Friday, June 24, 2022

My Abortion Saved Me and My Girls

I woke up the morning after what I'd thought was a really productive conversation with X. He acknowledged the mistakes he'd made, vowed to do better, and we were going to try and put our family back together again. 

I went to the place where'd I'd hid the grocery money. X had already emptied my bank account, so I'd resorted to hiding cash around the house to cover child care, groceries, and other expenses. This time, I'd put it in a shoe. 

But there was no money in there. After our so-called productive conversation, X had found it, and spent it on drugs and/or alcohol - don't know, and at that moment, I no longer cared. 

After years, two daughters and one miscarriage, a wedding, several moves in a total of 4 states, I'd simply fallen out of love with X. I'd even warned him a few weeks prior that I thought this could happen. My love had been the only thing holding us together. And now it was gone. 

I don't remember the exact timeline here, but it wasn't long after that when I discovered I was pregnant. 

My girls were about 2 1/2 and 5 1/2 at the time. I already knew I was going to leave X, and I couldn't imagine trying to explain divorce and adoption at the same time. 

I had no idea how I was going to manage. I was living across the country from my family at the time, working in the field I loved, but with a boss who threw a chair at an employee and would yell at us during staff meetings. 

Now, I'm fully aware that I played a role in this, that I had responsibilities. The responsible thing to do was not bring another human into the chaos that was our lives at that moment. 

Thankfully, at the time, we lived about a block away from a Planned Parenthood. The idea was that I'd go home after, but my nightmare boss made me come into work...and then later questioned my loyalty, which is when I decided to leave that job, too. 

The procedure was simple enough that I could work afterwards. There was very little pain. Frankly, a lot less painful than childbirth! And a lot less expensive than raising kids. 

My daughters are now 21 and 24. They're both working in fields they love, which happen to be with children. 

They're both on birth control, even though only 1 has a serous relationship right now. 

I'm incredibly proud of them. I'm also proud of me. I raised them. I got myself a job in a department with really good people, who supported me and cheered me on when I went back to school. I work for a boss who recognizes that people come first, and gave me promotions every time he could. 

I own my own townhouse now. I'm raising two kitties now (both rescues). 

Not once have I ever regretted my decision to have an abortion. And no, I don't even regret the intercourse that led to it, because at the time, I was committed to my marriage. Which he broke. I just finally put myself and my girls back together. 

No one deserves my story, which is why I haven't shared it before. I'm sharing it now because this country still allows free speech. I've got to exercise any and all rights I have left! 


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Maybe We Should Embrace the Trauma

 I'm going to spoil the ending of the limited series, Dopesick, so fair warning. I'm only semi-serious, of course, since the "end" is still playing out in court but I'm talking about the actual series here, which I didn't know how they'd end. Turns out they found the perfect ending, and I can't stop thinking about it. 

They offered the possibility that maybe we should stop trying to stop feeling pain. 

I offer it here not just as an answer to the opioid epidemic, but also in response to the pandemic, the political divides, the many divides that we're finding as a way to separate ourselves: working mom vs stay at home mom, mom versus childfree, married versus single - which are all relatively harmless, especially when compared to some of the horrific dividers that have gotten people killed: racism, misogyny, and the prejudices that have started wars. 

I saw a headline of an opinion piece that school shutdowns are "only hurting children," which of course, is problematic since shutdowns might also be saving lives. But it's the prime example of what is happening: it's someone else crying for us to pay attention to their pain, their plight. 

We're all in pain, we're all suffering in one way or another. Because we're in a pandemic!

But even if we weren't, each of us has suffered some sort of trauma, some sort of longing, some desire to connect with others. What I find sad is that in this moment, when we're all suffering, instead of coming together, there are so many that are trying to find someone to blame. We're all to blame, no one is to blame...did I mention we're in a pandemic? 

Particularly us Americans, we mistake our right to "pursue happiness" as some sort of promise that no one should ever cause us unhappiness. And that if they do, someone will pay. 

