Monday, December 19, 2016

I Became Braver This Year

Driving home in the dark, my eyes are so tired. I don't get enough sleep. I spend time staring at screens too much. I need to make an appointment with the eye doctor. I probably need a new prescription. But here I am, driving home in the dark from an evening that just included myself and my words. Coffee was thrown in there somewhere too. I left my glasses at home again. I'm distracted.

I was never the girl that people described as sweet. I mean, I'm nice to people. I'm compassionate. But I'm not a sugar-coated gal that gives cheeky grins and has a genuine lightness about her. Put me in a lineup with several other ladies and that's just not the adjective that would be pinned to my shirt. What words could be used though? According to my friends: unapologetically caring, committed, vivacious, sparkling, dynamic, intelligent, unique, loving, bold, authentic, resilient, confident, loyal and brave. You see there? Not a "sweet" to be found. I'm sticking with brave though. Because I became braver this year.

2016 is winding down, and it's hard not to be part of the cliché bunch that shares their Facebook "Year in Review," except this time mine is different. It included big, sad, terrible things. I've never cried so much in a year. I've never felt truly heartbroken, devastated, blindsided, or cheated before this year. I've never questioned myself so much, or questioned my worth more than I did this year. Thinking about it all, it's a bit pathetic actually. Because aside from all of the times I laid in bed crying my way into the changing seasons, there were some unbelievable moments too. There were times that I surprised myself. There were moments I never thought I would have. I changed, I grew, and I found myself again. I didn't become new but rather I became old. I reverted back to everything I loved.

"Hello Grace. It's nice to see you again," is an unspoken thought that I have more often than not when I look in the mirror these days.

I'm more confident in that too. I have round, green eyes that strike a nerve with some. There's a wrinkle above my nose that made an appearance when I was pregnant and never left. I wear jeans again, most days actually. And heels, and odd lipstick shades, and a lot of the time I walk out of the house with half my hair still wet but that's okay because those insane locks are messy perfection. I like myself, and I'll openly admit it now.

But most of all, I became braver. I used to place my anxiety into a ball, gently drop it in my purse, and carry it around with me everywhere I went. It stopped me from experiencing things, and jumping into thing, and having days that were a little brighter. Now, that anxiety has been placed elsewhere. It's not gone, instead it holds steady around Claire and our future - wishing that we're left alone to grow and heal and share life together without turmoil. The progress I've made in this corner of my life has made the biggest impact though. It's paved the way for a heartier spirit and adventure.

I never thought I would ever have to walk into a lawyer's office, suck up my pride, and file for divorce. I never thought I'd have to get an STD test. I never thought I'd be a single mom. I never thought I would shimmy into spandex and hit up a spin class alone - and love it. I never thought I'd learn to kickbox either. I never thought I'd have to pack up his things with my friends. I never thought I'd actually get more tattoos. I never thought I'd kiss anyone else ever again let alone some strangers. I never thought I'd be throwing a couch out the front door alone. I never thought I'd be driving in and around Nashville so much, at night and in the rain, without feeling anxious. I never thought I'd take a sip of a beer. I never thought I would demand respect from those who failed to show me any. I never thought I'd be selling so many memories right out of this home. I never thought I would go to a therapist. And I certainly never thought I'd be writing a book about my personal life, and willingly want to share it with everyone, everywhere. But I did all of those things. I became braver this year because I had no choice.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

It's Not Loaded

He looked liked someone I had known before. It just wasn't him. He stood beside me as I shook hands and made agreements with all of these important, new people. He'd squeeze my leg under the table as a way to reassure me that I was saying the right things and making the right decisions. He knew without me even batting an eyelash when I was stressed. He didn't even have to hear it in my voice. 

He was so comforting. I didn't understand why he came with me. And I would giggle under my breath when he introduced himself as my manager. I could see his chest puff up a little when the words would come out of his mouth. But I ate it up. I really couldn't think of a better person to have alongside me during this experience. 

His beard was too long. It covered up a gorgeous face and left him looking about five years older and three levels less sophisticated. I was beating a dead horse though, always picking on his facial hair decisions. I loved to annoy him or poke at him. Probably because it was my only way to relay my affection that I had wrapped up inside me. I had this man placed high on a pedestal for a large portion of my life. I should have been using him as an example of trust and consistency all along. 

Then we were driving. We had rented a black car that didn't quite fit people that stood above 5'2. My knees hit the dashboard with every bump on the road. And he told me he'd shave after we checked into the hotel. 

"Are you happy now," he screamed as he stumbled out of the bathroom.

I left my Anne Klein boots right outside of the door, and he had tripped over them only making his frustration with me peak. My back was toward him though, and I hid my giggles. 

"I know you're laughing," he said sternly.

I turned around and sucked in my smile. His face was clean, and he looked like my best friend again. I knew he wasn't that man anymore though. And that was okay, he was happy. He was settled. But at first glance, my stomach dropped a bit, and I felt goosebumps on my arm. Why didn't I ever tell him how handsome I thought he was? 

I didn't allow myself to tell him now though.

"Go put on a shirt. No one wants to see that," I countered.

 His mood let out a bit then. "Yeah, yeah," he sighed, and sauntered back to the bathroom. 

Fast forward a few weeks and we were back in my house. He had my manuscript in his hand, and I could tell he was genuinely proud of me. He was proud of me for a lot of things. And I loved feeling that. Mainly because there was a part of me that always thought our friendship was based on him not wanting to hurt my feelings. There was a self-consciousness that was palpable within me that said, "He's humoring you Grace." 

