Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Walking Through the Fire

Last night, I slept.

For those of you who know me, you will understand why that is worth celebrating. For those that are my online friends, know that I don't sleep very well or very often. But last night, I fell into a deep, restful sleep. Because I had walked through the fire.
I don't know why my thoughts shifted yesterday. But they did, and all the pieces fell into place and the earthquake finally made sense. I understood my role. I saw why things needed to happen the way they did. I now know how my story is going to end. Or, at least, how it is not going to end.

Since that horrible F.U. evening that changed everything, I could clearly see the path Mr. E needed to take. When I saw him the following day, I told him what he needed to do. He needed to go back to his children. He needed professional help getting himself grounded and emotionally well. He needed to repair relationships. He needed to stop self-medicating and start taking care of his body. He needed to find control and find happiness.

I knew, as I was saying all this to him in the middle of a noisy restaurant, that what I was also saying was:
You need to leave me behind. 

I have been thinking over the last few weeks that I should have pushed E more strongly to return to his children. My actions may not have backed up what I was saying he should do. Because I also wanted him near me. And I knew I could never go with him.  Maybe I didn't push hard enough. But over the last few days, I realized that there were other women in his queue that would have stepped into the vacancy that I would have created if I had pushed harder. E would have quickly tired of hearing about all the things I thought he needed. He would start to see me as just another harpy bitch that was trying to tell him what to do. And another woman would have jumped into that void, interfering with what he needed to do.

So it had to happen this way. I was a placeholder until he was ready to go back and renew his relationships with his children.

Earthquakes create a new landscape. They cleave continents in half, sending each in a different direction. My job--my role, my task--was to make sure Mr. E was on the right continent as mine drifted away from his. And he is. He is with his children. Everything else--all other fallout, the pain, the sadness--it is only an afterthought. It means nothing. A minor casualty. E is where he needs to be. 

The day my son was born--the hour he was born--I knew I would be in this parenting thing alone. I was heavily drugged as the C-section was going on beyond a drape. But I remember a couple things very clearly: the nurse saying 10:45, my mom tapping me on the shoulder and pointing to a red, squalling baby, my son's scrunched up face being brought down to my eye level so I could look at him.

By 11:45, I knew how things would play out. We were wheeled back to my room, and introductions were made. Newly minted aunts touched his tiny hands and kissed his beautiful face. The grandparents held him, cooing messages of love. Then my ex, the Tornado, said, "OK, I'm going to take my mom to see the condo."

It was almost midnight after a very long day. It's true that his mom and sister hadn't seen the condo we were living in since we moved back to Salt Lake. But they weren't leaving for their home right away. There would be time tomorrow. But T insisted on showing her right then.

My dad tried to intervene. He said he would take T's mom to see the condo so that T could stay with his wife and brand new baby. But T left anyway. 

I was alone with my baby, recounting fingers and adjusting his little hat so I could peek at his hair. The nurse came in to tell me she needed to clean me up a bit. She was a little surprised I was alone and asked where my husband was. I mumbled something about him running home, too mortified to tell her the reason why. The nurse told me she would have to take the baby to the nursery while she took care of my post-childbirth needs. 

That is when I knew. I was alone in this. I burst into tears. That lovely woman pulled a chair over to the side of bed and put my little Kidlet burrito in the nook where the back meets the seat. He dozed while the nurse did what she needed to do, then she returned him to my arms. 

From that moment, my life had purpose. I knew how I would make the world a better place. I would raise a man that would never leave his children alone when they needed him. My very tiny gift to the world would be to leave behind a decent man. A good man. 

I am very heartbroken right now. I just hurt in indescribable ways. By pushing E south--back to his kids--I knew I would lose him. I'm not sure why it actually took me by surprise. 

But it gives me such happiness to think I have a small hand in the raising two more good men. Those little men need their dad more than any adult needs any other adult. Those little southern boys will grow to be good husbands, good fathers, and good people.

