Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dear Women and Men, Readers and Publishers (i.e. everyone)

Dear Women and Men, Readers and Publishers (i.e. everyone),
     I regularly talk with my best friend (who happens to be unmarried) about how to keep (and develop) my identity in the midst of my roles as wife and mother. I have always prized reading as one of the sharpest tools in my do-not-lose-myself bucket. So, imagine my, ahem, surprise, when it dawned on me that some of the titles we are reading may actually be reinforcing the stereotypical identity-loss that comes with wifedom and motherhood.  As I was editing my Goodreads list and browsing my friends' lists, I noticed something interesting, er, disturbing. There are a shocking number of novels out there with titles like "The fill-in-the-blank's Wife." There's The Tiger's Wife, The Pilot's Wife, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Traitor's Wife, The Doctor's Wife, The Diplomat's Wife, The Sea Captain's Wife, The Shoemaker's Wife (seriously? Do shoemaker's still exist? If so, where? I have a pair of busted Nine West sandals that have been begging for repair. I wore them to my sweet 16. I will never throw them out. Nine West is high fashion for someone with as much student loan debt as I've got.) The Saddlemaker's Wife (now this could get good...) and the list goes on and on. In fact, after a cursory amazon search for literary fiction with the word "wife" in the title, nearly 1,200 titles appear, more than twice that if you expand the search to include all contemporary fiction and literary fiction categories. I joked with my own husband that I should write a book titled "The Headmaster's Wife" as it seems denying my own identity or at least simplifying it to be merely based on my marital status is a surefire way to get published. Another quick search delivered the hard news that someone had already beaten me to the punch. Doh! Maybe I'll read The Headmaster's Wife over spring break. The title is generic enough to be based on my life, after all.

 Image Borrowed from A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World
      Now, I am not, in anyway, suggesting that these books aren't great reads or well-written. I actually haven't read most of them. But it is noteworthy that while there are somewhere between 1,200 and 3,000 books on the shelves whose titles define women according to their relationship to a man (I did filter out for lesbian literature, though a few may have gotten past) the very same search on amazon for fiction with "husband" in the title yielded only around 250 results. After a few minutes of glancing, many of these books didn't even refer to the role of husband but rather, were books about women in want of a husband such as The Husband Thief, The Husband Hunt and A Husband for Margaret. It's also noteworthy that most of these "husband" books were not popular or successful titles while many of the "wife" titles were (more than a couple of New York Times best sellers).

     So why is that? I am assuming that many of these titles were chosen by publishers and not by the authors. They must believe that titling a book "So and So's wife" is going to sell more copies. Why? It's subtle, I know, but it seems indicative of a general cultural tendency to have women's identities be cast in the shadows (or if she insists on taking center stage, be relegated to the so-called "Chick Lit" corner- don't even get me started on the degrading way the publishing industry treats books that fall into this category!)
      I love my husband, love who he is, what he does, yes, but I don't want to be simply defined by who he is. But guess what, he doesn't want that either (read: this is why we are married). He doesn't have a blog so you'll just have to take my word for it. Besides, I've asked him. Repeatedly. You know why?  Because reminding each other, and the world, that as awesome as we are together, we are also individuals, is something that takes work both inside the home and out. Because I'm better when I'm more than his wife and he's better when I'm better. Of course, it goes both ways, but somehow everyone gets how great it is when I put something aside to see him further his career (which I have done) but not when he forfeits a goal for a time while I pursue my own (which he has done). It starts with what we say and what we believe and what we choose. It starts with the books we read our children and the books we read ourselves. So, while I'm not suggesting that any of these books be banned from the reading list of feminists, or women-conscious readers (in fact book-banning is the surest way to get a book added to my reading list) I am suggesting that we point out, talk about and debunk myths like this one: the identity of a man (husband) is more important than the identity of a woman (wife), even in her own story.

     In my story, which is both my story and his story, (and our story) who I am is just as essential as who he is. I want my children to see that and know that, and one day, I want my daughter to read that- on the cover of a New York Times best seller.


A woman, a writer, reader, a friend, a business-owner, a mother, a lover, a thinker and yes a wife of a husband (who doesn't feel the need to insert himself here.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A poem for the season of Hope

I wrote this poem during this advent season as we meditate on hope. Hope is often described as this fluffy, light thing; a cloud, a twinkle, a feather, a dream. And maybe the act of hoping is white and bright. But maybe not. Maybe it's dark and scary and risky. Maybe it's like running away from the slave master, maybe it's running toward freedom. I think about hope being the marrow in the bones of runaway slaves. During advent, we light the Hope candle and it shines, but it only shines in the dark.

