Posted in Be Brave, Be Present, Be Still, TMJ Surgery, Trust

Eyes Wide Open

Y’all! I started crying again. And having anxiety. Fear even. In the shower. In the car. At night. In the morning. Right in the middle of the afternoon. It started as I sat in the lobby of the orthodontist. As I sat among hormones and pimples and parents. Waiting for braces. For the first time since I was 14. Me. Now almost 40. Impressions. Photographs. Radiology. Metal. All at the orthodontist. Great.

I was a thumb sucker. The best one. Until I was 10. All my sisters were, too. Sorry, y’all. I’m totally calling you out. All the sisters. All the thumb sucking. All of us. All the time.  So we went to the orthodontist. A lot. And so did our mama. God bless our mama. She’s lucky I didn’t ask her to join me last Wednesday. For the placement of my third set of braces. That’s right. Third. I figured two weeks in St. Pete for my surgery was enough for my sweet mama. She didn’t need another trip to the orthodontist.

As I sat in the lobby. The one with grey walls. White-washed plank floors. Pops of my favorite blue. On the verge of tears. With the reality of my surgery staring me right in the face. I started thinking about the whole point of braces. The reason why we metal up. The reason why we pay a shit ton to look ridiculous. Things must really be misaligned. If you need braces. Things must really be out of sorts. If you need braces. Things must really be unsteady. If you need braces. And I thought to myself. Shit. I need braces. Like legit. In more places than my mouth even.

I went to Sea World with my girl last weekend. No judgement please. I love dolphins. And orcas. And manatees. And all sea creatures. And we all gotta love each other. Whether we choose to visit Sea World or not. It was a Girl Scout adventure. The best. We slept with manatees. We rode rides. And got wet. And made good memories. Ones I won’t soon forget. They have new roller coaster. For those of you who don’t visit Sea World. The Mako. And it looks daunting. Even for someone who loves roller coasters. Like a lot. Even for me.

But I didn’t let that stop me. I got in line for the roller coaster with two other gals about my age. One chose the front row. The older one. The braver one. The one who probably does not need braces. Because she rides in the front. And is fearless. Me and the other chick. We chose row two. Because we were not so brave. Because we probably need braces. Well at least one of us does.  And let me tell you. That was one hell of a ride. From the second row. Until we got off. Until they wanted to ride it again. Until I found myself standing in line for the front row. On the brink of vomit. Or diarrhea. Or both. But there I was. No turning back.

The climb itself had me questioning my sanity. Wondering if I could just raise my hand. Politely ask to stop the ride. So I could get off. But I refrained. And held on like hell to the bars in my lap. I started cursing the lady next to me. The fearless one. The one that does not need braces. The one that insisted I chance the front row. I closed my eyes. Peeked through the left. Squeezed them both tight. Peeked through the right. My fear was exploding. Saying things like: what have I done? This was a bad idea. I can’t open my eyes. You shouldn’t have made me do this. The second row was so much better. I can’t open my eyes. I can’t watch this. I cannot. I cannot. I cannot. And then we reached the summit.

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In that moment. That second, really. When we hit the tippy top. When I felt the cables unleash. When I felt the bottom fall out. Two hundred feet of track below me. That’s when I surprised myself. That’s when I opened my eyes. When I let myself go. When I took every bit of my fear and threw it off the side of the track. When I soaked up all the energy and excitement racing through my body. And it took my breath away. In the best way possible. It made me stop thinking about surgery. And tears. And closure. And fear. I was present. In the moment. Free. And in no need of braces. Not one bit.

I thought a lot about that ride in the days that followed. Talked to my tribe about it. Relived it. Played it over and over in my head. And today. As I eat those last meals. Get in those last calls. And FaceTimes. And conversations. It’s right on the front lines of my mind. Before fear. And anxiety. And tears. It’s telling me a story about myself. About my bravery. And strength. And willingness to get uncomfortable. Take chances. About my ability to let go. And be.

Tomorrow I will have surgery. The one I’ve been talking about. Thinking about. Laughing about. Crying about. Writing about. Waiting for. And it may hurt. Like hell. Although I’m pretty sure the Morphine and Demerol will help with that. And I will have my mouth shut. For a while. But when I hit that summit. When the cables unleash. When the bottom falls out. I will be present. And free. And in no need of braces. Except for the ones on my teeth. And you better believe I’ll have my eyes wide open. I will listen. And I will just be.

Posted in Dating, Love, Relationships, Single Life

The Last Tagalong

I am wildly enamored by hot water and Epsom salts. And I am not ashamed of it. In fact, this combination may be my greatest love. If we’re not talking about children. Or liquids. Wait, that is a liquid. I mean drinkable liquids. And if we are talking drinkable liquids then sparkling water is my greatest love. Followed very closely by iced coffee and IPAs. Any IPA. And margaritas. Good ones. Holy mother of Jesus. I just realized I am totally obsessed with liquids. Both potable and float-able. But the bath. Mmmm. That’s where it’s at. Undeniably perfect.