I work in the legal profession: I understand and appreciate on a daily level our constitutional rights that include our day in court...WHEN someone has committed a crime. Causing us unhappiness is not, in fact, a crime. 

And I confess, I do it, too. I place blame on anti-vaxxers for prolonging the pandemic. But even if I do, and even though I have wondered if there's a way for them to "stand trial," I know that's futile. So I vent with my friends and then I go about my day. 

We're allowed to feel our pain, our anger, and our sadness when we feel loss. But we should also recognize that pain is part of life. 

We have to stop denying that. We have to stop fighting it. We have to recognize our trauma, our pain, so that we can properly heal. 

We don't heal by yelling in people's face to take off or put on a mask. We don't heal by hiring bot farms to attack someone on social media. We don't heal when we numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, or even retail therapy.

We can only start to heal when we face our pain, our trauma. When we reach out to friends or mental health professionals that we need help. And it does help to get outside of ourselves and help someone else, if we can. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Very Female-Led Xmas

Following up on my previous post about shopping female-led companies, I'm so pleased to report how much more often I'm able to shop with businesses that are female-led or female-owned, some black woman-owned, and other small businesses not run by cis white men. (Female in this context means anyone that self-identifies as female.) 

I'm hosting our family holiday celebration, and we're going with a more Mexican-themed meal: tamales, refried beans, etc. I got my beans from Primary Beans, a female-led company that features beans grown by females, when possible. I'll be serving Bloody Marys made with Square One vodka and Bloody Mary mix (and Bloody Marias with 21Seeds Tequila (jalapeno & cucumber infused). I'm also serving Avocado Hummus, which includes Soom tahini. 

Some of the gifts have been wrapped with Furoshiki-style wraps from Wrappr, and the patterns are designed by female artists. 

Our dessert will be edible cookie dough from Unbaked

I've gifted wine from maivino, reusable plastic-free containers from Zip Top, I bought the Zip Top containers from Ban SUP Refill, a female-owned zero-waste refill store in Pasadena. I also picked up a gift from The Nopo, a female-founded marketplace featuring items made by artisans world-wide. I have previously purchased jigsaw puzzles from Jiggy, a woman-owned company that also features female artists in their puzzles. 

I'm now using hair products from Ceremonia, a Latinx female-founded company, tooth tablets from Bite, Branch Basics for laundry and some cleaning, and wearwell for sustainable clothing. 

Reel is a black-owned company (and kept me from having to worry about any toilet paper shortages). They recently added recycled paper towels, and they're excellent. 

I get the Woman-Owned Wednesday newsletter to learn about new businesses (and they also have a gift guide), and also subscribe to Buy from a Black Woman. I also support The 19th, an independent newsroom focusing on gender politics. 

Fidelity also has a Women's Leadership Fund, which is an index that includes companies that (from their website): at the time of initial purchase, (i) include a woman as a member of the senior management team, (ii) are governed by a board for which women represent at least one third of all directors, or (iii) in the Adviser’s opinion, have adopted policies designed to attract, retain and promote women.

All my hours of research are starting to pay off! I also have bookmarked several articles featuring women-owned, black-owned, native American-owned, LGBTQ-owned, etc. When I go into marketplaces that sell multiple brands, I ask about female-owned/female-led brands.  Some online marketplaces are also starting to include links to narrow your search accordingly, like The Grommet

Happy (female-led) shopping! 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Is it Possible to Heal Without Forgiving?

I've been exploring my past lately, and there are a lot of things that I'm seeing with a new perspective. Sometimes, we need the distance before we can do that. Some of it, honestly I've been avoiding. 
But not anymore. 

I think it's helping because if I look back at something again, I can recognize what I felt without feeling it again. 

I don't hate my ex anymore. I feel nothing for him. I'm not mad, I'm not angry, but I don't pity him or wish him well either. I'm surprised that he's still alive, but that's the closest to a feeling I get. 

But I don't forgive him.

