Darling, Everything Is As It Should Be

Every morning when I wake and leave my bedroom, the first thing that meets my eye is a sign I hung on the opposite wall of my living room hall that reads, “Darling, everything is as it should be.” It hangs above the ashes of my beloved shih-tzu Mimi who took this long journey with me and died just as we crossed the finish line 2 days after my Masters Commencement.

Darling everything is as it should be, even when you’re shattered. That’s a hard thing to connect.

I look around my tiny apartment. A short glance and I have surveyed all that I own which isn’t much, but it’s cozy and mine. I can see the cracks, though. Laundry I just can’t muster to go through or fold. A broken dishwasher that I can’t even call into maintenance until I clean every dish and I’ve let it go so long I put them in the bathtub.

I’ll leave it up to you to guess if they are still there.

I don’t know what I thought my life would be like when I finished my masters. I kind of thought life would begin, not fall apart. In a lot of ways, it feels as though I’m freshly broken from a cocoon, a butterfly with still wet wings not yet ready to take flight, and really confused with what just happened. Who I was and who I am, while the same is entirely different.

Darling, everything is as it should be. But how can it be when I’m such a hot mess?

All my life I have battled and struggled with the ups and downs of depression and extreme anxiety. Add a big dose of perfectionism and “I can do it myself” and you have the perfect recipe for self-loathing. I’ve always stood out. I’ve always been “noticed” and while I’ve become accustomed to it in a way, most days I wish for a cloak of invisibility–to be smaller; less visible.

Darling, everything is as it should be.

This chaos we live in, sometimes it is our own making. We fear the judgment of others. We fear taking chances. We fear speaking up. We fear we aren’t where we should be.

It’s the surrendering to everything is as it should be that is the most difficult and liberating thing I have ever attempted. It’s embracing the bad and the good and seeing them as the same- for your greater good. Think of every bad thing that ever happened to you. Now think of something good that came out of it. Did you learn something? Did you enhance someone’s happiness? Did you learn what you don’t want so that you can find what you do?

Life is so messy. So incredibly beautifully messy. Embrace it all.

Darling, everything is as it should be.

–Aphrodite In Real Life

Darling, Everything Is As It Should Be

Every morning when I wake and leave my bedroom, the first thing that meets my eye is a sign I hung on the opposite wall of my living room hall that reads, “Darling, everything is as it should be.”  It hangs above the ashes of my beloved shih-tzu Mimi who took this long journey with me and died just as we crossed the finish line 2 days after my Masters Commencement.

Darling everything is as it should be, even when you’re shattered.  That’s a hard thing to connect.

I look around my tiny apartment.  A short glance and I have surveyed all that I own which isn’t much, but it’s cozy and mine.  I can see the cracks, though.  Laundry I just can’t muster to go through or fold.  A broken dishwasher that I can’t even call into maintenance until I clean every dish and I’ve let it go so long I put them in the bathtub.

I’ll leave it up to you to guess if they are still there.

I don’t know what I thought my life would be like when I finished my masters.  I kind of thought life would begin, not fall apart.  In a lot of ways, it feels as though I’m freshly broken from a cocoon, a butterfly with still wet wings not yet ready to take flight, and really confused with what just happened.  Who I was and who I am, while the same is entirely different.

Darling, everything is as it should be.  But how can it be when I’m such a hot mess?

All my life I have battled and struggled with the ups and downs of depression and extreme anxiety.  Add a big dose of perfectionism and “I can do it myself” and you have the perfect recipe for self-loathing.  I’ve always stood out.  I’ve always been “noticed” and while I’ve become accustomed to it in a way, most days I wish for a cloak of invisibility–to be smaller; less visible.

Darling, everything is as it should be.

This chaos we live in, sometimes it is our own making.  We fear the judgment of others.  We fear taking chances.  We fear speaking up.  We fear we aren’t where we should be.