This proved otherwise though. He was always actively supportive. He read my work when I didn't ask him to. He believed in me before he knew that I needed the push. I followed him back to my bedroom. Why this didn't feel wrong I can't tell you. He was supposed to be leaving. He was supposed to take the manuscript, and finish editing it at home, and then bring me back all of the abrasive notes the next day. Instead he climbed into my bed with it. I turned off the lights and muted the television. 

"How about I give you the notes as they come," he asked me.

 I nodded in agreement.

Something told me not to argue with anything. I let him read while I took a quick shower and changed my clothes. I stayed in the bathroom as long as I could because he was making me nervous. That wasn't necessarily something new. He's had that ability all along. I just looked passed it most of the time. There was no reason to feel it. 

I opened the door and lingered in the doorway. I was staring at him while he scribbled in the margins. I loved seeing this side of him. He was more creative than you'd believe at first glance, or even after your first conversation with him. 

Finally he looked up and smiled at me.

"It's really, really good Grace," he said. 

I questioned him, "Why do you sound so surprised this time?" 

"Because you're always acting like it's all in your head. This talent you have, you've got to own it," he urged.  

That's when things get a bit fuzzy. He pulled out a gun from his bag. He took it apart. Put it back together. All the while I knew he could feel my uneasiness. 

"Don't even think about giving me any lip Grace," he demanded without turning his head to look at me. 

Annoyed, I responded, "Well, what the hell do you think you're doing?" 

"It's not loaded. You love metaphors so listen to me," he explained. 

He patted the spot beside him and threw over the blankets to make room for me. I climbed in leaving a good amount of space between us. 

"No," is all he said as he took his arm and pulled me next to him by the waist. 

"All of that negative energy. All of those negative thoughts you have swirling around inside of you. We're getting rid in them tonight," he said. 

"Okay. And how do we do that," I asked. 

"We're gonna shoot em."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Did I Just Become A "Cool" Mom?

Picture this.

Claire and I are under the covers. The door to the bedroom is shut and locked because that's how we sleep every night. I can't have it open, gaping into the unlit hallway. My imagination runs wild enough without a black hole to stare at throughout the dark hours. 

She's asking for her milk every two seconds because she's fighting sleep. My hair is freed from those black ponytail holders that never come undone without a fight. It smells a bit like vanilla inside the room. Both from the body wash I used in the shower, and the spray I used after I threw on one of my oldest Victoria's Secret tees and black pajama pants that I just pulled from the dryer. 

We slept in late, like we have been for several days, because we can. Because my schedule allows it, and I could honestly give zero shits who judges the fact that we wake up at 9:30 am most days, and lay there counting, singing out the ABC's, and doing little dances until 10. 

I was hoping she would fall asleep though, so I could sneak out and wrap up some gifts. I'll have to put together some of her toys too, and most nights I'll need to finish up posts and articles instead of hole up in my office with a load of tape and sparkly, Santa-covered paper. This was my chance though, a weekend night without a deadline in sight! 

It was nearing midnight though and little girl was still chatting away watching The Land Before Time - a movie that rounds out my childhood quite nicely, but if I could slap Little Foot in the face I would. Okay, okay, I wouldn't slap Little Foot, that's a bit harsh, but I'd rather not watch it again for about ten years. 

My phone was buzzing every few minutes. Texts, snaps, Facebook messages - everyone was awake and asking questions, wanting to chat, and be flirty. Was there a full moon I didn't know about?

Finally I just gave in. I threw up a "f*ck this" to the plan I had in my head, and gave Claire a kiss on the cheek. I went into the kitchen, and popped some popcorn, her favorite, grabbed a movie I snagged on Black Friday, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and went back into the bedroom. How harshly are you judging me now?

I have never eaten in bed before. I was worried about the crumbs. My obsessive behavior was creeping up my neck in a way that I immediately started regretting the decision. But when Claire sat up, wide-eyed still, and yelled for her "sack," which is "snack," I melted. Give the baby what she wants and let the mom relax a bit. 

I plugged my phone in to charge and laid it on the nightstand. I ignored every vibration from there on out.

About ten minutes into the movie Claire yelled, "Stop!"

Her little hands were in the air, ever-so-dramatically and she was staring at me. I didn't understand but I pressed paused and asked, "What's wrong baby?"

Then she laid down. And told me to lay down. I cleaned up, and obeyed my tiny, almost-two year old. Snuggled up with our noses touching, she grabbed her pacifier, shoved it in her mouth, and took my face in her hands. She let out a little giggle and said, "Night Night Mommy," before rolling over and closing her eyes. She was asleep within minutes. That moment was worth the late night. It also made all questioning of my parenting skills go right out the window. 

Did I just become a "cool" mom? I think I did, and these memories aren't just mine but they're hers too. I hope she looks back and remembers them fondly because I'm not forgetting a single bit. 

She fell asleep a few minutes before 9 pm on Sunday night though. So, I'm not a terribly irresponsible mother. Instead, I'm just continuing to solidify the fact that we are the real-life Gilmore Girls, just switch out the Gilmore with Fleming and voila .. you've got us. In a few years we can swap out the popcorn for pizza and the milk for coffee and maybe we'll get our own show. 

I doubt myself a lot when it comes to being a single mom. I feel very guilty all of the time that she's not getting the life that I had imagined or thought I had promised her. But then there are nights like this that I realize are ending up to be so much better than what I had planned. These real minutes together are so much better than ones that are forced or fake. She'll come out stronger from all of this too. I won't allow it to go any other way.
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