The North Star

If Christ be not that northern star, 
our beacon not to follow
in vain we make this journey far
and shelter in trees hollowed;
plagued by termites' vicious want --
as we are poured out by the master,
demanding lifeblood for his gain,
demanding reverence for his name.
See these bodies, the shattered alabaster. 
If satan's not the fearsome captor
then why do our feet flee so?
His hounds, they've caught my scent
I feel the River Freedom's undertow;
the lapping warmth, this liquid Lent,
my spirit beat, my body spent.
I'll wait there, wade there, severed from my own.
My fugitive family caught, my son; a bloodhound's bone.
If Christ be not that distant star
that beckons, points and leads,
then he would be the hollowed hole that hides me in the trees.
And he would be that lapping wave that carries on this broken slave,
and he would be my lonely head and he would be my son, half dead.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dear Little Rock Star

Dear Little Rock Star,

My sweet, small girl. You are amazing. I love your chubby body, your deep clever eyes and your 4-year-old lisp. I love how you talk, how you move and how you sing. 

Today, you were so thrilled about having a "girls' day" with my besties (you are so cool you even get along with grown doggone women!) that you made up a song about it. The one hitch to "girls' day was that my friend's husband Dan was going to be hanging around too- you addressed that issue in your song and the resulting refrain was "Girls' day (pronounced 'gulls' day)...except for Dan!" You are so clever! 

One day, not too long from now, you will be able to pronounce all of your 'R's and I will cry, just like I did when you figured out how to say your brother's name correctly and stopped calling him 'beelah' which does not sound anything like his name.

But when that day comes- I will have this (luckily, Dan just happens to be an awesome musician who can create things like this) to remind me of my little rock star.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dear Mothers of Daughters,

Dear Mothers of Daughters,

     Stop encouraging your little girl. OK, no, don't. But stop doing it in a way that is killing her and equipping her to kill.

     I hear it all the time. Subtle killers, disguised as encouragement, loving praise, confidence boosting little pep-talks. "You're so lucky to have such naturally straight teeth, other kids have to spend years in braces" "Do you know how many girls would kill for your long legs and thin waist?" "Don't complain about your flat hair, lots of girls are spending lots of money trying to straighten and flatten their hair to be like yours." Without even knowing, and indeed, while trying to do good, to tell our daughters that they are beautiful, we communicate that it's all a big competition, that our little girls' precious body exists to be an object of envy and is praiseworthy only in the context of someone else's lack. By constantly pairing praise and admonishment to be thankful with the highlighting of what other girls want or don't have we teach that there is a limited supply of beauty and loveliness going around. That if she has something, others must be in want of it.

     My little girl was born with beautiful fine, chestnut brown hair that highlights in the sun and curls into soft ringlets at the ends. We took a shower together today and she looked at me, her hair flattened by the weight of water, my tight curls barely weighed down and saturated, and said, "how come my hair doesn't curl up all over like yours. I want curls all over not just at the ends." I was tempted to say "are you kidding me?! you've got good hair, great hair, in fact. Do you have any idea how much I wanted hair like yours when I was growing up- hair that didn't frizz or grow to two times its size on a muggy day, hair that didn't require a half bottle of conditioner just to get the tangles out, hair that didn't hurt to be brushed?!" But I held my tongue and I reminded myself that I don't want to damage her wonderful sense of beauty with the self-injuring talk that I've been fighting against for all these years. So instead, I said, "I'm glad you like my hair, I really like it too. It's got curls all over, and that can be a lot of fun, but you know what, you were made beautiful too, with special little curls right at the bottom. They remind me of ribbon curls hanging from a Christmas gift" (she's all about ribbon curls).  And in that moment, I knew I had turned a corner and figured something out. We're talking holy spirit stuff, y'all, because I don't know where else the truth could have come from like that. I knew, right then, that it was my job to teach her to admire without coveting and despising. To accept praise without glorying in someone else's envy.