It’s the surrendering to everything is as it should be that is the most difficult and liberating things I have ever attempted.   It’s embracing the bad and the good and seeing them as the same- for your greater good.  Think of every bad thing that ever happened to you.  Now think of something good that came out of it.  Did you learn something?  Did you enhance someone’s happiness?  Did you learn what you don’t want so that you can find what you do?

Life is so messy.  So incredibly beautifully messy.  Embrace it all.

Darling, everything is as it should be.

 

Dig Deep

It’s an overcast brisk November Sunday afternoon.  Having spent most of the morning huddled on the couch beneath blankets, catching up on social media and reflecting on the state of my life, I’m almost in awe in the amount of change that has occurred.  I look around and I see my surroundings evolving more to reflect my true self.  I’ve worked hard to remove emotional barriers and mend broken relationships.  I’ve let go the relationships that no longer served me.  I released myself to complete surrender to whatever happens will happen.  Whatever has happened has happened and I am still here and still breathing and still carrying on.  I am a living reflection of my own will to keep going despite my desire at times to not go on any further.

Realizing I only had maybe a few hours at best to take Daisy to the dog park, I hastened to find my coat as she dragged her leash to me.  “Okay okay.  I can take a hint!”  Daisy.  My new dog.  My new puppy that I love with all my heart but is a symbol of this transformation as all the old fell away, and my dear old companion Mimi left me just as I completed my Masters.  Oh, how life has changed.

It used to be that I thought if I could beat someone with my intellect then that meant something.  How stupid I was. What an absolute WASTE of my talent and skills.  I sat on the park bench as Daisy played and I reflected on what I wanted first for the world, and then for myself, and I meditated or “prayed” if you will.  My prayer for the world is to seek the commonality between each other first.  Dig for it.  DIG DEEP for it.  We are all made of the same stuff.  We are all in this together.  Yes, we have our differences but our differences aren’t honestly what make us special.  It’s our commonality.  It’s our humanity.  Its our love of our children and family.  It’s the good we all feel when we are kind to someone.  It’s the peace we feel when we give more than we take; when we listen more than we speak.

Dig deep to find the commonality in each other today and everyday.  Even the ones that are the hardest to love.  Dig Deeper.  Don’t sacrifice your principles, but love never would have you sacrifice that.  Love conquers all.

My other prayer was for myself and was very specific.  I keep it between me and the source from which we all sprang.  God.  Star Stuff.  Whatever you believe or don’t believe is fine with me, truly.  However, my prayer I will keep between me and the One Source.

However, I will share this- I pray that I give more than I take.

The Internet Killed Love

I’ve always had an intense fascination with people and watching how they interact with one another.  Even at a very young age, I would sometimes posit some random position on a topic to someone just to see what the response would be.  I learned when I was very young that you can say damn near anything to someone and they will take it as fact-based simply on how confidently you say it.  Before I ever studied propaganda and persuasion, I knew the basics of how it worked just on my own field experiments I’ve carried out my entire life.  So naturally, when the internet came along I was hooked on watching this virtual ant farm of people interacting with each other all at once. A cacophony of chatter all around the world done in complete silence.

Fascinating.

When I met my ex-husband in late 1996 early 1997 it was through an AOL chatroom.  This was prior to dating sites.  People still used personal ads and you paid for your internet time by the minute…over your PHONE LINE.  I thought to have a pink see-through pager was the shit, but now I could talk to people all over the world from the comfort of my living room?  This was awesome!  The age of the internet had truly arrived.

After our separation and divorce in 2009, I found that the world had changed a lot in terms of courtship.  People seemed to not want to wait to get to know you before they tried to sleep with you to determine if you were worthy of dating.  Facebook was still a fairly new venture, and it was there that I first began to receive private messages from married or otherwise coupled male acquaintances on my friend list.  I had never experienced anything like that before, but then I had married as practically a child.  What did I know?  I tried dating sites.  I would change up the verbiage in my profiles and would see how they would elicit different responses.  I was always confused most by men who would get so angry at me for either not responding, or responding but not responding the way they wanted.  I’ll admit, I’ve had a few scares.

