Happy Birthday, Jen

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Today is a very special day; it’s the birthday of one of my favorite people. This amazing woman has been a constant in my life for over 25 years. I often write about my life and tell stories of my triumphs and tragedies. The story today is about my friend Jen.

Calling her a friend doesn’t really fully describe our relationship. She’s more than a friend, she’s family. The wonderful thing about adulthood is that you get to chose your family. I’m so glad we chose each other.

We met in middle school. I liked her wit and her bright spirit instantly. Our high school days were filled with the kind of memories you only have if you grew in a small town. We had a lot of fun, none of which I can repeat in this blog. Just in case her kids read it. Let’s just say we had many adventures, and we lived to remember it.

I almost lost her decades ago when she was in a bad car accident. Seeing her in the hospital was something I can still recall. But she never felt sorry for herself. We even laughed at our attempt to navigate a Wendy’s while she was using a walker.

Adolescence soon merged into adulthood. And by then I had already been dealt many blows. And she was there. No matter what heartbreak I had, she was there to listen and love me. It’s hard to find someone who always show up for you.

In all our years of friendship, I cannot recall an argument or harsh word. There have been times when we haven’t talked as much because you know, life. But she is someone I could call to be there. I’ve called her in tears many times, only to finish the call with a smile.

She has since grown to be an amazing wife, mother and neighbor. I know this because of how she lives her life, never judging, always forgiving. She is the epitome of selflessness. She’s much more selfless than I could ever dream of being. She makes every room brighter for being in it. Her kids are such lovely boys who love and respect their mom.

I do worry that she doesn’t do enough for herself. I encourage her to take time just for her. She deserves it.

Some of our best times have been lately. We are just so in sync with each other these days. We don’t see each other near enough to suit us, but we commit to making time for each other. I can be completely honest with her, showing her the good and imperfect parts of myself. There’s only a handful of people I genuinely trust, and she’s in that select group.

With her in my life, I’ve had much more laughter and love. I look forward to many more years of adventures with my pal. I’m so blessed to have this beautiful lady by my side in this crazy, amazing life.

Happy Birthday, Jen. I love you!

A letter to my mom, 20 years later

A letter to my mom, 20 years later

Dear Mom,

This isn’t a regular day, but I don’t need an anniversary to remind me of how irrevocably my life changed 20 years ago. For years, I could barely function on this anniversary, although I don’t know why it’s called an anniversary. I’d rather not remember that day, and 20 years have certainly helped it fade. The truth is I wasn’t there. I was on the way back, but I felt it even before I knew it, like some seismic shift in my foundation. But you were not alone.

You were never alone. People loved you; your laugh, your wit, your brave honesty. People still love you, and I think of you every day. You are my anchor. You are my constant. You are still the opinion that matters most. For every decision I’ve had to make or obstacle that’s been in my way, your voice is the one I heard inside my head.

I am lucky for this. It’s strange maybe to say lucky. What’s lucky about me, the girl whose family died? Then I think of all the love, grace and drive you gave me, much more than most get in a 100 years. So, yes, I was lucky.

Even though you prepared me well for life and its many disappoints, I have made many mistakes. I’ve fallen into black holes that consumed me for years. I’ve not always done the right thing the first or second time. I know you forgive me. I know you understand why I’ve veered off course. I did the best I could without you. Because that’s the reality of these 20 years, learning to live without you.

I never stopped writing. Without it, I don’t know where all the fear and anger and pain would have gone. It helped me save some of the memories and face the truth. No one likes uncomfortable truths, but because you always faced your truth, it helped me find mine.

And after the horrors of the last 20 years and burning down all the tragedy to ash, I’ve arrived at some kind of happy. Happiness, I’ve learned, is something that nips at our hearts in moments. And I’ve had beautiful moments, the only thing missing was you. I’ve made a life for myself, probably not the one you imagined for me. But it’s a good life with the kind of people that don’t treat me like I’m damaged, rather they see my imperfections as evidence of a good and humble character. This life includes an amazing husband, who I think you’d love because of his sweet, calming soul. Your only objection may be that he’s a Cowboys fan.

