Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DESTINation: Florida

It started out simple enough: Mom and I decided to take Makensie to the beach and have a relaxing few days together in the sun and sand before I start my new job. Yes, it was a bit of a spontaneous decision (one made directly after I got the job offer), but spontaneity is the spice of life in my opinion, and I’m not one to turn down a trip to the beautiful, white-sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast. Plus, I need some new work clothes, and there’s a huge outlet mall right in the middle of Destin, our chosen location (a spot we’ve gone to at least two to three times a year since I was five). Perfection!

The first decision to make was which car to take, and my young, low-mileage Hyundai was trumped by my mother’s aged, high-mileage Jeep because it had new tires and a recent oil change. Works for me! We chose a little one-room motel we used to stay in when I was a child because it was cheap, right on the beach, and, frankly, one of our only options in the mid-July tourist season. No worries there! I’m sure K will nap whilst we putter about the room. And we chose to go mid-week and be back on Friday because we had committed to being part of a neighborhood yard sale on Saturday, and we needed time to get the garage and sale items in order the night before. Plus, my mom and I had decided that the money we made on the yard sale would pay for the cost of the motel, and that was even more enticing. A paid-for place to stay at the beach: I’m totally in!

The drive down was not bad. We had decided not to worry about a timeframe, and we got on the road just before noon, which was good. Of course, I forgot the camera and Kensie’s toothbrush, so we had to go back for those. But luckily we hadn’t gotten far, and we were still in good spirits. We decided to follow the GPS directions instead of going our old faithful route to make things interesting, and so we got a fabulous glimpse at rural living in Alabama and Florida—complete with vegetable and fruit stands popping up in the middle of nowhere, fields of cows, horses, and goats (and one mule), and the occasional down-home café called something like Millie’s Pie House or Jed’s BBQ—all of which we really enjoyed. K slept most of the way down since it was her naptime, and we got to Destin on a beautifully sunny day early enough to get groceries, check into the motel, and still have time to hit the beach—which is exactly what we did.

Before we left Birmingham (but already on the road), I’d asked my mom if she had remembered to bring a razor. I forgot to pack one, and, as an unemployed single mom who hasn’t dated in at least three years (or really even been out with friends or males of any kind for months), shaving my legs had not been a priority lately. But as a single woman who would like to meet a great guy sometime down the road, lying on the beach with the possibility of males seeing me looking like an overweight bigfoot in a black mommy tankini with a skirt didn’t sit well. But Mom assured me she had a razor, and there was really not much I could do about the swimsuit at this point, last-minute as this trip was. However, when got there and I prepared to shave, no razor. Yes, Mommy Bigfoot would have to appear on the beach this day, especially since the adorable two-year-old in a cute pink polka dotted swimsuit at my feet was begging me to go “svim with da fishies.” So we headed to the beach, and I prayed to meet no one interesting. K took to the water like the fishies she so loves, and we had a great evening splashing and running on the beach. And lucky for me, there wasn’t a cute, unmarried guy in sight!

The next day was dedicated strictly to relaxing on the beach, getting some sun, wading in the lukewarm ocean water, possibly reading a book—the usual beach stuff. But I should have checked the manual I got at the hospital after having K entitled “Parenting 101”. Chapter 13: “Going to the Beach with a Two-Year-Old as a Single Parent: Don’t Do It!” might have been helpful. Needless to say, being on the beach with Kensie was not relaxing. She wanted to be in the water the whole time, and of course that can’t happen without me holding onto her, especially with her love of the water and lack of fear. But then, after being in the ocean, she wanted to be in the “little water” (i.e. the pool), then back to the ocean, then back to the pool, and on and on and on. My mom has bad knees, so she really couldn’t help much in this department, as walking in the sand is kind of tough. So it was all me, back and forth, all morning, until lunch and naptime, then all afternoon until dinnertime. I don’t think I sat on the beach a total of 10 minutes the entire three days we were in Destin!