My friends laugh because I’m so obsessed with my Epsom salts. They call me crunchy. I probably am. But I swear by the health benefits. Never mind the fact that they help to balance the very necessary magnesium and sulfate levels in my body. They also help to lower blood sugar. Soothe tight muscles. Aid in sleep. Calm nerves (I sure as hell need that). And the best part. Like why I really use them. I swear they help me maintain my weight. Especially during Girl Scout cookie season which was particularly bad this year. I killed four boxes of Tagalongs on my own in a few short weeks. And I went back for more. And I’m proud of it. Both for using the baths as vanity and for eating copious amounts of peanut butter and chocolate.

Until today. When I ate the last Tagalong. I’ve been holding onto it for weeks. Knowing it was there in the freezer. Knowing it wasn’t all that good for me. Knowing when I ate it, it would be gone. For at least another year. And I’m gonna be totally honest with you. I almost didn’t eat that damn cookie today. I almost let it just sit there in the freezer. Like I have so many other days. Just so I would know I had one more Tagalong left. A few more bites of my favorite treat. And side note, if you haven’t tried Tagalongs from the freezer, you need to try Tagalongs from the freezer. Like next year. Sooner if you can score a box. Good luck. They’re only on the black market now.

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As I sat there eating that cookie today. As I indulged one last time in Girl Scout heaven. I started thinking about why I held onto that cookie for so long. Why I let it sit there in the freezer. Tempting me. Haunting me. Calling my name. And it started to seem so familiar to me. That feeling. And it occurred to me. I leave too many damn Tagalongs in the freezer. I really do. And catch up here, people. I’m not talking about Tagalongs anymore. I’m not talking about peanut butter and chocolate. I’m talking about boys. Boys who taste almost as good as peanut butter and chocolate. Boys who aren’t all that good for me. Boys who, quite frankly, I’m not any good for. Boys who I leave in the freezer long after their expiration date. Because I’m afraid I won’t find another one. For another year. Maybe longer. And damnit for boys. And freezers.

I have a little truth telling to do. I’ve never been good at love. I’m a little naive. A dreamer. A wonderer. Yet, I settle. I hold on too long. I was a lousy wife most days. And I’ve been a shitty girlfriend. I’m not trying to be hard on myself. I’m just being honest. With you. With me. With God. I hear it’s good for you. I’m notorious for telling you one thing. Then doing another. Being totally into you. Then changing gears faster than Dale Jr.. Promising you the world. Then turning my cheek to another. I’m historically fickle. It started when I was 15. When I first found love. Glorious. Delightful. Exhilarating. First love. Until I got bored. Until someone else wanted to kiss me. Until I wanted to kiss them. Until I did.

And I’ve continued that cycle a gazillion times. With a gazillion boys. Ok, maybe not a gazillion. Maybe like eight or nine. Ok, four. Almost five. Peeking over their shoulder. Looking around the restaurant. Even if I’m smitten. Captivated. I’m always within walking distance of the exit. Furiously scanning for the shorter line. Fervently circling to snag the closer parking spot. Because surely, there has to be a better one. And it scares the shit out of me. Terrifies me actually. Because it’s a totally jacked up way of looking at love. It’s like I’m seeing all the relationships I walk into as passing.  Ephemeral. Temporary. And I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to be. I mean, yes. Many (maybe most) relationships are just that. Here for a time. Gone in another. But the relationship that I’ve craved since I first discovered love. Since my heart turned permanently and irredeemably romantic. The one I’ve always mused over. The one that I perpetually hope will bloom in the freezer. That one. I don’t want it to be fleeting. Or bore me. Or become routine. Or enable me to shift my desire to kissing another. Not that one. Please not that one.

When the spark wanes, I hold on just a wee bit longer. When he’s given me the clearest signal that our time is done, I continue to go back for more. Always just a little more. When my gut (God) yells, “not him!” I pull him in closer.  And I can’t figure out why I do this to myself. To them. Why I won’t just eat the damn cookie and move on. Why I relentlessly hold onto it fearing there won’t be another. Or convincing myself that today’s just not the day to let it all go. I continue to let my heart break. Break others. Build the walls around my heart.  Keeping it all boxed up. When really. Really. All I want to do is let it fly. Let it love. And so things have to change. They really do. I have to quit blowing it for myself. Closing myself off. Abusing my heart. I must begin to listen. I must begin to enjoy it for the time. Savor it’s deliciousness. And when it’s done. When it’s over. When I’m positive it’s not the last Tagalong. It’s time to empty the box. Let it go. Open my heart. I think what I’m trying to say. The vice I’m trying to kick. The habit I need to break. I’m sick of being fickle. Holding on. Using the freezer.  I want more.

I hate when people tell me to stop looking. To be content with my single hood. To quit obsessing over it. Because that’s when I’ll find it. The one. When I’m happy being alone. When I least expect it. And you know what. I call bullshit.  I don’t know anyone who is perfectly content being alone. Maybe there are people are out there. I just haven’t met them. Who doesn’t intensely wonder about finding the one? Who doesn’t wish to have the love of their dreams? Isn’t that’s why millions of people spend their hard-earned time and money on dating sites. Multiple ones. I mean, really. Who would choose to scroll through picture after picture. Profile after profile. Date on their back porch with a cocktail in one hand and their phone in the other. Get to know someone via texts. Blindly meet in a noisy restaurant. If they weren’t so frustrated. If they weren’t so enveloped in the pursuit. If they didn’t believe in that chance at love. The unicorn. My guess is no one.

