flatlined

I’ve told most of my story in repeated formats, even disclosing parts of that journey that hadn’t been shared before, earlier this summer. But there is yet another piece of the puzzle that I feel compelled to speak truth to today.

Through the last 25 years of my life, where in trauma after trauma has been laid at my doorstep, and I have worked overtime to ensure healing on my children’s part, and while I have spent HOURS in all forms of therapy and counseling, I have never been on any kind of psychiatric medicine as a regular RX. I have taken, literally, 6 pills of various psych drugs over the last two decades. 6 individual pills. Period. And I have been damn proud of that. That accomplishment had been my shining moment in my mind.

But for someone who valiantly defended and advocated for mental health for everyone else, that wasn’t a rational mindset. At all. It wasn’t logical or progressive in nature.

But I fought for that pedestal with everything in me. Why? Because I lived with someone for 12 years, and have had to continue to deal with him for 17 years more, who made me feel crazy every chance he got. When I divorced him, he claimed that I was the mentally unstable one, that I’d had a nervous breakdown, I was the drug addict, I was the unfit parent. He worked so tirelessly to destroy me in this area, that he was held in contempt of court FIVE different times for character assassinating me. FIVE different times.

And so I was gonna be damned if I was going to give him any ammunition to prove his point in any possible way, because if I had to be on any meds, he had told me he would use everything he could find against me to say I was unstable and unhealthy, and project his issues on to me. So instead I mustered all of my own mental clarity, emotional energy, and spiritual effigy, put myself through two “therapeutic” degrees, and held my shit together for all these years.

Until this summer when everything else about my health was falling apart. And I flatlined. Or rather I realized that I had been flatlined for years.

I had been a very purposeful parent. A very focused educator. A very over-achieving doctoral student. But an unusually uninspired, overly introverted, no libidoed, unpassionate, sad person. A person who had once wanted to change the world and was thrilled with simply living, I simply wanted to sleep and watch Netflix.

Then one day recently my old soul 17-year-old son approached me one day, after going to HIS psychiatrist for a check-up, saying, “mom, you won’t be weak or crazy for going to a psychiatrist. You’ve been strong for us for so long. You got us the help we needed, now you need to love yourself too. You deserve to love and enjoy your life, not just survive through it.”

So I went to a psychiatrist today. We talked for almost two hours. When I thought she would tell me I was dramatic or prone to being emotionless, or needed to just get over my past, and reduce current stress, you know what she did? She gave me an official medical diagnosis of PTSD, something that was so deeply validating and vindicating that I cried. I had been diagnosed with that by different therapists repeatedly, but never by a medical doctor on my official record.

And she gave me two different medicines that are supposed to help supplement my nonexistent serotonin production, and help me to calm my hyper-vigilant mind enough to sleep at night. She said that the medical world tends to misdiagnose the effects of PTSD in multifaceted, overlapping ways, often missing the key dysfunction trigger, the trauma; and that it takes time to heal many aspects of the PTSD brain because in order to prescribe enough dosage to truly heal the most dramatically injured areas, a person would have to become a medicated zombie.

I went into this appointment today expecting to be made to feel like I really WAS crazy, and I was trying to be ok with that. But instead, I walked out with the knowledge that what I believed to be true for everybody else, was true for me too. The ways I was violated and betrayed, and the ways I didn’t let them break and destroy me, are a testimony to how sane I really am, and that the ways I was injured CAN be helped to be healed through medicine, because my mind and emotions are showing a healthy response to pain, not in spite of their response because I just feel high maintenance.

Write a Book, D*** It….

Words have always been my muse, my vice, my addiction. They have been my RX, my therapy, my refuge. I have inscribed thoughts and brought visions to life, first on scribbled paper, and later on carefully crafted tech platforms, as a way of not only being a beacon of light to those struggling in the dark around me, but first in a desperate attempt to both remember who I was, and more importantly to prove to myself that I hadn’t been irrevocably lost….especially during the nights when my buried soul was muted, buried, and left in violated silence.

When I have lost all words is when those around me have really started to worry.

And some people have told me over the years that I say too much, my posts are too intense, too transparent, too revealing, too deep, too blah blah blah…and after being hung up on what those people have felt, and their approval, for so long, my answer is this: you don’t like what I write? No one is holding a gun to your head to read it. Unfriend. Unfollow. Unengage.

