I stopped drinking. For now. Maybe forever. I’ve made every attempt to believe that my relationship with alcohol was casual, but in this season of uncovering, I get to be honest with myself. About everything. Before I can fully step out into a new life.
I’ve been numbing myself with alcohol since I was 17. When my brother died and my life cracked open, I didn’t have the tools to cross that crevasse, so I fell in. No one had the tools. My parents and I, we all fell in, one way or another.
In high school, the numbing was disguised as fitting in. In college, the numbing was disguised as having fun. In my marriage, the numbing was disguised as being social.
Every day I gained new reasons to numb myself. Every day the crack opened a sliver more and I willingly wedged myself down into the darkness, into the shelter of those shadows because heading up and out into the light of a life feeling the pain seemed impossible.
And I stayed there. Until 3 months ago.
I don’t want to be numb anymore. I want to feel everything from back then and all of what’s happening now so there won’t be any more fear. It’s happening. And I’m strong. And proud. And I’m starting to feel strong and proud.
I don’t want to be numb anymore so that when I get to the beginning again, I’ll take that first step out into the light and everything will be new. And I’ll feel it all.
I’ve decided that you can be two totally different people at the same time if you need to be.
There are no rules for this. There are no lines to be walked when you’re punching your way out of a life-eclipsing situation. You make the rules for your own survival.
It’s okay to be excited and be devastated all at once. That’s part of the grace that you get from growing through this. You go in as one person and you come out as another.
While you’re fighting through it, you’re going to be all kinds of different people. Once the bomb detonated, the old you was history anyway. You may as well be all the people and all the things you need to be while you’re plowing through.
Be the angriest you’ve ever been and then be elated when you come down. You’re growing. Be patient for a new beginning and be impatient for an end. It’s happening. Be weak and strong and right and wrong and needy and indifferent and all the things and none of the things you need to get yourself out.
There are no rules. The only thing you have to be all the time is a believer that it’s FOR A REASON. Be a devout parishoner in the church of BELIEVING YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY TO A BETTER PLACE. Go there every minute of the day. Live there. Let every moment be shrouded in respect for all of your selves. All the selves you are right now and all the selves you’re going to become.
This is the most pure love of the day. It’s not always pretty, but it’s beautiful. Waking up slowly in a little pile of smelly human love. My perfectly insane, small humans.
Permanent damage to my vertebrae is a small price to pay for waking up with these two midnight marauders. I go to sleep alone and wake up as the sugary goodness in an offspring Oreo.
Everyone’s breath is awful, someone’s always farting, and inevitably, there’s a short commentary about morning wood. We giggle and snuggle and talk about nonsense. It’s before the day’s frustrations have set in and we’re all still hazy with the soft happiness of sleep.
I never want to stop waking up with them. I never want these tiny moments of raw togetherness with them to end.
They are what tethers me to the planet most days and I don’t want them to grow another minute older.
I want to freeze the three of us in this stinky pile of love so the only thing that continues to move and grow is my perfectly content heart.
Back in August I went away for a 40th birthday weekend with my best friend and I put this dress on and went to dinner. We had a great night. I was 30 pounds heavier then. And I was happy. I felt a light inside.
I got home from that trip and I wrote a blog post about wearing this dress. That post went viral and opened the door to what I now consider to be my burgeoning career. And I didn’t look or feel the way I do in this same dress today.
In August, I was struggling to believe I was beautiful. I wanted to say that if I could wear the dress the way I felt in it, if I could believe I was beautiful, then anyone could. My message of positivity was shared by thousands of people. My light was shining.
Then, specifics aside, in October I learned that I was living in a lie and didn’t know it. For a long time. And things that no woman should ever have to hear were said to me, by someone I loved. So much.
I heard things that I’ll never be able to un-hear. Things that made me realize why I was struggling to believe I was beautiful in the first place. Things that made me realize why I was having a hard time loving myself. Things I’m left with now to rattle around inside my brain. But there’s still a brightness.
I look the way I do in the dress now because of a broken heart. And that’s okay. I mean, I choose to believe that it’s going to be okay. As hurt as I am, I still have happiness. My mind and body and heart are healing. And I’m thankful for that.