In 2010, I went back to school for my Bachelor’s degree.  I chose Communications because my sister didn’t want me to go into Forensic Psychology.  She feared I would be placed for my preceptorship in a sex-offender prison.  After looking over the descriptions of other programs available, Communications seemed to be right up my alley.   Entering into a degree field heavily studied and mostly theory, I read and wrote a lot of research papers.  I began to use my experience online with men and with dating and then just social media as a whole and I slowly began to see a pattern over time; connections to things I studied and things that I experienced.  I delved into Computer Mediated Communications even more so in my graduate studies and what I’ve come away from all of my knowledge (which I will admit- I JUST got my Masters so no I have no delusions that I’m any kind of expert) was this:

The internet has stolen our happiness.  It’s stolen our contentedness.  It has stripped away and consumed what is real and beautiful about our lives- each other.

This isn’t just my personal conjecture, I actually do have some evidence to go by on this subject which I will try to explain as concisely as possible my theory on why this is:

When I was growing up, if you wanted to reach me to talk to me you had to pick up the phone to do it.  I might not be there.  You might have to try back.  If you wanted to go out with me, you had to screw up the courage to actually ask–in person–with your voice.  You could actually go places and interact with people with a modicum of privacy.  We didn’t have as many choices for coupling since we relied on proximity.  You typically dated or married someone you met through work or school or church or maybe a random encounter in your own city.  You had dreams and aspirations like anyone else, but they lived in your head and not in your line of vision.

Then the internet happened.

The internet is one of the single greatest inventions of mankind.  Think of it.  All of human history and the answer to any question you could possibly have all on a tiny computer you carry around with you everywhere you go.  I believe it is also one of the worst inventions of mankind.

When I was growing up, people had high school reunions.  They still do have high school reunions, but they are no longer about catching up with each other.  I imagine they are just largely ceremonial rites of passage parties we now hold for ourselves.  Lord knows, we all already know every single movement each other makes right down to announcing when our toddlers poop.  Facebook fixed the need for reunions.  Now we could paint any life that we wanted to be portrayed for mass consumption.  Studies have shown that those who are highly engaged in social media tend to be less happy overall in their personal lives.  (*I’m not going to cite this since it’s my personal blog, but if you want references please message and I can provide them.)  Those highly engaged in social media are constantly inundated with updates about other’s lives and when you’re constantly confronted with the success of your peers, you may start to compare.  You may start to self-censor.  You may start to make things sound better than they really are.

You might lose your authenticity by trying to make things seem more perfect than they really are.  I think what we have lost is the beauty of imperfection; the beauty of opening up to someone and being fallible and human with them.  We seek a reality that doesn’t exist, and we reject the beauty in our own existence.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, to circle back we used to meet people in our own communities, then our communities became global communities.  At first glance, one might not see the issue with this.  We are more connected to one another than ever before in the history of mankind.  What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, we’re fucking with our personal happiness and messing with the delicate balance of how humans have expressed their sexuality and propagated for millennia.  Yes, I’m going to delve into human sexuality a little bit.

For centuries, we courted those we met through organic interaction.  We might have some choice in terms of mates (some having more choices than others as is the way of mammals in general), but overall the general pool of potential options was small comparatively.  Now we can literally date someone virtually on another continent.  We are overwhelmed with choice.   In a study that has been replicated with similar results using jelly, it was discovered that when two tables were set up with jellies- one with many choices, one with only a few- people were drawn to and perused the table with more choices available, but they made fewer purchases.  The table with fewer choices had a higher rate of purchase.  The idea behind this being that when we are presented with so many choices we agonize over making the RIGHT choice; the PERFECT choice.  Because what if it’s not perfect?  What if something better is out there?  Better wait it out and string this person along so I’m not alone; keep myself open to a better more perfect choice to come along.