     The lie is that if we tell our daughters enough times that they are the best, that they will believe it. But it's not true, if we tell them that they are the best looking, have the best teeth, the best legs, hair, eyes, it will not give them a rock solid self-esteem. If we tell them that they are better than every other girl, it will not infuse in them a positive self image. If she has the best eyes, all the "pretty eyed" girls become a threat. If she has the thinnest waist, the new girl with a thinner waist is her competition. She will constantly be fearing the next contender who aims to dethrone her. She will always need to seek out the reigning champ to challenge and she will never be enough. Maybe not out loud, maybe not overtly, but in her heart, she will need others to be less so that she can be more. Because, she will have internalized a belief that there is not enough beauty, goodness, personality, charm, brains, whatever, to go around. And, if praise is always attached to another's pity, then it is costly and hard-won and scarce. And fickle. It can be taken away, lost. So she'll believe that she has to fight for it, to maintain her praiseworthy status and she will lose her god-given ability to enjoy others. This is the mean girl epidemic, the jealous girl trend. This is where bullying and belittling and biting come from. I am, because you are not. But this is a lie, and we don't have to the devil's dirty work for him.

     So my goal is to tell the truth. I hope you will join me in trying.

     Love and life y'all

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dear Overworked,

Dear Overworked

Found this in my journal from 4 years ago... still seems relevant today.

You know something it's time for some reflections when...

You make up a batch of whipped cream- no not for company or a fancy meal- just to eat it by yourself!
You throw a shoe at the dog because he smells.
You tell your son you're putting 10 minutes on the timer and secretly put 8 just to be spiteful.

Oh, oops, that was all me! Who is spiteful to a 5 year old you ask with doe-like innocence and wonder in your eyes. That would be me, I am sorry to say.

When is the last time you checked in with yourself to see how you're doing? Or better yet, when is the last time you checked in with another friend to see how each of you are doing? Time has got to be on the list of endangered resources these days, and I know it can be hard to find even a half hour to sit down and take stock. But if you can bear the thought- just hear me out for a sec- if you can bear the thought of leaving the dishes in the sink and the laundry unfolded just a little while longer. If you can let the kids run in the yard *gasp* semi-unsupervised, or *bigger gasp* set them down in front of a show for a bit, maybe you can find someone to talk to, to pray with, to kvetch to, moan, cry or laugh with for just a little bit. Or take the time to sit alone and be quiet.

Quiet reflection and talks with friends- I have been missing this big time lately. Big, big time. With all of the busy-ness there just hasn't been time for the "frivolous" self-care or self-assessment. But guess what, I'm a stingier mom, and a grumpier wife when I foolishly assume that it's impossible for me to make time for me. If I don't sit down to think, journal, pray, trouble soon follows. I am slowly learning that.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dear Overachiever,

     I'm turning 32 and I've never been to a happy hour. I don't kow what that means exactly. Maybe it means nothing. I get a little melancholy every time I'm about to have a birthday. It's not that I'm afraid of getting older, exactly. I'm not.  Not afraid- not of getting older, per se. I don't worry so much about losing my beach body, because I've never had one. I don't fear gray hair or wrinkles- my mom looks great with her silver crown and her skin, though softer and looser, has a lovely bronzed healthiness to it that most admire. It's more the time that sort of freaks me out, the amount of time I have to experience everything, do everything, be everything.
     My best friend babysat my children last night while my husband and I went to marriage counseling (I'm still hanging in there, though I seriously considered firing the kind-hearted know-it-all after she slyly pointed out that I may be contributing equally to our communication problems. What am I paying her for, if not for ammunition that I can actually use in later fights at home? She and I will talk). During said friend's time with my two, not-so-low-key children, she played with them, ran around the house, listened to their stories, answered questions, solved riddles, explained the American legal system (yes, my eight year old now knows the difference between full and limited tort) and generally provided a space for them to enjoy one another. It got me to thinking, how often do I provide that space for my children? For myself? Each year as another birthday rolls around I make a mental list of all the things I haven't done: Happy hours, skinny dipping, skydiving, visit Asia, baked scones, used a reciprocating saw, learned to play the piano, worn a bikini, climbed a mountain, taken a painting class... The list goes on and on. Some things remain from to year, some things get checked off -master's degree- check, make love outside-check, begin writing again-check, start my own business- check (you can probably guess which one of these I'm most proud of). But, the list never gets any shorter and things like 'laugh heartily' and 'look deeply into my daughter's bottomless brown eyes' can seem so small and so low on the list that I forget to check them off, let alone to savor them. A few days ago as I was unbuckling her carseat she just looked so beautiful that I stopped and stared at her for a minute. She was a little embarrassed at first but then she settled into looking back at me. I told her that soon she'd be in a booster seat and then she'd be a big girl and I wanted to remember what it was like to see her small and round and soft with baby curls and itty bitty teeth. It felt like the spirit of God was smiling at us while we smiled at each other. That moment will never make the list of things that impress people. She's only four, she may never remember sitting there with me, in the driveway, just wasting time while everything on my to-do list had to shut up and wait. But, I will never forget that moment. I am writing about it now, just a few days before my birthday, before all of those other items creep onto that list. I'm writing it down first, to put it at the top of my list.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dear You, Dear Me, Dear Me!