I know that many of my posts are not for the faint of heart. “I” am not for the faint of heart. I have so much complexity and layers, dichotomies and paradoxes, I confuse even myself sometimes. I keep myself on my own toes, and not purposely. I wish I was simpler, easier to figure out, a more “peggable” type, trust me. I feel like I live my life with a label of, “great potential, super talented, and wonderful heart, but a never ceasing brain and vast awareness of people and places, and the desire to know and experience all of it while conversely being a desperately solitudish introvert, creates a living disability of characteristics akin to a squirrel, grasshopper, butterfly, and cockroach (all things I’ve been called), all rolled into one. She functions with mesmerizing multitaskedness and overachieving capacity, or she doesn’t function at all; there is very little middle ground in this woman’s life. But Jesus is her rock and stay, her grounding incense; and thank God. Without this core foundation and purpose, Carrie would fail at life.” I know these types of observations, I help write them all the time as a teacher.

From my “un-haters”, 😉, I’ve been asked repeatedly to write a book about my story. I am terrified to do so. When I post on social media or my blog, and certainly my paper journals, it’s risk free, very little rejection, and I can amuse myself with the illusion that hundreds are reading my words and being encouraged or inspired, even if not a soul glances at it.

But writing a book is a whole other game. However, this comment posted here,from a friend the other day, with it’s blatant message, stirred something in me. So while I’m not ready to write the book quite yet, I feel that the sunset of this next year will provide a rhythmic end to this phase of my life, before starting the next, I AM going to begin compiling posts, entries, etc., to begin the process, and I need your help! Any suggestions on topics you’d want me to include, the best ways to go about writing a draft, the publishing process, etc., I desperately need help with.

And to all of you who have ever told me to write a book, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve saved all of your comments as encouragement and focus. So, as my friend Keith said, d*** it, let’s get this party started.

Footnote to Yesterday’s Disclosure

As a footnote to yesterday’s disclosure, I would like to address an elephant in the room. It had actually been ASKED of me way back during my original court proceedings, in several different ways, why I chose my first husband; and that, in essence, what did I expect to get for marrying a black guy from the ghetto? This whole racist shame blame was one of the reasons I stayed married, and tried to make our relationship work, for so long. I didn’t want people to judge my experience as a blanket statement that all black men were a certain way….which I learned, was how many white people quietly felt.

And once I did leave my first husband, and I was asked to start telling my story to help others, I didn’t want my experience as a domestic violence victim to be founded on the premise of the color of skin of the man I married; that would be an evil betrayal of victims of all “skin colors”, including white, that domestic violence can only happen in certain demographics. It happens across, and up and down, the demographic board.

That being said, while I know that there are real men in every racial and ethnic group, I know from experience that there are losers too. Grown males being boys crosses all barriers too. I grew up with an uncle, a white guy, who ended up in prison for years for murder, but not before he first pulled a knife on, and threatened to kill, my aunt. My first husband was African-American and Caribbean. My second husband was Filipino and white. And my third husband was Mexican, Spanish, and white.

So please, when you read my story, throw all notions of racism out the door. The issues I’ve dealt with in relating to the men in my life are defined by the heart and character of the men I’ve chosen, not the color of their skin, ethnic heritage, or even religion. It’s about power and sexism and patriarchy, and a crippling misunderstanding of what it means to love and respect women, no matter the cultural background.

My parents raised me to always look at the heart and soul of a person, not how they look or where they were from, to determine their value in your life. And I ask you to still do the same. The brokenness of the men in my life was not because they weren’t white, or were white, or rich, or poor, or from a dysfunctional family, or spoiled. Their brokenness was caused by choices they made that, as an adult, they still chose to define themselves as victims, boys, and in need of being babied at all costs, all the time, instead of being the men that they had the potential, and were intended, to be.

I saw that potential, and loved that possibility and often times promise, rather than who each of them very clearly lived their actual lives being. My mistakes were in misjudging character, not culture. Please don’t do the same. There are amazing men out there that never get the chance TO be judged by their character, because they are too quickly judged and written off by their culture and color.

Full Disclosure of My Greatest Shame

This is a full disclosure post on the part of my life that I’m most ashamed of, even though those who know my story well find no fault for me in my journey, only a well-advised directive that my choice in men has to reflect my worth, not their potential.

And while this has been a developing thought process over the last several years, it was brought to a head, for some reason, through the wedding of Harry and Meghan. Weird, because I’m not a Royal family watcher or fan, I’m certainly not a person for power and position, and I am the last person to be formal and fabled. But I’ve learned a powerful lesson from watching these two and learning their story, and it has helped to heal mine.

