You don’t understand

comparison

Not too long ago, someone randomly came in to my office at work and began telling me their life story. This in and of itself isn’t rare. I’ve shared how people tell me things. Unbeknownst to me as to why, I hear a lot of people’s secrets, feelings, unplanned thoughts, odd life stories, etc. It’s been known to drive those around me crazy. My ex used to get so upset, not only because strangers talk to me, but because I always respond. I attribute that to my father, who taught me to reciprocate courtesies. “If someone takes the time to say thank you, pay them that same respect by saying you’re welcome. Don’t just nod or say mmhmm.” It’s always stuck with me. Incidentally, when someone throws some salutations my way, I reply back. I smile at them. I make eye contact.

One night I was in Safeway grabbing some last minute groceries and I was working my way up to the registers. I cut up the personal care aisle and was about to pass an elderly lady looking at some products, confused. She turned and gave me this “Help me,” look. I couldn’t exactly explain why, but something propelled me to say hi. She reached out, grabbed my arm gently, much like my grandma or a family member would. Soft but purposeful, loving yet attention seeking. She had a box of Monistat 7 in her other hand and a look of concern in her soft, tired eyes.

“Does this work?” she asked me. Not in a creepy, weird or inappropriate way. There was a sincerity to her tone, mixed with a slight hinge of embarrassment. I remember standing there, grouping my thoughts together. Whatever made her decide to turn and ask me shouldn’t be discounted, right? She deserved some help in my book, without judgement. I could have easily kept walking and pretended I didn’t hear her but that’s never been my style. We talked and I remember walking away feeling lighter, like I had helped someone when they really needed it.

So flash forward to me, sitting in my office one day with my door open when someone stumbles in and shuts the door. While I don’t like being caged in by people I’m not super comfortable with, someone I hardly know, I recognize that she’s needing a pair of ears and some heartfelt time. Before I can ask how she’s doing, because sometimes people need coaxing to tell you why they want to chat, her mouth opens and the word vomit spills forth. Stories are being spewed in a rushed, emotional way. There’s a smidge of anger fueled by a whole lot of hurt in her words. She hasn’t had the best life. I hear instances of being forced to choose between two shitty options. I pull up a chair, allow her to sit and just listen. I see it coming before she does, there’s no doubt in that. This also happens to me, so I greet that old friend of comparison and stay still.

“You don’t understand. You have someone who loves you. You’ve never had the shit beat out of you. Your kids don’t hate you. You don’t get hateful comments thrown at you for being ugly. I don’t even know why I came in here. You have an easy life and I’m just a loser. You don’t get it.”

I let her say that to me. She was comparing her chapter 15 to my chapter 35 and while it doesn’t make sense, why she came in to my office and told me things that made me want to cry, I let it continue. You see, she didn’t know my stories and I wasn’t about to interrupt her. People need to be loved and listened to and it has to start somewhere and somehow that gets lost sometimes. What she also needed in that moment was a lack of judgement because I could see how that one word has caused her so much strife in her own inner value. Somehow, in my upbringing, I became really adept at compartmentalizing and being “stage ready” as I call it. Growing up in a restaurant and working in it from a very young age made me build a chest where I stored reality so that when I was out and about, mingling with our patrons, I wore a mask of happy.

It’s one of the first things Ku shared with me when I started to open up to her. She thought I was happy. It’s not admirable, friends. It’s more of a coping mechanism I’ve developed which really only makes it harder for me to deal with my own demons. I could venture to say she never expected to hear what I shared with her. That’s how good I was at being “on.” So while I’m sitting here listening to a tortured soul assume that I have the greatest life on Earth, what I say is, “We all have battles we are fighting.”

It can be the Mom battle, because we have this vision of motherhood and how we will excel at it in our head. We tell our friends and family things like, “I will never do this or allow that and NOT MY KID….” before we have babies. We see others raising theirs and we shake our heads at their inability to do whatever we deemed is right in our book. Or we see Moms who look like they got it down pat so we find whatever we can to criticize that because how dare she look so perfect? It can be the health battle and how we cannot believe so and so tried that shake or this diet and “maybe try eat less shit.” We can’t lose one effin pound so when they have success we tear them down. “She needs a burger. Vegans are dumb. Oh, another gluten free idiot, because how could they? It most certainly can be the relationship battle because they can’t be that happy because that’s all they post or how can she let him talk to her like that? We mock their highlight reel and we mock their low moments because judgement is a given in this world.

Before we know it the “I would never” becomes our truth and we are so caught up in our own little wars that we don’t notice those around us waged in their own battles, too. That old friend comparison sneaks in and we can’t shut her up because she’s loud and she’s everywhere and we are failing. We begin to break down those around us because maybe that’s what helps us for a fleeting moment but in reality, we all need to feel loved, heard and understood. We need each other to make it. Something I’ve really grasped lately is that it takes a village. Yes. Not just for the raising of the little humans, but for us, too. It takes a village to get so much done. So if you find yourself speaking with someone else, maybe take a moment and don’t assume they don’t understand. Ask them if they do. You might be surprised by their answer.

And if you see someone reaching out to ask you a hard, embarrassing question, do them the honor of at least hearing them out. Ok? Because life is hard. It takes strength to ask someone for help. Especially if they don’t know you. And if you feel like you know someone with a “perfect” life, befriend them and listen to them tell you about their struggles. Really, really listen.

Now go forth and do some good in the world. Say something nice to someone if you find yourself making a judge-y inner thought about them. It just might be what they need to hear today.

poehler

Girl, be brave

brave

An AHA moment for me came recently.

I talk often of changing your life if you aren’t happy with it. Rewrite your shitty first draft, great things don’t come from your comfort zone, make today day one rather than  one day, etc. It’s a notion I have taken to heart so deeply, because life is so short. IT.IS.SO.SHORT. If you can do what it takes to stop being unhappy, I WILL CHEER YOU ON! Even 100 years is not but a ripple in the waters of this world.

Except, change is hard. I talk a lot about that, too. We all either work with or have worked with or know people who are hesitant/against/vocal about change. It’s hard, friends. I get it! Even the most adaptable people can find moments of struggle. I like to say that it takes one moment of insane courage to change your life. You just have to find it. A recent interaction with a friend experiencing a lot of change right now made me step back and re-evaluate my life motto. It’s incomplete.

Defining life moments can be grand when looking at them up close. Most of us can pinpoint very certain occasions in our past that changed our journey. We have to zoom out, though, to see that it was many, many decisions of bravery, of that insane courage that got us to that point. Not many things in life are sudden. Not many at all. I shared a story, a while back, of how my re-birthday was April 14, 2012 because that was the night I jumped out of a moving vehicle and ran for my life. Yes, it was such a big minute in time. If a movie were made about me I can guarantee that moment, so powerful and unmistakably brave, would have the heart stopping, dramatic music playing during the scene. I didn’t need music that night, though, because my heart was pounding hard enough in my ears to have drowned any sound out, anyway.

My story of leaving a decade of abuse is tough to talk about. Still. Yet, I keep doing it because a) it’s aiding my healing and b) it’s helping, even if a tiny bit, change the view of domestic violence, because there is a stigma. In my opening up about my experiences and how I left, what I learned about the process, my self-discovery and how I and my family still deal with it now has shown me something deeper. There’s a c) now. There have been people reaching out to me for help, to get some questions answered, or just to share their story. Not just about domestic violence, but so many issues. Eating disorders, self-hatred, molestation at a young age, rape. I’ve been told things that just break my heart.

There are statistics about domestic violence that I know very well. One in four women experience sever physical intimate partner violence, meaning they are together, or dating, or married. One in four. Without meaning to, when I’m surrounded by a bunch of females, I think about that number. I think about the many people who probably think it can’t possibly be that high, except when I’m in that group, that is me. One in three woman experience physical intimate partner violence, so maybe they didn’t have the shit beaten out of them, or were choked or forcefully shoved into concrete, but an abuse of force was used on their bodies. This doesn’t even account for the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse that organizations such as *DVSAS, of which I am on the board, recognize. The court system tends to only recognize physical abuse when requesting a protection order. The other forms of abuse are harder to get legal help with. They are even harder to prove.