     Why do so very many sentences seem easily translated as "you ain't shit"? I, myself, am both witness to, perpetrator of and (on my best days) revolutionary against these crimes of speech and thought. Murderous is the human heart. That sounds profound; I just thought of it, but surely someone has said it before. Murderous, because if I annihilate you, and, systematically, everyone around me (at least those who either refuse to worship me or pose a direct threat to my being worshipped, which I think is mostly everyone), then only I will remain and I can be God.  I know, I'm taking things a little too far (I can do that- I come by my hyperbolic tendencies honestly, by blood- I'm Puerto Rican, everything is a big deal- and by upbringing- my mother had a mediocre grilled cheese at a local deli yesterday, she proclaimed that they stole her money and that she would starve before ever eating there again, ever!). But hear me out. I'm no theologian, nor am I a sociologist. I'm not a social worker or a teacher. I'm not even a great blogger. I think I'm a good mom (the kids ate green beans last night and there was almost no bribery involved) and a decent wife (I am consciously practicing not controlling my husband's life, as in, I've stopped  taking such great interest in when and where he gets his haircut, though if you ask me the Vietnamese guy is the best cut for our money...) So, my qualification to assign deeper meaning and motives to peoples' words lies only in this- I have a heart. And I know what my heart hears when my mom says inquisitively "oh, you're leaving the house without earrings?" or "There's no rush, I can wait if you want to run upstairs and put some lipstick on", it hears; translation: you're not cute and you ain't shit. And, I know what my heart means to communicate when I say "Oh, you've already turned your air conditioners on? It's mid-May and 80 degrees outside, we wait until it hits 90 in June, you know, to conserve". Translation: you're a spoiled wasteful brat and you ain't shit. It explains why I don't want some people to know that I pay someone to clean my house (I'm lazy and incompetent and I ain't shit), and why I am ok if other people do know (they have one too so can't say anything.) It's why we say "I told you so" and why we act like we (I say we, because I'm hoping I'm not the only freak in the world who is damaged in this way) weren't hurt in the first place when some apologizes to us. So, yes, once I make others subtly feel small, inferior and once I make sure they are solidly convinced of my greatness, I can rest easy, as ruler of the universe, impenetrable to criticism, pain, failure and then no one will think of me, let alone say, "you ain't shit."
     This is very ugly to write down. This may need to be one of those posts I compose but never publish. There are lots of posts like that, for lots of reasons. Usually it's because it just a plain old crappy post. I"m mean really, who wants to read about the stale nuts in my banana bread (I thought I could tie stale nuts into something humorous, it didn't work.) It's ugly to write and say and admit, and maybe I will bury it because, generally, I refuse to be exposed. And yet, on my best days I resist the urge to be better than the closest adjacent fellow human, on my best days I am endowed with a spirit of truth telling and grace that shocks even me. True, these days may  be months apart (and by 'days' I may only mean one momentary impulse that lasts all of 35 seconds before I realize I've been dethroned and quickly set the peon in his or her right position...) but still, there are glimpses. I cherish those moments. The moments when my heart is able to see another and say, "I'm sorry that I just called you nothing, I'm mistaken, you are most certainly not nothing. You are a work of art, a work in progress for sure, but art nonetheless." I cherish those moments when I can expose a lie for what it is and the moments when I have the wisdom to stop up my ears, walk away, smile instead. I cherish those moments when I pray for my enemies, perceived and real, and can honestly recognize when I have been an enemy to someone else. The moments when I set my boundaries and when I respect the boundaries of others, asking forgiveness for my trespass. So, I am going to publish this post (it's actually a fairly safe bet, since not many are reading, but it's a step). I am going to choose today to be one of those days, one of those moments.

With my apologies for yesterday, and tomorrow,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dear Beautiful Hispaniola

I joined my husband on a work-related trip to Hispaniola. What a beautiful island. We didn't see enough. What a beautiful people. We didn't meet enough. What delicious food. We ate a lot.

