My Walden Pond

Growing up, there were two types of kids- the kids who opened their eyes under water and the kids who didn’t. These same kids also somehow seemed to be blessed with the immense and enviable courage it took to flawlessly master the high dive.

I, not surprisingly, was a didn’t. As a kid, despite my brother’s constant nagging to “just do it” I was the kid who did not open my eyes under water. Not even with goggles. I was too scared water would leak in. This led to a lot of near death experiences when my brother would confirm I did not open my eyes and subsequently try to “drown me” by holding me under in the deep end just to scare the bejeezus out of me. Additionally, this meant I was definitely not a swim team contender.

During the past few weeks, dealing with a break up has meant having a lot of time to refocus on me. I was focused before, but I think that’s something people who go through break ups say. “I’m finding me again.” “I’m putting me first”. “I deserve better”. “It’s better to be alone than with xyz.” For the record, I will never say these things about this relationship and never have. But life is life and things “happen for a reason.”

Anyways, with this free time I decided to invest a lot of my energy into working out. Working out has always been a way to cheer myself up when nothing else could, or at least clear the dark thoughts in my head. As part of my new exercise regimen, I decided I would learn to swim laps, and … I did! At first, I attempted to do the breast stroke in a way that could only be described as arms projecting out and about in sort of spastic Macarena and legs … scissoring? Either way, each day I added five more laps to my routine and with the help of some YouTube videos, was able to improve my technique just a bit and get up to 30 laps.

Despite my embedded sarcastic tone in the phrase’s last use, things did seem to happen for a reason, as I found myself being annoyed about having to fly to Boston for a continuing education course to keep up my law license. Somehow, however, my flight was just a day after said break up. So a day of continuing education turned into 2.5 week’s of Boston fun and escape. And it has been.

Most of my time during these past couple of weeks have been unplanned and spent spontaneously catching up with friends and wandering various neighborhoods and enjoying the beauty of Boston/Cambridge. The one must on my list, however, was a visit to Walden Pond.

Walden Pond, for most of you, is likely the physical written manifestation of Thoreau’s imagination and historic prose. For me, it is a beautiful escape that I never knew existed. Growing up in Houston, we did not have these natural beautiful ponds or springs to swim in. When I came to New England and discovered with awe the beauty of these natural treasures, I was hooked. I have visited Walden Pond several times over the years, and I knew it was a must during this visit.

Yesterday was the day. My beautiful friend who graciously let me crash with her for the past 2 week’s drove the 30 minute drive to Concord, where we finally turned left into the wooded parking lot and then crossed the street, walked down the steps and across the beach to our somewhat shaded (for her) and somewhat sunny (for me) spot we would claim on the beach. I laid down and it was just as beautiful as I imagined.

Now, I’m pausing here to tell you that there is no use of metaphors in the creation of what is to follow. Why, you ask? The experience was simply too beautiful to create a metaphor. It’s beauty was too true to be a metaphor. Too literal for comparison. It was the metaphor.

(Con’t…) I don’t remember the specifics of every time I have visited Walden Pond, but I do know that my time in the water is usually minimal and spent within the confined areas – not in the designated free swim area. The free swim area was where experienced swimmers could swim across the lake and back. Warning signs upon entry stated in no uncertain terms that those who ventured out were on their own. Well, yesterday when I grew restless in my half shade/half sun spot and read those words, only one word came to mind: “perfect.”

I walked into the water and kept walking. I kept walking until my toes no longer touched the rocky bottom and I was floating. And then I was “swimming” and then I wasn’t swimming, I was gliding. Flawlessly. I was being pulled towards what can only be described as the beauty of another world. Eyes closed under water, but open as I reached the surface with my eyes only on the beautiful clouded wooded horizon with the sun somehow coming through the trees in a way only seen in paintings. I now understood the term breathtaking.

Taking no notice of the distance I now was from the beach of the lake, I yearned with each scoop of water to bring myself closer to this masterpiece. It’s a freedom they write about in the classics and proclaim in the movies.