I sat with a friend not too long ago, during a hard time in her life. I held her hand, hugged her, listened. It was hard. When I think of my story, the things I went through, my one big moment of bravery to leave, I only thought about it from my point of view. That makes sense, right? I watched it through my eyes. While I was sitting there, hearing reasoning and worry, vacillation between two shitty choices that just creates deafening guilt because there are repercussions either way,  and justifications being made, I listened harder. I thought of my experiences and how I did the same things. When we parted ways after, I got in my car and cried. I remember my one huge shift; calling Kulia on the side of the road in the middle of the night, trying to remember where I was and coordinating how I could stay hidden, just in case but she could still find me. All of a sudden there was a movie playing in my head of all the many other courageous moments I had, like when I shared that I was being abused and when I took the time to write down when he hit me that I could remember and put dates to them. I was back in my work’s lunchroom, sitting on a dirty 70’s style couch, dialing the numbers to numerous divorce attorneys and meeting no success because not having money gets you turned down from help really fast, friends. I was sitting across from my manager and assistant manager, on the eve of my last day of work with them, answering why I haven’t been myself the past couple of weeks, why my work was suffering. They thought I had leaving-itis. They made it clear I had let them down. Not once did they ask me if I was okay or safe. Not once did I offer that information up.

I never thought about Ku’s side. Of how it must have felt to hear someone tell you things no voice should ever share. As I sat in my driver seat, I texted her and told her I was crying. That I don’t know how she did it, I don’t know how anyone does. How do you sit there and have your heart break over words that cause so much pain, how do you hear them blame themselves, call themselves selfish and not scream out in agony? She listened so intently without telling me I was worthless, a piece of shit, only thinking about myself. She didn’t hurt me when I needed love. She was pure grace while I fell apart and I never even noticed how. And being kind of, not all the way, but sorta, in that boat was so.damn.hard. It shook me to my core. If it did that to her, I couldn’t tell. All she ever did was hold me. If you had that or have that in your life, someone who was unconditionally there for you, get up and go hug them. Run to them, kiss their cheek, tell them thank you. You probably already have, but do it again anyway. Life is short.

Yes, you can make a giant, easy-to-see step of epic proportions to change your life. Just remember that you are also taking baby steps, even if they are hard to see. And don’t you ever give up on them. Those baby steps are making progress. I guarantee it. If you need help, someone to talk to, or a place to feel safe, we are always here for you. I am always here for you.

*DVSAS stands for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. This phenomenal organization is located in Bellingham, WA and is open to anyone needing help. You can find more information at http://www.dvsas.org including how to volunteer, donate and/or attend one of it’s upcoming events. Not everyone will be as vocal as I am. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

dvsas

 

What makes you Family?

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Looking fly at Waialae Country Club before Ka’eo and Denalee’s wedding 5/27/2017

In my 9-5, our team recently took a Strengths Finder assessment. It’s meant to aid in leveraging where people’s strengths lie, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. After answering a whole barrage of questions, a report was comprised, giving each of us our top five and explaining them. I wasn’t surprised by any of my list. In my last few years of self growth, mostly due to personal development and being honest with myself, I sort of already knew them.

The definitions of each strength were what really filled my cup. Knowing I love to learn is one thing, but an assessment stating that I probably collect books blew my mind! How could it know!? The best one, though? One of my strengths is connectedness. Just seeing the word made me nod my head in agreement. I thought it meant something about my ability to connect with others. How I reach out and force friends to stay in touch with me. It’s easier now, with everyone being cyber-connected. But guys, I used to send LETTERS to my friends. I thought I knew connected. And then I read the definition and was floored.

Connectedness: Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgements and in possession of our free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. You are a bridge builder for people of different cultures.

That wasn’t all of it, just a smidge. However, I loved all the words it entailed. I have always believed that life is not a string of coincidences. How could it be when epic changes could happen from seemingly minute happenings in the world?

When I was in my seventh year of my own personal hell, my ex-husband decided we needed a trip. For his own personal reasons, that he didn’t disclose right away, he chose Hawaii. It’s one of those places that most of the world, at least from where I’m standing, dreams of going. I wasn’t a big fan. We almost never had money, and even when we did, it wasn’t managed well. He had control of that and it stressed me out to think what was being shelled out on this trip, when back home the boys were being fed with food stamps. There just wasn’t changing his mind when he wanted something. I remember being on the island of Oahu, driving down roads and seeing beaches and landmarks, gazing at them in awe.

Somewhere along a winding highway towards the windward side, he told me he was thinking of moving us there. I read it as: this will soon be our new home. It was pretty enough and promising enough that I gave no fight to the discussion. I sighed, asked him when and succumbed to the inevitable. It didn’t take away from how breathtaking Hawaii can be. The water is colors you can pick out of a Crayon box but can never replicate. You can see the bottom of the ocean, you can gaze out and see the curve of the horizon. The sun warms your face and slivers of that make it into your heart. Hawaii called to me and I let it. I remember the rest of the few days we were present, I would think about where we would land when we got there. What roads would become more traveled by me? Who would become my friend? How would my life change? I thought up so much and could never have imagined what Hawaii would come to mean to the boys and I.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, hopefully it is the story of Ku and I and how we met. You see, meeting Ku was when Hawaii stopped being a place for me and became a feeling. My ex later described it as the biggest mistake he had made. For me, it was the biggest gift. Not only did I find who would captivate my soul and awaken my heart, but we found a second family. You see, I know the boys are loved by his family. They are his blood, too, and there is this fierce protectiveness and almost possessive feel they give to family get-togethers. It’s like the Lannisters incarnate, minus perhaps, the incest.

I won’t compare Ku’s family to Game of Thrones. A) they are human. They are kind and caring and I never feel like I’m about to be stabbed in the back. There’s no b. I do that, often.

Kulia’s family welcomed all of us with open arms. It has never felt forced or weird. There is this sincere love that you feel deep in your bone marrow that is so genuine. So pure. Hugs warm you like bowls of chicken noodle soup on a fall day and kisses on the cheek radiate rays of sunshine down to your toes. Her family and their love for the four of us was unimaginable and perfectly imperfect. I know that’s a hard level to achieve for most blended families so I cherish it and work to keep it seamless. I think it’s because I have seen weird and judge-y and mean (did you see how I compared my ex’s family to the LANNISTERS?) so I can be grateful for what we have been given.

The boys recently traveled to the East Coast with their Dad. When they came home yesterday, the meanager asked to speak with me. He told me about their trip and feelings he had while on it. He shared some stuff that was sad to listen to, about how they felt awkward around new family they met for the first time. It’s so alien to listen to because oftentimes I neglect thinking about the other side of what the boys deal with. The amount of time they are with us makes me think of us being their main family. It’s fair and yet unfair, right and yet not accurate. They have a whole other set of people that have come into their life in one way or another and I should have been preparing them for what might come.

My meanager reminded me of how treasured they feel in Hawaii. “Mom, you know how all of Ku’s family just loves us and never makes us feel weird?” he asked me. I struggled to find words because I just know it to be true. “It wasn’t like that in Virginia. We kept being reminded they aren’t our Aunts and Uncles and we couldn’t call them that. Her mom kept correcting us. We had to call them Mr. and Mrs. It was just awkward. Everything felt awkward.” This coming from the son who likes hugging the least. The thing is, our boys are lovers.

It was hard to hear and all I could do was tell him I was sorry to hear it. I told him I was so happy he was home because it’s never the same when they are gone. I hugged him and let him tell me how his feelings were hurt. I reminded him how sincerely and genuinely so many care for him and his brothers. That some people take time and maybe have a hard time accepting change, for lack of better reasoning.

I just really wonder what makes family, family. Ya know?

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Sam, AB and Moose at our wedding, melting our hearts and making everyone cry happy tears

Dear Daddy

 

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Photo taken by: Shannon Sasaki Photography

Dear Daddy,

I got married last Sunday, the 2nd of July. It was the day after my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, which meant a lot to me.  I know you didn’t go and I know why, but  I wanted to share the details with you, because you haven’t asked yet and I really wanted to tell you about it at lunch the other day, but I would have ended up crying, and nobody likes a sad lunch.