My heart is fraught with turmoil over what we experienced. Like here, there are extremes of poverty and wealth. But, the poverty seems so stark when it is unfamiliar. Schools without roofs, kids without shoes, tap water you can't drink, or no water at all. The desperation was embarrassing (one boy yelled out in Spanish as we passed his thatched home in our SUV, "give me something, I have nothing") but the joy and kindness was even more embarrassing. The caretaker of one of the homes in which we stayed prepared a 'feast' of bony, but delicious chicken backs for us. The meat was scarce on the bones and I felt trapped between knowing that this was her best offering and the awareness of what an insult it would be to turn down what was surely part of her families food allotment. At one school we visited, 10 children hovered around and shared one styrofoam lunch container of rice. They didn't fight over it, no one tried to hog it all for himself. I thought of my own kids who cry like someone is ripping their toenails out when things aren't 'fair'. I pray God would give me (and my children) a spirit like theirs.
Here are the little ones who most captured my heart.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dear Maker

Dear Maker,

I am wondering why in your name you don't give simpler plans, you know, clearer directions. Something along the lines of 'Thou Shalt not Kill, Thou Shalt not commit adultery.' Those are nice and clear, and to be brutally honest, they're hard enough for humanity to obey without any added nuance or uncertainty (I kid you not I was driving down 95 and there's a billboard staring me in the face. The billboard depicted the requisite hottie dressed in red- the closer you get to the casinos the more booby you see on the highway- and in large, boldface lettering, the commandment Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, only the 'not'  was crossed out in red. Talk about blatant!) But for the rest of the everyday decisions (to be fair, choosing not to kill is not as rare of a decision as I should hope) it can be a little foggy. I was the kid who hated open ended projects in school ("well how many pages should the essay be?" "As many as it takes to convince me" GRR!) Seriously, I mean no disrespect, but it's like friggin' Ikea directions sometimes. They claim they're simple to follow but somehow the door won't shut and the leg's all wobbly! I'm specifically concerned about the vague directions you've given in the area of how many children we should have. I've got all the parts, got the partner, heck I've made two great ones already, but how far should I go? Is it OK to stop? Is it weird to let the chips fall where they may Duggar style (OK, no, not doing that)? My father-in-law insinuated (if you can call blatantly saying to my face insinuation) that he has less respect for people with smaller families (as in only having one or two kids) and it's just got me to thinking, you gave me this body, and in present day, I've got some control over whether or not and how many kids to have, so am I cool just saying, "meh, getting a little tired here, ready to move on to the next phase"?

Uncertain and Unsure,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dear Mediocre Honey Crisp Apple,

Dear Mediocre Honey Crisp Apple,

I thought we had a deal. If I remember correctly it went something like this; I will see you in the store, you will lay there beautifully bright, round, with glowing hues of yellow and orange and I will be convinced. You will deliver unspoken promises of healthier eating choices (which will boost both my energy and  my naturally condescending manner as I boast to friends about how "I eat seasonally") and I will (almost) happily spend the extra dollar and fifteen cents per pound so that you can come home with me and we can enter into this splendid contract of love. You need to fulfill your destiny and I need to stop eating cocoa krispies " Let's do it!" I beamed, "yes, let's!" you replied.

So what the hell?? I was counting on you. This morning, hungry and rushed, I grabbed a crusty, cranny ridden english muffin, fork split that mo'fo' and popped it in the toaster. Then I grabbed the butter, the strawberry rhubarb preserves (fresh from friggin' Lancaster might I add) and a table spoon. A table spoon! You feel me? I was preparing to slather, no, decimate, that toasted muffin with fat and sugar (a combination better know as the 'nectar of the Gods'), when you looked at me with your trademark chubby cheer and I knew what I had to do. I threw the butter back into the fridge, pulled the muffin out of the toaster and grabbed you, feeling your approval and your promising firmness in my hand. I didn't even look back as I walked out the door, Honey Crisp! I was making myself proud and my heart swelled within me. I started up the car, and the engine roared just a little bit stronger than it did yesterday. I waited for a red light to take the first glorious bite. I wanted to enjoy it, to not rush, to savor my sweet victory in the healthy eating battle. Mouth watering in anticipation, I took the first bite. The first, mushy, squishy, mealy bite. It must be a mistake, but the next 3 bites were equally devastating. Damn you Honey Crisp, you are neither honey nor crisp! You are a crap apple, you are a crapple and you've broken my heart today. And I may never forgive you.

