Retrospective is everything

“Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh” – Indigo Girls, Watershed

“Perspective is everything” – Aimee Mann, Invisible Ink

My friend Foxglove surprised me with a phone call one day. She’s a special ed teacher who deals with challenging kids all day and while going home she was thinking about how the parents of her students were going to manage over the weekend. This led to thinking about parents and parenting and how difficult it was to be “on call” 24/7, and her various friends who were now parents.

Gusto ko lang sabihing ang galing mo!” (I just wanted to let you know that you are awesome!), she had said, and when I asked where this was coming from she went into a discussion of Katie and me and all we’ve been through and just that she was happy about where we are and what we’ve become. “Biruin mo, a few years ago kung san san lang kayo nakikitira tapos ngayon.. basta ang galing mo!” (A few years ago, you lived from friend to friend and now…you’re just great!). Thanks Foxglove!

My friends have always been encouraging, and are the type to freely give a kind word. But lately, these affirmations have been resonating. It’s always pleasant to hear and gives me a certain high to be told I’m a good friend/listener/mother, and that someone believes in me especially from people who know our story. But for some reason, I feel I am really only hearing and believing this now that the shitstorm we went through is over.

The thing about difficult situations is that it is hard to find their value while you are in it. Five years ago, I didn’t think I was a good person– I was dragging my almost 2 year old from couch to couch, scrounging for food money, wallowing in debt and self pity and all I could think about was how to get to the next day and that I would have to do it all over again. I felt I was being unjustly punished. I felt bitter and that life would never be the same. I felt hopeless and that I would never be happy again. More days than not I contemplated “the end” and the relief that ceasing to exist would bring. I prayed I wouldn’t wake up. I prayed my ex would be struck by lightning. I prayed one day that God would stop hating me.

Dark days indeed.

During these days my therapist would tell me to focus on what I was doing as accomplishments. I was navigating a system foreign to me, as best as I could. That I was in an temporarily unpleasant situation but was doing extraordinary things. That I was doing the right things: getting help for depression and trying to get our life on track. That time would bring healing and that someday I would look back at all of this in awe.

Just as the newborn days are a haze of sleep deprived never ending hours where much happened and little is remembered, so are my dark days. We survived with the help of many, but also (as bestie Maya often reminds me) through my sheer determination and stubbornness. Now, 5 years later, I feel vindicated, validated and strong. Above all, I feel more human: more able to accept my mistakes and more likely to reach out to someone else who might be in the middle of their own dark days.

This is not the last shitstorm. Things won’t be smooth sailing forever. But retrospective is teaching me that life isn’t crummy all the time. And that somehow you become a better person because of what you’ve endured.

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Yellow means go slow

An ex-roommate and very good friend once told me that setbacks are allowed by God to give us a chance to pause, reflect and warn against a bigger danger. Getting sick is a way for the body to replenish and renew. Vacations rejuvenate and change perspective. In short, waiting is good and has its own purpose.

There’s a really good song by Simon and Garfunkel called Feeling Groovy. The first few lyrics go

Slow down you move too fast
You gotta make the morning last

Who does that, though? My every day is filled with the desire to catch up- with reading, cooking and cleaning, getting to places on time, work and laundry. It’s a frenzied no-mistakes-allowed-self-imposed miserable cycle. So suddenly a wrench gets thrown in the well oiled but overworked machine and you can either curse at your “bad luck” or you can embrace it.

I am proud to say I’ve gotten better with every wrench thrown my way and see the bigger ones, in retrospect of course, as blessings. From the time I had 3 months to get back on my feet after a nervous breakdown, to Katie’s stomach bug/flu/pinkeye mega week after Christmas, to the surprise flat tire that led to needing 4 new ones, all of these were a message.

Slow down.
Make the morning last.

The latest bump in the road came in the form of a traffic citation. I was in a hurry to pick Katie up from a friend’s house after work. It was kinda foggy and darker than am used to on my commute home. And I had a big bite of summer roll in my mouth (the other half was in my hand) and wasn’t paying attention at a non busy intersection when the lights came on. Turns out eating counts as impedimented driving and so I was cited for that on top of failure to stop* for a whopping $140. Incidentally, $140 is what I spent at Market Basket for the next 2-3 weeks of groceries so the fine is a really big deal.

Except it’s not.

Because I have been getting cocky on the road and speeding here and there. I guess I needed the reminder to be more damn careful. The citation also made me think of having Fluffy’s (my car) brakes checked and sure enough they do need to be changed ASAP. To be honest I haven’t seen the silver lining of an impending $430 brake job yet but see? All about attitude.

As I dropped her off at her Nana’s house last night, Katie told me “Enjoy the break”. Last week I started planning a vacation am getting really excited about. Tonight am going to my friend Mrs. R’s house for girl talk. It’s a lot of slowing down am not used to but it’s all good.

Here’s to moderation and slowing down in 2014.

*Incidentally, my mother taught me to drive. And she taught me that when the light turns yellow you have to go faster so you are through it before the light turns red. My citation above can totally be blamed on a lack of commitment and a moment of indecision due to prioritizing food. But that is a whole other post.