It didn’t take us long to realize that the motel we used to stay in when I was a child had not changed much since the early 80s—it had simply aged. I think they may have painted it, but that was about it. Our porch had wires hanging from the ceiling where the light should have been and birds living in the walls. In the evenings we watched Momma and Daddy bird feed the babies, which was terribly exciting to K, and Mom and I actually kind of got into that, as well. There were exposed wires behind one of the beds, the phone didn’t work, and the outside grills were those old-fashioned ones you see at campgrounds. The décor left much to the imagination, and the window-unit air-conditioner kept the place merely tepid. I’m guessing I lost about 10 pounds of weight from the amount I sweated in those three days (now that’s a positive!).

We did meet some pretty interesting people. Being that we had noticed the very first hour after check-in that we had chosen to stay in the “Redneck Motel on the Gulf,” we had to try to adjust our attitudes and keep in mind that we were at the beach, directly on the beach, and it was absolutely beautiful weather despite the interesting clientele: smoking lady and her "odd" son, the old couple who wouldn't shut up about their grandkids, the other grandparents who adopted their 16-month-old grandchild because the mother (their son's girlfriend at the time) already had five kids and couldn't afford another (and who knows where their son is), and the bride and groom who actually chose this place to have their wedding (though the beach ceremony, viewed by every single person in our motel, was quite lovely, minus the hooting and hollering from many of the motel guests at its end).

Besides getting very little sleep or relaxation, being forced onto a 3 by 6 deck with the “Bird” family at 8 p.m. every night so K could go to bed, eating pizza and popcorn for dinner and turkey sandwiches everyday for lunch, only watching animated DVDs while in the motel room (which was quite a lot in the afternoons trying to get Kensie to nap), eating out only one night out of three at a place that usually is pretty good but chose this night to be less than stellar, having sand everywhere, including in the sheets, because there was no maid service, and continuous sweating both indoors and out, we managed to have a pretty good time bonding as three generations of Trenary women. However . . .

The day before we left, after a great breakfast at The Donut Hole, we noticed the A/C wasn’t working in Mom’s car. Because it was so hot and the fact that we had to drive home the next day, we decided to get it checked, and the news wasn’t good. The radiator had to be replaced. $500 and the car wouldn’t be ready until the next afternoon, the earliest by 4 p.m. (and we had to be out of the motel by 10 a.m.). Not only that, our afternoon of shopping and dinner at a nice restaurant was now history. It was sweltering out, we were stuck in a hot, one-room motel with an exhausted two-year-old and no car, and all I could think about was a cold beer! Since the closest “store” was a gas station a mile away and I refused to walk there in what looked to be a looming thunderstorm, I called a cab. When a girl needs a beer, a girl needs a beer! The gas station selection wasn’t great, so I settled for Corona without lime (being they didn’t sell lime). With this purchase, I was happy. It was worth the $10 cab ride, to say the least. That evening while pondering what we would do the next day after being ousted from the “Redneck Motel on the Gulf,” I drank my Corona, and we watched the wedding ceremony set up right outside our room on the beach. Boy are those two brave.

The next day, Kensie was over the beach and refused to go out, so we got packed up, called a cab, and headed to a friend’s house to wait out the car repair. Luckily, one of my mother’s friends has a house in town, and she told us where to get the key so we had a place to crash for a few hours. Thanks Jane! So we called a cab, loaded up our stuff (you don’t pack light with a two-year-old, so this wasn’t an easy task), and headed to the house. I’d have to say, this was probably the highlight of the trip. Finally, we could relax in a place that was up to our (I hate to say high, but much higher than what we’d been in the past few days) standards. In this lovely, air-conditioned home off the beach, we ate lunch, watched a couple of K’s DVDs, and just vegged. It was heavenly!

Our car arrived at the house about 4 (they were nice enough to drive it over because of everything we’d been through), and we headed out. The GPS took us an entirely different way than how we had come (I don’t get why GPSs do that!), but again, we had a relatively relaxing drive through the Florida and Alabama countryside, and since K slept a bit, we got to listen to “normal” music, which, out that far, you’re lucky to get one country music channel. As we neared Birmingham, we began to get the radio stations of our area, and the highlight of the evening was realizing that one of those stations was celebrating “Christmas in July.” For the last hour of the trip, we happily sang Christmas music and relaxed—finally.