To set the stage, all I ever wanted to be growing up was a wife and mom. I come from a long line of long marriages, and my soul desire in life was to carry on that legacy. However, the men in my life who loved the best were not men in positions of wealth or power or influence, and then men who were, were often drunk, violent, and unpredictable. I learned to trust the underdog and reject the seemingly accomplished.

Those who know my story know that I was married the first time to my children’s father, my first supposed love, for 12 years, before barely escaping via a full restraining order and police escort, weighing under 100 pounds. I say “supposed” first love because you can’t truly let anyone in who has abused you and controls you, even if you THINK it’s love initially.

And those who know my story know that I was married for eight months, about three years ago, after being a single parent for a long time….having worked hard, hard, to get myself healthy and whole, thinking that I had finally chosen a healthy, whole person, only to find out that he had been serially cheating me with multiple women, the entire time I’d known him, dating, engaged, or married to him, including the solicitation of sex on Craigslist.

Both of these marriages I’ve documented well. But where my shame lies is with a second, rarely mentioned marriage, that occurred about three years after my first divorce. And I’m not sure why I feel such shame, because I chose not to sleep around, I chose not to just live with someone, I chose not to party and drink my blues away, but I was in such a broken, battered, and bruised spot at the time that I feel like I had no business entertaining a relationship at all, let alone a marriage.

We met on MySpace, dated long distance for a few months, married in Reno, and then, 8 months later, after calling me a nympho the first 8 months of our marriage for WANTING sex, he came home one day and told me that he was bisexual, currently having an affair with both another woman AND a man, at the same time, and wanted a divorce. He’d suffered a TBI a few years before from a motorcycle accident, it had completely changed his personality, and he was just figuring out who he was again, is what I was told. All I DO know was that the TBI really did happen.

So that little girl whose only wish was to be a wife of one husband, for a lifetime, was a three time divorcee; a shame that, for me, I’ve been haunted by for the last decade.

And in that process, one has to then acknowledge that their picker is broken, and try to fix it. And in that process, I’ve learned some things about myself. I’ve always played small, wanting to shrink my talents and personality as to not draw attention to myself and to remain in the background. I have a deep anxiety about my worth, or lack of it, and have felt my whole life that I have had to earn the love I’m given. Which has led me to men that “need” me, and need “fixing”, and have great “potential” and that maybe I can prove my worth by helping them find it.

And conversely, men who are confident and who are powerful, or in positions of authority have intimidated me, made me feel more broken than I already was, and I felt like either they wouldn’t truly love me, and only want to control me, using me as their trophy wife; or I wasn’t worth their genuine love and protection because there was nothing to earn, and I wasn’t worth being valued, respected, and loved, simply for being myself, and my imperfect self, at that. I’ve spent years trying to be perfect because then my weaknesses would be strengthened and my armor fortified.

Needless to say, my own hang-ups, and then my life experiences, have done a huge number on me, and my view of men in my life. And it would be really easy just to succumb and wallow in cheap one night stands, or write relationships off completely, but deep inside me I’m still a believer in the love of the likes of Ruth and Boaz, and furthermore, I’m raising a son, and what kind of a man do I want to raise in him?

And then I see Harry and Meghan, a man of power, position, privilege, wealth, and yet when I see him look at her, I see a man who deeply loves and honors his wife, and everything else fades to the background; who, in all his strength, in his wholeness, he chooses her, not because she was the seemingly perfect choice, but because she was HIS choice, and he is made better still by the compliment of her. And her “being” and value to him is based simply on who she is, not what she can offer, make whole, fix, or make small so that he can shine brighter.

So may I raise my son to value himself enough not to remain a victim, but to step into his sacred masculinity like a boss, and love the women he will with an empowering presence. May I model for my daughter to never use her beauty to lord or power over a man, but to also never shrink in their presence to make any man feel more “manly” and in control, at her expense.

And to myself, may I learn to own my story, never play small again, choose not to make equal with me men who can’t even stand on their own two feet; relish my imperfections and scars because they have been forged by me at a great price; not shy away from men who have their s*** together because I’ve worked my a** off to get mine together, and iron sharpens iron, but rocks, papers, and scissors only destroy each other; and to entertain and choose a partner that looks at me the way Harry looks at Meghan, learning to rest and trust in the fact that I am worthy of a man who needs me for nothing other than me simply being myself.

The Restless Nest Tattoo

When I told my tattoo artist I wanted a tattoo this last time around, I kind of mumbled and stuttered. I wanted a mandala that looked earthy, not bling-blingy; stained-glass, but not showy; colorful for once, but not too bright. Several of the color themes we discussed were no-gos for me. Finally, we settled on the colors of a sunrise. Or a sunset. I was so confused. 