NOW I KNOW that it’s never been about my body anyway. I don’t think the first post was about my body and I don’t think that this post is about my body.
I think it’s all been about spirit. It’s all been about strength and self-love and the struggle to save myself. From myself and from others. From outside forces. To preserve that little flicker of light that I’ve never let go out. A constant promise that’s always lived in me to stay bright inside to survive. As bad as things have gotten in my life and as hard as things may get for me, I know that the dark is no place for me to live. And I will keep this light on to lead me out.
Today I realized that there’s something good about breaking. It creates cracks for the painful things to flow out. Things that have been poisoning you inside and you didn’t know it. And if you want to, you can choose to try to replace those things with joy. With things that were once healthy and happy and good. I hope.
This is me in a past life. Maybe 12 years ago. Before I was a mom. Dancing in the dark one night with my friends and a sweet, sweet beer buzz. I love this picture. There’s joy in me in this picture. Before I started to close myself in.
Now that I’m broken open, I’m going to try find that joy again. The joy that was inside this girl. Some days I don’t know if I can, but I know I’m going to try to make this breaking count for something good.
I’m going to try to replace this betrayal with a million tiny beautiful, brave things. I’m going to try to replace this heartbreak with hope. I’m going to try to replace this disbelief with dancing. And I’m going to try to stay so beautifully broken open that I never get closed in again.
All of the important messages of speaking out impacted me at last night’s Golden Globes, but there was a line in Oprah’s speech that resonated with me the most. And in a different way. Really, just a fragment of a line.
She said, “In 1982, Sidney (Poitier) received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.”
Something there spoke to me unexpectedly in my new year of trying to be brave. I mean, I don’t think I’ll be winning any awards in the near future, but what I do know is that “at this moment, there are some little girls watching.” In my case, one little girl. My 10 year old daughter, Ollie.
This time, this divorce, as hard as it is on me, is having an effect on my kids. I can’t tell fully yet what it is, but I know it has to be. None of us can suddenly be thrust into this and be able to make sense of it, especially not my kids. Their dad moves out and their parents no longer speak. I think that’s enough for gravity to let go of all of us and let us float off into outerspace.
What I realized, though, is that she is looking at me and looking to me. Watching me, to see how I recoil from this. I’m her compass. She’s looking at me to show her the way. And she’ll follow. Every tear I shed affects her. Every time she catches me lingering in bed a little too long scares her. Every reaction I have everyday informs her on how to feel.
So I have to fight. Not even for me. For her. So that if, when she grows up, some man does this to her, she’ll have a map on how to get herself back. She won’t define herself by the love of a man or the pain that he can cause. She won’t allow her self-worth to be compromised by staying with someone who is indifferent to it. She’ll look back at this time and remember watching me fight my way back to earth and she’ll know to do the same.
Right now, the most important little girl is watching me. I’ll be composed on the outside and I’ll be clawing my way back on the inside because someday I want her to want to be like me. And that can’t happen if she watches me disappear.
If you’re struggling in a way that threatens your survival – put up a fight. I don’t mean struggling to make ends meet. I mean if you feel yourself spinning out to space. If you can see your whole self disappearing – fight like your life depends on it. Because there’s someone who needs you to come back. And they’re watching.
I had to be brave today. I didn’t believe I could do it. My mother looked at me and said, “You’re going to breathe through it and the message you’re going to send is that he can knock you down but he can’t keep you down.” I said to her, “He doesn’t care either way.” And she said, “But you do.” So I did it. I was brave.
At the end of my reiki session last week, the therapist asked me to write down an affirmation to take with me and told me to put it somewhere that I could see it all the time. She told me to write “I AM COMPLETE. I AM ENOUGH.” I cried. I couldn’t write it. Because I don’t believe it. YET.
2017 has been 100 years for me. I was stretching my tentacles for much of it. Reaching out to myself and out of myself. Embracing the experience of writing and making people laugh with 8 open arms. I was coming back from a dark place I’d put myself in and I was beginning to reclaim a little bit of my power. Until October 6th when I was shot down out of the sky by the person I loved the most and who I believed loved me the most. All three of my octopus hearts, broken.
