Birthday Breakdown

Lately, Saturday has become our “family day”. When we have separate houses, it will be “Daddy day”, but for now, it’s usually all of us together. A couple Saturdays ago, we went over to the neighbor’s house to celebrate their daughter’s 6th birthday. There was a gigantic bounce house, plenty of Chick-fil-a nuggets, cake and all the presents a little kindergartener could handle. Everyone was happy, smiling and the sun finally graced us with its presence. We gather around the table to sing Happy Birthday and suddenly my chest tightened. I felt like a 300 pound behemoth was kneeling on my rib cage. This has happened a couple times over the last year or two. I stand there, basically frozen, and rub my chest like I can somehow massage the tension away. It doesn’t work. Instead, it has become a small tell that I am about to have a full on fucking panic attack. I tried to breathe through the unbearable pressure.

Deep breathe in…Happy Birthday to you….deep breathe out….Happy Birthday to you….deep breathe in….Happy Birthday dear neighbor girl…deep breathe out….Happy Birthday to you.

My (soon-to-be-ex) husband sees me from across the room. He looks concerned. Tears are pooling in my eyes as the weight is bearing down on my chest, crushing my lungs. My breath quickens. He comes over and asks if I am ok, I nod. But, I am not ok. What the hell is happening? I tell him I will be back in a minute and go towards the front door. As soon as I hit the driveway tears are streaming down my face. I don’t know why. I have no idea what is happening. All was well. I had a couple nuggets, talked to some random guy about our favorite places in New Orleans and then had a panic attack while singing Happy Birthday. What the hell is happening?

Thankfully we live right across the street so the commute was short. I try to soak up my tears with a paper towel and contemplate the fact that I may hyperventilate soon. The tile floor looks cold, that could be nice. Clearly concerned with my mental status, my husband comes in the door holding two pieces of cake. He asks what is wrong. I have no idea. I can’t give a logical explanation. He asks if maybe it’s because we are attending the party all together? Maybe it was overwhelming? Maybe? Maybe. I am not sure. I still don’t know why I cannot stop crying.

At the beginning of the school year the neighbors divorced. They are young, in their mid twenties with two small kids and just couldn’t keep it all together. I totally get it. The husband moved out and she has been holding down the fort. I help out pretty regularly, when they need someone reliable to pick up their daughter after school or when they need an extra hand. She began dating someone not too long after she and her husband separated. They all seem very happy- the kids are thriving, pretty content and adjusting well. The kids go to “Dad’s house” some nights and understand the new living arrangements.

At the birthday party they were all there- dad, mom and mom’s new boyfriend. One big happy family. They seemed to be making it work, all of them helping out with their assigned duties. Smiling, making small talk, trying not to step on anyone’s toes. Their delicate, polite dance was working.

Maybe that was it? Maybe subconsciously watching this new co-parenting couple navigate the family dynamics was a bit overwhelming? That will be us someday. Someday we will move on and have new relationships and new family dynamics to deal with. Someday we will have to smile and make small talk and try not to step on anyone’s toes.

Someday.

I walked into our kitchen so I could blow my nose and cry in privacy. My husband follows, turns me around and gives me a huge bear hug. We stand there for a minute and he says, “we will be fine”. I reply, “I know. We will make it through this just like we have made it through everything else.” He is right, we will be fine. We will make it through this just like we have made it through everything else. We will make it because, even though we no longer need to be married, we do need to be family. We are a family; a weirdly functionally-dysfunctional family, but we get to make our own rules. We have the great opportunity to structure our family the best way that will work for us.

This whole bittersweet episode reminded me of the first time we filed for divorce and met with a realtor to sell the house. We were told that we may just break even. Defeated, I went into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. My husband followed, laid down next to me and rubbed my back. We would be ok. We are used to set backs but everything was going to be fine. We would be fine and together we would get through it- just like we have gotten through everything else.

We can do scary things.

I am thankful for these small moments that reassure me that our family will make it out alive. There will be some growing pains. There will be anger and frustration and hurt feelings- but at the end of the day we will be fine. I am sure of it.

be alright

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Feel the Fear

Fear is almost tangible. At times, I am convinced that, with some leverage, I could pull off the heavy weight that bears down, most inconveniently, upon my chest. I am fairly certain I have had lengthy conversations with fear. Fear can be a pretty quiet dude, sneaking up on you when you least expect it- often kicking you when you are already down. He can be a bully- overwhelming, persistent and exhausting. He is also persuasive- he can talk you out of almost anything. He can convince you that it will be too scary, too hard or simply impossible. Fear can be a jerk and he tends to be almost impossible to ignore.

Growing up my Dad used to say “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Whenever I was nervous about an audition or completely overwhelmed with a term paper or learning how to drive on real streets in an actual car- he urged me to take a breath, feel the fear and do it anyway. I think about this often. In fact, it may be the single sentence that has gotten me through life his far. When I walk into a room full of strangers or meet someone for an interview, when I go to the doctor, when I submit a blog post or get totally freaked out about a life as a single parent…fear is there.