From the moment I woke up, I could tell it was going to be gorgeous. The sun was shining and so was my heart. I didn’t think about whether you would change your mind or not, like I had for the last few months. I just felt excited and ready for all the memories. Ana and I went to get some decorations done first thing, which was a great idea. You remember Ana, right? She’s played cards with you at the restaurant before and she’s my best friend. She thought you would come even though I kept telling her it was a lost cause.

The weather could not have been more perfect. There was a slight breeze and so much light. Light in everyone’s eyes, in their hearts. This wedding meant a lot to many, especially me, and I wanted you to see that. I know you don’t understand homosexuality and gay marriage, but I know you understand love. I wanted you to see it. None of us could stop smiling or laughing easily at everything. I remember looking at all our friends’ faces and thinking, this is how I want to live every day for the rest of my life. Smiling and laughing this easily. It was a jovial sentiment and it was catching. I just know your heart would have felt lighter. You just had to make it there.

On our way back to the hotel, Ana and I, we had a deep chat. About being perfectionists and how to let things go. I think somewhere in our mix of wise words, I decided I wouldn’t fret about you on my day. I was going to practice letting go and I felt at ease. She wanted things to be just right for me and I think in a way, she was being what I would have wanted to see from you. Kulia talks a lot about how her parents will be there for me when you guys aren’t and sometimes I think that’s unfair. Except, not this time. Her father is not a fill in for you but he was so full of love and excitement. He clearly wanted nothing but happiness for her on our day. For us. I know for both of us. Ana filled in for you.

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We got to the hotel and started getting ready. There was a mimosa bar and food. Hustle and bustle and constant movement. I didn’t have it in me to think about you anymore, from that point forward. I was practicing letting it go, remember? Either way, I was having my hair and makeup done and chatting about Kulia and I’s crazy last five years together. How far we have come and how unstoppable we seem. It’s undeniable, Dad. We.are.good.together. We make goals and meet them, we push each other to keep growing. We bought an amazing house that we built, together. The boys, who I know were your biggest concern, are thriving. They have never been better. I know you see this. We all do.

I was thinking about that chat we had, our first serious one-on-one, when I moved back from Hawaii. I remember calling you on the beach, to say words to you that I had thought about sharing for over a decade. I was in an abusive relationship that I had finally left. I told you how he had treated me and you said, “You gotta respect yourself and do what’s right because you haven’t been living.” And then in the living room, that first night, you told me that divorce wasn’t the end of my life, but rather the start of a new one. Daddy, this new life isn’t what you imagined but I think it’s bigger than we could have both thought up.

I know it bothers you that I married a woman. I don’t see it that way. As I walked down the aisle, and saw the smiling/happy crying faces of those who love our love, I thought about math. Daddy, 3 + 1=4. I know that’s how you see it. But so does 2 + 2. So does 4 + 0. The thing is, there’s more than one way to answer a problem. All of those equations come to the same ending. That is love, for me. I didn’t fall in love with Kulia because she’s a woman. I fell in love with her soul. I feel like that’s more important than gender.

As we said our vows, I saw my Momma, Berta, Emily, Grandpa and Grandma sitting there and realized my wish hadn’t come true. Even in the midst of my own fairy tale, I couldn’t bippity boppity boo you there. And Berta was crying so many happy tears, full of love and joy for us. I almost lost it, in that moment. I almost cried.

We said our I do’s with the sun in our eyes and in our hearts. I am sorry you couldn’t be there to hear Kulia promise to respect and love me until her last breath. Isn’t that what every father wants? Someone to love their daughter almost as much as they do? Someone to help raise his grandkids to be gentlemen, to be life changers, to love and to respect? This is what I have, Daddy. And the thing is, I know you love Kulia for how she is with me. I know you can see it.

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The night ended as it should. With a beautiful sunset, deep hugs, fun photobooth pictures that I know you would have had no part of, and silly dancing. Everyone was floating on a cloud of love. Mom looked so happy, so full of excitement for our family. Berta and Gracia were loving on us and the boys. Everyone was there for the right reasons and while I’m not judging you, I think you weren’t for the wrong ones.

It reminds me of when I was around 10-11 years old. Working at the restaurant taught me so much, and sometimes without trying to. I was working with Uncle Louis one day, may his soul rest peacefully, when these two ladies came in. One had short hair, the other didn’t. I was bringing them their chips and salsa when Uncle Louis pulled me aside, laughing. Those are marimachas, he told me. I had no clue what he meant, so he explained to me what lesbians were. He defined that slang, offensive word. It was the first I had ever heard of them, and I got awkward. You pulled me aside and asked why I was being rude to our customers. You told me everyone was equal and you wouldn’t tolerate that behavior.

Where was that guy on Sunday? Did you think of me at all?  You told me, after lunch, that you love me no matter what. Did you mean, even if you’re gay and married to a woman? Is that my biggest travesty in life? I didn’t start this blog entry to be upset with you, but a part of me is, Daddy. I know I’ve taken you for quite a ride with my life. This is by far the least offensive; I feel that deep down. Loving her is more right than so many other things. At the end of the day, I will never regret it.

I love you, Daddy. No matter what.

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These five locos

 

Body Image Vibes

IMG_2377“Mom,” my oldest says to me one night. A deep, pensive night. He has stuff to say to me and I make sure to turn to him to give him some undivided attention. Sam, my meanager, as I lovingly call him, has always been a deep thinker. English is his second language; he didn’t learn it until he was in kindergarten. I thought it was the right thing to do, definitely thought it would give him a leg up in the world. Being fully bilingual before he started first grade would have been an awesome gift. Except, that didn’t happen. He was fully immersed in his class, had no classmates to converse with in Spanish, and began struggling from the word go. He doesn’t have either language mastered. His brain just wasn’t wired for it. I try to remember that when he is trying to chat with me and cannot find his words. Tonight is no different.

“Sometimes, when you come to pick me up at school, people see you and start laughing. They say, Sam, your Mom is so fat. It really makes me angry.”

What do you say to that? I want to tell him it doesn’t bother me, that my size doesn’t determine my worth. I find myself saying these words, but the truth is, it does affect me. I would be being untruthful if I didn’t acknowledge that. I feel myself go into robot mode, tell him that it’s a cheap insult and he should shrug it off. That him getting upset shows that he loves me and that’s all that matters to me. I speak slowly and with little emotion. The last thing I want to share with him is that I’ve been hearing it my whole life and it sucks and I try to not let it define me. Except, it does.

I can almost pinpoint the moment I realized I wasn’t looked at the same as some kiddos along with the moment I realized that when someone really wanted to hurt your feelings, especially if they were family or friends, they would immediately go for your biggest insecurity. It’s something I have a hard time doing today, even when I really want to. Cutting people with your words is easy, but what are you sacrificing to gain a moment of superiority? For me, it was my thighs. I’ve heard it all. Damn, check out those stumps! Oh, hey thunder thighs. Your legs are COTTAGE CHEESE! I started saying it myself. And what’s worse is when I’m having a really shitty day, even now. Even in these times, because nobody says horrible things to me like I do; I will stand in front of a mirror and tell myself I am fat, ugly, have the most horrendous thighs, the biggest baby apron, the widest bat wings. I tell myself all of it, because I’ve been hearing it for so long.

These thighs of mine have been the cause of a lot of stress, learning, working around. I’ve dealt with chafing, pants not fitting right, clapping when I go down stairs, ruined pants, not fitting in chairs, having to turn sideways to fit through aisles. They are chock-full of cellulite and jiggle. They are HARD.TO.LOVE.

Enter yesterday.

I was fresh back from NOLA, feeling really bloated and blah. Traveling makes me swell and even more self-conscious. I decided it was a fat pants day. Squeezing into my normal pants and feeling gross just didn’t sound like the kind of 24 hours I wanted to have. I headed to work and visited with friends. It was all making me feel better until I sat in the conference room and felt something cold on my inner thigh. And then it dawned on me. My pants had ripped in the inner thigh. AGAIN.