In doing this, we often overlook happiness in front of us.  We overlook good choices seeking the perfect choice. We make ourselves miserable looking at what others have or say they have or could have. We compare our lives to others and we find ourselves wanting.  It reminds me of the line from Silence of the Lambs, “We covet what we see every day.”

This now brings me to our current state of affairs.  Tinder. Match. Grinder. Plenty of Fish. Facebook.  Instagram–( Yes, even Facebook and Instagram)– we live in a world of constant swiping left and right on people based solely on their photos and a few lines of their profiles (if we even get that far since we are so consumed with instant gratification of desires, because, well…the internet.)  And in my research for papers I wrote in college on the subject I found that when it comes to online dating sites, attractive people with low dating anxiety tend to flock to them because of the ease in communication and the magnitude of choice available.  Online dating for attractive successful people is like shooting fish in a barrel.  But what about Joe Blow who doesn’t have stellar genetics, has always had trouble talking with women and probably would have gotten himself a woman out of high school to settle down and marry and have kids- guess what?  He likes internet dating, too- FOR THE SAME REASON- ease of communicating with others.  However, those less attractive and successful with high dating anxiety are now left more so high and dry than ever before in history- and they’re kind of pissed about it.  For centuries a guy without the best genes could probably have secured himself a mate, except for the internet.  Now all the attractive people are not only taking up all the most attractive mates, they are also taking the potential mates of the not so genetically favored breeding stock.  This new subset of men who can’t seem to find women with which to procreate or at least practice have now become what they call “Involuntary Celibate” or “Incel” aka the “Beta Male”.

But remember we have global communities now, right?  And we can set the algorithms to show us only the information and opinions and things we desire or covet.  We can literally block out the rest.  We can seek out others to commiserate.  We form groups and forums and we bitch and moan about our problems or we argue with words on a screen.  In doing so we lose the non-verbal humanity that comes with communication.  We have hashtag activism and more support for women online now than ever, and suddenly Susie who never thought she was that attractive or valuable is seeing herself as empowered, and she’s not going to take the Beta Male bullshit anymore.

When I sit back and I look at it from the 50,000ft view, all we have done is plug ourselves into a matrix of perfection and seeing others as their political views or what they do for a living or how perfect their kids look or their houses or their vacations…

and we are making ourselves MISERABLE.

The other day I was sitting on my back porch drinking a cup of coffee.  As I sat in the morning air I saw a man walking a small child in a stroller through the parking lot.  This man “looked” like a stereotypical “redneck”.  He was an older gentleman, with an unkempt appearance, and I’m sure I could have made a thousand critical observations about who he was a person based solely on what he looked like.

But I paused and I really looked at him.  How nice of him to take the time to take the baby for a stroll in the morning air.  It was a nice day.  He obviously cares for this baby.  I always like to take my baby for a stroll when he was younger.  We are similar, not different.  There may be differences, but when you seek the humanity in others you will find commonality more so than not.

We live in a world where it’s honestly no longer feasible to disconnect.  We are caught in the web, and I have mulled this over in my brain for a long long time.  How do we get ourselves out of this mess?

By letting go of perfection.  By letting go of how you think it should be, and living the life that you are currently living.  By seeing each other as people again.  By getting to know each other again without the vitriol and labels.  By seeking first the humanity in others.

Life isn’t perfect.  No one in life is perfect.  In trying to fake our lives into perfection we build our castles on sand.

It’s ok to be a mess.

It’s ok to fall apart.

It’s ok to not be ok.

We need to stop searching for something that doesn’t exist and embrace the absolute beauty and perfection that is the imperfections of our lives.

Be more authentic.  See others with mercy.  You have to give mercy to get it.

We can take our happiness back.  We just have to cut the bullshit.

 

Crossroad

Saturday morning I woke up hungry.  I don’t usually wake up hungry or worry too much about it when I do, but there’s something about knowing there is nothing you personally can do about it- it makes the hunger that much worse.  I had just enough coffee left to make myself a weak cup of coffee.  As I sat in my living room listening to some Indie Folk mix Alexa found for me, I took a long look around my living room.