An earthquake creates volcanos. Fire cleanses. My path is now clear to do the things I am going to need to do. The things I am determined to accomplish. Things that I might have hesitated doing if I was holding on too tightly to something that needed to drift away. I see what needs to happen now.

Before I tried to sleep last night, I saw this posted online. 

Now I know everyone I love is going to be ok as I take care of what needs to be done next. My karmic debt is paid. My purpose in the earthquake has been fulfilled. I loved with all my heart, I lived as gently as I knew how, and I let go. Some people are consumed by the fire. The strong ones walk through.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Living Life in the Front Row

Never pass up the opportunity to sit in the Suicide Seats.

If you ever go to a Derby bout, you may notice that there are some diehard fans sitting 10 feet away from the track, in the Suicide Seats. It’s dangerous. You have a very real possibility of getting a skate in the ear or a Derby Girl in your lap. That is not as hot as it sounds. There is a distinct odor of unwashed pads and ferocity.

And they are the best seats in the house.

My heart is healing more and more each day. I was talking to my friend Drew about how my brain needs to take over decision-making from my heart. He actually had a different perspective:

Yeah, the head & heart are usually at odds with each other; but I've learned that at its core, the heart actually knows what's best.  It truly knows what you want & how you want to be treated. 

The head tries to rationalize everything, the bad and the good. It's very logic based and analytical. "Why does this happen?" Or, "Why am I like this?"  It is looking for a list of answers, like a Google search result. The problem is that stupid little voice in our heads that says...  “Because you’re stupid. You deserve it. You’re worthless.” And every other negative thought or comment you ever had or heard. 

The head also holds on to regret—"I should of known better"—that the heart does not.  

Always follow your heart.
When my friend Kurt asked me how I can possibly be single, I told him the story that brought me back to the dating pool. His response was incredibly uplifting:

Hey Queen of Marigold, (Isn't that the best nickname ever?!?)

That is a very sad story. I am very sorry that such a smart and beautiful (and patient, definitely patient!) woman like yourself had to experience this. You must have really loved him.

What an idiot that dude is. But, you already know that.

I dig that flower on your shoulder!
And your eyes light up when you smile - that is super cool!
And anyone to whom your smile is addressed must feel very warm and happy and lucky. That's a wonderful gift you have. And anyone who gives up that smile doesn’t  deserve the color your bring into the world.

Kurt sent me this link:

Kurt’s link intrigued me. The article was compiled by asking people: How do you live life to the fullest?

The responses are great, and so worth taking to heart. But a couple of them jumped out and bit me on the nose. They demanded my attention.

Forget the past and don’t concern yourself with the future.
I can’t change a single thing that has already happened. And I can’t control a single thing that is going to happen. So I need to stop trying to. There are so many things I wish I could go back and change. I wish I never accepted a second Earthquake date. I wish I had dumped his sorry ass the moment I found out about the first lie. But I didn’t, and I can’t change that.

Maybe someday, I will look back on this and see some purpose. But not today. 

Not concerning myself with the future is also a bit troubling for me. There are things in my future that I have to prepare for. I have to be concerned about the day when I might not walk. I can almost guarantee that there will be a time when my right eye will be worthless. I need to concern myself with that possibility.

But, I get the point. I don’t need to spend my very limited energy fretting about what my life will look like in 10 years.  And I already know what it will look like. I will be in a disaster-free world, surrounded by people who honestly love me. I think that is the most anyone can ask for.

Step through new doors. The majority of the time there’s something fantastic on the other side.
I’ll agree with that for the most part. But there is a part two of that thought:

Believe in live and let live.
This is not something you do for others. You do it for yourself.

Learn to forgive and embrace unconditional love.
This one gave me pause. I’m not sure there is such a thing as unconditional love, except possibly the love between parent and child. And I am not sure I want there to be. Most love has limits. It needs to change and evolve. I think love needs to be earned. Every day.
I think there is only one person you should offer unconditional love (aside from your children) is yourself. You deserve it.