These are the kinds of things some people just won’t get. They don’t understand it. Their clothes don’t have to be replaced more often because their legs, butt, arms, whatever aren’t breaking down their articles of clothing faster. It’s humiliating and frustrating having to explain why I need a new pair of jeans or leggings. Why I don’t wear skirts or dresses as often as I want. It’s harder still to acknowledge that even though I am far into my journey of getting healthy and fit, I STILL HAVE BIG ASS THIGHS. AND A STOMACH. AND BAT WINGS. When I run into people, I feel like they are sizing me up (pun intended) because I CONSTANTLY size myself up. I don’t understand why I’m a year and a half in to this and I’m not a size 12 like I so desperately want to be. I try not to be envious of the people who cut out soda and lost ten pounds immediately. My body works against me every single day and I don’t get it. I got divorced and gained weight, which is opposite of most people. I get stressed out and gain weight. I stop eating and the pounds pack on quickly. I eat less and samesies. I weigh myself every day and it goes up. I weigh myself once a month and sure as shit, it creeps. Yes, I lose inches but my brain cannot love the scale no matter how hard I try to convince it.

I had packed my stuff for a run in the afternoon. I changed and drove to a nearby park that has trails. I told myself I would run for 2.5 miles and then go home. Becoming a runner has been one of the bigger surprises that I took on in 2015. I constantly told myself I could never do it, and then little by little proved to myself that I could. I am by no means a sprinter but I can go long distances. I remember being freaked THE HELL OUT to run a half marathon and so I committed to, signed up for, and paid for one. I dove into training and worked my ass off, but only figuratively. The day came and I did it without stopping once to walk and it was phenomenal. Except, then I stopped running diligently. I let excuses win more and more. I told myself it was okay, because I was still getting other workouts in. Sometimes.

Now I have another goal in mind, much different than a half-marathon. It’s Ragnar season and I was invited to be on a team for the second year in a row. The thing is, I was more prepared last year because I was still running some, not as much time had passed so my endurance was still up. I also took on a longer run position, with my first leg being over 5 miles long. Running 2.5 right now doesn’t seem like much, but it is. It’s eternal.

I was on the trail, going slow and steady; much slower than I am happy with but continually telling myself that at least I am out there. Usually I will incessantly check my running watch to see how far I have gone and what my pace is, but that makes me crazy and get hard on myself, so I mentally tell myself I won’t do that today. And I don’t. I stay true to my word. When I run, I don’t use headphones. Listening to things, especially music, distracts me. It’s bizarre and unheard of, apparently. Me? I like to run in silence. I’ve found a tranquility in the pain, beauty in the rhythmic movements. I focus on my breathing, control my gait as much as I can. I revel in the landscape and admire our Earth. Running did things I couldn’t find a way through. It reminded me how to be proud of myself, what it felt like to reach a goal. It helped me reconnect with my emotions on a very cellular level. Ku likes to joke that running made me human again and the reality is, she was right. I didn’t cry for a number of years after leaving my abusive ex. I was certain that all my tears were dried up for good. Running brought that ability to feel deeper back to me.

The one thing I had on was my mileage tracker. A velvet computer lady voice that tells me when I hit a mile. I hit two and thought, half a mile to go. I had fleeting thoughts about walking. My mind tried to convince me that nobody would know, because no one was around. Except, I would know and I would speak poorly to myself. Heaven knows I don’t need more reasons to do that.

As I’m trying to reach my goal, I pass a playground on my right, where there are two older kids playing on a tire swing. A young teenage girl is trying to swing a similarly aged boy and they are enjoying their time. She must have caught a glimpse of me, huffing and puffing along the gravel trail and she points and starts laughing.

“Look at that fat girl try to run.”

He turns and starts laughing, too.

Yet I just truck on, because they are right. I am fat. And I am trying.

I looked down at my run watch and realize I’m at 2.6 and then I think, well, that’s closer to 3 so I might as well run 3 miles today. What’s .4 more, at this point? And not far up ahead, a runner is coming towards me in the opposite direction, wearing a hot pink tank top and cute little running shorts. Now there’s a runner! As we get closer to each other, she smiles and in turn I smile back. She waves to me and says, “Great job!” It means so much more to me than those kids.

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You see, I do have thunder thighs but when I finished, I took a moment to stare down at them, with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. These bad boys helped me leave a decade of domestic violence behind me. They helped me jump out of a vehicle and run for freedom. They have taken me across multiple finish lines after so many miles, so many more than a lot of people have run, they have helped me walk into new opportunities that have been life changing and in NINE DAYS they will walk me down the aisle to the love of my life. Yesterday, I could have hated them more than anything but after a small poor-me moment, I reflected on how far these boom sticks have taken me.

And I loved them.

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Three days of getting (re)fresh, as told by Vee

Guess who’s going to Hawaii in three sleeps (read: today)!!?!?!?! This beezy RIGHT HERE!!! My brother-in-love is getting hitched, saying I do, and bidding farewell to that bachelor life that he always made look so friggin fun. We are so excited! And you know what Hawaii means? It means you’ll be on a beach at least once, probably spending some hours at a pool, and wearing a lot less clothes than you have been for the last ten months because Washington gave you the longest winter in all of history. So you do a reality check, realizing that birthday month was a treasonous time in your life and you acknowledge that every article of clothing you wear now fits snug (read: tight) and you haven’t even worked out recently. As in at least a week. I figured it’s never too late to recommit to your health journey, so I ordered myself a 3-Day Refresh from my fave peeps down at Beachbody and read the rules yesterday to get ready.

Now, what is the refresh? First off, it’s a fancy schmancy title for a cleanse that restricts dairy, meats (read: proteins) and treats (read: wine) for a whole effin 72 hours. Doesn’t that sound like a nice cup of “stab me repeatedly with a fork for three days?” Needless to say, we ate pizza, drank wine and had fudge chocolate treats Sunday. We are the worst kind of cleansers. It is three daily shakes, a fiber drink, an ocean of filtered water, and rationed portions of fresh fruits and veggies. THAT.IS.IT. And here is an unbiased account of the ordeal:

Day 1: Today I woke up at 7 after hitting snooze an eff ton of times. I didn’t want to get out of bed. My eyes were so heavy. When you can finally manage to haul your bloated ass out of bed, you’re supposed to drink around 10 ounces of water to get your system (does this mean your digestive track? Like, get ready to poop?) going. I had a water bottle by the side of my bed but I had gotten thirsty at night so I estimate it only had around 6 in it. That may or may not be remotely right. I’m a horrible estimator of liquids. Suffice to say I drank the water and felt it hit the PITS of my stomach. Of COURSE I would wake up on day one of my refresh starving. Typical.

Within an hour of waking you drink your first shake. Yay there because I love my shakeo! Except I didn’t drink it on time because it’s frowned upon to show up to work ugly. And when I rushed to make it, I started out with too much water and not enough ice so it was a weird texture and consistency (super watery) so it felt like I was drinking super diluted iced coffee (I am drinking the vegan café latte for this). It didn’t feel like breakfast, when my shakeo normally does. Along with the shake you eat your first installment of fruit. Up first on the menu is a cup of cantaloupe that I actually measured! That’s already a win because I try to eyeball everything. My one downfall? I forgot to eat the fruit at the same time as I was drinking my shake. When I remembered I could have it, I SNARFED it down in two seconds. You guys. A cup of cantaloupe is just enough to make you CRAZY hungry but not enough to make you even feel like you ate. Throw on top of that a work lunch I’m planning so I was on the Fred Meyer’s catering website looking at pictures of baked chicken, fried chicken, sushi platters, sides. This is torture to the umpteenth degree. I am never as hungry as when I tell myself I’m doing something to feel better. Every time I think I need food I make myself guzzle some water. PS, I’ve gone to the bathroom six times and I’ve only been up for four hours. And because I can’t stop thinking about how empty my stomach feels, I set a timer on my phone for when I can have my next shake, which is the Vanilla Fiber Sweep. I foresee more bathroom breaks. Yikes.

Vanilla Fiber Sweep is done. I drank it fast because I’ve read other people’s accounts of the flavor of it so I was anticipating liquid death. I chugged it SO FAST because almost everyone says you can’t let it sit for more than a few minutes or it changes into a fire-breathing dragon that promptly makes you it’s meal. Shit, that dragon would be getting more of a mouthful than I currently am. Good news, there was no time to let anything evolve into anything dangerous and I basically shot-gunned a really tasty drink. I would equate it to an original orange Julius, which is doubly bizarre, being as it’s vanilla. The deed is done, either way and now I have to wait at least an hour before I can have my lunch. Yes, there’s another timer set and yes, I am going to drink more water.