And listen, people. Don’t freak out on me. I am ok. I love Jesus. I love myself. I love my girl. I love my family. My friends. My life. And I am happy. Grateful. Full. But I want love. Big love. And I’m tired of being ashamed of this desire. Of pretending I’m cool being single. I’m not ashamed that I wistfully daydream about the feeling. Create visions in my mind. Ponder whys. And whens. And whos. And sometimes I cry about it. I do. I cry when it doesn’t work out. I cry for what I’m missing. I cry for what I know I’ll find. But don’t feel sorry for me. You cry about things, too. My cries are no bigger or smaller than yours. They’re just different. Or maybe they’re not.

The reality is that togetherness is inherent in us. It’s why God made us. He didn’t create us for ourselves. He created us for each other. The Bible tells us that. It says something like, when one falls down in her heels when she’s trying to be sexy, the other one will be there to lovingly laugh and pick her up. Or maybe it’s when one has no more energy left in his body to open the front door, she will be there in her apron, holding a sign that reads pizza and beer this way. Wait. I’m sorry. I’m really horrible at Bible verses. What it actually says is that when one feels like the whole world has crashed down on her, he will be there. Sitting on the edge of the tub. Holding a bag of Epsom salts in one hand and a carton of Tagalongs in the other. Because he saved a box this year. For a day just as this.

That’s why God created love. And damnit, I won’t stop hoping. Or praying. Or wishing. Or wanting. Until I find that kind of love. In the meantime. While I wait for him. I think I’ll get rid of my freezer. I think I’ll focus on fresh. Never frozen. I think I’ll listen for when it’s time to let go. When it’s time to walk away. When it’s time to open my heart again. He’ll find me. I’m certain. And I’ll find him, too. The one that knows when to fill the tub with hot water, throw in some Epsom salts, and leave me with my liquids.

Posted in Dr. Piper, Healing, Listening, Self Reflection, TMJ Surgery

Before I Implode 

I’m a firecracker. A little explosive even. My mouth tends to get me in trouble. A lot. Historically speaking. I’d very much like to blame this on my parents. First my father who I believe gifted me with my combustible nature. And I do mean gifted. After all, I am able to use this burning flame to the benefit of myself and others. Sometimes. Then there’s my mother, nary a firecracker in her, but she did leave me in a hot car. In the Tampa heat. When I was just three years old. “Jesus Christ it’s hot in here,” my mother heard as she opened the car door after those (no more than) 20 seconds. Thus beginning the saga of my dramatic nature. My explosive mouth. The trouble to be had. Historically speaking.

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A couple of years ago I was out with some friends. Listening to live music. Sipping IPAs. Chatting with new acquaintances. Enjoying myself. When out of the blue, this friend of a friend (ahem, asshole), spoke out loudly calling me an ask-hole. “An ask-hole?” I repeated, “what the hell is that?” But I didn’t need to hear his coy response. I knew exactly what he was saying. Shut up and stop asking questions. Shame washed over me. My face blew up with heat. I felt like the little girl who dropped the entire jar of strawberry jam on aisle 12. The adolescent who was told her front teeth were big enough to be a garden hoe in front of all of her friends in the middle school cafeteria. The teenager who was teased by a chunky classmate about the acne on her skin. Shame. Embarrassment. I shot back with the broadest smile I could muster, threw my head back with a cackle, and said, “You’re right, I’m totally an ask-hole!” Everyone laughed.

It’s true. I do ask a lot of questions. If you’ve met me for five minutes, you’ve experienced this. It’s how I connect with people. It’s how I get my endless curiosity fed. I’ve always been this way. Moving around a lot as a kid will do that to you. You learn to make conversation. To meet people. To make yourself comfortable in social situations that could otherwise, be daunting. And so I began asking questions. And I began realizing that people love talking about themselves. And so it made conversation easy for me. And enjoyable. Because I also began realizing true pleasure in learning about others. What matters to them. What hurts them. What fuels them. What lights them up. What makes their hearts sing. That’s the anthropologist in me. And it’s actually a part of myself I’ve always been proud of. Until this jerk-off called me out on it. In a crowd. Made me question myself. And made me feel ashamed.

I wish I could say I’ve never made someone else feel shame. Or embarrassment. Or question themselves. But it’s not true. I have. Historically speaking. With my explosive mouth. And my actions. I’m far from proud of it. There was the time as a teenager when I called my sweet little 7-year old sister a bitch. All because she wanted to watch something on television that I didn’t. The nerve. Or the time in my late twenties, spewing nastiness to my father as he chased me around a table trying to put an end to my disrespectful tirade. I could continue. But I won’t. I never put these two things together: the ask-hole and the explosive mouth. Not until today. Not until I started to listen. It’s so easy to look back and think we’re not so bad. That our actions or words haven’t impacted others. I’m sure that jerk of a friend of a friend hasn’t even considered that he called me an insulting name. Or that it hurt my feelings. Just like I didn’t realize that I hurt my little sister. Until she was in a car accident. Just weeks later. And nearly died. All I could think about was that I dampened her precious little spirit. And I felt like shit because of it. I prayed to God I’d have another chance to be her big sister. And he gave that to me. To my family. Sadly, I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain. I still allowed my explosiveness to get the best of me. Give the worst to others. And I continued to hurt people. People I loved. People I still do.