There was a time when I blamed myself for not being able to forgive him. And then I reached the screw it stage, and just sort of forgot about him. I ask the girls every so often if they've heard from him, but we usually move on to another topic pretty easily. 

Watching the series Maid did bring those years I was with him to mind. I recognized that character a lot. But I wasn't so much about him. I was remembering the way I felt after things he would say or do. I've known for a while that he inflicted emotional abuse, but I also carried shame about it. That I "let" this happen to me. I'm letting that shame go. 

All of this is good. 

What I question now is as I've titled this. I know I don't forgive him. That would require some amount of care for him that I'm just not willing to give. And yet I still feel healthier. 

Do I need to forgive him to completely heal? Or is this healed enough? 

'Cause I feel pretty good! 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Unpartnered Women Aren’t Killed By their Partners

I’m embarrassed to say that the thought only occurred to me from one of those gifs, but there is a feeling of relief that remaining single will help keep my life story from becoming a Lifetime movie! 10% of homicides are committed by an intimate partner, and 70% of those killed are women. 

We hear a lot about the fear that being single means dying alone. I'd rather die alone than be killed by a partner. And my taste in men is pretty rotten. 

On this International Singles Day, let's celebrate life! 

Let's celebrate our freedom, our financial independence, our vibrators, random encounters, and shaping our own days and nights. 

My daughters recently turned 21 and 24. Sylvia is now the age I was when I had her. 

The world has already changed so much. At that age, I’d never heard of Singles Day. I thought that marriage and parenthood was inevitable. I knew I could have a career, too, but I thought I was supposed to want it all. 

I’m glad I chose my daughters and not the man. Any of them. 

I made so many mistakes, but the best thing I did was show them that it can be done. That I could raise them without a man. 

They see their future possibilities so much differently than I did at their age. I celebrate that most of all. 

Happy Singles Day! 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Dear Gen Z (and younger)

I watched a panel of accomplished female professionals speaking to middle schoolers and high schoolers, sharing their experiences and lessons learned and cheering this next generation on. And something just felt…off. 

I understand the purpose was to give them hope and confidence for all that’s to come, but without acknowledging the inevitable challenges that face them, it just felt hollow. So here’s something for my daughters and younger that won’t make it on the TED circuit. 

There’s going to be a moment, and probably more than one, where you look around and go, “what happened to my life?!? This is SO not working out the way I thought it would.”

I’m not going to assume the circumstances. I’m not even going to share my own because here’s the thing. Most people have felt that way at some time in their life. 

And here’s the other thing: whether or not it’s your fault simply doesn’t matter. Fair or not, you’re going to have to figure out how to get through it. 

Because eventually, there will come another moment where you go, “oh yeah. I remember when I felt things were hopeless.” But only if you’re still here. 

So that’s Lesson #1: Stick around. Things will continue to change. The only way to see what happens next is to be here. 

I’m not trying to be flip about that. Suicide is too common. Even if you have those thoughts, you don’t have to listen to them. Not all thoughts have to become action. Please stick around. 

Someone recommended deleting failure from your vocabulary. If that works for her, great, but I actually think we spend too much time thinking about outcomes instead of process. Not just because that’s where we learn the most lessons, but that’s also where we are most of the time. 

Most of the time, our goal is in progress. School lasts years, but the graduations are few and far between. Of course, that’s what makes them special, but the majority of memories come from the during: when you’re in school. Whether it’s walking to school with a friend or sharing a look with a classmate during a boring lecture, or trying to finish that essay. 

The things to celebrate get even less predictable in the “real world” of work. Depending on the kind of work you do, you may just get a “great job” email at the end of a very long and hard project. Of course, do what you can in your own way to celebrate your accomplishments, but you’re most likely just doing it for a paycheck anyway. We all find what makes the work day enjoyable (or at least bearable) individually. It might be having a great friend as a colleague, or that you’re so busy, the hours fly by. Sure, you hope that work makes you feel fulfilled, but it’s rare that every day feels that way for most people. So we need to figure out how to get up every morning even when there’s not necessarily something exciting on our agenda that day. 