And this confusion is reflective of the rest of my life right now. Because just a week ago I was so angry at my oldest that I wanted to strangle her, almost driving off a cliff in Olympic National Park,  while driving on vacation, due to words that were shared between she and I, that could’ve caused World War III, right there, in our rental car. 

But then two days ago, after dropping her off at college, I shed tears all the way home, then sobbed uncontrollably at the silence and emptiness of the house once I walked in the door. I was mourning  that a phase of my life had come to an end, while another was yet beginning. 

This was what I had raised her to do. The last 19 years of our entwined, deeply engaged lives, have been preparing her for this moment, when she would step from the nest, spread her wings, and fly. That’s what was SUPPOSED to happen.

So why is this mama bird feeling so bipolar, one minute thrilled to have the TV recording space free of the usual 100 episodes of Spongebob, REPEATEDLY recorded by her, while in the next breath, catching my breath, because this will be the first year ever that we have to watch our favorite shows separately; in one breath rejoicing that I don’t have to feed a picky eater every night, while in the next breath hoping she eats enough to keep herself alive while working two jobs and going to school full-time; and simultaneously feeling ecstatic that my oldest child can now experience adulthood for herself, rather than through her rose-colored YouTube vlogs, while always worrying incessantly about whether she’s safe driving mountain roads by herself. 

So I don’t know what this tattoo means. In some moments it’s a sunset, one chapter of life closing; while another moment it’s a sunrise, with the new, next chapter beginning. 

I’m not sure whether it’s the stained-glass seen from the outside, our experiences blending in with millions of other families with young adult children; or whether the glass is seen from inside the darkened room, the light shining through, illuminating this moment in time as our time, our moment, where the grief and joy meet, in mesmerizing patterns of sentimentality and novelty. 

And I’m not sure whether the tattoo reflects the bling-bling of my daughters “bougie mountain” style, or whether it’s  the organic, homespun natural style of me. 

But you know what? I don’t have to choose. It can be all, or in parts, and anywhere in between. Because the symmetry holds it together. The patterns deeply outlined and etched, inked into my skin, are constant reminders that in a world of hellos and goodbyes, of joy and pain, of gift and loss, that the fabric of our lives can’t be woven without both; to have only one and not the other, would be like Van Gogh only painting with one color, or Michaelangelo simply drawing doodles on binder paper, or Beethoven simply plucking  out chopsticks. 

Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for every activity under heaven; and sometimes those moments happen in cadence, together, clinging to each other, in balance. 

And so I’m learning to value the silence while I grieve the quiet, appreciating easier menus while being ok with longing for the empty seat to be filled, and resting in the fact that I’ve more than prepared her to make her mark in this world, even while I worry sick that she’s safe while doing so. 

So this tattoo represents all of this experience, from full nest, to a restless nest. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. And her. 

And thank God I have two more years before I have a fully EMPTY nest. I will need a whole tattoo SLEEVE to express that moment in time.

Kiddush Hashem Tattoo

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I have always loved linguistics. Not the grammar aspect, but languages, word origins, words themselves, how languages evolved over time, how a language reflects the culture around it, dialects, accents, etc. While being the hardest language in the world to learn, and spending YEARS learning it well,  I have  had quite a bit of learning English, thank you very much.

I love learning other languages, even if I’m about 42 years past where the human brain is programmed TO learn more than one language. Fascinating to me is the fact that our brain is created to learn more than one language, but….. if we haven’t learned more than one by about age 7, while we can STILL learn them later in life, the additional brain areas used to learn multiple langauges at that time in our life, either die off, or get pulled into circulation for some other brain function. In essence, those people who learned at least one other language as a young child will forever have access to areas of the brain that those of us who only learned one language, or learned more than one later in life,  will never be privy to.

The Hebrew language fascinates me. Much like several other non-western languages, whole thoughts and paradigm perspectives can be articulated and communicated in a couple of symbols or words….. concepts that would take the English language words….. and more words….. and still MORE words…. to convey.

This tattoo means “Kiddush Hashem”. Kiddush Hashem means,  “to live in such a way as to bring glory to God among those who do not know Him. To live a life of integrity; to do some heroic deed, or to be martyred.”

Ok. So I would rather skip the martyer part. Nobody wants to prematurely die around here. But the rest of it is deeply symbolic for me.