Live every day as if it’s your last, embracing each experience as if it’s your first.
I am not sure I like this one either. I don’t think anyone should embrace an experience as if you have never had it before. I think that we all need to apply the lessons we learned from our past to make decisions about our present. For example, the next time I find condoms in a drawer and know that they were not used with me, I will not put my head on the sand and hope it goes away. 

And I understand the idea behind living each day as your last. Life is uncertain. But my mortality has been shoved in my face over the last 9 months or so. Sometimes, I just don’t want to think about it.
Use quiet reflection, honesty, and laughter.
Those three things have been seriously deficient in my life. Like the lack Vitamin D in my body, that may or may not have caused my disappearing myelin, I need to up my levels.

I am not without responsibility in the Earthquake disaster. I lied too. I lied to myself. Well, and I faked a few orgasms…. But we all do that from time to time. After an hour or so, it's time to sleep. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff.
And, isn’t it all small stuff, really?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Warning: No Lifeguard on Duty

So, I have—once again—been tossed back into the dating pool. It seems a little more shallow each time I wade in. I really believed I wouldn’t be back here. But, here I am.

One thing I immediately saw: you guys need to let me help you. Please, let me coach you a little about online dating.

Keep your composure
Let’s start with the initial message sent to a potential date. It really is not that complicated. Take five minutes to compose it. Take the entire five minutes.

Here is a small sampling of what NOT to say when communicating to someone new:

I have a large tongue.
So does Gene Simmons. Not a selling point.

I’m super fit and super hung.
This only works if you are on Grindr.

My eyes are black.
OK, Rosemary’s Baby.

If you are in doubt about whether you should include something in your response email, feel free to message me with a question. Or just don’t include it. That's what I would suggest you do anyway.

Don’t ask someone to hit you up. It makes them want to hit you upside the head.

Don’t write a long list of what you already don’t like about someone. This was one I got a couple days ago:

I would never be rude to someone for who they are.  If I don’t find you attractive I promise not to jump into bed with you.  Not crazy about ink.  I have known girls with a rose or butterfly and I find that attractive. If you pull your clothes off and look like a newspaper, I am not too crazy about that, but I am not looking to just jump into bed.  I could have dinner and a conversation with a person with ink.  I am not that judgmental.

Back off ladies. I saw him first.

After you have composed your response, read through it, eliminating anything creepy or obnoxious. You will want to run a spell check. It's the simplest thing to do. Your computer wants to help you look like you made it through 8th grade. Let it do its job.
Scan your message for any use of one-character replacements for actual words. U dnt need 2 rite like a 12 yr old grl. This isn’t Twitter. You are not character limited. Spell out your damn words.

Speaking of words, use more than ten. Never send a message with less than that. For example, do not use:

Hi hon, u r so cute :-)

Hope to hear back.

How're you doing?

Hey sexy

what kinda stuff are you in to?

I’m married. Is that ok?

If you have any hope of having sex with this person, DO NOT mention sex! Don’t even go there. No asking about favorite positions. No mentioning that you’ve got 5 inches, but it’s thick. Stay away from bragging about your kissing ability. And under no circumstances are you to discuss your oral skills or inquire about hers. You behave yourself, and you might just find out about them the fun way.

Here, I’ll make it easy. Copy and paste this.

Hi there! I really liked your profile. You sound really cool and you are very pretty. <Put a color she was wearing here> is really your color. Would you tell me a little more about yourself? Where did you grow up? Do you have a favorite drink?

Hope to hear from you soon.

<put your name here>

Worth 1000 words
Let’s talk about pictures. First off, do everything in your ability to not look like a serial killer. Try smiling.
Selfies are sometimes unavoidable for single people. There isn’t always someone around the moment you are looking super hot with your new haircut. But step out of the bathroom. No one wants to see your toilet in the background.

Do not take a selfie in the gym mirror. Yes, yes. You are very fit and you have big muscles. But, let me drop some truth on you. Women are pretty intuitive. We can tell you are fit by looking at the photo of you at your cousin’s wedding. We don’t need to see barbells in the background for context clues.

