Marriage. Election. Divorce.



Once upon a time, I married the wrong guy. At the time, I did not know he was the wrong guy. He probably didn't know I was the wrong girl. We got married and we thought it was right.

We got married and we moved to LA and we had a cute little apartment and life was good. For about a month. And then, it quickly became apparent that this wasn't right.

Multiple things happened, and they were all very bad. But each time, we each thought, "we can make this work. We can make him/her understand me." And we would plow ahead...

And then more bad things would happen. Ultimately, we were not the same. We could not make the other see things the way we saw them, because we didn't think or see anything the same. We each carried our own moral compass, and each compass pointed us in vastly different directions. And each of us was quite sure that the other was crazy.

Our marriage died quickly...but also...somehow...painfully slow. I can still vividly recall each dying gasp for air and the last few weeks where I pounded on its chest and tried to breathe life back into it and I was SO SURE that I could fix this.

I can fix this. I'm smart. I'm caring. I work really, really hard. I can fix this.

Holding the shards of our marriage in our hands and ten different kinds of glue and thinking, "I just need the right combination. I just need to hold it together a little longer so that it has time to set. I can fix this. It will be ok."

And then...finally...in our marriage therapist's office...

I looked at her...and I knew. I broke down and sobbed and she asked me what was different what had changed what was I feeling and I said...

"I can't fix this. And I don't know what to do."

I feel that way today. About this country. About this home that I love. About the people I love. About myself. We each carry our own moral compass, and each compass points us in vastly different directions. And each of us is quite sure that the other is crazy and cruel and heartless and selfish.



I can't fix this. And I don't know what to do.

Politics...sort of.



So....

I'm probably a lot calmer and optimistic than a lot of my liberal friends right now.  And several of them are very confused by that. And I get it. But my recent experiences have given me a really unique view into how people think and how, ultimately, while they might care about you, they will not sacrifice their self interests to serve what many of us consider the greater good.  They just won't. And that's a hard lesson to learn, but I believe it's a fact.

And here's why:

A few years ago, I owned a pretty popular bar.  People often commented on how inclusive we were and how they felt safe in the space that we had created. Some of our customers suggested we get involved in the neighborhood, so we created a community association and planted a garden and cleaned up trash and eventually started raising money and turned it into a 501c3.





Life was good.

Shortly after we opened, a couple of other businesses opened in our neighborhood. They said that they supported the work that we were doing. They did not show up to our community association meetings or garden plantings or clean-ups (save for 1 of the businesses, a few times out of the 5 years that we held them), but they verbally supported our work. Once, one of them donated something that they had no use for, that ended up being useful to us. So life was still good.

And then politics.

One of the newer businesses wanted to put new signs up and down our street and they wanted to choose everything about the signs. Some other people, myself included, wanted the signs to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood and include long standing businesses AS WELL AS newer businesses in the decision making process.

It got ugly. And local politicians got involved. And ultimately, the newer business just wore us down until we finally threw up our hands and said, "whatever."  And they put up their signs.

Throughout this process, one of the newer businesses said some really terrible things about me. That I was a thief. That I turned a bunch of local businesses into governing organizations to try and get them shut down. That I was a giant piece of shit. That I gave myself more credit than I deserved because really, I didn't do that much.

It was emotionally devastating. So, of course, I was emotional about it. So then I was just this emotional, hysterical woman who needed to calm down and relax and let things go. People distanced themselves from me because, as it turns out, you're not much fun to be around when people are trying to destroy your life.

Then, another newer neighboring business who we were friends with, jumped on the bandwagon and told most of our mutual customers that I was a piece of shit who had turned them into governing organizations to try and get them shut down. Like the other things that had been said, this was 100% not true. And this one hurt worse than anything else that had happened. I had actually volunteered at this business and tried to help them on the road to success. I literally got on my hands and knees and scrubbed their floors. It was a blatant lie that I had turned them in and they offered no proof, but the rumor persisted and the business owners wouldn't even talk to me about it.

