him enough of a look at me as I threw it at him before slamming the door in his face, that was that. I was certain this is what women in charge of relationships did. Even though it wasn’t one.

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Jason, was the first guy who pursued me. I was certain this meant true love had found me and since it was true love, I was certain this meant we would be together forever and I would lose my virginity to him. Only one of those turned out to be true. Sex with Jason was not inspiring but we were in sweet, sappy love for almost a year before his best friend cheated on my cousin and he *tried* to do the same to me.
Pffft. I was devastated, but wanting to remain on top of  the spin control so I brought Chris into the picture.

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Chris was trying to make his recent ex-girlfriend jealous and this seemed like a splendid idea to me. Aside from using one another he introduced me to rock music for which I will always be thankful. He was a couple years older, in a band, hot as hell in his navy uniform and if it weren’t for that stupid angel on my shoulder and if our couple, hot and heavy make out sessions were any indication, that boy would’ve had his way with me and I would have loved every two minutes of it. No such luck though as I had made my deal with the bitch and I would stick to it. We were not in a relationship which meant no sex for us, but it was all for the best since he served his purpose and Jason and I kissed and made up.
IMG_5697 Compared to Chris though, he was pretty goofy. I loved him as much as any fifteen year old loves their first true love, but was pretty bored. I remedied this by creating drama and making him feel guilty. I have about 100 handwritten notes from him to prove it. I guess he was bored too because he suddenly decided to be a “gangsta” and started selling weed. My angel shoulder and I were having none of that so I broke up with him certain this would motivate him to do better.

I turned to my long time guy friend and neighbor growing up, Darryl. He was always the guy who I talked to in depth about everything and vice versa. We vented about parents, school, whoever we were dating at the time and I found it endearing that he walked me between classes just because. He picked on me as much as he playfully flirted with me during our basketball one-on-ones.

That guy always had a basketball. To this day, if I hear a basketball ball bouncing, my first thought is him.

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Because it wasn’t about THAT with us and I was well aware he was a player, we had a very reality based, platonic relationship. But as fate would have it, right around the time a girl tried to pin a fake pregnancy on Darryl, Jason and I’s relationship met it’s final demise. Jason had started playing nice again and I was sure he had seen the error of his ways even though Darryl was not and minced no words in telling me so. But before I had made up my mind about making it official again, one of my friends spotted Jason at another girl’s house. They were in her pool together and being much more than friendly. I hung up the phone and walked out the door just in time to seeing Darryl pulling up from work. I walked up and got in the car asking him to take me to my friend’s house to see for myself exactly what the hell was going on. On the way there, every emotion I had ever felt boiled. I shook uncontrollably while Darryl assured me everything would be ok. When we pulled up to the house Jason was at, I walked straight into the backyard. He was so involved in making out with this ugly, heffer in her pool that neither of them noticed me until I was walking back out. When Darryl saw the look on my face, he unlocked his trunk and grabbed a baseball bat and started towards me. I ran into Darryl arms, crying. All it took was him wrapping his arms around me and pointing that bat at Jason, saying only the word “No” to make Jason turn around and retreat. We just stood there in the middle of the street, me crying and Darryl rocking and SHHing me.

That was what I remembered of love. Pure and undiluted. This is what I wanted … and it scared the shit out of me.

I avoided him for a couple days afterwards, not knowing what I could ever say to him again.

A week later, I grabbed the mail from the box at the end of the drive when I got home from school, as I always did, but found only a single rose and a hand written note that read: If you’re going to avoid me, I had to find another way to make you smile. Darryl.  I looked up to see him sitting on his porch with a basketball wedged between his legs. So, I walked over and sat on his porch. I couldn’t look at him, but I was trying to find words when he stopped me. He said he knew everything had changed between us and while he didn’t ever want to lose me as a friend, he couldn’t have this as a “what if”. I told him I knew too much. I knew all about the girls upon girls, I couldn’t trust him that way and then he promised me he would never do that to me. He told me I wasn’t other girls.

It was everything my little girl heart had ever longed to hear and I gave in. Darryl treated me like a queen. He was the first guy who ever taught me how I should be treated as a woman.
IMG_5708 I felt like I had just walked on the set of rom-com where two friends who grew up together finally realize they’re in love. In fact, we shared a lot of movie-worthy moments that I’ll always hold close to my heart.