The exception to workout selfies: if you are hanging off the side of a mountain or scuba diving. Those pictures a pretty cool.

If you post a picture of your motorcycle, you better be sitting on it. If you post a picture of you holding a fish you caught, know that most women will not give a shit. We do not care about your dead fish.

One picture with sunglasses is sexy. Eight pictures with sunglasses makes you a douchebag. Unless you are blind. Then it is ok.

For the love of all that is holy… wear a shirt! At least for your main picture. When women are looking at your profile, they are imagining how you will look on their arm for their high school reunion. And they are picturing you clothed. Don’t destroy that illusion right out of the gate.

And your chances of being shirtless in her bedroom grow exponentially when you are wearing a shirt in your profile picture.

Don’t post a group picture unless you can very clearly identify which person is you. Do not post group pictures of fraternity reunions, bachelor parties, or prom. And we all know what a rainbow or sunset looks like. Skip those.

I cannot believe I need to mention… You would think it goes without saying… No mugshots.

Don’t post a picture with your ex scratched out. Do not post pictures of you with another woman at all. You might think that she serves as an endorsement of how desirable you are. It only makes us feel like she is one more woman we will never measure up to.

This next one is iffy ground… Pictures of you and your kids. Pictures of you at a ballgame with your kids? Cool and fun. A photo of you in a pink boa having a tea party with your daughter and her stuffed bear? Adorably sweet. A formal picture of you and your three kids in a line with a pair of red high heel shoes in a space between you and your eldest? Holy crap, dude. (I swear to god, I have actually seen this photo on a dating profile.)

No dick pics
Seriously. No woman likes a dick pic. There is not a woman out there that will want to date you based exclusively on a picture of your dick. However, there are many, many women that will choose NOT to date you because you sent them a dick pic.

It’s not that women don’t like looking at your dick. They just don’t like it nearly as much as you like looking at your own dick.

You know who likes looking at dick pics? Gay guys. Because gay guys are first and foremost guys and they are visually stimulated. It’s the same way you straight guys like looking at pictures of boobs. Actually, a lot of gay guys like boobs too. But you get my point.

Do not send a woman a picture of your penis unless she specifically asks, “Will you please send me a photo of your penis?” And ladies, if you get an unsolicited dick pic, just forward it along to your afore mentioned gay friends with the sender’s email address.

No carpet bombing
Don’t send a generic email to every single profile in the hopes that you get just one reply. It is a total waste of everyone’s time, and we can all tell when that is your game plan. Take the time to find a profile that interests you. And write a response showing that you have actually read it.

Kick out Kik
If you ask me to use Kik to communicate with you, I know it is because you don’t want me to have your real information. Why are you so neurotic and secretive that you feel you must maintain a level of anonymity? If you ask me to use Kik, I will know that I will be cheated on or cheated with. Either way, no bueno.

If you have to lock your phone, turn off notifications, and use anonymity software because you are hiding something, it’s not going to end well. Women know what you are doing when you are texting someone under the table during a romantic dinner. (Yes, this actually happened to me.)

Aside—Wanna test if your man is cheating on you? Grab his phone from his hand and lock yourself in the bathroom. The length of time it takes him to kick in the door to retrieve his phone is inversely proportional to how many text messages from other women you will find. If he resets the whole phone rather than let you see what is on it—destroying pictures of children in the process—head for the hills. Take my word for it.

The man you are with should be able to say to you: Hey Babe, I heard a text come in on my phone. Can you read it to me? My hands are messy from cooking dinner.

OK, the dinner part is a stretch. But the first part is just how it should be. Ladies, do not settle for less.

Read more than one word
I know that you cannot help what you are attracted to. We like what we like. But there is nothing more richly hypocritical as when you say you are looking for someone slim or athletic when your profile pic is you holding your beer and showing off your dicky-do.