I do wonder though if you’d be disappointed that I’m not a mom. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. That wasn’t my path. It still hurts sometimes, but I look at the love and devotion I give to my animals. And it’s simply enough for me.

A million horrible and wonderful things have happened in the last 20 years, and for every one of them, you were the first person I wanted to tell. In a way I still do because I’m always talking to you. It’s the greatest language I know.

Your time as my mom helped me survive the life I’ve been living without you. It has given me a unique yet haunting perspective. It has pushed me to know very precisely how I want to leave this world; knowing I shared my stories, I worked hard, I loved fiercely and I took every adventure.

I do still think about what that parallel world would have been; the one where you live; the one where we get to be friends. Because you always told me, “I’m your mother, not your friend.”  I would have loved to have been your friend. All those moments that never happened. I won’t get over that; it can’t be mended. Glad to have finally learned that some scabs never heal, and some holes never get filled.

But I am honored to have been your daughter. It was one of the greatest parts of my life. Even though it wasn’t for long enough, and I would’ve learned so much more from you about life. I’d still choose you over and over again even though I know you’ll leave too soon.

So although this world hasn’t had you for 20 years, I know I never lost you, I carry you in my heart. That’s a place you can never leave.

Love,
Beth

I almost died last Tuesday

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I almost died last Tuesday. Okay that sounds super dramatic, and to be clear, I’m fine. I work in the downtown area of Charlotte, N.C. It’s not exactly pedestrian friendly. I’ve had close calls before, while I was in the crosswalk and had the green light. This was different. I was crossing one of the main roads on my way back to the office from running an errand. I’ve learned to hesitate a second or two even after the light comes on that says walk. I stepped out into the road, and an SUV ran the red light and literally came within inches of hitting me. A lady behind me even gasped. But as I said, I’m fine, not even a scratch. So what did I learn about myself in that split second?

I learned that it doesn’t take almost dying for me to know my priorities. I’m not suddenly going to start using YOLO as my mantra or seize the day. Because I’m already seizing the day, at least as much as I can.

You see, this isn’t my first brush with mortality. I’ve lost almost everyone that was important to me. And I’ve been in the room sitting across from the doctor hearing him say words like “cancer” and “surgery.” Maybe this gives me a unique perspective. Sometimes I’d probably trade that perspective to just have one more moment with my mom. But that’s not the path my life has taken. I often say, “Life rarely turns out as expected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful.” I really believe this 84 percent of the time. I’m not perfect. I often get caught in the cobwebs of the past or the shininess of the future.

But I don’t think you need loss or trauma in your life to realize what’s important. I read something the other day, “I want to die with memories not dreams.” That’s a really powerful statement. We all have dreams that still haven’t quite come true. My biggest unrealized dream is to have one of my novels published and to finish my memoir. The routine of life gets in the way of dreams sometimes, but I want more than dreams; I really do want memories. I want to live a life that’s full of beauty as well as heartbreak. I understand that a life well lived has both because you have to take chances, fail terribly and pull yourself back up, which sometimes takes longer than you had planned. I want to see more than the five miles around where I live. I refuse to let fear keep me from experiencing life; whether that be traveling abroad or sharing my stories. I’m not paralyzed by what “might” happen. I understand the reality of what can happen.

I’m not completely fearless. My worries are not uncommon: bills, loved ones, rejection. But you know, I’m just not afraid of death. It’s inevitable. Nobody gets to bypass it. I just want to be sure that when that day comes, however it comes, that I lived a life, took every opportunity, lived by my own rules and left nothing on the table.

How do you really live your life? What keeps you brave?

I am a Feminist: No Apology Included

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It’s 2017, and unfortunately, some people still think I need a provider. An anonymous buyer paid for this billboard to express his freedom of speech and belief that “Real Men Provide, Real Women Appreciate It.”