Now, the thing I’m believing in the most is bravery. Hoping I can believe bravery into reality and back into my hearts. Bravery to face betrayal. Bravery to face the pain. Bravery to believe that I’ll get to the other side of this. Bravery to tell myself that the happiness ahead will be what I deserved all along. Bravery to allow myself to believe that one day soon, I WILL BE COMPLETE and I WILL BE ENOUGH.
Wishing you bravery so big it fills all three of your octopus hearts in 2018.
This is the face of a girl who has one dream dying and another dream coming true. How can this be possible? My marriage is over and my heart is broken, and yet somehow, my dream of being a working writer is suddenly sprawling itself out in front of me like a brand new lover in my bed.
I’m going to take it as the most glorious sign and be gracious and be thankful and be present and make love to it in every possible way.
I lived “happily” in such a state of SAMENESS for so long. Every day was the same. Every conversation was the same. Every person was the same. Now, I’m faced with newness in every single minute. In my brain, in my heart, in my experiences. Everything is the first time for my new normal, but now I have this little gift of self-worth that I’ve created. I have something new that’s bringing me this crazy joy of self-fulfillment, in one of my darkest times.
This little dream I suddenly started believing in again last October when I started my blog. Maybe I knew this storm was coming and I grew the blog from my heart like a little life preserver for me to cling to. Just in the nick of time. HOW LUCKY AM I FOR THAT?
Keep your eyes open and your heart open and be willing to hurt and feel and change and be scared and take chances and look at what can happen. Grow yourself new dreams so that if one dream dies, you’ll still have magical things to cling to.
This is a cardboard box. It came to my house this past Saturday around 12:30 p.m. I get all kinds of boxes delivered here. Boxes of swim equipment for my son. Boxes of pool parts for my husband. Boxes of clothes for my daughter. But I’ve never received a box like this. This 6 inch square, corrugated cardboard box held my motherf*cking dream come true.
We all grow up dreaming that we want to be one thing or do another when we’re older. Things that maybe seem impractical once the confines of reality set in – time, bills, kids. Things we decide we aren’t smart enough or skilled enough or matched properly for. And we let go of those dreams to do what sustains us. That’s life. It happens.
I realized my dream in 1993 when my brother died and my life cracked open. I was 16 and began to write to fill in that chasm of pain. I went on to college for my writing degree, concentrating in poetry, and believe it or not, I wasn’t half bad. I loved it but, you might have heard, poetry doesn’t pay the bills. After college, I began a career in the advertising arm of publishing. Got married. Had kids. Eventually, my dream of writing was left behind so that I could do what moms do – help my family follow their own motherf*cking dreams.
I became a SAHM and started a small business where I work alone. I began to feel extremely depressed – isolated and unfulfilled. All my life I’d questioned my intelligence and that insecurity had taken some major hits in the last few years. I realized I had to go back to my dream if I wanted to try to save myself to be any good for anyone else. So on October 18, 2016, I started The Mother Octopus. And let me tell you something. A lot really can happen in a year.
Last February, I began to make memes for my Instagram and Facebook accounts as part of my blog’s presence and quickly realized that I loved making them. I was good at making them. I’ve continued writing and have had some great response to my blog, including one post that went viral. I started to feel proud of myself. I started to think that maybe I could do this.
I began following a lot of other writers, mom bloggers and meme makers, I noticed many of them in Scary Mommy t-shirts. Lots of them were either staff writers or contributors at Scary Mommy. So very early on, I made becoming a Scary Mommy contributor and getting that t-shirt a goal for myself. I saw that t-shirt as a major rite of passage, validation that I could do this. And on Saturday, around 12:30 p.m., that t-shirt arrived at my house in the 6 inch square cardboard box above. I have an author page at ScaryMommy.com and I have a job making memes for them. My motherf*cking dream is now my reality.
For many years I felt like what I had to say wasn’t important. My dreams of being a wife and mom had been realized and now my job was to keep my head above water and so that everyone else could realize their dreams. I bring my daughter to piano lessons because I believe that is what she’s meant to do. I bring my son to swim practice because I believe that is what he’s meant to do. What I’m learning is that in order to be a better mom and wife, I have to strive for what validates me. I’m no good if I’m not nurturing my own desire to succeed in what I believe I’m meant to do.