The rest of the meaning is exactly how I’ve chosen to live my life, and how I want to continue to do so. This concept harkens from one of my favorite books in the Bible, Isaiah, specifically 65:1, where Isaiah speaks words of God that have been revealed to him,

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call my name, I said, ” Here am I, here am I.”

I wrote a prayer for myself  on October 23, 2011, and posted it on my desk at work for years. It says,

“God, I pray that my life will reflect the intent of Isaiah 65:1, and of kiddush hashem. I pray that the ashes from my own brokenness will fill the air around me, like incense. And that people who don’t even know they have a need for God in their lives, and who do not seek Him in any way, and who don’t call out to Him with any voice, will come to understand, trust, and thrive in a relationship with God, simply  because I make myself a vessel through which there is less and less of me, and more and more of Him. Amen.”

So I inked this tattoo on my foot, symbolizing the desire that my hands and feet always be those that bring Good News, for the purpose of being a sampling of Jesus in human form. That my life is lived in such a way that if people meet me, and if they forget about me, they have lost nothing. But they will know, by interacting with me, that when they meet Jesus, and they forget about Him, they have lost everything.

Shalom.

Grief, Exhaled….. Tattoo

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This tattoo took me over the edge from being a person who had tattoos that were “cute”,  to a half- arm- sized tattoo on my left arm.

For a while I often wondered if it was “too” big, or “too” out there, or “too” much, quickly covering it up whenever I was around someone who maybe I  thought would judge me as having gone “too far”….

It even caught me off guard at first, startling me into thinking I had black marker on my arm from teaching…

But then…. as I’ve slowly evolved and grown as a person over this last year, this tattoo has become not only my life’s mantra, motto, but it’s the embodiment of how I’ve chosen to see life.

The impetus for me to formally verbalize my thoughts, cohesively turning them into the deeply etched phrase here, was in living through  the most recent of traumas in my life.

Without going into detail, after being a single parent for over 10 years, I remarried, only to find out that my husband of less than a year had been serial cheating on me during the entirety of my knowing him…. friendship, dating, engaged, married. To sum up one of  his mistress’s words, which he corroborated, he married me because I provided a good reputation for him, and I loved his children.

A whole different trauma. A while different betrayal. A whole different grief.

And from these ashes, these words took shape. While I created this for MY life, I choose to treat everyone who comes into my life with these life affirming beliefs as well,and pray that I can pay my pain forward, through being a vessel of transformed grace and hope.

So here is what I think….

BEAR WITNESS….Do you see injustice? Do you see abuse? Do you see oppression? Do you see evil? Don’t turn your head. Don’t shut your eyes. Don’t silence your screams. Don’t ignore the pain. Face the storm. Sound the siren. Summon the jury.

REVEAL TRUTH….The truth can’t set you free until you first unwrap it, unhide it, and uninhibit it. Truth speaks for itself. Don’t drown it out. Don’t shovel it over. Don’t bury it in and slam the door. Lay it down, and out, for all to see. Bare your naked soul. Call it for what it is. It is not YOUR burden to carry the sins of someone else. Lay blame where blame is due. And then step back, unburdened, and fret not anymore, the shadows no longer hold you captive.

HOLD SPACE…..Sometimes there is nothing to do, but sit with the grief, let the tears flow, tend to the shuddering silhouette. Grief bottled in is no mourning at all. Don’t rush. Don’t downplay. Don’t compare. Don’t rebuke. Simply……..be.   Light the candles. Rest in the refuge. Be silent in the sanctuary. Stand down.

EMBRACE PAIN……Life causes all of us pain. We either allow it to shape us, or we spend our lives fighting, as it swallows us. Before we can heal, we have to simply acknowledge it. Weakness isn’t in being betrayed, or in losing, or in being ripped apart. Weakness is in acting like it never hurt us to begin with. Let yourself feel all of the bitterness and rage. Let yourself be broken. Let yourself fall apart. Let yourself be real. It’s ok to not be ok.

CARRY GRIEF…..Never let someone tell you that you EVER heal whole again, unscarred, unblemished, unfractured, back to who you once were. You don’t. And don’t try. A part of your grief will go with you for the rest of your life. Own it. Respect it. Carry it. You are who you are because of the heartache etched on your heart. Make grief your ally so that, rather than embittering and imprisoning you, it creates a compassion for others you meet on your journey who need to know they aren’t alone. Because no one can walk this road solo. And no one is untouched by grief. And the darkness doesn’t discriminate, but it DOES fade to the corner when we light the path together.