As I came closer and closer to the center of the lake, The most incredible thing was, I think, was the quiet. For the first time in my life, I felt peace. The only noise I could hear was the calming ripple of the tide interspersed with the sole voice of my own thoughts. There were no voices in my head but mine. No currents pulling me in different directions or pressure pushing me down. I was floating and I was soaring. For those minutes, however many, I was where I needed to be and it was majestic. I was floating towards the beauty of another world.

As the tide turned I noticed a woman about 10 yards away. I was no longer alone. There was an intruder. Without glasses I could not make out much of the contours of her bobbing face, but from what I could see, we looked eerily alike. No longer gliding, we both were facing each other with our confused heads bobbing in unison. My peace was gone and the beautiful moment though captured, was finite.

I suddenly became hyper aware of the fact that if I kept gliding, we would collide. She wasn’t moving, so it meant that I either need to change directions or stop moving myself. The tide quite literally turned and I turned with it. My eyes opened to the tiny figured on the beach and, struggling to find the energy, I swam towards shore. With each awkward stroke, more cries of babies could be heard and even worse, complaints from teenage beauties about their “flawed bodies.” My knee scraped a rock and I was forced to stand. My time, my moment was done. And I was incredibly sad. I am incredibly sad. And truth be told, this was this first time i had felt remotely sad since the breakup because I had felt it was the right thing to do.

My mind, just a few minutes before completely at ease was racing a mile a minute. That experience, what was it? How had it suddenly become so easy? Was this what the brain of a “normal” person feels like? Was this the outlook on life the prescribed tablet I take like clockwork every morning was supposed to give me but has failed to do so? Was this calm other people’s equilibrium or would it have been as incredible to them? You see, when you deal with mental illness, I think people forget that you have as many questions about how other people, the normal ones, experience life as they have about someone like me.

I sit here now, reading the notes I took right after the experience, full of hope that I could go back in the water and recreate the experience. I couldn’t. I didn’t.

I lied. But I came by it honestly, I promise. I did not set out to have a metaphor, but I suppose I’ve had a revelation in the midst of typing. Well, not a metaphor, let’s say a comparison. I can’t decide if I’m happy yesterday happened. I am filled with anguish today that I know that sort of experience exists and, though fleeting, I experienced it. Just as fleeting, it’s now gone. With my breakup, I am just as torn. Is it really better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all? I hate cliches, but seriously. Every other break up I’ve had, I’ve had so many major reasons to dislike the person, the relationship, etc. But this one, this person, we knew it wasn’t right in the end. But during it, the experience, it was beautiful. I might not have had perfect form, but I felt like I was gliding. I experienced a beauty and a peace that I did not know existed. And now it is gone and I don’t know if I’ll ever experience that again. With that experience comes new expectations and a different kind of unrest.

It’s easy to accept not having something when you don’t think it’s attainable. When you cannot experience it – never have, never will. Right now, wish I never experienced it. Wish I never glided towards the unknown without fear.

So what do you do. And please don’t tell me Bumble.

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Arson

I had presented myself with warning labels, and even presented some malfunctioning activity to give signs of what may lay ahead, and for some reason, he still proceeded, albeit with caution.

I had been given reason to believe that I’m not good enough, and and hadn’t been, enough, from the beginning. He had not given me reason, but I knew it. It was preordained – I. Am. Not. Good. Enough.

Of course this is false and, of course, it is unreasonable, but throughout my young..ish life my truth has become clouded by perception. There were reasons to know it would not be, it never was and never could be.

The irony that this is my only truth I choose to believe is not lost on me.

And so, I cashed in on my insurance policy. Burning up the possibility before undoubtably my strike of luck would end and my profits diminish. Fraud, is the technical term.

The Empty Docket

Every October or so I buy a new moleskin 18-month planner, usually in black – the flexible, bendable kind. It is my world’s equivalent to a new year’s resolution – except combined with the overly quoted “definition of insanity”. You know the one, the thing that guy says when he feels all wise and shit. “You know the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, my October insane resolution is buying a planner and expecting it to make a difference. If I just write things down, I think, it will be different. I will somehow transform into the person I want to be because I will have my to-do list right in front of me and I will make it happen.