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This story popped up in my news feed, and at first I didn’t pay much attention then I realized that this is actually in N.C., where I live. That doesn’t surprise me. In many areas of the state, this would be conventional thinking; however, I live in the largest city in the state, and Charlotte is more diverse. As diverse as any larger city may be, there are opinions across the board. Everyone has a right to their opinion. These are mine. I own them and am comfortable expressing them.

I understand that whoever chose to pay the money to put this on a billboard has the right to do so. But I would argue that donating that money to a women’s shelter or other nonprofit would have been a better use of the money.

As a feminist, it does bother me that in some people’s opinion, my husband should do all the providing. But I’ve been paying my own way for all of my life. We are a two income household, and he does his part, which I appreciate. I’m not ashamed to say I make more money than him. I have never expected any man to pay my way. I learned this from my mom, who was a single mom who got little child support and no other help. My lesson from a young age was take care of yourself.

On the subject of feminism, it was recently brought to my attention that some think the classic definition of feminism is to be “anti-man and pro-abortion.” I had no idea. I thought being a feminist was about wanting to be on equal ground. As a feminist, I don’t hate men, even though I have many reasons to. I could write long paragraphs about all the horrible things that men have done to me over the years. I won’t. Those experiences don’t dictate my worth; I do.

My personal definition of feminism is that I believe gender should have nothing to do with opportunity. I should be given opportunity based on my skills and my talent. I want to see a day when they don’t say “female” in front of leaders or entrepreneurs who happen to be women. We don’t do that for men, except for the phrase “male nurse” because for some reason we need to make it okay for a man to be a nurse.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? From a young age, we are given these gender identities. Depending on how progressive your household was, you, as a girl, may have only been given dolls as toys and not balls. My mom was athletic and loved sports so I knew it was okay to be interested in things based on what I liked not what my gender was. Sports have never been my thing so I gravitated toward dance and more feminine activities. But I felt as though I didn’t have limits, unless they were self-imposed.

In my career, there have definitely been times when I knew I was getting paid less as a woman or wasn’t being given the opportunities to grow. I think every woman who has a career has probably experienced something akin to this. I feel a responsibility to be a strong voice for women. I shouldn’t have to apologize for being a feminist. It’s become an ugly word, one that conjures up stereotypes and bitterness. Has it become less powerful now that it’s a label? I love words. I think they can be very powerful. They can also be taken out of context or misconstrued. I’m just wondering how we got to this place. Strong women are the backbone of society. We work more hours and still are the primary caretakers. Is this fair? No, but it’s reality.

I’m not writing this to start an argument, but I wouldn’t mind a discussion. Do you think feminist is a negative word? What about the billboard? Is it misogynistic? Or a message to men to provide? To me, I’m not offended by it. I know where I stand. I am a feminist; no apology included.

 

Don’t Be a Flake

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No one wants to be a flake. We all like to think we are accountable, decent human beings. But there’s still an unfortunate amount of flakiness out there. If you are wondering if you are a flake then you probably are. Don’t despair; this isn’t a condemnation. You can get those ducks in a row or at least in the same pond. Here are three lessons to start.

Show Up

When I say show up, I don’t mean just physically being there but being present. But first we will start with actually being there. I have a full calendar most days. I have meetings and conference calls for my day job but also lots of calls or meetings for freelance work, and I can say from experience that people don’t show up. Even for interviews! A little over a year ago, I scheduled an interview with a hiring manager, which included me taking time off from my current job. The lady never called me. It was supposedly an issue with not having the correct bridge line. So I was okay with rescheduling. The call was rescheduled for a day in which I was on vacation on the west coast, but I still accepted the meeting. I got up way early, as it was a 9 a.m. start time, but I was on Pacific time. And once again, the lady did not show up! At this point, I was done. I had no interest in working for someone who thought so little of my time. It was rescheduled again, and trying to be the better person, I accepted. When I finally had the call, the person never apologized or even mentioned the previous mishaps. She could have offered me a golden throne to rule from, and I would have said no.