I spoke with Dr. Piper today. You know, the one with the Groucho Marx-styled mustache. The one who with his small round glasses and blue eyes will fix this explosive mouth once and for all. Or at least the dead parts of it. I might have the slightest bit of crush on him. Not because of the mustache or the piercing eyes. Though they are very charming features. But because of the way he makes me feel. He lets me ask questions. And he answers them. All of them. With a sense of calm that is everything explosive is not. I mean really, when a doctor tells you that he has to peel your ear back to repair a dead joint in your skull, you might have a few questions to ask about that. Especially when the price tag is that of a luxury automobile. Especially when you’re me. But he didn’t call me an ask-hole. Or express irritation at my pettiness (like how bad is this shit really gonna hurt?). He listened. He answered. He validated me. Instead of shaming me.

It’s been about two months since I met Dr. Piper. And in the same time, I’ve started writing again. In the bathtub. While I’m eating lunch. Driving in the car (thank you, Siri). Nestled in my bed sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. It’s not a coincidence. You might say Dr. Piper is the reason for me becoming The Girl Who Listens. I believe that’s true. He delivered some pretty shitty news more delicately than I’ve ever spoken to anyone in my life. And he sat there listening to me. Responding to me. He even patiently watching me cry. Like big ugly tears cry. The worst. And I think his CT-scanner is something revolutionary. Because I’m pretty sure it revealed to him more than just a dead joint. I think that he saw other parts of me dying, too. Other parts not getting enough blood. I know that sounds dramatic. And it is. C’mon. I might be a better listener. But I’m still me. At one point on that day in February, he said, “I can fix your joint. But I can’t make you heal. You have to figure out how to make that work for you.” And I heard him. I listened. Like really listened. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant at the time but I knew it was profound. And I knew that my life as it were was not conducive to healing. I knew my explosiveness would get in the way.

And so I started writing. Diving deep. Getting vulnerable. Soul searching. Truth telling. And I’m saving myself. From anxiety. From insecurity. From fear. From explosion. I’m kind of saving myself from me. Or at least the parts that don’t work in my favor. Or for others. I don’t think I’ve ever been so quiet in my whole damn life. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve had an explosive word in like two or three days. Am I right, mama? I know she’s reading this and will totally call me out. Just like the ask-hole. Except nicer. And what’s crazy is that my mouth hasn’t even been shut yet.

The date has been set. The closure is coming. The first week in June. And just in time, too. Just as this firecracker becomes a little less full of dynamite. A wee bit less explosive. A hell of a lot quieter. And killer at making smoothies.

Posted in Be Brave, Be Present, Cowboy Hats, Learning to Listen, Perspective, TMJ Surgery

Red or Blue?

I fell in love for a moment last night. At the county fair. I noticed him right as we walked up to the bumper cars. He stood tall with blonde, tousled hair that perfectly complemented his tan, taunt skin, and blue eyes that equally supported his sun-kissed vibe. When he glanced my way, they looked kind. His eyes. I’m sucker for kind eyes. I believe they reflect a kind soul. And I like kind souls. He let my daughter on the ride even though she was shy of the height requirement. I watched him as he kindly ushered our kids into a working car. The flashy silver one. The one my daughter most certainly would have chosen had her very boy friend not initially led her to the blue one. And then he walked over in our direction.  Holding a red and a blue laminated card he asked, “which one is bigger?” The blue one we said. Most certainly the blue.

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I love a good county fair. Always have. I’m not sure what I love more. The fact that you can eat the most delicious, oil-laden foods without worry of calories or toxins. Or that you can watch some of the world’s most interesting people (I’m practicing my kindness). The neighbors that you’ve never met. The ones with outrageous outfits. Hair styles that don’t quite make sense. Skin. Lots of skin. And tattoos. Good ones. Bad ones. All the tattoos. Then there are the animals. Sweet babes with their smells and sounds and slobber. I think I like that part the best. Reminds me of all the time I spent in a barn as an adolescent. And I do believe that one of the greatest scents on earth is that of a barn. I mean it. Judge me all you want.

Then there are the cowboy hats. And if there’s anything I’m more of a sucker for, it’s a cowboy hat. They take center stage. Walking down the midway. Standing at the Florida Ranchers booth in the exhibits. Sippin’ on sweet tea at the Greatest Southern Tea concession.  Emceeing the tug-of-war contest in the arena. Standing in a pen of cattle at the agricultural center. I believe in cowboy hats. And I believe in sunsets. So you could say I fall in love at the county fair a lot. I just haven’t found the right hat yet.

But last night. Mr. Bumper Cars. He made me stop thinking about cowboy hats. And sweet tea. And cattle. Instead, he got me thinking about which card was bigger – the red one or the blue? And he confused me a little. Actually a lot. Because when the blue card was on the left, it was huge. But then he’d switch. He’d put the blue card in his left hand. And the red card grew. I mean, it had to grow. Because the blue one was clearly larger just seconds ago. And now, it shrank in comparison to the red. I begged him to do it again. The same result. Rinse and repeat. He started talking about geometry or physics. And that’s where he lost me. I got D in geometry and I certainly was never smart enough for physics. I chuckled. I pretended I got it. But I’m a terrible liar.