You’d think that was the end of the story, right? Wrong. After a long and sweltering Saturday of peddling “valuables” that had been packed away in the garage for years and years, and only making half the cost of the motel we’d stayed in at the beach, Mom’s car died—for good. After a few tears shed saying good-bye to her Jeep, Mom’s now driving a new car she purchased yesterday. I don’t know that there’s a moral to this story, but I do know that when you allow the darkness to seep in (which I definitely did a few times on this trip), it begins to permeate your soul and perpetuate negativity. So the positives I take from this experience include the fact that we’re safe and sound at home (the car didn’t blow up with us in it and lived long enough to deliver us home safely), Kensie had a blast on the beach and was unaware of the stress involved for my mom and me, and we three girls spent quality time together while being tested to our unique limits. I also learned to never, ever stay in a one-room motel with my mother and daughter—beach or no beach.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Different Faces of Motherhood

These past few weeks that I’ve spent at home with my daughter, I’ve been privy to a world I always knew existed but had never personally experienced and, truth be told, really didn’t expect to ever experience (unless, in some perfect world in which I’ve yet to live, I meet a man I can depend upon). I have always worked to support myself, and now that I have my daughter, I have been working to support her, as well. This is just my life, and I embrace it for what it is.

But a few weeks ago, when I lost my job, I was suddenly thrust into a world in which many of my best friends have lived for quite some time. I had become a stay-at-home mom. Now, you may not believe it, but there are actually women out there who wake in the morning and are able to decide for themselves (without being told by someone else) how to spend their days. From what I’ve learned thus far, that’s a pretty cool situation—to be calling the shots in your life—and for the past few weeks, I’ve been making my own choices right along with them. What have I been doing, you ask?

Well, despite my reluctance to wear a bathing suit in public, I decided to join my girlfriends and their kids at the pool. I mean, we’re all mothers, right? I can’t be the only one who has lost the figure I had at 18! Who knew people actually did this every day? It’s hot as hell outside, and I’ve been slaving at a job when I could be flopping around in the baby pool with my kid or relaxing poolside with a bottle of water and a bag of goldfish? I could really get used to this! So yes, Kensie and I have spent a lot of time at the pool. I’ve met many moms I barely knew because I was working or not at all, have chatted about life as a mom and a little bit about the outside world (though I quickly realized that, for the most part, talk is relegated to family affairs: kids, husbands, having more kids, household repairs, napping, cooking, etc.). I have watched, listened, learned, and garnered a huge amount of respect for stay-at-home moms and this lifestyle I have never before understood or been a part of.

I’ve gone to lunch with friends and had early dinners out with family. I’ve spent time at friends’ houses for play dates and a little girl talk. I enjoyed a girls’ weekend after which I didn’t have to rush home Sunday morning to prepare for work on Monday. I took Kensie to the bowling alley (the one we used to go to when I was growing up is actually still around, though it’s still kind of dirty and hasn’t changed much if at all). Did you know that they actually have these little bumpers that pop up along the lanes so kids can bowl and not hit the gutter every single time? I didn’t even know they had special days just for kids!

I am truly amazed at this whole other lifestyle that exists while the rest of the world is working. I just received an e-mail from this Website to which I subscribe called It spoke on the topic of work/life balance. The former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, stated in a recent Wall Street Journal article that there's "no such thing as work-life balance." The women of were outraged by this and argued that corporations should implement policies in the workplace that “enable women to advance to the top in their careers and also take care of their families.” As a single working mom (well, most of the time), I would also like to know the reason why companies do not implement more family-friendly policies and why more women, especially mothers, are overlooked for positions for which they are fully qualified and would be crucial in advancing the growth of that company.

In an ideal world, I’d be able to make the decisions that are best for my family without corporate policies getting in my way. As a working mom, I want the option to be able to stay at home with my daughter when she needs me without feeling guilty or pressure about possibly losing my job. I’d appreciate flexible work hours and paid family leave. I’d like to have more than 10 vacation days a year (the U.S. is way behind other countries on this one). I’d like the option of making the decisions for my family without anti-family corporate policy getting in the way.