So, if you have a dream that you’ve buried in the back story of your life, under the chaos of schedules and clutter of other obligations, DIG IT OUT. You’re going to come to a point in your life when everyone else’s dream is coming true and there won’t be time left for yours. If you dream of going back to school so you can change careers, go back. If you dream of starting your own business so you have more time for your family, start it. Whatever it is, DO IT. NOW. Your 6 inch square cardboard box is out there and your motherf*cking dream is waiting inside of it.
This is my daughter Olivia brushing her friend Ellie’s hair. I took this photo when my family was visiting my best friend Nichole’s family last spring. Ellie is Nichole’s daughter. The girls didn’t know it at the time, and they still don’t, but it was the weekend they became best friends.
It was Saturday morning and I’d slept in the kids’ room with all 4 kids in case mine woke up during the night. The kids got up early and headed downstairs to play. I heard some husband voices down there, so I continued to doze, a little wine soaked from the night before. A while later I woke up to the sound of the girls chatting in Nichole’s large closet, attached to the kid’s bedroom. The door was cracked enough so I could see Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair. I quickly got out of bed and crept in to snap a few pictures before they could protest.
A little background. Nichole and I come from a long line of best friends. Our grandmothers were neighbors and close friends, so our fathers had always been close. When Nichole was born 6 months after me, our best friend destiny was sealed. That was 40 years ago.
Now, the 5-hour distance between my Long Island home and Nichole’s Syracuse home makes it difficult for us to get together as much as we’d like. We had a great weekend with them and our kids cried when it was time to say goodbye. On the car ride back to Long Island, going through the photos on my phone, I came across the hair brushing pictures. All bleary-eyed and probably recovering from the night before, I’d forgotten I took those.
An Instagram fan, I quickly added a few filters to it and posted it to my FB page. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I looked at the picture again and got chills, suddenly remembering the last time Nichole had brushed my hair. The morning after my brother died. The day she became my sister.
It was July 8, 1993. She and I were 16. My brother J.P. had died suddenly the day before from cardiac arrest following a bout of heatstroke. He was 19. Nichole slept in my bed with me and woke up next to me with the confirmation that the day before hadn’t been a nightmare like I hoped. That morning I went to the funeral home with my parents, somehow thinking they could use my support. I didn’t last long and I ended up on the front steps of the funeral home in the hot summer sun waiting for my aunt to pick me up.
Getting back to the house, Nichole was still there. I played Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd on repeat because my brother used to play it. I sat on the floor dazed and she sat behind me and brushed my long brown hair while the music blared. Because the days that followed were such a blur, I hadn’t thought of that moment in 24 years. What seemed like a small gesture at the time now reveals itself to me as the moment she stepped into her rightful role as my heart’s mender and still now, my heart’s protector.
I’m not writing this to rehash the feelings of that awful time. I’m writing this because when I looked back at the picture of Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair, it struck me that what Nichole and I share, our girls have begun to share. It was a strange and beautiful feeling. They’re 10 and 7. Their 3-year age difference was palpable until that weekend when I took this picture and they became inseparable.
I remembered Nichole’s grandmother telling me stories about my own grandmother. I wondered how many times they’d laughed together or consoled each other or stood together in front of a mirror while they prepared for a night out with our grandfathers. I wondered if they’d had any idea that something as simple as their friendship would become so much more for Nichole and I and now for our kids. I wonder how happy they’d be to see their granddaughters and their great granddaughters sharing the same bond they shared almost 80 years earlier.
This picture is the culmination of 40 years of laughter, tears, firsts, lasts, fights, failures and triumphs I shared with Nichole. I realized our daughters will have that together now. That’s the legacy we’ve passed on to them.
When I look back at the picture of Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair, I hope one day our girls will realize that they’re so much more than “fourth generation besties”. I hope they’ll understand that sometimes the best kind of family is the kind you find outside your bloodlines. It’s the family that somehow becomes your family through the opening and rending of your hearts and the experience of shared joy. It’s the family we make for ourselves.