As he walked away, I stood there a little stunned. He must have seen it on my face when he looked back. “A preacher gave this to me,” he called out. And there it was. Waiting for me. Standing right there holding the controls of the bumper cars. My cue to listen. And so I did. And then it occurred to me. “Perspective!” I yelled. He nodded his head. I think he winked. Definitely grinned. “Perspective,” I said again. And again and again. Perspective. Because that’s what it’s all about. Perspective. Whichever card is on the left is going to look larger. No matter they’re the same size. Or that I don’t know shit about geometry. It’s perspective.

And then I thought about my girl for a moment. The one who, no more than an hour ago, had surprised me (and herself) by going on the Dragon Express coaster. The one whom I’d given perspective. The one whom I’d told the ride was no higher than the flying banana she’d just disembarked for the second time in the kid’s area. The one whom I had totally lied. The one whom, with just a few words, I was able to shift a perspective of fear to one of bravery. And she loved it. Wanted to ride it again. Even if her mother lied to her about it. Perspective.

We all have that choice everyday. Red or blue? Which one is bigger? You get to decide. It’s like my jaw. I could be furious as hell with God. Pissed at the world. Feeling sorry for myself that I have to spend my 40th birthday looking all jacked up like a teenager in a headgear. That’s not to say I haven’t felt that way. I have. In between dramatic wails of tears in the shower and panic attacks on the phone with my mom. But when I started to listen, I changed my perspective. Viewing this unfortunate dead joint as a gift has really been…well, that. A gift. I’m like double dipping in gifts over here. It’s an opportunity. A door. A reason to alter my life in a positive direction. A means to slow down and look around. Perspective. I know y’all must think I’m crazy. And you’re right. I am crazy. Bat shit. But when I start thinking about this surgery and misery and discomfort that I’m about to embark upon, I get excited. Thrilled! And it really is all about perspective. Which one is bigger? The perspective of fear. Or the perspective of bravery. No matter what side the blue card is on, it’s always the same size as red. It always will be. So I stand firm in my choice. Today I choose blue. I choose bravery. Thank you, Mr. Bumper Cars.

Now where I can find the nearest cowboy hat…

Posted in Be Present, Be Still, Breathe, FELE, Listening, Love, Simplify, Slow Down, TMJ, Type A, Uncategorized

Dragging Dogs

Today was a good day. I failed my state certification exam. Again. By one point. Again. There’s irony behind it. This is a written test. Like a sit down, look at a prompt, draft an outline, and write kind of assessment. Written. Y’all! I once won a state poetry contest. So what if it was in 1994. I even beat out my older sister who is a much better writer than I will ever be. I studied creative writing at Florida State University. I’ve written a 123-page thesis on homelessness. Homelessness. I’ve been a high school English teacher for 10 years. I do this every day. I write. Hell, I do this in my free time. I write. And yet, I can’t seem to pass this written test. But like I said, it was a good day. I failed the exam.

I’m an overachiever. The type A personality. The outgoing one. The one who can do it all with perceived ease. The one that you want in your group when a collaboration project is assigned. The one who will keep a conversation going with a mute. For hours. In so many ways, it’s a blessing. But in many, many more, it’s a curse. Trying to get me to slow me down is equivalent to asking Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account. Nearly impossible. I’m always on the fast track of everything. The all or nothing girl. The it has to happen now chick. In relationships, house cleaning, parenting, gardening, furniture painting, career climbing, grocery shopping, even walking. You should see me in Target with a cart. Rather, you should look for me in Target with a cart. Good luck. I don’t stay in one department too long. And I feel sorry for anyone who has to keep up with me.

I especially feel sorry for Nola. My sweet elderly pup. I got her almost 12 years ago at a time when I needed her most. When I needed someone to keep me warm. When I needed someone to love me without expectations. Life was rough at the time. Turns out hers was, too. We met each other at the dog pound. She was so tiny in that big cage. So vulnerable. You could have said the same about me. And my mom and I knew one of us had to bring her home. So I did. And we loved each other. A lot. We probably saved each other. But I’ll be frank. Since then she’s driven me nuts. Insane. Parenting an animal is harder than a human. Period.

I’m not sure to do with Nola. Let’s be honest. I don’t know what to do with myself most days much less a small creature. For starters, her breath is horrible. Even the faintest waft will startle you. And what’s worse is that the minute I sit down, she’s all over me breathing in my face. Same goes for anyone who visits. If they’re not careful they end up with Nola’s tongue in their mouth, shrimp seasoned and all. Bless their hearts. They haven’t had the nearly 12 years of practice avoiding that unfortunate experience like I have. But no matter my efforts. No matter chew toys or breath sticks. Putrid it remains.

Another thing I struggle with is her constant jittering. She is part Chihuahua most likely off the streets of Tijuana. Like the worst parts of Tijuana. Which, now that I think about it, is probably why she has such an interesting aroma. Her incessant shaking and displays of nervousness give me anxiety. Like I really need more of that. I do not. Even a pheromone collar won’t do the trick. And as of late, the madness continues with her bladder. Poor girl has to take diuretics for her heart condition so the drinking and tinkling has quadrupled in volume. I can’t keep up with her potty breaks. Most days she pees on the only inch of the bathroom mat not covered by piddle pads. I swear. And to be honest, I’m sick of washing this damn rug.