My life is so different now.  If you told me in January that this would be my life right now, I wouldn’t have believed it.  It’s like I woke up after a long deep sleep as someone else in a life I don’t recognize, and I’m having to catch up with everything that’s happened until now.  Everything that’s happened until now is so heartbreaking and difficult to look at and make peace.   I’ve made some great strides, and yet, it feels as though I’m standing at the end of a long road that ends in the vastness of everything.  Every way I look is a path I could take, but I stand paralyzed with fear of making the wrong choice again.  I’m overwhelmed with possibility.

All of those whom I called my closest friends have left me.  I do not regret them or begrudge them, it’s just a very strange feeling when everything is suddenly sucked out of your life.  It feels like the tide has been sucked out and the tsunami is coming.  The tsunami is coming and I don’t recognize my life or what direction to take it now.  I find myself more and more going through the motions of a life I used to find moderately satisfying considering the circumstances.  I had a circle of friends, a fun single life, and a compartmentalized old life I tried desperately not to remember every second of the day.

I plan.  I think ahead.  I find the answers.  I take care of things before they get out of hand, but I can’t see what’s coming now and it’s a blindness I’m not used to or comfortable.  Not having a plan makes me feel very vulnerable.

But…

The Universe speaks to me of patience every day, and I’m trying.  Patience is the hardest lesson for me to learn.  Humility I have in droves (regardless of what those who don’t know me may think), but patience has never been one of my virtues.  I feel like these last 10 years have been holding me back and I’m for the first time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel- but unlike Andy Dufresne at the end of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, I have no master plan.  I’ve crawled through a mile of shit, and some days I still feel as much in bondage as if I were inside a cell.  I’ve become stir crazy in this life.

I don’t know the right choice.  Home doesn’t feel like home anymore, and that’s a very strange and scary place to wake up every day.

I’m at a crossroad, and even though it feels like the tsunami will hit at any moment; I know I can swim.  The chaos I can handle.   It’s the suspense that kills me.

Dear Daddy,…

This last month or so has been really rough.   (Hell, who am I kidding, the last 40 years have been really rough, but let’s just focus on the last month, shall we?)  I’ve been doing a lot of meditating.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve been really working on myself and the things I keep what feels like bottled up deep inside, but is really just beneath the surface.  Last night it just came to a head; a breaking point.

My father and I have always had a difficult relationship.  I was never a daddy’s girl.  Growing up my father was distant and rageful at times.  He could be cutting and cold.  Most of my memories of him are of his drunken rages.  I would stand up to him face to face and challenge him even though he terrified me.  He terrified everyone in the house at times.  Someone had to do something.  So I did, and because of that, I bore the brunt of a lot of his misery.

Yes.  His misery.  I honestly don’t know a great deal about my father and his upbringing.  I know he was the youngest of 5, with an older brother he adored who died suddenly when my father was in his early 20s before I was born.   I know his father died suddenly when he was 3 years old and that his mother fell into a deep depression.  I never even realized that he only had an eighth-grade education when I was a full grown adult.  He was so successful even with his addiction.  He was so smart; so good with math and mechanical things.  He could see it in his head.  My son shares that.  You wonder how someone could do so much with so little, and honestly, my father is quite phenomenal.  It makes you wonder what he could have had if he had also been loved and cared for as a child.

I came home last night with a heart that felt like it was a thousand pounds.  Holding onto hurt is heavy like that.  As I poured myself a vodka and Dr. Pepper to get through the evening, I lit my cigarette, took a sip and a drag and burst into tears.  Here I was numbing the pain just as he did.  Just as he so desperately tried to make the pain of his life experience easier to bear, I sat doing the same thing.  For the first time, I saw him with mercy.  For the first time, I saw him as broken.  For the first time I understood that even though it was chaotic and scarring, he was doing the best he could and what he knew; what he had probably always known.  He had loved me the best he could.  He had just never been loved the right way.