Making quality time out of nothing at all

20130722-105101.jpgThis is a picture Katie and I made last weekend. It took us 2 days to finish and possibly makes up for all her other drawings on paper where she didn’t use all the white space. You probably can’t tell but it is a castle with rainbow turrets, a yellow flag for me, a pink flag for her and a fabulous green background with multi colored polka dots.

This is Katie’s idea of quality time.

I am going to look at this picture to remind myself that quality time need not be that carefully planned, perfect moment. That making memories doesn’t always require going someplace new or spending a lot of money.

I am going to look at this picture when Katie asks to play/read/snuggle and I am thinking of the things I think I have to do (like fold laundry) or want to do (like take a nap) instead of playing/reading/snuggling.

I am going to look at this picture when she is talking to me and I am itching to take out my phone and people-watch on Facebook. Or check my email. Or play Candy Crush.

I am going to look at this picture and remember that right now she wants to hang out with me and it’s not going to stay like that forever. I only maybe have a couple of years before I become uncool.
20130726-161026.jpg2013: still on the favorite list.

This morning Katie announced “I wish it were tomorrow so it’s a Nanay and Katie day with no camp and no work”. I have a feeling we are coloring again tomorrow. Or playing princess tea party. Or dancing wildly. Or maybe even sorting socks and putting away the spoons and forks. Together. Whatever it is, I am preparing to give my undivided attention (at least in 10 minute chunks).

The days are long, but the years are short. And I know I will never regret time well spent with my best girl.

Four Birthdays and a Wedding

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To say that this weekend was busy is an understatement. I will admit to some shock when I was looking at my trusty google calendar and found it a mess of color blocks. In addition to it being the last week of school with 2 early release days, we had committed to attending 4 birthday parties and a wedding.

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what a difference a schoolyear makes!

There was a time when I would not have attended any of these events. When even just being around people was unpleasant and having to interact, painfully excruciating. I see our (disclaimer: I say “our” when it is really Katie’s social life that is rockin’) busy social life as an indication of my improved mental health and a return to “normalcy”. These days, when I tell people, “I’m back!” I really mean it and I feel great!

Besides, who doesn’t love birthday parties? The kids have fun and get tired. There is cake and a chance of excellent free food. Some parties (my favorite kind) even save me from having to cook a meal. Between mom’s group/baby playgroup friends, a church community that is ever expanding, and school, there are a lot of birthdays to celebrate. I wouldn’t say I recommend being this busy every weekend but then again, the laundry can be folded some other time. After all, it has already been sitting on Katie’s bed for more than a month.

We were also privileged to be invited to my ex-brother-in-law’s very intimate, simple yet classy and heartfelt wedding. Because of the deception I underwent at the hands of my ex-husband, I felt I could not trust any of his family. Even worse, I was afraid they would try and take Katie away from me. Pat and Ally were the first ones to reach out, and kept trying to include us when I gave excuses like “too busy”, “too far”, “not a good time” or even when I simply ignored the invitation. They didn’t give up on someday having a relationship not only with Katie, but also with me. And you know what? Persistence pays off and thanks to them, Katie will know that side of her family. Which is in part why I was determined to swallow the awkwardness, embrace the weird and be part of their special day.

But of course I employed the help of my Fairy Gothmother to be extra pretty 🙂
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Doing the right thing is really really hard. I only hope one day Katie will see that I did this for her: so she won’t be wondering about the other side of her family and she can form her own opinions about and relationships with them.
When I see her face, I am glad I didn’t take away moments like this no matter what I feel.

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Help from above

One of the hardest things to do when you are raising a child on your own is making your paycheck fit. Fortunately, I have a good job and we live simply so that it provides what we need. However, my kid is into dance (ballet) and music (piano) both of which are, in my opinion, beautiful and worthy of pursuit. Unfortunately, these lessons also require $$ and time — both precious commodities for a single parent.

I had the pleasant surprise to be a recipient of an act of kindness yesterday when a good friend contributed to our lesson fund in lieu of a birthday present AND gave me an additional check from one of her friends who wished to remain anonymous. I instantly said a prayer for these kind people. It is more validation that God is watching out for us and that I am never alone.

Thank you Rubi and your anonymous friend. If Katie ends up playing in Carnegie Hall or dancing in a Boston Ballet production, I promise you complimentary tickets 🙂 God bless!

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6

For her 6th birthday, my daughter had 2 requests. The first one was “Please pick me up from school and take me to the beach

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Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Walden Pond was the nearest “beach” and katie spent a good afternoon splashing and playing with sand. Her teachers thought it was a great way to spend a birthday. Her classmates, in a sugar high from Keyks cupcakes, all wanted to come along.

20130622-055613.jpgSimplify! Simplify! Splash!

The second request: “I want to have dinner with my whole family” was a bit more tricky.

Katie’s father and I separated when she was a little more than a year old. At that time I didn’t think I wanted us to have anything to do with him or his family ever again. But if years of therapy has taught me anything, it is this: there are no ex-parents. No matter what happened between us, if she wanted to she would be free to get to know him and his side of her genetic make up.

My friends think this is heroic of me but let me tell you, it ain’t heroic at all. It is AWKWARD and WEIRD. But it has only gotten less so over time. And hey, single moms need all the help they can get– this at least was a dinner that I didn’t have to pay for or cook.
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the birthday girl with her Boston family

Happy 6th birthday to my light and joy!
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