It’s the GRINCH

I’ve decided to make my home a “Christmas Free” zone this year. I can’t honestly tell you the last time I or if I’ve ever just “skipped” Christmas, but it just feels too much to bear this year. 10 Years ago was the last Christmas I was married. That year a battered women’s shelter had reached out to me to see if they could add me to their angel tree list. My son on an angel tree. I hated myself for that. Just the year before I had been able to spoil him and here we were accepting charity from a charity I had many times supported families.

But, I still pulled out the Christmas tree that year in our first little apartment. It engulfed the room in it’s size having been purchased for a much larger space. We made the Christmas cookies. We read the stories. We watched the movies. And even thought I cried what felt like a ocean of tears that year and beyond, he was still mine for a little bit longer.

By the following Christmas his father would have absconded with him, and we would go at least 2 Christmases without one another. I try so hard to find forgiveness in my heart for the magic of when our son still believed being taken from me. I had always made Christmas warm and beautiful and inviting. I did it for me, and when my son came along, I threw myself into it. We would dance around in the front yard on Christmas even tossing glittered “reindeer food” in the air as we sang as loudly as we could. That was the last one, right before everything crumbled.

It’s been a long 10 years. Mostly Christmas is spent rushing around the day of to get him back to his father as quickly as possible. I’ll never be done with the sentence he served of desiring my freedom my mistake made by a 20 year old child.

And here I am, 10 years later in much the same position I was that Christmas. This year has been a year of transformation and its positively broken me down to the barest and most raw form I’ve ever been. I don’t “need a little Christmas right this very minute,” I need my son, to get this derailed train on track and a very very very long nap.

I feel completely defeated and I don’t honestly care who knows it or what they think of it. So please no candy canes and Merry Christmas.

When Darkness Comes

My scale battery went dead a few months ago.  I made a mild attempt to find a replacement battery, but gave up finding anyone who actually worked at my local Walmart.  Apparently there you wear a vest and get a paycheck.  Easy enough.  So I never replaced the battery.

Just add the battery for the scale to the long list of very easy and menial tasks that I can barely manage around the house these days.  Some days just moving around and looking human takes more effort than I feel I can muster and yet still I manage.  But, each day I feel myself a little smaller; a little less of me there.  Depression has it’s way of eating you from the inside out.  Clothes I could barely fit into a month ago slide on with ease and are almost loose.  However, this isn’t for vanity.  It’s a desire to shrink; to shrivel.  A desire to be less noticeable; less of me.

Depression is a liar, but it’s a harsh smooth talker.  Depression tells you that if anyone really knew you, they would hate you.  It tells you that no one in their right mind would want someone so fragile and broken. So many pieces to put together, and who knows how long the glue will hold.  Depression tells you you’re fat and ugly and worthless, and it doesn’t matter how loudly people say otherwise-Depression speaks with a loudspeaker.

There are times when Depression can be a monster that threatens your life, sometimes over and over again.

Depression is not weakness of Faith.  It isn’t being a “Negative Nelly”.  It’s a faceless life force drain that makes you feel like you’re in a pit you can’t get out.

Depression is not for the weak.  Depression has no prejudices against social status.

Depression is an equal opportunity destroyer.

Depression can laugh like Robin Williams.

Sing like Chris Cornell.

Depression can be sudden and swift like a tsunami.

Or it can be quicksand.

What depression is not is a personal failing.  Check on your people, especially during the holidays.

 

When the Sun Goes Out

My son hasn’t spoken to me in at least 2 months. I grounded him from the PS4 because it was interfering with the brief time we did have together and he tried to speak to me as though he were man of the house I pay for and provide all things.

I let him know what time it was.

He’s punishing me by refusing to see or speak to me. I know he’s being a teenager, but I don’t think he’ll ever realize how leaving me now has made the world a little darker when it was already hard to see. Leaving me now was the worst possible time to go.

My son was always my short reprieve from solitude. Laughter. Eating junk food. Staying up late all weekend. Hearing how he sees the world and thinks. Ever since he was a baby I’ve eagerly awaited each layer of him that unfolds. Looking at him now I’m amazed at how angular and handsome he is becoming. God I miss him.

But, I don’t want to force him to see me because that rejection is more than I want to subject myself to right now.

I have nothing to offer in sage advice on this matter. It hurts too much now to look at it objectively.

I just hope one day he wants to come back.

Life is messy.

—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 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.