I’m not sure if I’m meant to be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe someday when I’m blessed enough to have more children. These past few weeks with my daughter have been fabulous, and I am so grateful to have this time with her that I normally wouldn’t have had. I’m lucky to have had so much time with my girlfriends and the chance to get to know their kids better. It makes me so happy to see Makensie play with my best friends’ kids and have such a good time with her mommy sitting close-by to comfort her. I know I will miss all of this when I go back to work. I can only hope that the next job I get will be flexible enough that I don’t think every day about what I’m missing as my daughter is being raised by others while I’m working hard to make sure she is well taken care of. I hope I am a strong enough person to appreciate the blessings I’ve been given and look to the future, to the possibility that I will someday meet someone who can be my partner in life and allow me the freedom I so crave to spend more time with my family and friends, and do more for myself and my soul than I am able to now. For now, I’m just happy to be looking down at this beautiful blonde kid smiling back up at me as she “teaches” me how to properly use a baby monitor.

Bloggers’ Note: As this blog entry “went to press,” I was offered a job. I will soon be a single working mother again. I feel relieved yet sad all rolled up in one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Klepto

A few weeks ago, we had Kensie’s 2nd birthday party at my parent’s house. It was chaos, but everyone had a really great time, Kensie especially. However, that was the last day I saw my keys—until today.

Let me back up a little bit: Since Makensie was pretty young, she has been known to “disappear” things. I find pacifiers stuffed in toys and furniture, sippy cup tops in her toy box, spoons and forks in the refrigerator, dog leashes in the stroller (which actually isn’t a bad spot being I really need to walk the dogs more), Tupperware on the back porch. Things disappear around here like you wouldn’t believe, and many of them are never found. I am, at this moment, missing two necklaces that are very special to me, and I can’t find matching pajama tops and bottoms for Kensie anywhere.

One day awhile back, I got a frantic phone call from my mother. She’s an education consultant and works out of town quite a bit. When she goes out of town, she always rents a car. On this day, she had to take the rental back, and it had to be there by 9 a.m. But as she walked out the door, she realized something was missing: the keys. She and my dad searched the house from top to bottom, and Kensie admitted that she’d had them (she wasn’t talking as well on this day since she was only about 1, so the conversation went something like, “Kensie, did you see Nana’s keys?” “Uh huh!” and that’s it). She had been playing in the office, so that was a good spot to start. But when no keys turned up, my mom called me in a huff (I mean, she is my daughter, so it must be my fault, right?). I got there as quickly as I could to help in the search. I did the same thing my parents had done, but with a fresh eye and a deeper understanding of my daughter’s klepto ways. She’d been playing in the office, and she loves my mom’s computer case, and though both my parents had checked there multiple times, I had a gut feeling that’s where they'd be. And thus, there they were, easily accessible in the lining of the case (I had to dig down into the opening where the arm extends out to get to them). On a separate occasion, I found my bra in that case, so it’s reasonable to believe that the computer case is a favorite “disappearing” spot.

So the day after Kensie’s birthday, when I headed out the door to go wherever I was going at the time, I realized my keys were not in my purse. Now, when it comes to my mom, it’s understandable that she could have been the one to lose those rental car keys. The woman never knows where her purse, glasses, or cell phone are, and they’re a lot bigger than a set of keys. But with me, it’s less likely to be my fault because I’m diligent about either hanging my keys up on the key hook or putting them in my purse. With a two-year-old, I’m always running behind, so I make a conscious effort to have my keys readily available. But with the chaos of the party, including multiple repositioning of cars, I wasn’t so sure it wasn’t me this time. I did ask Kensie if she’d seen them, and she said “Yep” and proceeded to take me to several spots in the house where she thought they were to no avail. So I searched high and low for two days—in the yard where we’d put up balloons, throughout all the party stuff including pools and towels and sandboxes and multiple types of toys, from the top to the bottom of the house and everywhere in between. Of course, my car was locked, so I couldn’t get in there to look. But they weren’t visible from the window, and I really didn’t think I’d locked them in there.