Now - some of my "friends" stuck by me through this. To my knowledge, only a couple of them were willing to defend me publicly, due to not wanting to get involved in the "drama." But as time passed, many of them forgot or just didn't seem to care that two neighboring businesses had engaged in activity designed to put us out of business.

And ultimately, our business suffered. And so did my health. And we closed our business.

This is the edited version of events. In truth, it lasted nearly two years, was devastating on an unimaginable level, led to me nearly killing myself and took a whole lot of hard work to recover from.




So you would expect that your friends would not support businesses that engaged in such terrible behavior. That they would take a stand on your behalf.

But, the thing is...no.  If it doesn't affect them negatively and those businesses are the place to be on First Fridays and First Sundays, then that is where they will be. And you will constantly see pictures of them in these places on your facebook timeline. And they will invite you to events at the very businesses who were directly responsible for some of the worst years of your life. And you will drive up and down the same street every day and see those new signs and remember how the people who put them up said that this community didn't matter. And the next day, you will see members of the community who don't matter embracing the very business who said that they don't matter.

No one cares. And there are no repercussions.

This is true. This is how people think. This is how they act. They may care about you, but they will always take care of themselves first. If taking care of themselves first might hurt you, they're still going to take care of themselves first.  If someone does really terrible things to someone that they care about, but overall the person "isn't that bad," then they are probably still going to support that person.

And in this election, that's what 1/2 of America did. They took care of themselves and those closest to them first. They discounted the terrible things because of the good things they saw. And I don't like it, but I now understand that that's how people think. So really...this isn't as shocking to me. I learned my lesson in the hardest way possible.

And there are those who would say, "well, this isn't the same thing. Don't make excuses for people. You weren't in danger. No one was beating you up or spitting in your face or threatening to kill you."

And that's true. That's not what my experience looked like. What my experience looked like was an artist organization bullying me online and calling radio stations to tell them I had no right to be on the air. Paying visits to neighboring businesses and telling them to stay away from me. People calling me a thief and a liar. Losing business so fast that we could barely afford to eat and pay our bills. Multiple doctors appointments to deal with the depression and anxiety and confusion. Missed work days. Weight loss. And finally, sleeping with a scalpel next to my bed every night just in case I finally got the courage to just kill myself.

The thing is, I'm actually better for what happened to me. It taught me to look at life differently. It taught me to stop putting my faith in politicians. It taught me to keep most people at a distance but to hold my tribe close. It taught me that no matter how deep your pain, if people can't empathize with you, they will more than likely believe you are over-reacting. It taught me that people will lie about you and that people will believe it, even without a shred of evidence to back up the lie. We live in an age where people get their facts from memes. Of course the lie is easier to believe.  Who wants to do the work to search beyond the image you're presented with?

I HATE that it happened, but I finally saw how people really are and figured out the person that I want and need to be. It strengthened my belief in personal integrity - that if you stand for something, you stand for it all of the way. So I love people better these days. And I'm a little more in tune with how they think. I'm not naive. I'm very careful with my heart and my hope and... I just see CLEARER.

Look - I wish that people I knew would have stood up for me and boycotted the businesses that hurt me, I really do.  Or tried to talk to them about what was happening or defended me. But I also didn't encourage them to. When they offered, I told them to make their own decisions. I tried to play it strong and neutral. I guess I was playing politics, too. And most of them chose to continue supporting those businesses and not get involved in any way. That's where the crowd goes, that's the routine, that's where their friends are, it's in their best interest to keep going and not make waves. No matter how much they love me and no matter how much it hurts, they're going to take care of themselves first.

That's the nature of people. I'm still friends with a lot of these people. I don't hate them. I don't think they're awful people. I don't think that they actually wanted me to kill myself. They just served their own interests over mine.

I don't like it...but I get it. And I get that that's what happened with most people this election. So I'm trying to practice empathy and understand people who I completely disagree with, rather than demonize them. Without a doubt, some of them are really terrible people. But some of them....they just did exactly what people did to me - they took care of their interests first. And if I can still call those people friends, then I can certainly practice empathy with conservatives. I can hear them out and share stories of the marginalized so that perhaps we can get to a point where we care for the interests of each other as well as ourselves.  I don't know how we get there, but I'm willing to do the work to try.