I cried harder.

I then pulled out my phone and sent him the following:

“Daddy-  I forgive you.

I know how hard it was for me growing up.  I expected more than you had to give because it hadn’t been shown to you.  Not the right way.  It’s hard to cope.  You turn to things to numb hurt.  I get that now.  I’m sorry you’ve had to wrestle so many demons.  I love you, and I forgive you.  Just know that.

Just know when I stood up to you I was only trying to do what I felt was right.”

He responded back, “I know.”

And then I asked him the question that has colored every relationship I’ve ever had with a man:

“Do you love me?  Even when I’m difficult to love?  Do you love me anyway?  Because you loving me is the most important.”

He responded, “Yes I have always loved you.  My love for you is unconditional.”

Even though it was text, my father has never said to me.  Ever. My mother was always the one to tell me “Daddy loves you.” But for him to say it to me; those words mean more to me than anything.  I think I’ve acted out relationships with the wrong people over and over and over in a way of trying to get my father to love me.  Desperately wanting to be loved and cherished.

I thanked him and we both said that we loved each other and left it at that, but I felt a huge weight lifted from me almost immediately.

If you are reading this and you are also hurting, work on surrendering your past to the past.  People can and do change all the time.  I’m not who I was 20 years ago.  I’m not even sure I’m the same person I was in January.

There’s a lot going on in the world out there right now that we can’t control, but we can control how we respond and hold onto things.  Lighten your load, my friend.  Forgive.

 

 

It’s the little things that get you

I’ve been trying to deal and come to terms with the emotions I have stuffed down and looked away from for so long.  I really feel that is the only way to excise the demon is to face the monster.  Sometimes it manifests in such strange ways.  Like this morning- I was thirsty and grabbed a glass from the cabinet.  It was a Shrek collector’s glass from right before everything shattered.  I remembered the day I  purchased it.  My son was still small enough for a car seat.  He was 4 that summer.  Our last summer.

As I took the glass down I heard in my head that cherubic 4-year-old voice excitedly saying, “Schwek da fird, mommy!”  I can hear it clear as day in my head and even now, a tear rolls down my cheek.  Part of coming to terms with everything I’ve pushed down and looked away is that I have to feel it, and I have to turn it into something that doesn’t hurt.  So through tear-stained cheeks I drank the glass of water and gave thanks that I had that time with him; that I have that memory of me with my Puss-in-Boots plush and my son with his Donkey plush on a hot summer day. We enjoyed the air-conditioning and the movie and the experience together.

I am grateful.  I have to remind myself each time.  One day hopefully the tears won’t come along with it.

I know what I have is PTSD from the trauma of losing him at such a young age and for no reason other than to wound me.  Little things trigger it.  Like a claw machine.  The claw machine reminds me of our last afternoon together before the culmination of the nightmare.  We had court the following day, and I knew that I had not had enough money to win.  I had no money, honestly.  I knew my child had been purchased.

Even now that is a crushing feeling that I haven’t dealt with yet.

I remember I had dropped him off at school that morning, and I came to work and silently cried and cried until my boss, a very kind soul named Joe told me to take the rest of the day and go get my baby, which I did.  I took him to the park, I took him for pizza, I took him to play putt-putt, and I let him play with the claw machine until I had no more money left.

That’s why I can’t look at claw machines without a pang of sorrow.

There are many things that I avoid to not have to come across a painful memory I have stuffed away, but that isn’t serving me.  I am thankful Joe let me have that afternoon with him and wherever he is in his life right now, I wish him all the best life has to offer because he is a good soul.

I want a partner in life.  I want REAL friends.  I feel this pain and sorrow and not dealing with it; staying stagnant in a place where too many memories hang on everything- it needs to go.  It needs to be excised.  It’s going to take time.

But I am grateful for the journey and the kindnesses I have been met with along the way.  I will work harder to pay that forward.