1:00: Lunch time. FINALLY. I mixed my vanilla fresh shake, took my rhubarb salad out that I made yesterday, grabbed my baggie of strawberries and filled my water. I was making myself wait a little longer because somehow that felt much less dramatic. I mentally told myself I would eat slow and savor every bite because 2/3 cup of rhubarb salad IS NOT REALLY EVEN ONE BITE OF FOOD, that I would not down my shake like it was a margarita. YOU GUYS. I’m a liar liar pants on fire and lunch was inhaled in less than three minutes. It’s been less than an hour since and not ONCE did my stomach feel like it had anything in it.

2:23: I found a little Styrofoam box of pad-see-uw in the mini fridge from lunch last week Friday. I heated it up and told myself I would only have a few bites because I NEED FOOD. I picked out the broccoli and ate it because broccoli is allowed on the refresh even though I’m almost positive its not allowed when it has a delicious sauce on it (I’ll just double check what the list of guilt-free flavorings says about that) and told myself I wasn’t cheating. Then I told myself I could have two bites of rice noodle and that would be it. I then had four little bites because I can’t be trusted and then threw the box away because otherwise it was about to be shoved into my pie-hole (yum, pie sounds AMAZING) and because I started to get angry with myself. I am only seven hours into this shit-show and I’ve already messed up. This is why I have jelly-belly and this is why I have more than one chin. Send BOSS BABE vibes this way, because I need all.of.them. Now I’m drinking water and pissed.

4:00: I ate a teaspoon of almond butter and downed 700 ounces of water, at least. I’m not even exaggerating here. I feel empty but I don’t feel EMPTY. See, I’m so hungry ish isn’t even making sense anymore.

4:50: My iWatch just told me to stand up. That’s fine since I HAVE TO PEE ANYWAY.

6:00: I’m at my son’s baseball game and I have to urinate so bad that I have lower back pains. Ku texted me beforehand and asked if I wanted her to bring me strawberries and my response was something like, “Yes, I can have 12. And if you think you might want some also, please bring more than 12 because I need ALLMYSTRAWBERRIES. I texted that to my wifey, friends. And she didn’t throw fruit at my face when I got to the game and she didn’t threaten to leave me. I want to add that the fact she even stuck around the rest of the night without yelling PEACE and throwing her hands in the air is AMAZEBALLS. I would have run for the hills.

10:00: Went to bed listening to the relaxing sounds of my STOMACH GROWLING and some pretty horrendous releases of gas. Today sucked. I realized I am completely emotionally addicted to food. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been such an effin sourpuss all damn day. I may need more than 3 days to break this.

DAY 2

7:00: Woke up and said, “I’m starving,” right out the gate and then realized that wasn’t actually true. My stomach hadn’t even said good morning. It was when I downed my 10 ounces of water that I remembered my stomach had a bottom. All that water found it, quick. I also didn’t drink my shake within that first hour. I’m a natural rule breaker. I just can’t help it. PS, I ALSO forgot to eat the fruit at the same time again. Frick!

1:00: I’ve not stopped thinking about food and how hungry I am. I had to pick up lunch for the office, which is straight out of chapter one in the book of “Ultimate Corporal Punishment for your Subordinates.”

1:30: Got to the office with the FRIED CHICKEN, BAKED CHICKEN, BBQ CHICKEN, MACARONI SALAD (I love macaroni salad. I friggin LOVE IT) and POTATO SALAD. I don’t know why I just yelled that. I ran to my office and grabbed my effin rhubarb salad and my water and joined my co-workers in the conference room with every intention of not straying. And then five minutes later I had a sliver of bbq chicken and one teaspoon of macaroni salad in my container and I ate it super slow. I savored EVERY BITE and then got upset because I have done some pretty hard shit in my life. Why can I not control what goes in my mouth?

9:00: I told myself I was going to have a hard boiled egg because I’m certain not consuming protein is a death wish. There is no way this program knows what it’s talking about. But then I didn’t, so win there! Oh, let’s also throw in that I weighed myself this morning and I didn’t lose ONE OUNCE of weight yet. And somehow that’s determining my success with this. Goodnight, world. I cannot with today, anymore.

Day 3

I woke up this morning, drank my water and felt a little better. I almost just typed refreshed but I refuse to give this program any kudos. Yet.

Some point in the middle of the day: I am not starving. My thoughts are not consumed with food on the constant. I have felt more awake, more able. More in CONTROL and that is pretty phenomenal. The whole day goes by and I’m drinking my water, eating my food, following the plan and not once do I feel deprived today. I’m doing the thing. I’m friggin crushing it!

9:00: Ku and I pack for Hawaii and my whole time home I didn’t think about how I was so hungry and needed dinner now. I had a half a cucumber and felt good. WHAT THE WHAT? We went downstairs after getting a lot of packing done and Ku made some quesadillas and convinced me to have half of one. It was a whole wheat tortilla and some crock pot pork, so I decided to have it. I only ate the half, ate it slow, really enjoyed it and had ONE GLASS of wine. Over the course of two hours. If I won at anything, it was in THAT.

When I woke up Thursday, off the refresh, I didn’t immediately want food. I feel like I look the same, perhaps a touch less bloated. I took my after photos and see it, that the bloat is gone. I want to keep that ish going! Where the real transformation happened is in my mentality about food. I have not forgotten the feeling of absolute emptiness I had on Day 1 and Day 2. I always knew I was an emotional eater; I mean, I’ve been living this life for 35 damn years! Really seeing the grip my nutrition has on me made me realize why I haven’t had more success in my journey. It makes TOTAL.SENSE. Overall, I’m down four pounds. I don’t want them back. I’m cutting those toxic pounds out of my life FOR GOOD because they have been like herpes with my health journey. BE GONE!

I’m not going to say I’m going to be perfect from here on out, because I cannot lie to my friends. I will say that I’m going to try maintain smaller portions, remind myself I do not really need more food or carbs or an eff ton of meat (that was the hardest, giving up my meats. I don’t know how vegetarians do it!) or six glasses of wine. Because all of that has happened.

You want to try the refresh out? Hit me up. I would totally be up for torturing myself alongside you, because who doesn’t want to push the boundaries of just how much your loved ones will put up with. AMIRIGHT?!?!

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The trigger effect

forgivenessA car door slamming shut outside. Unexpected people walking up behind me. Fast movements out of the corner of my eye. Our account balance dipping below a certain dollar amount. Roses and tiramisu. Innocent questions about silly things like dinner or what I did all day. Tall men who tower over me.

All such different things but each with the same effect on me. They are triggers. My triggers that instantly put me somewhere scary, places where my breath is stuck, my heart is racing. They make me disoriented, flood me with adrenaline and put a wall around my brain within seconds.

A friend recently compared herself to me. She said she was an open book, just like I was and I really pondered that comment for days. Maybe even weeks. Am I really that open, I wondered? Yes, I put myself out there and talk about very vulnerable moments in my life. Are you an open book if you only share certain chapters? I will answer almost anyone’s questions as honestly as I can, and yet I think so much of me remains hidden. There are easy things to talk about such as being a mom raising three boys with my wife by my side. I can talk about my weight and what I’m doing to get healthy on the inside and even how I’m helping my brain and my mind feel better. I like to share love stories, laughter, the stupid things I do because the journey of rebuilding has been such a beautiful process. Even the lows are incredible highs compared to before.

I couldn’t even think about my decade long of surviving domestic violence until recently. Watching anything remotely like what I had put up with on TV gave me anxiety, made me look away with pain and disappointment. Friends would ask me some questions and I would freeze up, trying to figure out how to change the conversation immediately. Yes, I bring it up now, but still mostly in written form. My throat seizes up. It doesn’t even take asking. It could happen at the drop of a dime at any one of the triggers listed above, many more I can’t think of at the moment. For ten whole years, I was in flight or fight with sprinklings of okay moments I could handle. It wasn’t always horrible but I always felt unsafe.