(photo via Peoria Journal Star)




When you just can't.



We can do hard things, right?

Secrets make us sick.

We don't live in denial.

We own our mistakes.

We seek help when we need it.

We use healthy coping mechanisms.

We talk about it.

We allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

We speak the truth.

We face the truth.



Oh my God.




I don't know what else to say. I don't know what I can say. Everything that I have fought so hard for this past year...everything that I believe to be true...everything that helps me cope...

I just can't. And it's not by choice. Although it is. But it's not like the choice I have is actually a choice at all.

This is all clear as mud, right?

Right now, I'm doing a hard thing. And it's kind of a secret (but secrets make us sick). And I'm limited in seeking help (but seek help when you need it). Writing helps me cope but I can't talk about it (we talk about it and we use healthy coping mechanisms). I can't be honest (we speak the truth we don't live in denial we face the truth).

I can't be fully me. It itches. I want to crawl out of my skin. I want to not be vague but I can only be vague. I'm exhausted. I'm keeping up with all of the necessities but there's not room for much more.

I chose this. I would choose it again. In a heartbeat, I would choose it again.  But I'm tired. And I'm uncomfortable. And if I seem weird and withdrawn and exhausted and not as present, it's because that is all true. And if you're wondering why...I wish I could tell you. But now is not the time.

I'm fighting for something. And the light at the end of the tunnel is so bright and so beautiful and so amazing and wondrous, that I'm going to keep going. The tunnel is dark and scary and dangerous and it smells bad and there's weird things in here that freak me out and if I could skip the tunnel altogether and just get to that light, I would, but that's not how life works. So through the tunnel we go, always keeping our eyes on that beautiful light.

We CAN do hard things, you guys. We just have to keep our eyes on that light. We just have to stay focused. We will reach the end and it will be worth it. Just stay focused.

Right?

Right.







Migraines. And depression. And broken feet. And anxiety.

Basically, being really sick but not appearing to be really sick and then feeling guilty for feeling sick but not looking sick and then feeling judged even if no one is judging but sometimes people actually are and...ugh.

A few years ago I had surgery to correct my left foot. The surgery required breaking my foot in half, cutting some tendons and then sewing it all back together again. Kind of a big deal for a foot. Shortly after my surgery, I went to the grocery store, put my crutches in the cart and tried to tough it out with a kind of hop-hop-push dance. After 20 minutes, I was exhausted. So the next time I went to the grocery store, I went with a friend and I used the little electric riding cart that they so graciously provide. I thought it was kind of funny, so I laughed a lot. And people stared. Like...HARD stares. As though maybe I didn't deserve to use the electric riding cart. After all, it wasn't really obvious that my foot was broken. And besides, if my foot was broken so badly that I couldn't use it, what was I so happy about? It got so bad that I just started responding to the hard stares with, "my foot is broken. I know you can't tell, but my foot is actually broken. ha. hee. hee." awkward silence. ride away. feel shame. repeat.

This week, I have had 3 migraines. Unlike a broken foot, I cannot show you an x-ray of my migraines. Or a lump where they put in some screws and a plate. You can't touch a lumpy spot on my head to feel where the migraine is. The only way that you might be able to tell that I have a migraine is by me not being where I'm supposed to be because I can't move, or, if I can move and you see me, I'm kind of squinting and swaying and maybe I look really pale.

Or green. I might look green.



My doctors had me keep a food/weather/exercise/everything under the sun diary for about 30 days so we could try to pinpoint the triggers for my migraines. We couldn't really figure it out. I mean, we figured out that I have 3 partial triggers, which means I have 3 things that will trigger a migraine but only if some other factor is in play and nobody is quite sure what those other factors are. So... some mystery factor paired with weather, hormones or alcohol will trigger a migraine. But if the mystery factor is absent, then those three things probably won't trigger anything. Maybe. We're not completely sure.