The second part of showing up is being present. I’ve been in many meetings where most everyone in the room was on their phone, not remotely paying attention. I do not take my phone out during meetings. It’s rude and sets the tone that you don’t care. And it’s even worse in virtual meetings! People are on their phones, replying to IMs and checking email. That’s why you have to repeat your question twice (it’s not because they were talking on mute, but that’s a typical excuse).

I was working on a project early last year, and I had offered to help a colleague with some of the project management. She arranged a call, and I accepted. During the entire call, she kept pausing saying she had to answer an IM; then she’d say, “Sorry, I’m being so rude.” I didn’t respond. I would have preferred to say, “Yes you are.” I was offering to help her, and she couldn’t give me 15 minutes to understand her needs.

Showing up and being present matters professionally and personally. My husband and I don’t bring our phones to the dinner table, and you’d never catch us at a restaurant glued to our phones. We actually like talking to each other.

Meet Deadlines

Deadline literally means “the latest date or time by which something should be completed.” Most everyone has to deal with deadlines at work and home. Yet no one seems to be able to meet said deadline. My first job after undergrad was in a legal department. Our deadlines were pretty firm, unless the court granted an extension. If you don’t submit your response to a complaint on time, that’s it. No do-overs. You lose. Because of this experience, I have a unique perspective on deadlines. I hold myself accountable and deliver in the time frame promised or given. But there is rampant disregard for deadlines in corporate America. The justification is always that he or she is slammed or too busy. To which I say, “Do your job.” Everybody’s busy; everybody, however, doesn’t know how to prioritize or manage their time. There are plenty of guides, articles and other content available to help people learn to do this so if this an area where you suffer, get some help. Also stop procrastinating. Make lists. Set reminders.

Stop Waffling & Make a Decision

Indecision gives me literal heartburn. If you can’t make decisions and stick with them, we aren’t going to be friends. I make decisions, not with haste, but I also have the ability to think critically about the consequences of decisions. I do not waffle. Every decision I make doesn’t always turn out as expected, but I learn from it and move on. I proudly own my decisions. But, I am significantly frustrated with the way in which I’ve seen people, who were in positions where being decisive was essential, unable to do this.

Great leaders make decisions with confidence. They carefully think through how the decision will impact the process, product or strategy. When I see leaders unwilling to make decisions, it’s usually because of fear. Fear is the biggest hurdle to execution. Fear keeps people staring into the headlights. I once had a boss that was paralyzed by fear, fear of one little word on a landing page or eBook. His fear strangled my ability to execute and ultimately led to me leaving.

I will admit there is one caveat to my strong decisiveness – sushi menus. They are so long and overwhelming! I defer to the hubby whenever we have sushi. It keeps me sane.

If some of these examples seemed a little too familiar, it’s okay. Most have no intention of being a flake. Often you need to become self-aware to be accountable. But accountability isn’t selective. You can’t just be responsible when things are good; you also have to be responsible when things aren’t so good. Take a deep breath, and decide to shed the flakiness today!

 

I’m in Love with Knowledge

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I began my love affair with knowledge as a young child. When your mother and grandmother are both teachers, it’s easy to fall for knowledge. When you adore knowledge as I did and still do, it can be both a blessing and a curse. But I’m still very much in love.

My mom taught me to read before kindergarten. Her first years of teaching were to kinders so I had an early advantage. She also exposed me to all kinds of knowledge and history I’d never find in class. Even though we lived in a small town in North Carolina, my mom’s love of Europe and open mindedness toward what was not the norm, started a desire in me to learn, travel and grow.

She would often find me reading, not just the standard Nancy Drew mysteries or Babysitter’s Club, but also the encyclopedia and dictionary. This was before Google could tell you everything so if you wondering what an encyclopedia is, it’s like Google before Google.