Inevitably, like every new-year-new-me #goal, although I eagerly jot down and cross off item after item for a month – even two if I’m lucky, by the end of the year, my attempts become sporadic at best, and in the end, the planner becomes exactly what it is – an overly priced, leather bound collection of paper and I become exactly what I am – insane, at least by most people’s standards. 

I have never liked that definition of insanity – the one about doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. Because even though I don’t feel like doing a quick google search, I’m pretty sure if you google the definition of “perseverance” or “heart of a champion” or “practice”, you’ll find a description pretty dang close – but I guess hindsight is 20/20, right?

I can tell you right now that I know the definition of insanity, but that’s about it. I know it, because I am feeling it, and the feeling is absolutely indescribable. It goes something like this though – insanity is having done the same things over and over again, realized they didn’t work, and having no clue where to go from there. It is the realization that you literally don’t have one to-do list item, even a dentist appointment, to write in your under-used yet overpriced moleskin notebook, and even if you wanted to make up a list just to have the pleasure of checking off an item, you wouldn’t know where to begin.

Insanity is a feeling of helplessness like no other. Not the kind where my friends and family should be worried about me in a life or death kind of way, but the kind where I am worried for me in a having the life I wanted or living a life wasted kind of a way.

It’s pretty funny, really, I used to bill by the hour. A large number. Now, I seek to fill every hour. How can you work for 26 years towards a goal only to achieve it, take a wrong turn and suddenly you’re out of the game? But more on that later. All I can do right now is write.

A stranger at a bar a few months back (I know, doesn’t sound good) asked me if I could accomplish one thing in life that would really make me proud of myself, what it would be. I immediately said have a successful relationship and beautiful children and be a great mother. He nodded, he had a son, he said, and he understood. But he said that that wasn’t big enough. He asked what could do or create to make myself proud. Personally. I still think my original answer fit his question, but I acquiesced and admitted that I wanted to write a book. I always have.

He asked me what was stopping me. I said I wouldn’t know where to start. He said that isn’t an excuse. Start writing.

I think I wrote something on here that night, I don’t remember. Or maybe I wrote in a journal. But I know that I want to write. My docket is empty and my brain is full. But how do I do it? Is my story even worthy of telling? Beyond that, is it worthy of listening to?

Right now, I know one thing. My insanity is wanting a different result, but not even trying. I also know, that I’ve done a lot of trying and a lot of succeeding and a lot of failing. There has to be some meaning interwoven in my insanity.

Have any of you had experience with publishing? Advise on the business/how to break into it? If not, any words of wisdom or thoughts would be appreciated in comments.

Love always,

Lollie36291412_10211091456552801_2126267256882069504_n

The cowardly fall

Funny. I thought I’d write today. It’s been a year to the day since I left my position that I had always dreamed of in Boston and a year since I simultaneously found myself and lost myself.

I won’t make a lame attempt at a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon metaphor, because I’m just, ya know, way too good for that. But also, because it wouldn’t make sense. As I read my first post on here about leaving my corporate position and moving back to Houston, I see an act of bravery, but also of naïveté. I’m one fail swoop, I believed that I could abandon my preordained hopes and dreams and instead become this kindered spirit, whole and complete, who would be able to take my broken pieces (of which there are many) and glue them together. I believed, that with my new found freedom from the corporate handcuffs, with sheer will and determination, I could create, or rather, cultivate my own happiness. I am happy. But I’m also disappointed in myself.

Let me set something straight. I am happy. Or so I think I am. Just as I have had struggles in the past allowing those who I so desperately want to love to love me back, I have a difficult time accepting happiness. Don’t you? Or many of you who seem to identify with the words I say, I would think. Because, the other shoe will always drop. When you’re me, and have this misinformed belief that your actions can actually dictate your destiny, you know that eventually the newfound elevated happiness that you have found will eventually diminish, and like a recalcitrant child, you try to take ahold of it before it overcomes you.