So here's where depression and anxiety come in. First, if I get a migraine and I had plans, I feel guilty. I feel like I should suck it up. Just hop-hop-push through my day. But I can't really stand-up and move around with a migraine, so that's not super realistic. Luckily, I have a prescription for something that kills the migraine. And it does. In about 3-4 hours. Then I just feel beat up for a couple more hours and then I'm good to go. So 6 hours lost. Which is actually better than the 24-48 hours lost before I was prescribed medication, but still - plans for the day are pretty much toast. So I feel guilty. Which leads to depression. Which leads to me really just wanting to give up on the day. And then anxiety kicks in. Probably no one believes me. I probably just come across as flaky or irresponsible or not dependable or a liar. Who gets sick this much, anyway? You're always sick. Everybody gets headaches. You don't see everyone else staying in bed all day. LAZY. WEAK. WORTHLESS.

With a migraine that has alcohol as one of the triggers, it's even worse. My family has a super hardcore history of addiction so I'm really careful about alcohol and drugs (even my migraine prescription is non-narcotic) but I'm also really weird and sensitive about anyone's perception of my relationship with alcohol and drugs.

For instance, I worked a really long shift yesterday and afterwards, I was craving a cheap, domestic beer. So I went home and I drank two.

Because I'm hyper aware of my relationship with drugs and alcohol AND because alcohol can potentially trigger a migraine, I know that those 2 beers added up to a grand total of 3 alcoholic beverages in two months. And unfortunately, those two beers also worked with whatever mystery factor there was to trigger a massive migraine this morning. But migraines feel a lot like hangovers. And alcohol was a trigger for this migraine. Three times in one week. Plans canceled three times this week. Maybe I should suck it up. Maybe I'm weak. I shouldn't have had the alcohol. I'm irresponsible. Ow. People are going to think I have a problem. Do I have a problem? Wait. Am I sure I just had 2 beers last night? Yes. Of course. That's stupid. But definitely don't tell anyone about the beer. They might think you're an alcoholic. This really hurts. They might think you're lying. Migraines sound like hangovers. People might think you're making excuses. This hurts so bad. Alcoholics lie. You sound like an alcoholic. Also, why did you even drink those beers? It feels like a bomb keeps going off in my head. You know you get migraines. This is your fault. Also, completely irresponsible. I think I might puke. You might actually be an alcoholic. Wait. No. Maybe. No. Maybe?





And so on and so on. Migraine, anxiety, shame, confusion, depression. And it's all hidden away in my brain where no one can see it, which means, for a lot of people, I'm not sick. Especially if they see me on a migraine free day. And I'm happy. Sick people can't be happy. It's some weird rule that someone made up somewhere along the way (ask me how often people tell me that I don't look like I have depression - it's the smiling that throws them off. People with depression can't smile ever. Against the rules).

My point is...I'm on the tail end of my 2-beer-triggered migraine and I've just run this gamut of emotions for the umpteenth time and I'm cranky and I'm exhausted and I'm so over it. And I have a lot of friends who each suffer with their own "invisible illness" nightmare. And we are a judgmental society and we the people decide if you actually look or act sick enough to deserve our compassion. If your foot isn't in a cast AND you're laughing, your foot isn't broken. Those are the rules.

Except those rules suck and they're grossly unfair to the millions of people around the world who struggle with illnesses and disabilities and injuries that you can't see. Illness and disability and injuries that are very real and very painful and very debilitating even if you can't see them.

You know this picture/meme that randomly comes across your facebook timeline or instagram feed?



Truth. So much truth. Sometimes I forget. And then life hands me a migraine to remind me that every person I've ever met is struggling with something I can't see. And I'm reminded to practice compassion and empathy and to just be kind.

Always.



I'm a mom! Sort of! Kind of? Not really? Also, I have no idea what's going on...

About 3 months ago, James and I briefly talked about having my niece come and live with us.

James and I talk about once or twice a year about our decision to not have kids. Just checking in, making sure we're both on the same page, making sure neither of us has changed our minds. Every time, the answer is the same for both of us.

No way.

So when the idea of having a 17 year old come live with us came up, naturally we both kind of freaked out and shoved the idea under the bed. In a box. And buried it under old cds and mismatched socks. Because no way.