Running away with the muffin man.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dear Little Girl of Mine

Dear Little Girl of Mine,

Thank you for blowing me kisses just before you walk into the public bathroom stall, it will make the looks I get, in response to your screaming, (at the top of your lungs "I did Caca! Wipe Meeee!") infinitely more bearable.

With love and unending thanks for the humility you've taught me,
Proud Mama

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dear Ugly-Hearted Racist Guy

Dear Ugly-Hearted Racist Guy,

     I don't like you. I'm sure you're not too upset, since obviously, you don't like me either. The thing is, I like people. And, I like liking them. OK, I can be judgy when I want to be, like when people fuss over food that's like a minute past expiration- seriously, first world problems. I think the standard for food expiration in much of the world goes something like this, "Mom, I'm so hungry" "I know son, here we can eat this, it's almost food") or when customer service reps couldn't care less that they can't help you (my friend, if you can't muster an 'I'm sorry about that' or "Let me try this' you are in the wrong profession.) But seriously, people are dope- so different, quirky, comical. For someone who loves to look at the funny in life, the one thing that's a non-negotiable is the human race. From the 'caught in Walmart' photos (yes, I look at them and shoot milk out of my nose occasionally- it's therapeutic) to those awkward family pictures (not mine of course, mine always come out fabulous) to those tear jerking videos where 10 random people on the beach pitch in and save 50 stranded dolphins, or a soldier returning home from duty and hugging his newborn for the first time, there is really nothing funnier or more beautiful than people.
     But you, you searched for me on the internet, hoping to find someone to say ugly, mean things to. I wish you hadn't found me, but you did. I, being quick and clever and generally cooler and smarter (I certainly hope) than you responded with disarming humour and a sharp tongue which quickly put you in your place. That was all I would give you. That was all you deserved. But of course, your words hurt. They made me angry and they hurt. But I reserve those truer feelings for those who I like, love and trust. And only they will know that the ugly-hearted racist guy made me cry and stole my joy that day, making me wonder why it is that I like people. Tomorrow, I will start again, remembering the humor and kindness that makes up most of what I love about us. Tonight, I'm pulling the covers over my head and going to sleep.

Waiting for joy that comes in the morning.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Married Folks

Dear Married Folks,

My husband and I are about to walk, on purpose, down a dark and scary road. Really, that's what I envision every time I think the words 'marriage counseling.' Among other things, it's a scary road because of all of the freaks that reside there; consider what's more nightmarish; walking down a dark road littered with ex-cons or a dark road loitered by off-duty carnies from the Coney Island Freak Show? Exactly. Joining the world of counseling feels in many ways like joining the ranks of the deformed. "Is everything OK " "I thought you guys were doing so well?" "What do you need help with?"

We've been playing with the idea of counseling for over a year now, and are finally getting around to it (read: I've finally grown a pair of ovaries big enough to agree. Imagine that, the wife drags her feet while the husband readily agrees to marriage counseling; we are freaks!) Don't mind me, I deflect with humor and self-deprecation. The truth is, we're doing pretty well, I think. But, I'm afraid to go to counseling for the same reason that your 85 year-old grandma doesn't want to go to the doctor. She doesn't want to find out that things are worse than she could have guessed. Better to live with the aches and pains than find out that it's stage 4 melanoma. I'm good with that, granny. You wanna rock out your last years in the bliss of ignorance, cool. But I'm too young to pull that nonsense- if it's melanoma, I need to know now so I can chemo-therapize, radiationize, vegan, raw dietize, yoga blast that shit outta here! Wait, I'm not saying that there's a cancer growing in my marriage or anything. I love him. Lots. And, I'm sure of his love for me. After a decade of marriage, we've got lots of amazing things to show, but we've also got our old scars and fresher scabs. So, we agreed, it's time to let someone look under the hood. Yes, I know I'm mixing metaphors, deal with it (hey, I'm dealing with going to therapy...)