We cannot escape it. Fear is our body’s natural response to anything out of our comfort zone or scope of knowledge. We should not ignore fear; it alerts us to situations that may be dangerous. We should not silence those instincts, but, the great majority of the time, the little alarm that goes off is only warning us to proceed with caution. Note, I said PROCEED.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

There are so many opportunities that we miss out on because fear works his way into our brain. We miss out on taking new career leaps, traveling to exotic lands, applying to dream schools, even getting that watercolor tattoo we all covet on Pinterest. Fear permeates into our being, defining the person we ultimately become. Fear doesn’t care if we are comfortable in our lives, if we feel fulfillment with our current situations. In fact, fear tends to hold us back from the really BIG things in life- those scary, crazy, amazing things we would do if we knew that we could not fail.

So, let us challenge each other to take the leap. Make the call. Submit the application. Buy the plane tickets. Say I love you first. Quit your job. Run the marathon. Sign the papers. Put yourself out there. Take a chance. Take a risk.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

No “Plus One”

I have been invited to two weddings in the last week. TWO! I am a bridesmaid in one and a guest in the other. I kinda love weddings although I cry at every single one of them. I am sitting at my desk Pinteresting “nude/gold bridesmaids dresses” when all of a sudden I think, “The wedding is in November…it may be pretty cold…I most likely won’t have a date’s jacket to steal to keep me warm”. Awesome. No date.

Being married is advantageous for many reasons, but one of them is an automatic “plus one” to all occasions. Who will escort you to the fundraiser/wedding/holiday party? Your built in date of course! I am not saying that I cannot or will not go to an event alone, I just really like having a buddy. Its fun to have someone order your cocktail or save you a seat at the cool kids table. I like that. Someone that keeps tabs on you and makes sure no one has stolen you. (I am not paranoid, I promise). I love the camaraderie of relationships but now I guess I can be that slutty brazen and independent bridesmaid that can sleep with the groomsman or hot cater waiter or go home alone and happy- its up to me!

It is still weird, though. I don’t have to match anyone’s tie to my dress. I don’t need a king bed. A twin would be fine for little ol’ me. In fact, I can just bunk up on an air mattress if necessary…just me, my champagne flute and my nude/gold sparkly bridesmaid dress.

On the flip side, I suppose I also don’t have to wonder if he is having fun or drinking too much at the open bar. I don’t have to worry about keeping track of him while I socialize with friends and family. I don’t have to go home early if he gets tired. I don’t have to feel bad that he has to occupy himself while I take pictures before and after the ceremony. This sounds easy. I can just worry about me, my hair falling flat and remembering to bend my knees during the ceremony so I don’t pass out and embarrass myself.

I still have 8 months until the wedding, which mean lots of time to continue growing and become more confident in my new role. Mom. Co-parent. Employee (hopefully). I am really excited and anxious to meet the future me. I wish she would come visit me now and reassure me that everything works out well. I want to know that everyone is happy, healthy and thriving. I am sure we will, we have been working our asses off to remain respectful and civil.  But in the mean time, maybe I will look for an elegant gown with sleeves, that way I wont need a suit jacket to keep me warm anyways.

I really like this one:

gold bridesmaid dress

I Saw A Ghost.

I saw a ghost. I mean, I am not sure it was a ghost, per se, but it was similar.

Two nights ago I couldn’t sleep worth shit. I was tossing and turning and screwing around on Instagram and finally around 4 or 5 am, I dozed back off to sleep. I was having the most vivid dream while in this semi-conscious state. I am in the garage of my childhood home putting away stuff or organizing some boxes or something and the garage door was about 1/3 open to let in some light a fresh air. All of a sudden I look over and there is someone standing on the other side of the door. All I can see is a long floral dress and some slide on shoes. My heart stops for a second- who the hell is walking by my garage?

The woman bends down, ducks under the garage door and smiles at me. It’s my great-grandma. Clear as fucking day, it is her. She looks exactly the same. Even in my dream I am stunned that this woman, who passed away 12 years ago, is so clear in my dream. I go practically fetal. I am hyperventilating. The dream me is shocked and in full panic attack mode. My great-grandmother is standing in my garage.

She opens her arms out like she is going to give me a hug and says, “I am so proud of you.”

What?!

I wake up.

I am still in my bedroom, lying in bed, now wide awake, wondering what the hell just happened? I look around for clues (??). I don’t know. My great-grandma was a believer. She really did have some strange connection to the other side. There was even a book written about an actual haunted house that she owned in Texas. One story I remember involved the scent of roses, but I don’t smell anything. What. the. hell. just. happened? Was that a dream? Did she come to visit me in my dream? Was it nothing more than just a dream?

I honestly cannot talk about this story without crying. I told my mom about this dream yesterday. She said that just the other night she too woke up at 4 or 5am and had this overwhelming feeling that she needed to find Great-Grandma’s ashes from the garage. (Don’t ask why she is in the garage…) Mom got out of bed and sure as hell, went into the garage to retrieve the box and bring it into the house. Maybe Grandma is making the rounds? So weird and yet, so oddly comforting.

I am in the middle of this sad, scary and exciting shit storm right now and to have Grandma come to me in a dream is almost overwhelming. (I am tearing up as I write this) She was probably the strongest woman that anyone has ever known. She was witty, seductive, scrappy, intelligent and full of determination. For her to tell me that she is proud of me is…well, pretty unexpected and pretty fucking amazing. I needed that. Maybe she knew? (Now I am ugly crying)

I hope it was her. I hope it wasn’t just some freaky dream and I hope she is watching over me and knew that I could use that hug. Either way, I choose to believe- I saw a ghost.

Thanks Grandma, I love you.

xoxo

Great-Grandma is the woman in the bottom left.

Great-Grandma is the woman in the bottom left.