About a year ago I downloaded The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and would play it whenever I drove somewhere. At first I told myself that I had picked it out of a long list of books I wanted to read because it popped up on the “recommended” list and was on sale. The reality is that I needed this book in my life; forgiveness doesn’t come easy to most but it was undoable for me. I held on to things so fiercely. I began to listen to it with this “I will never forgive him” mentality. Let’s hear what Desmond has to say. Either way, I will not forgive him. I will not forgive them because I had an Arya Stark list of who had egregiously wronged me and it was written in stone.

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The book began and I was surprised at how calming it was. Desmond Tutu narrates it and while his voice is nothing close to monotonous, he manages to maintain his voice at the same volume, with inflection and emotion but never overwhelming. I found I couldn’t listen to it with the close-minded mentality I had hit download with. Little by little I found myself excited to drive somewhere. My commute to work was pleasant now, enriching my thoughts. I still felt like I couldn’t figure out forgiveness, but I kept listening. My heart was yearning for something and this was helping me listen.

**If you think I’m about to say I finally forgave my ex to which your response will be an eye roll or something equally justifiable, please bear with me.**

“Forgiveness means you are given another chance at a new beginning,” he said gently. I needed him to say that without fire or passion. I needed it to creep into my heart through the breaks and the cracks, and somehow he knew that was the only way. When I heard that, I parked my car in its normal stall, turned it off and took a few deep breaths. I have been so hell bent on rewriting my shitty first draft. I was CRUSHING it, in my opinion even though I knew I had some major road blocks. I didn’t think this was one of them. “If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.” When he said this, I literally stopped in my tracks. Well, un-literally, as I was driving, but my thoughts did! It was in that moment that I realized I didn’t endure 3.650 days (plus some) of mental, physical and verbal abuse to spend ONE MINUTE more on it. “When we forgive, we take back control of our fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.”

And that was my ah-ha moment, friends. It was in that moment that I realized I needed first and foremost, to forgive myself. And I needed to forgive FOR myself, as well. The thing is, reading (or in this case, hearing) something said to me, no matter how absolutely perfect and full of sense it is, doesn’t fix the problem automatically. It still takes action. Requires a sense of desire, at least, to move forward towards that. One tactic Desmond shares, some wisdom he so graciously shared, was to give your hurt a voice. Don’t brush it aside and pretend it never happened, but rather, talk it out, talk about it with friends, write your thoughts down in a journal, pick a rock and name it your hurt. Carry it in your pocket and rub it in your hand and when you’re ready, place it somewhere. Leave it there. Behind you, rather than carrying it with you on your person.

I only did one of those things, and it was to begin journaling about it. Except, it was kind of an accident and it happened without me realizing it. That journal is this blog. Did I start this whole endeavor thinking, “What about my past life of hell am I going to share with my friends today?” No. But little by little, I keep thinking of things I want to share and often times, it’s about that. It makes perfect sense to me. My past marriage was wrought with so much pain on so many levels. I didn’t jump out of a vehicle and run for my life one night, five years ago to just move on and get over it in one day. Hell, it took me almost three years to even really start saying something to someone other than Ku. If someone would have said I would join the board of DVSAS even two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I might have called you a liar. Even reaching out about joining gave me sky-high anxiety. And it was in that second that I knew I had to do it. Enough with being comfortable. Enough with wallowing in my inner pity party. I had to continue rebuilding and this was me staying on that path.

While listening to Desmond’s book has opened my heart up to understanding forgiveness, not just in the case of my ex-husband, but also other travesties I’ve held deep inside, I will say I didn’t come out SAVED by it. A book isn’t saving me any more than any one thing will. It merely provided me with some necessary tools to begin my own process. For me, forgiveness has become less about letting someone off the hook for something they may not even be sorry for, but freeing myself from all the negative energies that were binding me to them.

So, what about those pesky triggers? I can talk and talk about the act of forgiving; feel really good about life in general, and then I’ll hear a car pull into the garage and the door slam shut and before I know it I’ve jumped off the couch and rushed to the kitchen to pretend I was busy preparing a dinner I hate because I can’t cook and I already know nobody will like it. Except it’s Ku that walks in the door, excited to see me, giving me a hug and a kiss and I act like I wasn’t just in freak out mode, like I am not scrambling to make something because I remember that she was cooking dinner tonight. I hear one of the boys come in from playing outside and they are happy and everyone’s smiling and I realize I’m not in a small apartment with almost no furniture with someone yelling at me, pushing me against a wall. And it’s been over FIVE years.

Two weeks ago I attended a work luncheon about preventing bullying in the workplace. The facilitator was a retired law enforcement official. He was squirrelly, spoke robustly, but never made me feel intimidated. I suppose that matched the theme of his session, now that I look back. He went over what bullying is, why people do it, what to do if you see it happening, and why people don’t step in when they witness it. I found myself listening more for information that I could take back to my kiddos, especially Abraham. I wasn’t listening necessarily for myself, but rather to pass on when I saw fit. And then a face in the crowd asked a question that he read into deeper. He had said earlier that he estimated about 70-80% of any given crowd has been a victim of bullying, which he defined as an abuse of power that is repeated. He began discussing triggers, because we tend to respond differently to conflict when we personally feel triggered.

I perked up because I know I have some. Fearlessly, and I’m not sure where this came from, but I shot my hand up. It had just the right amount of gumption, because he saw it right away and called on me.

“Let’s say you recognize a trigger. How do you desensitize yourself from it?” I asked him. He looked around the room. “Does anyone else here want to know? It’s not really what today is about, but if enough people in the room are up for it, I can take a moment and give one desensitizing trick I’ve learned.” I’m guessing enough heads bobbed yes for him to dive in. “Here it is,” he said.

Step 1: Take a handful of deep breaths. Really deep breaths. Breathe in slow and breathe out slow.

Step 2: Tell yourself the date and where you are. This helps bring your brain back from whatever memory it decided to visit. It confuses it, stops the synapses mid-way and recalls them to somewhere else. Somewhere safe.

Step 3: Tell yourself you are ok. Say it as many times as you need to.

It could sound like this: Deep breath. Deep breath. Deep breath. Today is Monday, May 22, 2017 and I’m in my kitchen. I am ok. I am ok. I am safe. I am ok.

I don’t remember much of his other content. I’m glad he answered this and gave us some help. I’ve tried it out twice now and so far, so good. While I hope I don’t need to use it anymore, I know that isn’t logical so I will keep applying it, keep saying it, and keep breathing because I am okay. I am safe and I am happy.

And thank you for reading this. You are helping me heal.

Crazy Vee

 

 

When did you know?

 

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It doesn’t get much cuter than this!

 

When people ask me who I am I never think “Lesbian.” I almost always describe myself as a mother, a wife, an aficionado of wine, a lover of fat babies and children in general, a jokester, a wit mcgrit, a rhymer in an un-rapstar kind of way, a smart-ass, a badass, a babe. I dig the Gilmore Girls, Game of Thrones, reading of all sorts, writing; I am a Human Resources professional, I’m a developer of people, curator of ideas, a doer, a shaker. I’m ALWAYS A BOSS.

And yet, I’m asked often times the same question. I’m quite alright with it, so if you’re reading this and cringing because you’ve also asked me about my sexuality in some way, shape or form, don’t think for one moment it has offended me. It hasn’t. I welcome it, in honesty, because I’m also thinking my way through it for better ways to explain what I feel inside of me.

We have somehow become a society of labels. Sometimes those labels fit us so well, like wine-lover, and others we want to immediately throw out the window and not accept, such as overweight. We don’t always want to be just one of them, sometimes we want to add more to our plate and other times we don’t even know we have earned a new one.

I feel like that last one was my case, five plus years ago, when I fell in love for real, for the legit first time, forever. Not once did I stop and think about the gender of who I was falling for. There was no time for that. It was more of an excitement, a rustle in the air of emotions and charged feelings. What I have continually tried to explain is that I never once stopped and said, “Whoa, I’m in love with a girl.” All I could think was, “This is love. This is real.”