You try to break the cycle. Yes, ladies and gents, I’m that girl. The one who finds the way to “control” the outcome by self-sabotage. But who am I to dictate my own happiness? I know with hard work and choosing the right people to surround yourself with, you can improve your mental health and many times experience great joy, but who am I to sabotage my own hard work and dictate it’s outcome. Why can’t I ever be the person who just lets things be? A truth I have come to realize in the past few days is that letting myself just be, being me minus the sabotage, is actually pretty damn great. Why would I ruin a great thing?

I recall the one time I tried to snowboard. Now, I happen to be pretty athletic but never one for athletics. Being a nice 5’9, I was pushed towards basketball, but scared of getting hurt or embarrassed, I would always hand the ball to my opponent when they tried to guard me. Much like with basketball, when I tried to snow board for the first time, instead of accepting the risk, I took hold of my presumptive failure and fell every other minute, like clockwork, to the fresh powder, because I felt like making myself fall would soften the blow of an unexpected wipe out.

It doesn’t work that way. I still had bruises all over my body and even worse, I had to experience the mortifying escort home on a ski mobile because the mountain was closing before I could fall my way down it.

Another year has passed and I don’t want to keep falling until the slopes are closed. I can’t keep believing that making myself fail is staying in control. I have to allow the chance for failure to take hold. I have to let those around me make their own decisions about me. I can’t make them for them. I can’t make them believe I’m not worth it for fear that they’ll discover it on their own. After all, if it already causes pain, then what the fuck am I doing?

I guess that’s being an adult right? Knowing that failure IS an option and being okay with exploring the path to it truthfully and patiently. Not rushing to create your own conclusions. Working hard, in every aspect of life, to build yourself up and to build up your relationships. Knowing that even if you failed, you did try. I used to think that was corny. I don’t anymore. I’ve let myself fall into the fresh powder too many times just to say that I couldn’t do it. I’ll commit it to writing: not anymore. Cue “if I could turn back time”…

28

I never thought I’d have a birthday during which I could reflect and be certain that the year that preceded was better than the year before. A few weeks ago I was able to. I was moved to tears and filled with disbelief.

What goes up must come down is an adage I know to be true. Well, since the 4th, the marking of my survival, it has come down. It may be temporary, but the hurt is the same.

28, you are a cruel mistress. I said I wanted to know, but perhaps it was better being just a tad younger, none the wiser aNd willfully naive.

Cheers to finding out how much deeper the path will go, or seeing if I can make myself fly. It all works out in the end right? I guess that depends on how you want to market yourself.

the Smile & Nod

Smile & Nod is one of my mantras. It’s amazing how it works to accomplish so many things and yet nothing at all, all at the same time. Don’t feel like listening to a story? Smile & Nod. Don’t want to give an answer? Smile & Nod. Ensuring that the person across from you will never know what you’re really thinking? Smile & Nod.

For you, dear readers, I am giving you a look into the twisted maniacal mind of mine and 10 examples of the Smile & Nod in the past 24 hours. If this example involves you, be warned, you will now know the truth behind the Smile & Nod.

  1. “So what are you up to these days?”

Smile & Nod.

Now, this may seem like a strange Smile & Nod to you, but is, perhaps my favorite. Here is the philosophy behind this Smile & Nod: if I wanted to tell you what I was up to these days, I would tell you, and chances are, the fact that you are having to ask means that neither one of us prefers to be in this conversation anyways. I have a charcoal face mask waiting at home that I can’t wait to see my white heads stuck to.

2. “You look great.”

Smile & Nod.

I’m not sure if you’re lying, but I know I would be if I returned the favor. Whataburger sounds awesome right now. Wait, no! Tacos! Ugh, my work out class is in 20 min.

3. “Let me get your number, I don’t think I have it anymore. We need to catch up!”

Smile & Nod.

We have knowingly lived in the same city for 8 months now and I think we know enough about each other through the inter webs. Save your iPhone memory. Is that how that works?

4. “So what’s your plan?”

Smile & Nod.