But everything outside of us was so complicated. My Dad hated our relationship even though he treated me better than anyone ever had. He almost had him arrested when he found out we were having sex. His friends, who were once our mutual friends, began to hate the seriousness I brought about in him and all the time we were spending together before he left for Air Force basic training. He wrote me everyday. He started to talk about getting married when he finished tech school and got his first orders. I traded in my extra credit to graduate early so I could be with him. Then, I went to see him when he graduated from boot camp just after I started my senior classes. He was different … suspicious. Asking me about Jason of all people. I couldn’t understand how he could think I could even find a place for another boy in my life, much less why I would want to when his brother had classes with me, his family lived on one side of me and his best friend was on the other. Yet the thought of him doing anything had never crossed my mind until I heard his own accusatory tone. After all, where the hell was all of this coming from?

I left on good terms, but full of doubt. I didn’t sleep for days on end. I didn’t eat. I went through the motions at school and work while my mind wondered. Then I became full of resolve to be completely selfish. Start doing me. Bought all new clothes. Sporty Spice was a thing of the past. Hello Sexy Spice, all day, everyday. Fuck being good. Bye shoulder angel.

It got me the attention I needed while Darryl did whatever he was doing in the background. In fact, every time I looked up in English, this guy across the aisle, which faced me, would meet eyes with me and then try to look away. His name was James. I started to toy with him little by little. He started to dote and spoil me. But while he was lavish with gifts, he was stingy with vulnerability, something that I never could seem to get past.  So things between us were very sexual. It was good and I was in charge. I got sexual with him in ways I never had before. I didn’t think any teenage guy would dislike the arrangement , but before I saw it coming, he was in my heart.

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I could act unattached and not bothered by the lack of intimacy, but once I was alone, behind the wheel of my car, I would cry. All the way home and then crying myself to sleep. I had been foolish for ever trying to convince myself my feelings weren’t on the table. I now knew no matter what I did, I was going to hurt someone. Darryl, James or even myself.

About a month after graduation, while James and I were driving back from a Hootie and the Blowfish concert, with my head on his shoulder, his fingers playing with my hair and Mariah Carey on the radio, it hit me hard. I was IN love and I wanted James. Everything was about to change and just like I wanted, I would call the shots. Except this meant for the first time, I was actually ending a relationship.

It was two weeks before I was supposed to fly out to see Darryl again and I was freaking out. I asked James to give me space, but since he was just as freaked out as I was about the whole thing, he couldn’t do it. So I ran. I used my graduation money to buy a ticket to Louisville to be around my extended family and stay at my Nana’s. If I was going to do this, I had to get distance from James and figure myself out. After two weeks, I decided that it was more than possible that James was holding back because of Darryl and that Darryl and I were better off as friends. So I flew from Louisville to San Antonio to see Darryl and say our goodbyes, with love, as friends.

James and I ended up being together for over two years and were even engaged, but my teenage years ended with me starting a relationship with a man who was awful. Even after meeting my first husband, I hung to hope with James. It didn’t help that we couldn’t stop coming back for more sex. But I learned in a very harsh way that it was just sex, not hope and I married the horrible man because I fell in love with his son, Pickle, perhaps as my way of punishing myself for my own transgressions.

I don’t know. I guess that’s just a lot of water underneath bridges I have burned.

The only happy ending that came of all these teenage dreams is that I still remain friends with Jason, Darryl and James to this today.

Now, I wonder what teenage me would think of me. I mostly wish I could let her know that for all the struggle we thought was in vain and mistakes that were made, it did get better. Id like to tell her that it’s ok to be immature and make mistakes. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person and unworthy of respect and love. It’s a part of growing up. Even as a grown woman, you’ll still have that little girl heart that wants to be kept safe and treasured. Being vulnerable isn’t something you grow out of, it’s something you must learn to lean into. I’d tell her that we found out who we really were all along, good and bad, and we made a life worth living. This life now, this love, these children were our collective dream. Its not what we thought it would look like, it’s better.

I hope she’d be damn proud.