And then about 2 months ago, we pulled that box out from under the bed and really started to talk about my niece again. And how we weren't prepared. And that didn't this count kinda sorta as "having kids?" And wasn't that a "No way?" And check out this 27 page list of all of the things that could go wrong! And what if, instead of being a positive impact on her life, we just fucked it up completely? And what if she really is a "bad kid" and we just don't see it? WHAT IF WE DON'T FEED HER PROPERLY AND SHE BURNS OUR HOUSE DOWN????

Basically, as lifelong non-parent types, everything we knew about raising kids came from a combination of horror movies and Gremlins. So obviously, since we were armed with all of that wisdom, a month later, she came to live with us.

For the 2 weeks prior, I read absolutely everything I could about raising a teenager. OH! And because we're crazy, we went the home school route as well. So throw in extra research about home schooling. And a room! We had to give her a room! So there was cleaning and moving and painting and consolidating. James and I stayed up late every night throwing what-ifs back and forth and coming up with responses. What if this happens? What are the consequences? What are the rewards? What are our expectations? What are hers?

I met with my niece and had a really honest discussion about what it was that she wanted and needed and expected and afterwards, went home and made up a household contract for all of us.  We all met, we went over our contract, and about a week later, we had a teenager.

Like...for real. We have a teenager.

Apparently teenagers hug inanimate objects. I guess. I'm not sure.


We're about 3 weeks in and people keep asking me how it's going ...and the truth is, it's going really well. We take it day by day and so far, we all feel pretty good.

And of course, people wonder how we got here. Like...how and why did this happen? And that's a tough thing to answer. I would love to say that every time I answer that question, I answer it honestly and beautifully and respectfully and just...well. I answer it well. But I don't. Because the thing is, my family is dysfunctional. And I've never tried to hide that my own relationship with my family is strained and awkward and weird and sad and angry and confused. So when I'm asked exactly how it is that my niece came to live with us, I go through this huge internal struggle of trying to answer with grace and beauty and dignity and love and honesty while feeling awkward and weird and angry and sad and confused.

Because there's also the really big thing that I'm trying so hard to adhere to (and I fail more often than I'd like to admit) - it is not my place to tell other people's stories. And it is not my place to pass judgement. And I am less than perfect and have made an infinite number of mistakes in my life AND in the way that I have handled and loved other people. So the question of how it is that my niece came to live with us seems so simple, but in reality just sets off a tornado of epic proportions inside my heart and in my soul.

Of course, there are those who would say it's no one's business. And that's true. BUT....(but, but, but)...I live my life publicly. And I live healing and recovering and loving VERY publicly. And with my niece's permission, I've shared a small piece of her life here with us, on my social media pages. And with her permission, I want to share why it is that she came to live with us:

My niece came to live with us because somewhere along the way, her soul got trampled on. And her heart got smashed. The world wrapped up absolute garbage, tied it up in a pretty bow and told her that that was love. And the world told her that she was bad. And unworthy. And after hearing that long enough, she began to believe that it was true. That she was bad, and unworthy and that garbage was love. And she began to act according to what the world was telling her. And then the world was like, "see? I told you so."

And when my niece and I started to get close, I realized what was going on. Because I had been there. I had believed that story of being bad and worthless and that garbage was love for more than half of my life. And I had also acted accordingly.

But I also survived it and found all of the beauty and worthiness and love on the other side. And I thought that maybe James and I could help her find her way out of all of this ugliness and towards some light. And that's why she came to live with us.

So, I don't really know how we are at "parenting." But so far, I think we're pretty good at being loving and forgiving and enthusiastic and optimistic and challenging and encouraging and just doing the best job that we can of showing her that everything that the world told her was true was just flat out wrong.

She is worthy.
She is loved.
She is smart.
She is courageous.
She is capable.
She is good.
She is so much more than enough.


And she can have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after midnight. Because she's not a gremlin. But only on the weekends. Because bedtime. And school. And you can't have peanut butter and jelly everyday. Right? No? Yes? Maybe?