Lesson #2: Do something you love every day so that you can love every day. That’s a tall order, but it should be something small. It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. Maybe one day it’s a walk in the park. Maybe it’s listening to a favorite song while you dance around the living room. Maybe it’s just snuggling with a pet. Find a moment to be present and at peace. Even on the worst days. Especially on the worst days. 

I don’t mean those days filled with irritation. Pretty much every day this week something has gone wrong. I pulled a muscle, a delivery was missing an item, another went to the wrong address entirely, I mistakenly called someone the wrong name in an email, and my DIY attempt went so wrong, I had to call in a professional. 

And yet, I don’t look at myself or any of those days as failures. Because I also met a tight deadline, snuggled with my kitties, danced to a favorite song, enjoyed a stand-up comedy show through Zoom, and ate spaghetti with my parents. 

That’s one of the reasons I don’t get the mood tracker that’s popular in bullet journaling. I have a variety of moods every day. How on earth would I pick one? They’re all valid, and while they’re not all equal, picking one would give it too much weight. 

Sometimes, we should be sad. If we lost a loved one or were in an accident or lost our job, of course, we’d want to say that sadness (or fear or anger) would be the mood to describe the day. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t laugh at some point or smile at a fond memory of our loved one. And those emotions are valid too. 

Lesson #3: Don’t track your moods. 

Not dissimilar to the unexpected worst days are the unexpected wonderful days. You may think that there’s nothing fun on your agenda, but then you get a call from a friend with an extra ticket to a show you wanted to attend but was sold out. Or your kids surprise you by making dinner. Be open to those moments because: 

Lesson #4: It’s usually something totally unexpected that makes what you thought would be an ordinary day one of the best ever. There are a few days I’ll never forget. One of the most surreal was the day the OJ verdict was announced. I was at an event where Ed Asner bummed a cigarette off of me and we smoked together. Then I ended up at another celebrity’s house where I held her Emmy, borrowed an amazing dress, and we had dinner at one of my favorite (now defunct) restaurants. I woke up that morning with very different expectations of how that day would go. (Okay, so I’m not sure I expected an ordinary day with the event and the OJ verdict, but I think my point remains valid.)

And that dress I borrowed, I wore to another event that went incredibly well and we won! And then I broke the trophy. (We eventually got a new intact one.) 

Lesson #5: Sometimes, we screw up. Or fail, or make a mistake, however you want to frame it. Sometimes the things that go wrong are our fault. We just need to sit with it. Figure out where we went wrong, if we missed any signs that doom was coming, apologize as needed, fix what we can, reflect, and move on. And maybe too, try to find a little grace when someone else’s mistake affects us. 

When the delivery went to the wrong address, we eventually discovered who had it, and she gave it to me, but she also got in the delivery driver’s face with her finger pointed and said, “This is your fault!’

She didn’t know that just moments ago, he’d sincerely apologized to me and I accepted it. He admitted he’d been distracted, and clearly felt bad about it. When she yelled in his face, he just turned around and left. I couldn’t blame him. 

We will all do something wrong at some point that impacts others because we’re all human. The consequences may not always be just, so we can’t count on that. We just have to keep going. 

“Resilience” has become a popular buzz word for this moving on thing. I think it’s just life. Sometimes, it feels like you’re just going from set of problems to another. For me, I try to enjoy every moment from the solution to the next problem. That can last for a few minutes (like the time we picked up Riley’s new glasses and she broke them that. Same. Day!) or a few days. And sometimes, the only way to get to a solve is to stop thinking about the problem for a while and do something enjoyable. 

Lesson #6: You’re going to make it. You’re going to succeed and you’re going to fail. You’re going to have moments of pure joy and you’re going to feel loss. If you stick around, you get to have all of that! 

The victories will be that much sweeter because you understand loss. You will appreciate the moments of peace because of the chaos you’ve experienced. You will be grateful to kind people because you will witness the opposite. 

You may have a moment where you wonder what went wrong with your life - as I have. And I have also had moments where I can’t believe that this is my life. 