I don’t have a coming-out story like some do. Telling friends or family I was gay just never happened. At least not like it did for a lot, who maybe realized their attraction at an early age and tried to hide it. Or understanding how you want to look or dress and then “breaking the news to your people.” I can’t say if it’s because I didn’t know, or didn’t recognize. My sharing of a love story was me introducing her to family and friends. Just pulled the band aid off and did it. I didn’t worry about it one bit. I wasn’t scared. I was so damn excited about turning a new leaf, changing my life, taking a plunge, not in loving her, but in throwing away my shitty first draft and starting over. My loving a woman was the last bullet point on a new outline for life. It wasn’t saying, “Hey everyone, I love a woman.” It was me shouting, “Hey everyone, I AM IN LOVE.”

When the questions eventually started, because they inevitably do, that was when I realized it was a major change for people. Apparently you can’t drink coffee with cream your whole life and then cold turkey go to black (or vice-versa) without having to explain the ins and outs to people. They hit you with a stack of ideas that could make it acceptable. It’s not always the same but can look something like this.

“Ooooooh, it was probably because he was abusive to you. Are you scared of guys now?” No.

“Is this a phase? What if you change your mind again? And is this weird for your kids?” No.

“Was he not good in bed? You just decided to give ladies a try? He was just that terrible?” No.

And the ever perplexing: “That must be really embarrassing for him. His wife leaving him for a woman?” WHAT THE WHAT?!?!! Sure. Let’s all take a moment and have a moment of silence for the asshole that still haunts my nightmares. Let’s hope his miniature man balls can take such a blow. Sheesh.

People want to know what brought it about, they want to find reasons in the chaos, they sit and rack their brain about why you made this choice. And yet I don’t remember ever clearing choosing a woman. I merely let my heart decide. I can’t even say if I would be with another woman if something happened to us. I just know that I have never felt so connected to a man. I haven’t felt this immense, overwhelmingly beautiful pull to a man. What I can say is that the universe knew it was time for me to be happy and placed the PERFECT person in my path. I was luckily paying attention. Sometimes we aren’t, though. Right? There could very well be many of us who had amazing options right in front of our face and we chose to look right through them. It can be a best guy friend who wants to give a relationship a shot but you aren’t up for it, because you don’t want to lose a friendship. It could be the “nice guy” who just doesn’t make you feel butterflies in your stomach. It could be the ex of a friend and you can’t break the girl code. It could be someone of a different ethnicity or your same race who you’ve sworn you would never date because of it. Either way, it comes out in your questions to me.

I won’t say Kulia and I haven’t discussed what this is for the boys. It was really more of a slow process, because they were dealing with the divorce, which was hard for them. There were so many changes with that and a period of time they didn’t see their Dad due to a restraining order. That was the hard part and so we handled them gently. She was there as a friend and a confidant for them. She was around in such a seamless way and eventually, when it was time, we got a place together and they never batted an eye. She was so safe for them and they could feel it and they wanted her to live with us. We never openly engage in PDA around them, minus holding hands and an occasional peck on the lips, but not because we are two ladies. It’s because it’s not appropriate, even if we were hetero. There’s a place and a time for such acts, and we have never thought it was to be in front of the kiddos. We let them slowly understand we weren’t just best friends but also in love. We are respectful to not flaunt our relationship at their school events or outings but we also don’t hide it. We have always operated with 100% honesty, with them, with our family, with our friends, and with anyone who asks.

I promise that. Always honesty because I haven’t felt for one second that our love is not a beautiful thing. I hold her hand with pride, I smile when I call her my wife. I love that the boys couldn’t imagine life without her. I won’t hide it and I won’t shy away from any questions in regards to it. You have any? Hit me with them! I will always answer them. All I’m saying is, love has never been a choice when it comes to her. She was always meant for me and me for her and we had no say in the whole, entire matter.

 

 

 

The Birth of Vee

Being as I have officially reached my half-way point in life, at 35 years, I can really reflect on the last half of my life and have some real talk. Both with myself, and with my friends.

My whole entire life (well, the first half, stop correcting me) I was known as Virginia. People have forever been trying to give me a nickname. Seriously. There is the EVER ANNOYING Vicky, Ginny, Ginger (!?!?!), Vagine (but in the gross sense because kids are mean), and Virg. Ewwww. I never took a liking to a single one. I only ever answered to Virginia. I get asked all the damn time about if I realized I’m named after a state (and I mean, HOW COULD I NOT KNOW, LIVING IN THE USA!?!?!?!), they play the “There REALLY IS a Santa Claus!” with me, they mention queens, etc. Name games are so fun unless they are about you. It’s slap-your-knee funny except it isn’t. Everybody in my life called me Virginia.

And then my life stopped on April 14th, five entire years ago. And Vee was born.

It wasn’t foreseen but it should have been. For a legit decade, ten years, 3,650 days give or take a few, I had been living in my own personal hell. Granted, there were good days. Of course there were. I won’t say it was non-stop. It just gradually began to feel that way, slowly, like you’re falling asleep. Little by little, Virginia was fading away as each day, week, month, and year passed. That light I had been born with was dimming. I could see it and yet I couldn’t find the strength to relight it.

It’s weird, what trauma will do to you. It’s even more bizarre what repeating trauma does. To you. Today I woke up and felt blah. It’s unlike me but it does happen. My head and my heart very rarely are on different pages, because for the better part of the last five years I have been trying to rebuild who I am, because I gave myself a chance to start over. I talk so much about rewriting your shitty first draft but five years ago, ON THIS DAY, I threw away the whole damn book. I grabbed a new pen, found page freaking one, and started the HELL OVER. Today, though, my head was happy and my heart was heavy. I already knew why, though. I’m forever remembering numbers and dates and moments in my life. I can’t help it.

When I met Kulia, forces in nature began to bring us together. First with daily lunch dates, even though that’s not the right way to describe it. I hadn’t told one single person about what I had been going through for the past ten years and yet with her, I began to feel like maybe I could. How do you reach out to your family and friends, out of what would seem like nowhere, and say to them, “I’ve been a victim of domestic violence for the past decade?” How do you start that conversation? And what would they do? If they hadn’t seen it, or noticed it, or even wondered the whole entire time, could you trust them to know what to do? And WHAT DO YOU DO? That’s the real question. It is the question I had been asking myself, over and over, every day, for the past 120 months. It isn’t lost upon me that if one of my friends had come to me and said ANY of the words I had about what I was going through, I wouldn’t have known where to start, either.

I’m not blaming anyone for not helping me. I couldn’t even help myself, guys.

She (Kulia) talks often about how she thought I was happily married when we met. It isn’t just that I was putting on a show for anyone, but more because I can find a reason to smile every day. I had my boys, who I will forever acknowledge as my life savers and that wasn’t lost upon me. Without them I don’t know if I would be here, today. I had a fantastic job. There were positive things in my life and I used them as a shield. My smile was my sword. As we learned more about each other, I felt safer. I started to feel like the old me. I had a sincere laugh around her. Without knowing what she was doing, she was bringing me back to the ground, because all I had been doing, what was helping me deal, was floating outside of myself. I rarely felt like I knew who I was. She started to help me remember.

As I remembered how to blossom he noticed the changes. I started to find words to tell him that I used to be afraid of saying. I started to defend myself. It didn’t take him long to piece together that it was around the time her and I became friends. Except this time, I wasn’t getting convinced to stay. I told him I didn’t love him. I told him I never had. And he lost his damn mind. He started to pull the boys into it. Brought Samuel into the living room and demanded he choose, in that moment, if he wanted to live with him or with me, should we split. I started to see a maniac emerge, when all I had known was Devil’s Rage. When I wasn’t home he would harass my phone. He had to travel to the mainland for a few days and I didn’t answer his calls one night. He was upset I had gone out to dinner with friends and before I knew it, there was something like seventy-eight missed calls on my phone.

The more psychotic he became, the more I knew my life was becoming precarious. I read a statistic recently that said that 50% of domestic violence victims lose their life to their offender. It brought me back to those moments. He came home and big fights happened. More and more frequently and I didn’t know how to stop them anymore. I didn’t even want to. One day on my way home from work, as I walked there, he called me. “I’m in the car. With your kids. We are headed to the airport. You’ll never see them again.” And then out loud, in a scary voice, he said, “Tell your Mom bye, boys.” I tried to run home, frantic, because I didn’t doubt any of it for one moment, but I wasn’t a runner then. I couldn’t go more than ten seconds without having to stop and catch my breath. I never hated my body as much as that day, thinking I would never see my children again.