HONOR JOY……There WILL be moments, even amidst the worst of the storms, when laughter will bubble over, the sun will beam bright, and life will kiss you with joy. Don’t downplay it. Don’t sabotage it. Don’t disgrace it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t destroy it. Don’t disown it. Honor it. No matter the cards you’ve been dealt, you’re  bound to draw an ace at some point. Hug it. Enjoy it. Grasp a hold of it. And….even if it’s just the eye of the storm, and the clouds are drawing nigh again, engrave those moments as memorial stones of what can be, what has been, and what will be again. Because the darkness and storms may rage for a night, but even the gloomiest midnight ends. And the sun comes up. And joy…..joy….. joy…. always comes in the morning.

 

 

Warrior Tattoo, and thoughts on Dating as Single Parent and Woman

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My first name, Carolee, is a derivative of Carol. My nickname is Carrie. The combination together means “song of joy” and “strong woman” depending on how you look it up. My middle name is Louise. Louise is a French name meaning famous warrior or renowned fighter. “Laoich” is Gaelic for hero or warrior.

I got this tattoo around the time that I made two intriguing discoveries as an adult single parent and woman. Don’t get me wrong. I could apply this tattoo to many areas of my life where I have had to fight for justice and for self-respect. But this tattoo, and it’s placement where I would see it as a constant reminder to myself , was inked as a reminder to me that it is better to be single than to lower one’s standards. And you never, EVER, put someone you’re dating before your children. EVER.

I have seen so many parents of students I teach, children of friends of mine, and just random people around me, who believe that their right to be happy trumps their children’s rights to have a safe and secure home, and the necessary attention needed from their custodial parent in order to grow into healthy adults; a feat that is challenging for any parent, let alone parents who are already navigating divorce or single parenthood for whatever reason.

Upon discussing recently with my daughter a couple of friends we have who AREN’T putting their children first, my daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, I’ve said it before. And I will say it again. You might not have had the best luck with men to date ( true), but one thing I’m so grateful for is that you have ALWAYS put me and my brother first, no man has ever come before us, and I’m so happy you’ve always loved us,and parented, like that.”

And my son, he sends me text messages or Instagram posts, thanking me for being the best mom AND dad he could have:

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Which leads me to the second meaning of this tattoo. I have always wanted to be a person who was respected versus loved. I don’t know why I’m driven to that, but I am. People can love you,but still walk all over you, and not value you. Which I guess some people would say isn’t love, right? And you make a good point. Obviously, as I’m writing this, I realize I’ve pinpointed a place where I still need to heal and grow. But being respected affords you some protection and voice. And if I had to choose between being someone’s muse or their battle partner, I would choose the latter. I have never wanted to be anyone’s plaything, or their trophy, or their status symbol.

Which leads me to the games men play. Women play games too, I know. But since I’m a woman, attracted to men, I will focus on the games that men play. I am 43 years old, not quite as in-shape, or wrinkle-free, or young, as I once was. I am definitely past the “I yearn to have more children,” phase of my life. I don’t party, give the illusion of being a club girl, a casual date, and maybe even a “fun” date (sad, I know).

And I get that some people can construe my tattoos as being those that belong to an easy girl, a hard girl, a “been around the block a few times girl”, and maybe part of my attraction to tattoos is because they DO give an illusion of toughness. Because my whole life I’ve had to fight to be taken seriously, to not be seen as naive, and all sweetness and light. So maybe part of my attraction TO tattoos is that they provide a form of armour, a weapon if you may, to keep idiots at bay.

I’m not looking to date right now. I’m pretty burned by what my next tattoo blog will address. But my interactions with other single men, in general, is woefully depressing, and has been, across the years. Dating sites? Anybody can say and purport to be anything. I’ve tried several, and people just aren’t who they say they are. Church socials? Some of the crudest men I’ve dated have been from these circles. Random people you meet in life? All I can say is that I’m grateful for the internet. Everybody I meet who has a potential to be a serious date? I background check them. It’s worth the money, trust me.

But the most frustrating thing to me is that most men, no matter their age, have to be told the same things that my daughter has told guys HER age:

No, I won’t send you pictures of me other than pictures that I would also post on Facebook on Instagram.

No. I don’t want ANY pictures of you other than ones that YOU would post on Facebook or Instagram.

No. I won’t sext you.

No. I don’t want you to sext me.

No. I won’t have sex with you.

No. I won’t watch porn with you.

And no, I won’t be a casual text. I don’t have time for that. Either pursue me, friends first, as a serious commitment, to friendship, at the very least. Or move on to other pastures.