So we go for a walk. These walks used to be 2 miles or more with her trotting ahead of me the whole way. Nowadays, she starts out by hopping around as I put on her collar. And before I can even shut the garage door she’s begun her sprint across the cul-de-sac. Sometimes I even have to hold her back from running into traffic. But several hundred feet in she starts to slow down. She lingers a little more at her sniffle spots. Stops and stares into the sky with her squint-y eyes. And watches the neighbors frantically reign in their barking canines. I think she’s laughing at them. I kind of am, too. It took me a while to realize I needed to slow down with her. Truthfully, I didn’t actually figure this out until last Monday.

We were doing our usual loop around the hood. Up one side of the street. Back down the other. Then I looked behind me and realized I was nearly dragging Nola home. I’m not kidding. Here I was, all wrapped up in my own head. Hurrying about. Thinking about what I needed to do when I got home. Or later that night. Or the next morning. Or next year (I’m actually positive it was next year). And all the while, she’s struggling to keep up, probably yelling, “Um, mom. I’m dying here. Literally. Could you please slow down?” And I thought to myself – damn girl, check your pace.

You could probably guess that I often bite off more than I can chew. No pun intended. Like when I decided in my first year of single motherhood to go to graduate school. Again. While working full time and still learning how to take care of myself and my girl. Alone. Because I needed a new challenge. Something to keep me busy. Career advancement. More money. All or nothing. Or when I decided I needed to sell my marital home in the midst of this. Right now. A sale that would require a ridiculous amount of painting. Approximately 1000 square feet of decking to be clear. But I did it. On one spring day. Multiple coats. Alone. And while writing a final essay for my Educational Law class in between drying. Are you out of breath yet? I am. And at the time I couldn’t figure out why I was so flippin’ exhausted every night. Or why I would fall into bed wondering how I would get up the next morning and do it all over again. I was that type A. And I’m not proud of it. Not at all.

I had a breakdown not long after all this. An MS relapse (forgot to mention I have that – multiple sclerosis). A completely unhealthy state. The sickest I had been in my entire life. And I didn’t tell anyone. Of course my family knew. My coworkers knew of some of it. I was forced to take six weeks of FMLA so I couldn’t hide that something was going on. But my closest friends didn’t know. The guy I was dating didn’t know. I went to therapy every day learning how to take care of myself. And I hid it. I was ashamed. I had to admit defeat. I had to admit that I didn’t have my shit together. That I had spiraled out of control. That I wasn’t listening to my body. To God. To my mom. To my sisters. They all knew I had gone too far this time. And I didn’t listen. Until my body gave out.

If you’ve been following this blog then you know I’ve been trying really hard to slow down. If you know me in real life, you know this is huge. Like a hand-delivered miracle from Jesus. I believe my present circumstance – you know, the jacked up jaw situation – is not a coincidence. It is a gift. And I believe that is God is working his ass off on me right now with this gift. I think I’ve gotten less type A (ahem, neurotic) in the last couple of years. Especially as of late. My family and friends may disagree. It’s true I still set ridiculously high expectations for myself. Expectations that I’d never impart on another being. I still add more to my plate than I’m capable of eating. And sadly, I will still try to eat it all. Or at the very least, throw it in the Ninja. My new best friend. And while I wish it weren’t true, I still push myself to limits that are often unhealthy all for the sake of feeling accomplished. “Something’s got to give,” God says. And so my TMJ begins to disintegrate. I start realizing it’s really time to shut up. I start truly listening to God and noticing what He’s placing around me. I start taking deeper breaths as quickly as I can (progress, people, not perfection). I starting looking around and within. I start clearing my desk of all the clutter. I start checking my pace. I start noticing I’m dragging around too many dogs. And I start realizing I need to tell all of you about all of this.

I’m trying to go easy on Nola these days. After all, she is well over 100 in human years. I’m also trying to go easy on myself as I round the homestretch to 40….which will most likely be celebrated in surgical braces and a jaw splint while drinking tequila from a straw. I can’t wait. And I know exactly why I failed that test. Twice. I wasn’t listening. I was merely talking. Telling myself what I needed to do. Telling myself what I needed to be. Forcing myself down the wrong path. Forcing a life that I wasn’t ready for. Moving too fast. All or nothing. Right now. Because that’s what I do. I mean, did. That’s what I did. Thank God for a joint that has died in my skull. Thank God for last Monday when I drug Nola down the sidewalk. Because now. Now! I finally realize I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to force conversation. Or love. Or grocery carts. Or career advancement. Or Nola. Or anything. Instead, I get to listen. I get to check my pace. And I don’t have to decide if I retake that damn exam again. All I have to do is be still. Keep quiet. Pay attention. Listen. Sweet Jesus, that’s a hell of relief.

See. I told you. It was a good day.

Update: on May 6, 2017 our sweet Nola went to doggie heaven. We loved that girl so much but feel such relief knowing she’s at peace and sunning all day up there with all the other great doggies of the world!