I still have my mom’s college dictionary. It’s one of my most treasured books. As a child I would read through it and mark words I liked, or when I used a new word in my writing or in conversation, I’d put a mark by it. I fell head over heels in love with words, and I writer I became.

I wrote my first short story when I was five. I remember reading it to my mom. She gave me her attention, and I could see a light in her eyes. I don’t recall what the story was about, but I do know that I wrote a lot of mystery stories in my youth, being influenced both by the ghost stories my Pop would tell me and by Stephen King books that I read (maybe not the best genre for a kid, but my mom was pretty progressive) and Alfred Hitchcock.

In school, I did very well. That was the expectation set by my mom at an early age. We would talk about where I was going to college often and what I would study. My mom nurtured the writer in me and never said no to going to get more books. I will say she probably didn’t think I’d actually be a professional writer as an adult; she saw me as a future lawyer.

I had a public school education in a rural town in the foothills of North Carolina. And it was a great education. I remember being a bit bored in third grade but by fourth grade I was moved to AG (academically gifted) classes and was challenged to read more and grow. By middle school, I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickens, Faulkner and also still Stephen King!

The craving for learning was further propelled by some amazing teachers. My sixth grade teacher was very creative and crafty, which opened up lots of new ideas for me. I am not artistic; I can barely draw straw people. But I started to see how you could put together certain things; it was kind of a beginner’s course in graphic design.

In eighth grade, I had an incredible history teacher. The focus was on the state’s history that year. It was the start of realizing how important history is and to not look at it as just the past but as real stories of amazing and horrible things that happened.

Then high school, which was four years of heartbreak and achievement and challenges. My teenage years weren’t like most, as my mom got sick when I was 15. That changed a lot about me, but not my eagerness to learn and write. By this time, I had been writing for years, and it was and remains my best outlet. My junior year English teacher was one of the biggest influences in my writing life. She was a very gifted writer, and she really challenged me to shape my own voice. And the books we read! Everything from The Scarlett Letter to Sphere. I was able to take a creative writing course with her my senior year. I owe her a lot of gratitude because she’s one of the first people who believed that I could be a writer.

So I’ll be honest, college was not easy. It was a huge transition, and my mind wasn’t always on studying. But even after my mom died my freshman year, I never thought of giving up. I never thought that I’d be better off just to take time off. That’s not what my mom would have wanted. She would have wanted me to fill my head with thoughts and opinions not noise.

College exposed me to more new authors, and I was able to take classes beyond the general 101 classes in my studies of literature and history. I would never trade those moments and those interactions. They keep me grounded today and have provided a firm foundation of truth and reality. I don’t need to necessarily google things about Nazi Germany because I took a class on it in college. I don’t need a long explanation on 20th century British literature; I spent a semester immersed in it.

Once I was a college graduate, the learning didn’t stop. My first boss was an attorney and a very intelligent man. I absorbed as much as I could when I was around him. I’m better for it. After several years in the workforce, I decided I needed more knowledge. So I went to class at night for my MBA and worked during the day. Graduate school was different than undergrad. I was more focused, less prone to be at the bar on a Tuesday night. I studied more and was beyond challenged in the classes that were mostly math related. Math is not my forte. But I persisted and earned that MBA.

So I guess I knew everything at this point? Not even close. So much has changed since my grad school days. There weren’t any inbound marketing classes back then or social media or anything specific to digital marketing. I think a lot of the overall marketing concepts I learned still hold true and have influenced where the industry is now.

I just keep learning. I find new classes online on new and emerging trends and have taken certification classes on multiple topics. I read a lot – probably 25 or more posts about marketing a week, along with probably one book and maybe hundreds of other articles and posts.

I’ll love knowledge forever. We are bonded and unbreakable. When you love knowledge, there’s no fear of the unknown. However, I will say that the curse of knowledge is that I’m not naive to anything. There’s also frustration that comes with knowledge because not everyone desires it. Many would rather hide from it, especially if it doesn’t fit their perception.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts on loving knowledge:

  • Read a book; turn off reality TV.
  • Expand your vocabulary; stop writing in shorthand or acronyms.
  • Read Wikipedia – it’s an unbiased, factually based place to find quick facts.
  • Watch a documentary on a topic you know nothing about.
  • Have a conversation with a stranger, and listen to their story.