I know that there are good men out there. Godly men. Feminist men. Men of honor. And yes, the pickings get slimmer and slimmer the older I get. Or maybe they don’t. I think that pickings for real men have been slim all along.

But now? Now I know my worth. It can’t be bargained for, or traded in, gambled, or taken for granted. I am FAR from perfect. But for finally in my life, I know what I bring to the table, I’m not afraid to eat alone, and the romantic in me is willing to hide beneath the warrior in me, protected, unless someone strong and heroic enough wants to fight for the right for it to be seen.

Boppo’s Tattoo

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You left us two years ago. You would have been 103 this year. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you, or something that is a representation of you.

My memoir of you is not one of a kind old grand-pop that doted on his family. No, instead, when you died, the nurses in your care home commented that you had been such a sweet, old man. My mom and I had looked at each other skeptically, and then checked the paperwork to make sure we were talking about the same man.

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Because of you….I learned to deal with difficult people, and maybe even a little alarmingly, created the false impression that difficult men can be won over by sheer love and affection simply because, in spite of the fact that you were a workaholic, game cheater, violent alcoholic, bully, and an irregular person with an acerbic personality to the rest of our family and the rest of the world, I was your sweetheart. I was the one who, even when you hated the words that were spoken to you, and the decisions that were made for you….when I was the one that shared them with you, you grudgingly agreed, and treated me with respect and admiration; and maybe even love, impressed that I didn’t let your bull**** intimidate me or push me away.

You truly were a self made man, and your extreme value of education fueled not only my love for, but also my expectation for myself, of being a lifelong learner. It’s why, even now, I have dedicated the next four years of my life to get my doctorate; because one day, in a drunken hush of yours, you told me that I would never max out my potential until I had a PhD after my name, that you would be proud of me if I accomplished that goal. Because you knew the value of hard work, having worked your way up from mailroom boy at Wells Fargo, to VP of Western Operations. 

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Your love for travel and for the Sierra’s, particularly the Stanislaus National forest, has become a key backbone of who I am. Whether we were playing our weekly Scrabble game, or you were treating me to Chinese food, the times we went “deer hunting” to count the number of deer we saw on some God-forsaken wilderness logging road, or me calling some investment company for you and being surprised that the receptionist greeted me with, “welcome to the million dollar club, how can I help you?” ( a millionaire? You dressed like a longshoreman), seeing that no matter how dysfunctional you were in some ways, you were still an accomplished man ( the gift of money and math you did NOT pass on to me) and as someone who only ever “paid in full with cash”, who you were, and who I was TO YOU more importantly, played a crucial role in me becoming the person I am today.

Sometimes, I have learned, that you become who you are meant to be not just from those around you who LIVE righteous, holy lives, but you grow by parts of you being forged by rubbing up against those who chisel and grind us rather than hold and bind us. 

Our family has always joked that you reminded us of a blue jay, cocky, always squawking, a bit arrogant, lover of pine trees…. and with your hair, when uncombed, cocked upright in a blue jay’s fashion. Ironic, since you loved birds, always had Audobon books laying around, and knew the scientific name of every bird between here and the equator. Of all the birds that could have been chosen, you seemed to embody the somewhat annoying character of the Stellar blue jay.

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The symbolism of the blue jay represents

  • Energy
  • Clarity
  • Vibrancy
  • Advantage
  • Curiosity
  • Faithfulness
  • Intelligence
  • Communication
  • Determination
  • Assertiveness
  • Loquaciousness

All of these reflect you perfectly.

….It was last summer, as I sat on the porch of mom and dad’s house, the cabin that used to be yours, that a certain blue jay seemed to be talking to me. Whenever I went outside, it would come and sit on the porch railing, yakking and yakking. When I went out to the front of the cabin, it would follow me, like it was trying to give me a message.

On three different occasions, over the course of three months, this jay would come to me. The third time around, something became aroused in my spirit, a sense of familiarity…. of home, an odd scent  of vanilla tobacco and Irish Spring soap; the comforting texture of frayed flannel; the vibrant blue of feathers, ironic being that since you were colorblind, the only color you COULD see was blue; and the taste of Chinese food and Baskin Robbins, all places I remember you taking me as a young child.

And then, out of nowhere, I knew it was YOUR spirit. It was you. You were there with me. In that fleeting moment. It was like I could reach out and touch you. In that one second, a lifetime of memories filled my psyche, making time stand still. And while I’ve never been a believer in those we love coming back to love us, between worlds, I know that day that I was in the presence of something far more embracing than a snarky neighborhood jay.