Finally, I conceded defeat, and I went to the dealership for a new key (luckily it was only $27, though I’ve heard of people who’ve paid hundreds depending on the type of car they had). I declined to get the automatic opener because I was sure that my keys would be found—some day.

So today, as I searched for jobs on the computer (unsuccessfully I might add), my mom was assembling packages for all the Cancer birthdays in my family. She got the bright idea to send the leftover gift bags from Kensie’s party to the kids since we usually celebrate those birthdays together as a family in San Diego but couldn’t this year because my cousin and his wife were due to have their first baby during the same time. As she put each bag into a box, she noticed that one of the bags was a bit too heavy. At that moment, I heard a loud gasp and went running into the next room. Oh yes, my keys had been found, exactly where I should have looked in the first place: a gift bag full of toys, bubbles, hats, and sunglasses that could easily have been picked up by an unaware birthday-goer and carried home.

Well, at least it wasn’t my underwear!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Exes and Nos

I’ve never been very good at saying no. Don’t get me wrong: I have a strong personality (some of those closest to me on occasion call me bossy, though I’m not sure that’s accurate), and I’ll tell you like it is. But when someone comes to me and needs something, I will usually do whatever it takes to help that person out. Raise money for leukemia research; run in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer race; make a casserole for a new mom; take in a stray animal and find him a new home (trust me, I’ve done this many times and will continue to the dismay of my mother, who usually ends up helping in some way); pick a friend up from the airport; feed a friend’s cats when she’s away; keep friends’ children on a moment’s notice. And saying yes in situations like these, I believe, is a very admirable trait.

However, being a “yes woman” can have its downsides. Since I had my daughter, I’ve realized what it means to be truly unselfish. I don’t believe you can be a good parent without understanding that concept. But as a single mom, it’s really easy to become stretched thin if you don’t have the personality to say no now and again. I struggle with it every day, especially when it comes to Kensie’s dad, my ex. When we first separated, I had hopes of reconciliation for our family. So when he asked me to bring her out to California for Thanksgiving (on my dime) to visit his family, I did. When he asked to come visit her here and stay at my family home, I let him. When he asked me to take time out of my family vacation in San Diego to cart him and his daughter all around town (again on my dime) and drive all the way up to L.A. County to see other family and friends, I did. During those first few months we were apart, I never said no.

The more time that goes by and the more distance that I put between the person I was in that bad relationship and the person I am now, I can see what my family and friends around me saw. I can see the manipulation, the degradation, the narcissism, the flat-out disrespect I got from him on a daily basis. Even now, though I get no support from him financially, physically, or emotionally and am verbally attacked by him on a continual basis, when it comes to our daughter, I have still allowed him access through phone calls and pictures, and the occasional chat about her well-being. All of the access he has to her (which, by the way, most people in my circle think is ridiculous under the circumstances) I allow for her, not for him. I know that someday, no matter what, Kensie will love her daddy, and I must respect and nourish that in her.

But the past few nights, after numerous late-night text and voicemail attacks (and one actual conversation), I have decided that it’s time to say no. No more will I allow him to attack myself and my family. No more will I allow him to manipulate me into getting what he wants. No more will I allow him to use her to get back at me for what he thinks I did to him, when everything I did was for her. No more will I allow him to darken my spirit, disrupt my universe, and corrupt my psyche. Today, for me, for my family, and for my daughter, I say, “NO MORE!”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


When I lived in Southern California, though I loved the lifestyle of beach living, the one thing I remember missing more than anything was rain. There was always the beach, the ocean, cool foggy mornings, warm ocean breezes, nearly perfect weather most days out of the year. But I always found myself longing for the cool rainfall that replenished and cleansed our earth. Growing up in the South, we tend to take for granted the beautiful, pounding thunderstorms that grace us so often in the summertime, the heavy downpours, the misting afternoon showers, the storms that set in and make crawling into bed and listening to its rhythm your only option.