If I smile and nod long enough they might come to their own realization that I clearly don’t have a plan.

5. “Just free the nipple!”

Smile & Nod.

Just… why? Are your nipples inverted?

6. “Want a bagel?”

Smile & Nod.

No thoughts. Neck starts to hurt.

7. “I absolutely love your dog, I’m going to steal him!”

Smile & Nod.

You are not the first person those words but happy to make those words your last.

8. (Mid workout) “How’s everyone doing? Good, great, awesome?”

Smile & Nod.

I need to use heavier weights when we practice punching.

9. “See you at 3.”

Smile & Nod.

I guess 2:58 is when I’ll text the “sorry I’m running late!” message?

10. “Who’s a good boy!?!?”

Smile & Nod.

Why do I always think I’m the good boy when I ask my dog this question?!???

Just breathe

And with his last breath, the last remnant of my parent’s marriage, as I knew it, was gone.

It has now been 24 hours since I sat alongside my mother as, through tears, she made the difficult and humane decision to put down Lenny, our beloved family dog. With this decision, she was choosing to free him from the suffering a brain tumor has quickly and cruelly brought upon him. It was the right decision – objectively, subjectively – whatever way you want to put it. The poor ball of fluff couldn’t stand up without falling over and where there was once a glimmer in his eye there was now a haze, filled with confusion. I tried to remind her that even if she could keep him alive a few months longer, this was not the Lenny that she loved, this was a memory of a dog she was trying to hold onto.

My mother, the strongest woman I know, had been strong until I told her I loved her. For some reason, I am quick to use these words with others, but with my mother, I reserve it for times of need. Times when I need her to know that I am there and times that I need her to know that I need her to be there. I don’t know why this is the case – she tells me she loves me with every phone call or text. I don’t know why I hold on to my I love yous with her. They’re harder for me to say. Perhaps because our relationship is just that – harder – but also, incredibly meaningful.

I wouldn’t say I’m the spitting image of my mother, but the resemblance is there. It is now, at least. Growing up, everyone told me I looked like my father. While my father was a self-proclaimed dork, my mother was voted most attractive of her high school class and was homecoming queen. The youngest of three absolutely gorgeous girls, she was the “smart” one, too. After high school, she went to a private university out of state and went on to become a doctor. As a baby boomer, there were of course, plenty of female doctors, but there was still the outright sexism that came along with the field. I’ve never asked why, but she became a pediatrician and started an extremely successful private practice, where she was her own boss and made her own rules.

Even though I was a daddy’s girl as a kid, my mother was what I always wanted. Her beauty, her grace, her strength. It’s funny, for being a pediatrician, she was never the cutesy, arts and crafts kind of mom that a lot of my friends had. She was the mom who told you like it was. If you needed a progress report signed that was less than perfect – that task went to Dad. If the goal was to stay home sick, better wait until Mom was out the door to put the thermometer to the light bulb. Yet, as the story usually goes, she was the one I always wanted to impress, to make proud. I still do. I knew that every emotion my mom felt, she felt to her core, and I wanted her, at her core, to be proud of me.

Somewhere along the line the desire to have her be proud of me was replaced with a feeling of resentment that she would never be proud of me. I suppose this is true for a lot of mother-daughter relationships, but ours seemed to be unbearable during my teenage years. It was during this time that I really sought refuge in my father and my grandmother. My father always avoided conflict, so I knew he would never argue. I was perfect in my grandmother’s eyes and I knew that I would always get the reassurance from her that I always wanted, but probably didn’t need.

With my father it was a different story. There was a lot of yelling in our house. So much so that to this day, any time someone talks a little bit over the norm, I flinch. To this day, If I am in a room away from yelling, I crawl into a ball and cover my ears. Most of the time I couldn’t hear what they were yelling about. A lot of the time I was told. I was told that my father didn’t respect my mother when it came to parenting and he let us get away with anything. I was told that my mother was controlling. I was told yes and I was told no immediately after. These things I was told calmly, as if it was normal to tell a 13 year-old this. The yelling, that happened behind closed doors.