Posted in Be Still, Bikes, Breathe, Healing, Listen, Self Reflection

The Inevitable Crash

I have seen two people fall off their bikes in the last week. I am not proud of this. Watching someone fall off their bike is awkward. My first instinct is usually to turn my head the other way and pretend I saw nothing. Twiddle my thumbs, look at the sky. Anything to avoid the ugly reality that I’ve just witnessed a wipeout. And it’s so confusing. I’m thinking – I don’t want to seem insensitive if the person actually hurt themselves. But I sure as hell don’t want to bring even more humiliation to this unfortunate human. Let’s face it. Falling off your bike is embarrassing. Watching someone else fall off their bike: equally as embarrassing.

As wee ones falling off our bikes, it’s totally different. We skin our knee, we cry, and someone comes to the rescue with kisses to make it all better. No one laughs. You don’t feel embarrassed. You relish in the love and attention this fall just got you. But as you get older, harsher realities follow. No quick rescues. No kisses. More laughs. More embarrassment. And you’re told to brush it off and get back on again. And so we do. Over and over and over again. Until our belief becomes that if we fall, we brush off our bums and get back up again.

The first guy I saw fall off his bike did just that. And let me tell you, he fell hard. He took a curve little too quick and fell right off the side of his bike like a domino. For real. And the worst part of it (well, the worst part of it for me) was that it happened right in front of me. Like, no room to twiddle my thumbs. No time to look at the sky. I know his shoulder had to hurt like hell but he played by the rules. He got up, brushed off his bum, picked up his bike, and got ready for another go. But then his wingman stopped him. Rules started to break. You see, the young man I watched go down was one in a pair of the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints missionaries. He was not alone. They chatted among themselves holding their bikes as we approached them. I would’ve rather turned and walked the other way but I must say, this young man handled it quite gracefully, and I left that experience feeling humbled and clutching a card with instructions on how to research my ancestry. Maybe I’ll work on that while my mouth is shut. Huh. That’s an idea. Who am I kidding? That’s not likely to happen.

The next person I watched topple over went a little differently. This time I was driving 55 miles an hour down a busy highway. And I’ll tell you, if this woman wouldn’t have been wearing the brightest lime green shirt I’d ever seen, I surely would’ve missed it. Clearly, God had big plans when she got dressed that morning. This poor lady took a tumble right as she was coming off the sidewalk onto the pavement and I winced when I saw her. She hit even harder than domino and I know she must have been so embarrassed as cars rushed past her. But as I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw that she kept in step with the belief, too. She stood up, brushed off her bum, leaned over to pick up her bike, and then she was out of my sight.

As I drove away, all this bike falling really got me thinking about falling off bikes. And I realized that I fall off my bike all the time. If we’re being honest, I haven’t actually been on my bike since the day I got my bike last Christmas. Ok, maybe one more time after that. Definitely not more. But figuratively, I can name at least four instances where I fallen off my bike in the same week that I’ve witnessed two others crash and burn. And they’ve all been embarrassing.

Like when I tried really hard not to forget the dog was outside long enough for her to crawl under the fence and go exploring. Then the door bell rings. And there stands my neighbor with Nola in her arms. Again. Or when I swore I wouldn’t lose my temper over finding piles of sand on my daughter’s bedroom floor. Until I step in one. And y’all! It’s not pretty. Not my face. Not my words. Nothing. Though, you know, I’m totally blaming that one on the school district because they really need to invest in those bouncy rubber-floored playgrounds. Like stat. I know I’m not the only mama out there who loses their shit over sandy feet, shoes, and floors. Right?

There have also been bigger spills to own up to. Ones where I’ve betrayed those I love the most. Times when I repeated mistakes I swore I’d never do again. Things I’ve said that I’d give anything to take back. Actions so shameful that I don’t even like to admit they’re my own. But I do. I’m happy to share details if you’re interested. Hit me up for coffee sometime. It’ll give me a chance to practice my talking. Wait, I’m supposed to be listening. Never mind. Don’t hit me up. Unless you want to tell me about your latest collision. Then yes. Totally hit me up.

If you can say you haven’t fallen off your bike recently, good for you. You’re lying. Maybe you’re just lying to yourself. I don’t know. But I can assure you, others have seen your descent. It’s not like we walk around looking for someone to eat it, but when we surround ourselves with people and tribes and families and neighbors and friends and coworkers and even strangers, we make ourselves vulnerable to a witnessing of biting the dust. It’s just the truth. How we handle it is up to us.

There’s something I have to tell you about lime green shirt. As I came back her way a short time later, I saw her sitting on the curb. Her bike laid out next to her. I made a quick exit to the right to see if she was ok. Rolling down my window, I said, “I saw you fall off your bike, ma’am. Are you alright?” And I surprised myself. I was breaking the rules. I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs. Or looking at the sky. I was facing this plunge head on. Her response, “I’m just taking a minute. That really shook me up.” And I’ll be damned. Here she was breaking the rules, too. She may have brushed it off initially but now she was sitting back down. Taking a breather. Waiting it out. She declined my offer of water or assistance or a ride. She had a big scrape down the side of her shin but she gratefully urged me on.