But this summer, rain has been scarce down here. It’s been so very dry and hot, and I hadn’t seen a cloud in the sky in weeks—until yesterday. Though it didn’t last long, it was enough to cool things down a bit, water the starving grass and plant life, and offer us a delightful respite from the brutal heat of a Southern summer. As I sat on the back porch and took in the cool breeze that followed the storm, I remembered the last year I was in San Diego.

That year I spent pregnant (you know, women are actually pregnant for 10 months, not nine, and when you’re three or so weeks late giving birth, a year comes up pretty quickly). I rode the train to and from work every day along the coast. In the mornings, I watched the thick marine layer hover over the coast, and in the evenings, the marine layer had been replaced with the stunning view of the sun’s rays glistening off the ocean waters. I walked home from the train station every day along the bluff and was blessed to hear the waves crashing down on the sand. I walked my dogs on the beach every chance I got. I took it all in with every breath. It was a gorgeous place to live, but the pureness of the rain was never far from my mind.

I know it may sound crazy, but rain is a huge part of who I am. It’s my spirit—from the days when I played softball and hoped it would rain just enough to cool us off but not enough to cancel the game, to the strong and tumultuous storms of my college days in Kansas, to that year I spent in San Diego, pregnant, scared, and looking to the skies for a little bit of comfort. I didn’t realize how important the rain touching my face was to me until I was denied it for so long.

The day my daughter was born, it rained in San Diego. Two days later, the day we took her home from the hospital, it rained as we left the hospital. That was the first time my daughter—Makensie Rain—met her namesake, drizzling softly on her newborn head as if baptizing her right there in the parking lot of the hospital and whispering to us both, “Let’s go home.”

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Daze

I always love Fourth of July weekend, especially now since my daughter’s birthday is the day before. Usually we’re in San Diego, as we have a family reunion once a year during this time at my aunt and uncle’s house. But this year, my cousin and his wife had a baby (another Cancer, which seems to run in our family in the newest generation), so the trip was put off indefinitely. This year, for the first time since I can remember, I spent Fourth of July in Birmingham.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a firework just as much as the next person. They’re pretty, loud, great at gathering people together, usually include a barbecue and adult beverages—what’s not to love! Let me explain.

Fourth of July celebrations in San Diego are not quite the same as they are here. First, it’s California, and any little spark, especially in the heat of July, can ignite a wildfire that could essentially wipe out all life in Southern California. So fireworks are regulated, and their use is strictly enforced. At my aunt and uncle’s house, we sit on the back patio with our meal and adult beverage, and enjoy the regulated yet wildly beautiful fireworks show blaze across the canyon.

Now, let me tell you about Fourth of July celebrations in Chelsea, Alabama. Growing up (in Birmingham, not Chelsea, which is still considered “a little bit country”), I remember always going to regulated fireworks shows and having the occasional sparkler or string of loud crackers to enjoy at home. But in Chelsea (as I learned this holiday), the extremely loud, easily-mistaken-for-a-shotgun-blast firecrackers begin a day or two before the Fourth (as I’m writing this right now the day after the Fourth, I hear loud booms at least every couple of minutes, no doubt our neighbors getting rid of what they didn’t have time to blow up last night). Not knowing whether a bullet could whiz across our yard or there was an overly enthusiastic Fourth of July celebrator getting a jump on the holiday, (we have some unincorporated land behind our property on which you can do pretty much anything and nothing legally can be done about it), I kept my kid indoors. Last night, the Fourth, there were some loud pops here and there before dark, but nothing major or worrisome. But when that sun went down (well after my kid did), the fireworks renegades came out of the woodwork, and all hell broke loose!

Initially, we went out and watched. I love my country and want to celebrate its birthday as much as the next person. At first, I wasn’t too concerned about it waking my daughter since she refused to nap that day and was dead tired. How long could it last anyway? How little I knew.

As hour upon hour went by without cessation, I started to get a little bent. I mean, it was ridiculously loud and directly above our house! There was much debate in the household about whether this was legal (being Chelsea, we guessed it probably was), and I was pretty sure it wasn’t safe, as I watched sparks waft down into our trees and had to cover my nose and mouth when outside to filter the thick layer of smoke that had surrounded the house. Did I mention the three terrified dogs that huddled together in a hairy lump on the bed?