And then April 14th. My REBIRTH-DAY. Another dinner date with friends. Kulia was with me. As we enjoyed our meal and some wine, he called. A lot of times. I wouldn’t answer because I was hashtag OVER IT. Of course, he made it about the boys. “Abraham is sick and has a fever and there is no medicine in the house. I bet you don’t even care,” his voicemail said. So, I told her I had to get home. She took me to get medicine and then dropped me off. The next time I called her was for her to find me at a busy intersection.

I won’t go into everything that happened that night. I don’t even think I remember all of it. It was one of the scariest nights of my life, and then the best. Without thinking about it, without giving it a second thought, I found myself, less than four hours later but what only seemed like four minutes, jumping out of a moving vehicle and running, again, for my life. I didn’t have my kids with me. The threat of them leaving the island was still very real but I couldn’t stay with him and give him ONE MORE DAY with me, not one more moment. I had to trust that he would keep his word, just this once, and not run off with my little men.

When I told my Dad about it, for the first time and not without some anxiety, a few days later, he said he was proud of me. “You have to show yourself some respect, Mija,” he told me. And it finally made sense. We went on to have an incredible conversation about divorce when I got back to the mainland, a couple weeks later. It was one of the best conversations we had as father and daughter, in a way we never had before.

Whenever I think about that April 14th in my life, I feel my heart race. It has replayed in my dreams many times. I can’t escape it and this is the first time I’ve woken up on it and not hated the day. Never because of what I did to help myself, but more because of what had to happen for me to find that insane second of courage to finally do it. I feel like this is the first time, in the past five years, that I woke up and felt like I had finally forgiven myself for it, which seems backwards. Shouldn’t I be so proud of having done all that?

Yes, I am. But it’s hard to acknowledge every piece of that puzzle, for me. Sharing my story has helped me move forward, but it has come with a price that I didn’t know would be paid. Thinking about it keeps it fresh in my mind. My heart gets tender, my brain wants to forget, my body finds itself in fight or flight and I can hardly breathe sometimes. A friend told me recently that she’s like me, an open book. I agree to an extent that I can be, but so much remains off topic. So much still, hasn’t allowed itself to come to surface.

And then I try to imagine how Kulia must have felt, to get a call from me just so many hours after she had dropped me off, at a place she knew I wasn’t safe in. She had to have known that it wouldn’t be a happy call, although it was the happiest call, too. And to put herself out there and be vulnerable, without knowing what could come next. I try to remember that when we argue. That even when I’m upset with her or her with me, she has never made me want to jump out of a car and risk injury to myself. She’s never made me feel like I’m garbage or unwanted. She’s never made me think the next breath could be my last. When she answered my phone call, she never said no to me. She took Vee and made it feel right, made it feel like love.

She’s continued to encourage me to find this voice and use it. When I said I wanted to be on the board of the local DVSAS (Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services) in the area, she knew it was the place for me.  And it happened! I was just voted on, unanimously, by the board this week and begin a new chapter, as a Domestic Violence Victor. I can use my words and my love to help others in this community. My mid-way point has just continued to get better. It feels amazing to be seen as someone who can make an impact. I mean to do just so.

I will never say starting over is easy. It was the fourth hardest thing I’ve ever done, and yes, I keep track. I have found so much beauty, though, in those moments. I’ll continue to share them with you all, as I find the voice for them. And April 14th will no longer be a dark day for my life. It is light and I will honor it.

Happy REBIRTH-DAY to me!

 

The Meaning of 35

My birthday is twelve days away and has become quite the topic in our household. There’s the obvious reason, which is that ALL OF APRIL is reserved for the celebration of me…and also deciding how and when to do as many parties as we can. Will there be a theme? Dinner at a nice place? Kids or no kids? And if no kids, when is the party with the angels/monsters?

I think all days of birth are major freakin events. Mine, my wife’s, my family’s days, my co-workers, all my friends. I endorse all celebrations. I believe every year is magical and equally, if not more, important than previous milestones. I find incredible significance in making it around the sun another revolution. It’s a big deal! Eat ALL the cake. All of it. Smash it all over your face. Birthdays are that exciting to me. Now.

My parents have never been great at making big to do’s for the anniversary of your birth. They mean well and appreciate and love, but they are not the ones who do grandiose gestures of love or try really hard to embarrass you out in public or surprise you with all of your close friends. Mostly because that is not their nature and that is not their style. This has GOT to be a HUMONGOUS reason why I first began to love birthdays. It is not, however, the only one. In my previous relationship, my birthday was no big deal. Let’s chalk that up to it wasn’t where I was supposed to be and those were never my people. How do you celebrate someone that just doesn’t belong with your tribe? I get it. I never liked it the other way around, either. With that said, I had over a decade of no big hoorah made over April 10th. This is not a poor me post. I promise. Just stick with me.

My life quite literally changed as I moved from 29 to 30. I had been in a horrible situation for the better part of a decade and had reached a point where ENOUGH finally meant JUST THAT. I had stopped thinking about what if and had focused on HOW. As my thirtieth birthday drew closer, so did my anticipation of a new beginning. I was hyper-focused on finding that one second of insane courage that I needed and the promise of my thirties really felt like they were bringing NEW LIFE to my being. I anticipated this one. BIG TIME.

And I couldn’t wait for thirty-one. I began to name my birthdays with fun little rhymes or puns. This should come as no surprise to anyone. We pun everything in our life. So, it was thirty wonderful. Followed by thirty two good to be true, dirty tree, and thirty four more. The last one wasn’t my best work. My apologies.

As I began to reflect over the last year and tried to find a new pun for my upcoming day, I started to think about what 35 meant to me. Really, I want some meaning behind it. Something more than just a day to dress up and feel special. What does that whole NEW ORBIT around the golden globe mean to me? The more thought I gave it, the more it became clear. This is it. My Halfsie. There’s no silly pun or rhyme for this gem. It has a whole new category and it is journey based. I am considering this my half-ways point in life.

Of course, once I decided upon this newfound title for my LIFE DAY, I immediately shared it with Kulia. She was insta-pissed. “How dare you think that you’re only living another 35 years after this!” She has not moved on from that argument. She loves me sooooo much that she cannot fathom only having that many more years left with me. It’s easy to focus on that aspect and I want to clarify that I, by no means whatsoever, believe that I am prophesizing my downfall. Not one bit. Really, it’s an awareness for my SELF. I spent so much of my previous years learning and failing, falling and dusting myself back off in ungraceful manners. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be. I hadn’t mastered the art of mastering my facial expressions and I had lost the remote to my mouth filter. My first AT LEAST thirty years were NOT PRETTY, friends. Some humans can be path-less with their life and be super cute about it. I think my beauty has found me slowly, with age and wisdom. I plan on being supermodel status by the time I reach my elusive seventieth birthday.

What I’m trying to explain is that my half ways life celebration is to keep me from taking any days for granted, to continue to make me strive to better myself and inspire those around me, to continue to improve. If I hit the next milestone feeling like I kept on doing all of the above, MAN, I’ll be on cloud friggin nine. This birthday is a reminder to not be complacent. LIFE IS SHORT and I want to keep the goal in sight. And that is not to die at seventy. It is to reach seventy and feel like I made great contributions to humanity, in as many shapes and forms and ways as possible.

A friend was recently given days to live. Her body began to shut down and I don’t know how any of her people will ever be the same when she passes. Life does this to us, sometimes. It takes someone we know and removes them from our lives forever and we are left behind to help each other figure out the why and how for moving on. We never know who will be next and we will always wonder what could have been done differently. We try to not be sad about it, even as we await the inevitable and yet, our hearts grow heavy and big sacks of feelings just plaster themselves into our throats to make breathing hard. How do you say goodbye to a friend? How do you watch your friends say goodbye to their best friends? How do you help pick up the people that can’t imagine their lives without her? I never have the right words for these things. No soothing words for these events and I know we will all be there one day. Mine just might be my 7-0.

And if I make it past seventy?!?

Well, then it’ll be a welcome surprise to everyone still around. And I will be even more grateful for more spins around the sun. Love with your whole heart everyone who touches your life. Consider that they may not always be around you. Remind them how much they mean to you and make their birthdays the BEST DAYS ON EARTH.