You know what a dicky-do is, don’t you? It’s when your stomach sticks out father than your dicky do.

I think it is perfectly ok to look for dating profiles that aesthetically appeal to you. But be very cautious about declaring your preference for slender or athletic women. First of all, I think most women have a very skewed perspective of which body category they are in. So I don’t think their self-reported appearance is very accurate.

Also, I know some tremendously athletic women that would not be what you consider “athletic” looking. But they can knock your ass off your skates with one hip check.

Here is a thought. Stop eliminating women based on one word in their profile. Do you think they look pretty? Do they sound interesting? Does it seem like they are fun?

I know the equivalent female behavior is finding a man’s salary before she looks at his interests. Same rules apply in this situation. Read more than the one line of information. What if he is a total asshole that makes $250,000? Is it really worth it? And what if a sweet, sexy, smart man only earns $25,000 because he is an artist that won’t bow to corporate America. You really want to miss out on that?

I know that there is an inherent danger of being disappointed when meeting someone you were introduced to online. I know it is easy to fudge with 10-year-old photos or overinflate incomes. That just comes with the territory. But try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

So, expand your circle of matching profiles. Lower your artificial standards and raise your expectations.

Back into the dating pool I go. Maybe it’s a good thing that the pool is getting more and more shallow. Maybe it will finally be easier to get that beach ball.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Bionic Bank Brood

Forgive the alliteration. I couldn’t resist.

My youngest niece turns one today. One year ago, she was spending the night in the NICU struggling for oxygen. This tiny little thing was so delicate and fragile, under the warming lights to help her raise her body temperature.
Except, she wasn’t delicate or fragile. She was a mini-gladiator, and she was having none of it. She is one of the toughest people I've met. And that makes her right at home in our family.
My family is made up of the most amazingly strong people that I know.

My dad just had double knee replacement. Not twelve hours later, he was up walking. And only a couple of days after that, he told everyone that he was going home because he was done with the hospital.

So he arranged for his physical therapy to happen at his home and left the land of the adjustable bed. My mom is now helping him out at home. Which is actually quite an accomplishment for her, considering she had just broken her shoulder and a couple ribs in a fall. They are a badass couple, those two. They are partners through and through, and have set the bar for relationships incredibly high.

Baby Awesome has a big sister, who is equally epic in her own way. This kid knows who she is and what she wants. She is the type of girl that wants a Barbie for her birthday, because she needs to practice her surgery skills. Her favorite toy from this last holiday season was a tool set from some awesome aunt. ;)
All my girls need a tool set.

She is going to be the type of girl that will never take no for an answer. To get her to do something, all you need to do is tell her she can’t. I am pretty sure she will be the first woman… whatever. This one will smash through barriers. In her fabulous cowboy boots.

The mama of these two amazing girls is Dr. Sister, who spends her day taking care of other people’s children. It really amazes me that she dared to have kids at all. I know she has seen some things that would scare me completely away from reproduction. That’s why I will always cut up grapes for her kids.

Dr. Sister has had to shoulder the role of family caretaker. She is the one who checks our ears for infection, talks to our doctors to get details we have missed, and reminds us that a humidifier is kind of a miracle worker. And all I can do for her is occasionally fix her computer. Well, and provide her girls with tools.

Then there is Sister MSW and her two little rock stars. This sister has taken up running—having never run before—and is training for a marathon. Which blows me away. She is not only owning it, but she is doing it to raise money for Leukemia Lymphoma research. And now she is a runner. Like a boss.

Her daughter is absolutely one of my favorite people on Earth. For reasons like this:
She is waiting for her brother to come out of the bathroom.

She is a true artist. Incredibly talented and such a free spirit. And she takes no shit. She is a lot like me. We color outside the lines. We like bright clothes. We love to get messy from painting. We both wear glasses, and meat is our favorite food.

And then there is this guy. 
My Star Wars buddy. He is probably one of the most kind and compassionate people I have ever encountered. He will do most anything to prevent someone else from getting hurt. And that makes him an incredibly strong person. Not many people would take on some unhappiness in order to save someone else from feeling sad.