Now go fix the world! (Sorry we screwed it up.) 

P.S. I’m not really sure if the kids in middle school or high school are also Gen Z. Does anyone know what we’re calling the generation after Gen Z? 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Balancing Children's Needs With Your Own

I was talking to a friend recently that I haven't spoken to since I was deep in the midst of single parenting - my daughters were in middle school and high school back then. He was truly surprised that I wasn't broken up about being an empty nester. I think because he saw me put my children first always, he thought I would have a hard time letting go. I did not. 

I told him, I think it's because I was a full-time single parent for most of their lives. There were far fewer breaks for me than parents who split custody and certainly two-parent households. 

But I also think that I was making a mistake by putting my children first, always, for them and for me. 

As they got older, there was still an expectation that I would drop everything for them, and it took me not doing so a few times for them to understand that they were capable of figuring out the solutions for themselves. It's not that they weren't a priority, but what they needed me to do was let go so they could shine. They needed to believe in themselves as much as I believed in them. 

But this isn't really about them. I also lost sight of me.

While I have said many times that I'm not a fan of labels (and I'm not), I didn't realize how much I depended on them to define me. Mostly, as a single mother. Also, as a loyal employee and colleague, as a paralegal, a feminist, supportive friend, my cats' loyal human. And while I am proudly all of those things, there is still so much more to me. 

I've been reveling in the gift of more free time. Without kids to shuttle to and from school, without having to commute to work in these COVID times, and without locking myself into Boards of non-profits, my evenings and weekends are mostly mine. And what's non-sensical is how much I still feel like the hours are limited!

It's not that I'm running around like crazy, it's that there's so much I want to do! I'm not anxious about it, I'm luxuriating in it. 

I'm taking virtual tap dance classes, I'm reading multiple books, I'm watching whatever interests me, I'm writing in my journal, I'm writing here again, I'm trying new recipes, thinking about the past, planning a future, taking online classes, enjoying my cats, asking Siri random questions, coloring, I'm getting to learn and explore anything that interests me. 

And that's exactly what I wish my children saw me doing more when they were growing up. Instead, they saw me always giving to others, and role modeling that behavior. 

Now, I think they already understand this better than I did at their age, even with my mistakes. So my regret is not about what it did to them, but about the time I lost for me. 

Some of our fondest memories are the times we spent immersed in theatre together; being in plays together, going to see musicals, listening to them in the car. A lot of conversations were sparked by a song or a line. 

I know that sharing my love of theatre with them is what brought this connection. I think more connections could have been built if they'd seen me enjoying other things as well. 

And I think I would've been stronger, a better mother, a more patient human, if I hadn't let so much go. 

Now, obviously, we have to put our kids' safety first. We have to make sure their needs are met. Sometimes, just doing that can take up most of our energy. 

Usually, when mothers talk about "me time," it's a ladies' night with alcohol or a bubble bath. Those are great, sure, but they're indulgences. Somewhere along the line, I also lost sight of reading books for pleasure, listening to music when I wasn't driving, taking my eye off the to-do list. 

On a walk recently, I realized that even though I wasn't listening to a podcast or music, my mind was spinning with my to-do list - which was ridiculous because I didn't have my planner with me to write anything down, and I was actually doing something at that moment that was on my to-do list! I could just enjoy the rest of the walk and not think about what comes next. 

We mothers get criticized anyway you look at it - we're either hovering or negligent; too distant or too friendly with our kids; spending too much time at work or not giving the kids breathing room. Screw it. 

Once you answer these type of questions for yourself, the best thing you can do for both you and your kids is to remember what brings you joy and to share that joy with your kids. 

Yes, their grades matter, but more important is their mental health. They will learn to take care of that by you role modeling what works for you. 

It will probably help to think back at what you liked when you were their age and introduce that to them. They might not love it as much as you do, but they'll love being with you when you're happy! 

That's the crazy, cool thing about it - focusing on your needs is actually good for your kids, too.