Love of knowledge is a beautiful thing. They say, “Knowledge is power.” But really knowledge is empowering.

5 Benefits of Resting Bitch Face


I’ve been writing a lot of heavy pieces lately. And there’s so much I’ve been holding back. I want to be brutally honest, but there are still many things I’m not ready to share (or as I tell people, you’ll have to buy the book for the really juicy stuff!) 

Today, I thought I’d share something a little lighter that perhaps prompts a giggle or two. Because in all honesty, my mood right now is depressed, irritable and hanging on by a thread. (Sorry, husband, you are such a good sport and always happy!)

So on to the resting bitch face (RBF). I can’t remember when I first heard the term, but I knew I qualified. RBF is an unconscious neutral or stoic expression. Some call it sullen, but I like the term stoic. And listen up, it’s a real scientifically validated thing. Science hasn’t quite determined if RBF directly correlates to a hidden layer of contempt. But science does concur that most people see RBF as negative. Because the world, okay men, expect us to always be smiling as the gentle, fairer sex. I call b.s. on all that! My RBF isn’t really an indication of my mood; it’s just how my face “rests.” I’m not always sad or angry or hungry. It’s just my face!

But I have found some real benefits to a lifetime of RBF:

1. No crow’s feet. If you are a chronic smiler, you’re more likely to have those pesky lines sprouting from the corners of your eyes. Not me. This permanent non-smile keeps me looking young. 

2. It’s easier to conceal your emotions. Okay so this doesn’t always work. My expressions can give me away. If I’m disgusted or think I’m being fed a lie, my RBF gets trumped by just bitch face. However when I was botoxing for my migraines, it was easier to keep the world guessing. 

3. It takes a lot for me to smile so if you get one from me, it’s genuine. I strive to be genuine in my words and actions daily. I don’t blow smoke or have a fake voice. Saving my smiles, I don’t think is a bad thing. 

4. It can deter conversation. I always think I’m not approachable, that it’s clear that I wear armor every day. Yet strangers ask me for help all the time. The other week I helped a lady get her train ticket and find a seat. Maybe I don’t look as tough as I think. Maybe I look competent and confident instead. 

5. It keeps others from being able to read me. I always think that a mentalist wouldn’t be able to infer much about me, that I wouldn’t react to questions or statements. That I’m a mystery. But I’m not a mystery. Although it takes considerable time for me to warm up to people. I’m cautious. I like protecting myself. The world is full of people who want to devour you. And on the other side, there are many who radiate kindness. I believe in kindness, even in the face of so much hate. But I’ll stick with observing first, acting later. 

Well maybe this post wasn’t that light after all. It’s my RBF coming through I suppose. I’d like to leave you with one message: whatever face you put on every day, let it be your true one, otherwise your life becomes a role you play and not one you own. 

What would you change?

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Unfortunately I don’t have the benefit of foresight, and life doesn’t really allow for do-overs. But what if we had that opportunity? What if we could go back to those pivotal choices in our life and change it?

If you’ve seen the movie Arrival, which is amazing, then you know that the main character does hold the power to foresee, yet she makes the same choice, knowing that this choice will bring her both happiness and despair.

If we could go back and make a different decision, would we? Because each decision in our life, specifically the ones that we control, has moved us in one direction, leaving all others closed. We are a collection of our choices, whether good or bad, and they inform our character, our relationships and our next choices. I am a strong believer in embracing all the choices I’ve made, even the wrong ones because they’ve made me who I am. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t change some of them if given the chance. Moments mark us with experience, sometimes they leave a scar. So if given the chance to change a moment, there are some I certainly would.