Everyone needs a hero. This kid is mine. Every day, Captain Kidlet just amazes me.
Sometimes, I feel like I have no more to give. Sometimes I feel defeated. But my family… They are my strength and support. I am so lucky to be a part of this group of warriors.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Being Involved

Mr. Earthquake was not pleased with me writing about our night where he was threatening to hurt himself. He asked me to remove it, because people knew we were "involved."
E said that I was invading his privacy. But that horrible night is my story too. That night ruined many things in my life, things that I am still rebuilding. That night not only changed me irreversibly, it altered the relationships I had with people who love me. I get to tell my story here. I will not hold his secrets anymore.
This blog is, of course, one-sided. My side. My perception. My experience.

I think the most interesting part of this whole exchange was this:

There are people that know we were involved.

It hurt that he reduced our relationship to one word: involved

He did get me thinking about what being involved actually means. Turns out, it isn't always such a positive thing to be.

Here is the dictionary entry for involved:
  1. Very intricate and complex
  2. Implicated (as in a crime)
  3. Concerned in some affair, especially in a way likely to cause danger or unpleasantness
  4. Committed or engaged
Synonyms: complicated, knotty, tangled, perplexing

Antonym: simple
Being involved with Mr. E
So, were E and I involved?  According to the definition, the answer is:
  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. No
It certainly was intricate and complex.  I think we can all agree that, for me, it was a dangerous affair. And I think we can also agree that there was no commitment by him. And--let’s face it--way too much commitment by me.

As it turns out, I was way more involved than he was.

Being involved with MS
I don’t want to be involved with MS. But I have no real choice about that. The thing I hate most about MS is how it forces involvement upon me. And not just by the box of expensive medicine in my fridge. It’s the magazines the pharmaceutical company sends me. It is the fundraising solicitation from the MS Society. And the email messages inviting me to an educational seminar. But hey, at least that last one comes with dinner. So am I involved with MS?
  1. No
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. Yes
MS is actually not that complex. At least, not from the patient’s standpoint. I would think the neurologist may have a different opinion on that.  I would say that if we found an analogous Law and Order episode, it would be one involving an accidental overdose. No one was intending to hurt anyone, but sometimes, shit happens. Just like MS. It just happens.
MS is highly unpleasant. And the medicine to delay its progression is often worse than the symptoms of the disease. I can deal with the hand pain and the burning back. I can even cope with the bad eye. But the Avonex gives me such aches and chills. And, because I have essentially shut down my immune system to stop it from eating my brain, the last common cold I got was anything but common.

But, like it or not, MS and I are certainly involved. MS has committed to me for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be involved at all. But, much like an arranged marriage of yore, I’m with MS to the bitter end.

Being involved with Derby
I’ve given my heart to Derby. And, so far in my life, Derby has been the only thing to be gentile with my very bruised, scarred heart. I love Derby, and Derby loves me back. Derby doesn’t care that I am a horrible skater. That I haven’t mastered a crossover. That I am nowhere near passing minimums. All that Derby ever asks of me is to be there for her, to show up when you are expected. Derby wants me to keep trying. Keep improving. 
Derby has never failed me. We have a beautiful thing. Am I involved with Derby?
  1. No
  2. No
  3. Yes
  4. Yes
We are involved as hell. Derby is, at its core, a simple thing. All she asks of you is to ruin your body to save your soul.

As far as implicating Derby in an analogous crime… I can’t really think of a CSI episode that is like Derby. Maybe the movie Fight Club? Well, we all know the first rule of Fight Club. Yeah, you might knock me down, but watch out when I get back up.
As far as commitment, I have to admit that I was having serious doubts over the last few weeks. I don’t think there is was a secret that I was in a very dark place. And I momentarily turned my back on Derby. But she was patient and waited for me to get my shit back together.

I’m fully committed, my lovely Derby. I won’t ever let anything get between us again.