For whatever reason, I’m glad that you came to me that summer. I’m glad I had one last chance to sense your presence. For in the more time that has passed since you left us,  every day the more deeply your legacy imprints me.

So this tattoo is for you. A blue jay feather. On my wrist. So that no matter where I go, I am reminded that just maybe, you see me.

This song will always remind me of you, Carrie Underwood, “See You Again”.

My Son’s Tattoo

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I almost didn’t get pregnant with him. Abuse and drama grew to an all-time high.I had almost left my ex.  We had gone to marital counseling at our church, where my ex had finally acknowledged that he had a problem that he needed to fix.  We decided to give our marriage, and family, one more try. We went away for the weekend to “save” our marriage. And yowzers….. I was pregnant.

The “saving” died a quick death. With a cocaine addiction of his  that began spiraling out of control, so further did our lives. During this pregnancy, I was pushed down a flight of stairs ( 7 months pregnant), and held at knife-point, arched back over our washing machine ( 8 months pregnant).

I was under so much stress during these months,  that our son was born a month early. His eyebrows were nonexistent. His eyes were still sealed shut. His tongue hadn’t detached from the bottom of his mouth yet. He was born with bronchiolitis, a condition that has major ramifications to this day, manifesting in serious sinus allergies and asthma. He was also born with a skin condition covering much of his tiny body, a mix between eczema and hives.

Even though he had been scheduled for a routine c-section, he ended up being delivered emergency c-section, without initial medicine because it was too late in the process to give me the regular labor medicine.

I had to literally pump my milk through a special attachment, and then feed him through a preemie tube, in order to breastfeed. I did this even after I returned to work at eight weeks, pumping every recess and lunch break, for the final months of school. At home feeding him took twice as long. Pump, then tube feed. Pump, then tube feed. Pump, then tube feed.

And yet, through all of that, he was my relational child. I remember the first time he laughed; the sound filled the room with joy. He enthusiastically participated in life. He gave love. He gave compassion. He gave fun, all from the moment he was able to communicate. He was full of hilarious antics and humor. His very personality screamed,” Love me! I love you!” He wanted to be held and he wanted to touch. He wanted to play and be played with. He was always on the move, rarely still, unless he was asleep.

He was also the child to see his father punch his mother in the nose.

He was the child to see his father push his mother into a bookcase, shaking loose the books.

He was the child to see his father spit in his mother’s face, block the door from her escape, and throw a glass cup at her head.

He was the one that could never live up to his father’s opinion of what it meant to be “a man”, even as a young child. He was called “sissy”, “mama’s boy”, “weak”, and every other form of derogatory  term a father could call his son.

It was this child of mine that didn’t want to be a boy, or black, when he was 4, because to him , male and dark were people who were mean, and scary, and hurtful.

It was around this time that he wrote this note to me, seen here on this tattoo. He was always writing notes, drawing pictures, leaving little gifts, reminders of his full-hearted love for me…..

It was this child, at 8, who told me that he had an anger management problem because of how mad he was at his father, and that I had better get him into counseling. Which I did.

It was this child that, unbeknownst to either of us, would establish at bond together, that would define how we each interacted with the other sex, for all future references.

It was this child that told off his father repeatedly in later years, telling him that he would never forget how he saw him treat his mom;  and, while he could forgive his father, he could never forget his actions. He would honor him, but never trust him.

He was also the great encourager, with a hero mentality far deeper and intense, than belied the youth in his years.

We would often go on walks together, and he loved to blow dandelion seedlings with me. His favorite colors were bright and strong and vivide, full of life like him, orange, red, and yellow; hence, the colors in the tattoo.

He is also my child that was diagnosed with depression, and who yet carries himself with pride, shoulders back, bringing awareness to the fact that boys can suffer from anxiety just as much as girls can.

He is my child who, now at 15, stands taller than me, his voice deepened, who calls me to always first pray when I’m upset about something; telling me that I taught him how, and I better walk it myself if I talk it.

His depth is far more complex than  his age.

He is an old soul in a young body.

He is a self-proclaimed feminist, who, having been raised by a mom and sister, fiercely guards the privilege of women to be seen as equals to men.

He’s the one who thinks I should take care of myself first,  before I can take care of anybody else, and reminds me of this when I forget.

He is my yin to his yang. And, like I always used to tuck him in at night, saying the same little phrase tattooed here…..the day he wrote it to me, this mommy heart was healed in places that I hadn’t even realized were ripped open .

The bond between a mother and a son is often a precious gift; mine has been a priceless lifeline of light in a journey darkened by shadows.

I love him, deeply, heart and soul.