What I would change

I’d go back to what I believe was a critical misstep in my youth. I was pretty obsessed with being liked or loved or wanted by boys. This desperation for acceptance and attention destroyed my self- worth. This hunger to be attractive and desired gave me no real compass to figure out who I was. It led me to so many mistakes. I chose every time to dismiss myself in favor of some boy. It also made me insecure and kept me on a roller coaster of self hate. And this insecurity and disconnection made me unfaithful, which was a pattern that started at 15. My message to my young self would be, “Focus on you. None of these boys will be a source of happiness. And if you respect yourself, the next 20 years will be better.”

I went to the college my mom chose for me. It wasn’t what I wanted. And I left after two years to be in a place more diverse and affordable. I don’t completely regret my first two years, as I met one of my true life-long friends. But if given the chance, I would have gone to the college I wanted to go to on full scholarship. And I wouldn’t still be paying back school loans! When I transferred, I also made another mistake. I joined my best friend’s sorority because I loved her and knew many of the people already. I needed to feel like I belonged to something, anything. I do appreciate that many of those girls were kind to me and supportive. But it wasn’t where I belonged. I never felt like I was part of it. I always felt like an outsider. So I should have found my people, the outsiders. I just wasn’t confident and felt so invisible.

The choices I’d most want to change are the times when I put myself in harm’s way. I just didn’t have a fear of going off with people I didn’t know. What I know now is that I got lucky. The only reason I can give is that I didn’t care what happened. I let myself be in the moment and unafraid of consequences. I could have easily never been seen again. Women often put themselves in danger simply because we do not recognize our worth. Bad things did happen to me, but I was all too quick to blame myself. I made the choice, I deserved what happened. Until I found myself in the worst possible situation. I’m not ready to share the details, but for a few moments, I was sure it was going to be the end of me.  It was the last time I ever made that kind of choice.

Nothing I do can change my choices. But when reflecting on them now, I can reach a new perspective, a perspective without judgment or blame. And I can release it, not hold on to it and let it drag me down. I’ve hurt myself almost as much as anyone else by making bad choices. I’ll never be able to go back to that moment in time and change my answer. I’ve got one life to live as me, and even though these choices have shattered me in many ways, I say: I am not broken. I am a million pieces of wonderful and sorrow and joy and courage.

The Disappointments

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Disappointment is a part of life. Maybe I’ve had more than my share. Who’s to say. There’s no disappointment meter over my head so I’m not sure if I’m winning. And this isn’t something you want to win. Most of our disappointments may seem embarrassing or a pang to our pride, like when I failed the driving test the first time.  So we don’t talk about them. We tuck them away, hoping they will stay in the dark crevices of our mind (They don’t. Disappointment isn’t some shy feeling. It’s loud and destructive.).

The feeling of disappointment is a lonely one. I can recall that my mom saying she was disappointed in me was worse than anything she could ever say. I did things all the time as an adolescent that would be considered disappointing, I was just good at hiding them from her view. I probably hid less from her than I think. My mom certainly wasn’t naive. But she believed in me and believed that I’d make good choices even if she didn’t know about them. I can only say that sometimes I did, and sometimes I did not. I was reckless with my worth for so long. Not understanding that so many forces, both inside and outside of me, would just have to run their course, do their damage and leave a trail of disappointment.

I don’t recall my first disappointment. I’m going to guess it was food related, as I am and always have been picky. My memory isn’t great so memories are often cloudy or distant. But I do remember one of the biggest disappointments of my young life. When I was four years old on a Sunday morning, my mom told me my dad was gone. I didn’t think dead, but I knew by the way she said it that he didn’t live in our house anymore. I think her disappointment was more in the way he left, which I believe was via a note, not in losing him. I have no real memories of my parents together. But I remember that day, sitting on that grass green carpet in a church dress. And so began a lifelong series of disappointments in reference to my father. But the disappointment doesn’t persist. Because how can you be disappointed by a stranger? And that’s what he is now.