So that's the plan. Now, I'll employ my other faithful tactic for dealing with stress and fear (the first being the aforementioned deflection with humor and self-deprecation)- I'm probably going to go Rambo on therapy. (Full Disclosure: at first I wrote 'I'm probably going to go commando on therapy' but then I realized that that would imply that I was going to go to therapy without wearing any underwear. While that would certainly be an interesting experience, it's not really the one I'm going for here. Luckily, I remembered that the cinematic reference I was looking for was actually Rambo- dude goes berserk, takes no prisoners and is generally bad-ass for the entire film, and there's pretty much no mention of his undies at all. Yup, that's the one.) Yeah, so when something is scary, I often try to research the crap out of it, understand it, and be the best at it. I'll probably even compete with my husband a bit. So, don't be surprised if you meet my therapist on the street, ask her how I'm handling having to talk about my marriage with a total stranger, and she answers, "oh, she's handling therapy like a boss!"

Am I missing the point? Ah well, I'll let my therapist fix that.

Love and Life Y'all

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dear Life

Dear Life,
I want to wage a war that I can win. Daily, it seems, I fight losing battles. But today, just want to wage a war that I can win.

GI Jane

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dear Chubby Girl

Dear Chubby Girl,

Put your big girl panties on and walk away from that fool.

OK, that's a little harsh, and a little simplistic and possibly a little narrow. But really, maybe it's not. I'm a chubby girl too.  To be fair, 'chubby' is what people say when they want to make terms like overweight and obese sound cuter- whatever, doesn't matter. Whatever you want to call it, I'm that too. But, the title of this letter could easily read a hundred different ways: "Dear shy girl, Dear girl with a big nose, Dear girl with crooked teeth, Dear not- the-brightest girl, Dear girl with a past, Dear fill in the blank with whatever adjective you most fear someone will point out at a party. All of you, put those bloomers on, or if you prefer, your micro-fiber hipster panties- and walk away from the loser (I know, I know, he's not, he's misunderstood, he needs you, he doesn't mean it, he's not always that way, I don't know him like you do, he LOVES you) that keeps telling you that all of the aforementioned titles (chubby, big nose, crooked teeth, less than impressive wit, unmentionable past) are what make you lucky to have his mediocre 'love.'

Now, I recognize that people can grow and change and work through things, and I am not a fan of the ever popular cut and run tactics that most of Hollywood (not to mention the rest of American society) employ in the arena of marriage. Primarily, though, I am not talking to the woman who has weighed the pros and cons and decided to commit to an imperfect man (aren't they all, aren't we all?) for better or worse (what to do then is a topic for another day entirely...), I am talking about the girl who has that irksome feeling, that little voice that's telling her "you don't deserve this, don't keep dating him, don't move in with him, don't marry him" but is tempted to listen to the louder, harsher lying voice (ever notice how people get louder and more emphatic when they're lying? Same goes for the voice inside.) which says "remember, beggars can't be choosers."

 It's true, beggars can't be choosers, (well except for that time when I was walking through the Lexington Ave tunnel on my way to catch the 6 Train and a homeless man asked me for money because he was hungry. I had a fresh, uneaten, sesame-egg bagel with veggie cream cheese- hello, heaven!- folded neatly in a brown paper bag. I offered it to him. I was coming from an evening church service and was feeling all kinds of good samaritan-y. The man, who did not smell quite as fresh as my bagel, refused my love offering, citing "too many carbs". I was pissed, "what the hell?! Too many carbs?! Whatchu on the Atkins' Diet??" Bye Bye good samaritan, hello Xena, defender of NY bagelkind!) Generally speaking though, no, beggars cannot be choosers, but you are not a beggar, at least not a beggar of love from a man who doesn't want to give it freely. If you want to beg, beg grace from the almighty, I won't argue with that. Beg for patience and strength and the grace to be kind to others when it's hard. Beg for peace and acceptance and love for who you who have been made to be, beg for self-control to stop the bad habits and patterns you've fallen into (we all have them) and the perseverance to change into the woman you want to be. But beg a man to stay with you when he's already shown you that he doesn't want to? No. Don't wait for him to leave you (he probably never will- you give him everything and require nothing of him) don't walk on pins and needles trying your best to eliminate all of the things that you think make him uncommitted and uncertain about you, trying not to give him a reason to leave. You choose- choose love, choose life.

Now's the time in this letter for me to tell you all the reasons why you are worth loving and why you should "believe in yourself". But, I'm not going to- maybe I'm not in the mood, or maybe I know that it can't come from  a letter from some stranger  or maybe it's because I've never been good at gentle words of encouragement (kick in the pants being my preferred style). And maybe telling you to put on your big girls panties, and walk away is harsh. Or maybe it's exactly right.

Love and life,
From a friend.