Listening doesn’t always come in the form of words. Sometimes listening comes when we slow down and start noticing more around us. Start spotting people falling off their bikes. Start seeing our own descent. When we take more deep breaths, and stay mindful and present. It’s not easy. In fact it’s nearly impossible for me. I’m like the squirrel and the dog both in my mind and my conversations. And I continue to fall off my bike. Just like you do.

Next time I fumble around trying to avoid the inevitable crash, I think I’m going to take a lesson from domino and lime green shirt. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have a friend stop me and say, “it’s ok to take a minute.” Or maybe I’ll be kinder to myself. Take a breather. Sit on the curb. Wait it out. Soak in a couple Epsom salt baths. Listen for the next step. And then I’ll hop back on my bike until I stumble all over myself again. It’ll probably only take an hour or so. And when I’m down there, I’ll look around for you. I’ll listen for the crash. And maybe we can take a breather and sit on the curb together. Wait it out. Then when we’re ready, we’ll pick each other up, brush off our bums, and go.

Posted in Be You, Eye Contact, Perspective, Smile, TMJ Surgery, Wearing Masks

Twenty Four Eggs

I met quite a character in the express lane at Publix the other day. That tends to happen when you walk around smiling and making eye contact with strangers. That tends to happen to me a lot. You should give it a try. I don’t always get smiles back. And many people avert their eyes in any other direction but mine. Yet I still keep doing it. Mostly for that person who looks right into my eyes and gives me a warm smile back. It’s like we’re saying to each other, “thanks for doing this hard thing called life with me today.” Life is hard. I enjoy making it a little more pleasant with eye contact and smiles.

Anyway. I’m standing in the express lane with my items laid out neatly when I notice on the cover of People that Bill Paxton has died. And I’m thinking to myself – how did I miss this? My first reaction is to reach into my bag to grab my phone and as I do so, I turn my head to the guy behind me, notice his kind eyes, and smile. I look back down to my phone and I can feel him moving closer to me. Actually if I’m completely honest, I can smell him moving closer as he says, “it’s amazing what you can learn about someone from the items they have on the grocery belt.” And I’m not sure what surprises me more. The fact that he has begun to invade my personal space or that his breath is so pungent, I am certain he must have a tube of Colgate in his basket.

And so I play along. He begins to point out that I have a six pack of beer, a container of cold-brewed coffee, and eggs. He makes note that I have a lot of eggs. Twenty four to be exact. I refrain from explaining the exorbitant amount of eggs I’m buying. He doesn’t need to know I’m eating a lot of eggs lately because they require less chewing. Prior to learning my mouth would soon be shut, I most likely would have justified myself. And it would have been a waste of time. Then he proceeds to point out what the guy in front of me is buying, too, and that’s when things get a little interesting. You see, the guy ahead of me is clad in so much leather it seems he has popped right out of a Sons of Anarchy episode. In fact, the guy behind me calls him a “hardcore biker dude.” Loudly. He’s buying two blocks of cream cheese along with a tub of cottage cheese. I shit you not!

I get a little uncomfortable at this point because the biker dude begins to realize that the guy behind me with the rank breath is actually analyzing the items he’s taking home. And so he comes back with, “yes, lox and bagels with a little Perrier!” I can’t tell if he’s being serious or sarcastic, and in my nervousness I say, “sounds delicious.” I hate lox. And right about now, I’m pretty sure this guy hates the guy who’s invaded my space even more. Maybe he can smell his breath, too. I try to ignore the guy behind me after all this ensues. I’m now simply nodding and smiling to whatever it is he’s saying. I’m uncomfortable. I’ve stopped listening. And I just want the biker dude to buy his damn cheese so I can get a move on. Finally, he does.

Nadine begins ringing up my beer, coffee, and eggs. I make note of her name and make sure that I use it. They say the sweetest sound in the world is that of your own name. I agree with them. I can hear the guy begin talking again. Only this time, he gets my attention. I listen. He starts philosophizing about what a waste of life it is to walk around with masks on our faces and how we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. He points out that the biker dude with all of his cheese is going home to drink Perrier. And I start thinking about this path of vulnerability and transparency that I’ve been peering down the last couple of years. And I realize that I was meant to meet this guy. I was meant to listen to him. Smelly breath and all. And so we begin a conversation about how exhausting life can be when we wear our masks. And though our chat lasts no longer than a minute, I can feel myself relax having connected with a likeminded soul. Having validated with another being that yes, life is hard never mind having to keep up with our masks.

It’s the express lane. Nadine has packed me up. I grab my bags and look up at my new friend. We exchange farewells. He’s holding a pack of razors. I guess he doesn’t need the Colgate after all, just a clean shave. I walk out of Publix with my twenty four eggs and notice that the biker dude is parked just two spots away from mine. He’s backing up his big twin with Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” blaring from his speakers. I give him a smile. He does not smile back. Maybe he’s wearing his mask.

Pulling out of the parking lot, I catch a glimpse of the man with kind eyes. He’s smiling broadly and saying something to an older lady as she’s passing by. He’s still holding his razor blades. No bag. And that’s when I’m overcome with gratitude for having smiled. For having made eye contact. For having had the chance to listen. I chuckle as I hear myself say aloud, “I’m so glad I didn’t tell him about my jaw.” Then I remember, Bill Paxton has died. And I think to myself – how did I miss this?