Finally, after many hours, a few trips out into the ’hood to search for culprits (who must have seen us and known we were none too thrilled because it became deathly quiet when we neared certain dwellings), and a call to the sheriff’s office to find out if these full-blown pyrotechnics shows were legal and safe, the light-filled booms finally ceased. (Yes, it’s legal in good ol’ Chelsea to set off any number, any sized fireworks you’d like at anytime. I think you could set off a bomb and get away with it out here!)

Kensie never did wake up during the chaos, and I attribute that to the nap she refused to take during the day and to her hitting the sack at 7 o’clock. I was thankful for that at the time, but at 4 a.m. when she awoke and was wide awake and ready to face the day head-on, I cursed Fourth of July in Chelsea, Alabama, and this newfound, two-year-old stubbornness that has recently, no more than a couple of days after K’s actual birthday, reared its ugly head.

Next year, I’m headed to SoCal!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Is This Really My Life?

This morning, Fourth of July, I woke to the same familiar feeling I’ve woken with for some time now—a sort of emptiness in my stomach that feels kind of like butterflies, but not exactly. When you have butterflies, you’re usually excited about something to come. But lately, I haven’t been excited about much.

When I was younger, I was a total doer. I went out with friends all the time, I got outside and ran and roller-bladed and took care of my body, I got down on the floor and wrestled my dogs, I dated—I enjoyed life. But when you have a child, those extracurricular things inevitably diminish. Baby is your central focus. Baby needs you, and in a way, you need Baby. At least that’s the way it was with Kensie and me. We had each other, and only each other, and we depended on one another. I think it will be that way for our entire lives, and that’s the way it should be between a mother and child.

But now, even though Kensie still needs me very much and I her, I am beginning to feel the need for other things. It’s hard to explain, and even harder to explain to those around me, which is why I choose not to talk about it much. When I do, it inevitably comes out wrong and hurts someone I had no intention of hurting. I have a daughter I have to take care of and support, and that is now and should always be my primary focus. My needs are secondary, and as a single parent, that concept is especially vivid in my mind.

Kensie’s dad has never been dependable, and I knew it from the first time we started dating more than 10 years ago. He was exciting and fun. He loved animals and the outdoors as much as I did. He did what he wanted when he wanted to, and that was so different from me and refreshing. What he wasn’t was responsible, and now I know how important that is. So I know deep down that I will never be able to depend on his support. That’s why I chose to leave San Diego and move back home where I have family and friends here who are a huge support to Kensie and me. It’s exactly what we needed to move on.

Quite often, especially lately, I’ve been quietly thinking to myself, “How did I get here? Is this really my life?” And not just since the day I lost my job; it’s been going on for quite some time. I’ve always worked, always supported myself, always had a certain sense of freedom that I held onto for the whole of my adult life. But somehow, for some time now, that freedom seems to have become a distant memory. It’s not just because I have a child. It’s also because I feel so dependent on the people around me for support, both physical and emotional. Although I’ve always known my parents would forever be there to support me in every way, I never knew how hard it would be to accept. Inside, I feel this constant gnawing at my gut, and it’s telling me that I have got to figure my life out now!

So the conclusion I’ve come to is this: It’s time I stop overthinking and stressing and self-doubting and self-hating and feeling terrified all the time. It’s time to stop worrying about everything and everyone else around me and look inside to what I need to be a healthy, happy person. How can my beautiful daughter grow up to be a confident woman who loves herself and every creature on this earth, a woman who knows she is worthy of every gift this world has to offer if her mother isn’t emulating that to her? It’s time today, right now, to start finishing some of the things I’ve started: dieting; working out; getting my boys back in shape; Kensie’s first-year scrapbook; multiple books on spirituality and taking care of myself and our world; research on a future family endeavor; my children’s book. It’s time to make myself a priority. It’s time to start loving myself again. It won’t be easy, especially in the state my life is in right now. But for my own sanity, it’s time I take charge and start to live my life for me.