The disappointments kept coming, whether it was wishing to be thin or for some ridiculous boy’s attention. It’s good to be disappointed though, if for no other reason than it reminds you that you will rarely get what you want or deserve. There will always be obstacles and limits. And most of the time, you’ll have no control over disappointments.

I can still imagine my mom’s face on the rare occasions that she thought it necessary to pronounce her disappointment. Her eyes would have a hint of gray. Her face with no smile or frown, something in between. But I also remember in some of her last months how she would hold my hand and look me in the eye and tell me that I was the best thing she had ever done, how being my mom was her greatest pleasure. Those are words and moments I have tucked away whenever a new disappointment arises. Which happened just hours ago. It doesn’t matter what it was. It was something I wanted and worked hard for but instead just received disappointment.

But we do not have to be bound by disappointment. We don’t have to let it chip away at our worth. Even though it does. And it’s basically impossible to not take it personally. So I’m disappointed fairly regularly in life – disappointed in people, in myself, situations. And yes I still wonder if my mom is disappointed in me for the path my life has taken. That eats at me a lot. I can take comfort in knowing I was rarely a disappointment to her in our time together. And that may be all the approval I need in this life.

I refuse to have a conventional marriage

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Marriage has been a part of society for thousands of years. Of course it has dramatically evolved. In the beginning, it wasn’t about love but rather the need to strengthen alliances and bare legitimate offspring. Polygamy was actually the norm up until around the sixth century when the Catholic Church interceded. But men still had much opportunity to be promiscuous. Marriage has since become more of a contract with a license being needed and the state’s involvement. Yet women did not have equality in marriage with marital rape still being legal in most states until the 1970s. Some would argue that women still aren’t equal in marriage or in society in general. And of course now, the laws of this country have finally turned to allow same-sex couples to marry.

So that was a short history lesson on marriage. The majority of marriages that have occurred during humanity’s reign on this planet have had nothing to do with love. It was business or a religious necessity. Arranged marriages still happen throughout the world.

I provide this history only because the idea of marriage isn’t some romantic, beautiful experience as we are told to believe by the bridal industry (which is a billion dollar industry). As you can tell by my tone, I don’t buy into any of the conventional nonsense about the sanctity of marriage. So why did I get married? Well for me, and for him, it wasn’t about a contract or the need to produce children. Our ideas and feelings toward marriage are completely unconventional. We cared little about the actual wedding and more about what it meant to us to be joined together, not in a religious manner or a civil manner, but really what it means to be husband and wife.

But I refuse to have a conventional marriage. Justin and I don’t ascribe to traditional roles in the marriage. He’s the cook; I manage the finances and “operational” parts of our life. We play to our strengths, and we make decisions together. However, we don’t have to ask “permission” to spend money or make plans.

I think I’m a good wife thus far. But you won’t catch me waiting on him. I’ve certainly made him coffee before, but he’s an independent man who can take care of himself. He doesn’t need me to do it. Nor do I need him to take care of me. We don’t “need” that from each other so it actually happens very organically.

And I’m not taking his last name, which has always been the custom and another way in which men are provided the lead. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that at this point, I’ve had this last name for 12 years. It’s a part of my brand. You may think it’s odd that I’m still going by my ex-husband’s last name. Maybe it is. Let me explain. I was glad to shed my maiden name. It was liberating because I didn’t want to be that person anymore. That person was gone to me in a lot of ways, and I certainly had no desire to continue with a last name that was relating to my father. So I didn’t change it back after my divorce. It’s a lot of work to change your name. In the end, it’s just a last name. It is completely inconsequential.

So the biggest question is: does it feel any different now than before we were married? We already lived together and had been building a life together. But I would say yes it has changed slightly in a really positive way. I like calling him husband. The permanence of it doesn’t make me freak out. I feel secure and safe in a way that I haven’t much of my life.

I never thought I’d try married life again. But then this amazing man showed up in my life. Any doubts or concerns I had about what marriage is and what it can be disappeared. I don’t really believe in happily ever after. I believe in happy right now at this moment, and I sure am.