I have blacked out a lot of my childhood, as I’m sure many of you have. I remember things – events, appointments, specific conversations. I remember being pulled out of basketball practice to go to a therapy session with my mom to “work on our relationship”, and what happened in that therapy session, which I’ll choose to keep to myself. I remember that my brother was quiet for the most part about all of it, immersing himself in reading or sports. I, however, had had enough. Finally, my freshman year of high school, I said something. Frankly, I don’t remember what. I just remember I “got my dad in trouble” (the words he used to warn me against “telling on him” when he let us do things my mom found impermissible). I remember the door was shut and the yelling commenced. I remember it did not stop. I sat on the stairs of our cushy 4,500 square foot house and listened until I fell asleep hugging Lenny, our family dog.

We had gotten Lenny a year earlier, when I was just about 14 years-old, and my mom loved him. He was a pure bred miniature schnauzer and frisky as could be. He wasn’t the most cuddly, but he was strong. As my brother and I were already teenagers when we got him, he was the family dog, but really he was my mom’s dog. That night, he was the comfort that I needed.

When my parents got divorced six months later, my mom got to keep the dogs. I don’t know how that was decided, but I know she was proud of it. Besides Lenny, was had a mutt of a schnauzer named Pablo, who was just about the dumbest dog you could ever meet. My father picked him out, and I’m pretty sure my mom resented Pablo for it, but I loved him all the same.

While my parents wanted to apparently make sure the dogs had a stable living environment in one home, my brother and I switched houses three times a week. With my brother being a senior, he only endured one year of this, while I had three more to go. Once he went to college, it became increasingly difficult, and for reasons that I simply would never want to publicly put out there, I lived with my mother full time with occasional weekends with my dad.

It’s a very strange feeling when you stop seeing your parents as parents, but as humans with flaws and complexities. When I started living with my mother full time, her truth was revealed. Her pain was revealed and her suffering apparent. She was no longer this rock hard woman that I imagined her to be. She was that, but with pain that she could no longer hide without a bad marriage masking her. Suddenly, she needed me.

Now, I’m not going to act like this is one of “those stories” where the roles are reversed, she cried on my shoulder yada yada yada. This “need” of hers, this need was not spoken. It is not spoken of to this day. I doubt she even thinks of it that way. But when she was in bed watching tv alone on a Saturday night and my friends were going to a party that I was supposed to be at in 15 minutes, during my senior year, I stayed home. I stayed home or I made an excuse to come home early. She nor I ever talked about it, and until now, I kind of forgot about it. That in those moments, I knew she was proud of me, in her own way. In those moments I knew that I had a place in her heart that no one else could fill, and even if it wasn’t the place that I necessarily always worked for, it was mine.

Between then and yesterday, we have had our struggles… more than could be put to paper. Graduating cum laude from Boston University, getting into an ivy league law school, passing the Bar, working for a top law firm, I never felt good enough and I always wanted to be. As one therapist put it, I needed to accept that. Not that I would never feel good enough, but that I would always want to. That there is a certain thing inside of me and many other daughters that will never be able to shake the feeling of wanting your mother’s approval. Because of this, when I quit my job and knew she would be completely disappointed, I decided that it was okay. I decided that I wasn’t going to get that approval, so might as well live my life if the internal struggle would be there anyways.

My mom always jokes that her and I only get along when we’re shopping. Fact: we get along incredibly well when shopping. But when she decided to put Lenny down, she called me. She needed me. She didn’t have to ask because I was already on my way to the vet’s. I walked in and we gave him lots of kisses and I told her it was time.

As she held my hand, I remembered her holding my hand in that big house after my father left. I remember her vulnerability then and her vulnerability now. With more life under my belt, I think of how strong she was. Sure, I didn’t get the huge hugs that I wanted from her then, but she was loving the way she knew how – but teaching me to be strong. I was able to be strong, as she melted into me and Lenny took his last breath and with it, the remnants of a life we once had. “Just breathe,” I told her. “You’re doing the right thing by letting go.”