There are only so many ways to say “I’ve done this before.”
One time, I created a group on Facebook so that all of my friends could help me out within mere moments of posting a question or plea for encouragement. Another time, I did it silently, not telling anyone at all. I’ve done it with and without exercise, with and without breads and pastas, with and without motivation.
The time it worked the best was boot camp. I started the day I returned to work after what I refer to as my “6-week crazy leave.” It was an amazing experience, for a million different reasons – not the least of which was simply perfect timing. The women in the group saw me as the fat girl who tried so fucking hard; I didn’t really care how they saw me though – it was that they saw me. They saw me sweating and doing everything they were doing. They saw that it took more effort for me, and they saw that as the weeks went by, I got better and faster and stronger. I followed the diet to the T. I passed out on the couch at 9 p.m. every night out of sheer exhaustion, but I woke up at 4:30 every morning to do that one-hour workout to the best of my ability.
I lost 20 pounds. And then I moved, and the new group I joined wasn’t nearly as supportive. They didn’t see me. I blended in and no one noticed when I was absent. And then I no longer had someone to watch my kid in the mornings, so I stopped all together.
It’s been more than two years since then, and I still get a little emotional at the thought of that amazing group. Recreating that would be inspiring, but I’m not sure how.
So instead, I recreate the meal plan. I recreate the state of mind. I recreate the results.
I’m on another mission. I refuse to believe that I’ll forever be stuck in this cycle. I’m breaking free. Quitting soda. Eating broccoli. Feeling absolutely wonderful.
Because I deserve it. I matter.
I see me.
It’s 12:04 a.m. September 3, 2013. In about 7 hours, my son will have officially been born exactly 5 years ago. (It was a long labor; he was a big baby. I’ve told that tale enough times.)
Five years. I have a 5-year-old. There are about 18 things strange about that sentence. Mostly, I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand how a tiny little ball of cells in my uterus is now walking around saying things like, “Raise your hand if you like the Beatles,” and asking me whether or not I’d like to watch another episode of Doc McStuffins with him.
I am contemplating life in general here. His birthday does this to me. I am suddenly oh so mortal and at once in complete awe of how things just grow. I can’t possibly begin to understand what exactly I did that was so good that the universe decided I deserved to not only know this amazing human being, but to mother him and guide him and learn from him and teach him. I am simultaneously humble and scared shitless and grateful and worried out of my mind and so in love with my son that it physically pains me sometimes. Words are not enough.
How could I possibly describe this boy? As the saying goes, he runs around with my heart on his sleeve. He loves music — it’s no surprise — and he recites the words to his favorite TV shows and movies. When we’re in the car, we giggle, and sometimes we have dance parties for no reason other than we can. Every night before bed, we read or tell stories, sing, cuddle, and share what we’re most thankful for that day. We giggle again. He likes to show me games on the phone, and probably spends too much time watching the tube, but he can put a 48-piece puzzle together like nobody’s business so I figure we’re doing OK. Out of nowhere, he’ll tell me he loves me and give me a big kiss, and I him. Really, that’s all I’ll ever need to feel like I’m winning at life.
All this, and yet, the bittersweet. To celebrate his birthday is grand, but it brings back a few sour memories. The days and weeks just before and after my beloved son’s birth were filled with tension and sometimes chaos and gallons of tears.
Thankfully — ever so, so thankful I am — I don’t linger in those memories. Life is wonderful just as it is. Perfect, almost. And I imagine that as more and more glorious birthdays are celebrated, less and less will I have to endure that bittersweet ruin.
My sweet, sweet baby boy turns 5 today. And there is absolutely nothing I would change about our love story.
As a teenager, I was fortunate not to have to worry much about acne. Sure, I got pimples. But there was never a time when I needed to buy Noxzema in bulk, and my version of oily skin could often by remedied with a little soap and water.
I have good skin. People compliment me on it. And despite the fact that I can’t accept compliments very graciously, this is one I can get behind. “What’s your secret?” they ask me. “Good genes,” I reply. I admit to very few people that all I’ve ever used to wash my face is Dove sensitive skin soap. A couple of years ago I began using a very simple scrub from Burt’s Bees, but only once a week. I rarely even remove my makeup at night before bed.
Thanks to hormones and my tendency to rub French fries on my forehead (not really, but I may as well because I touch my face so much) I’d successfully grow one pimple about every 3-4 months, and it’d last about 2-3 days. They were small enough that probably only I ever noticed. A little bit of a cover-up stick I kept on hand for these moments, and voila! Smooth skin remains.
And then, suddenly, like a dark shadow looming in the corner of an old, rickety house, blemishes began to appear on a regular basis. It started about 3 months ago, and now, out of nowhere, I have been getting one pimple after another.
Ugly ones, too. And they hurt like a bitch. And I never learned how to properly pop a pimple as a teenager because it was never necessary, and so now here I am, 32 years old, wondering why Mother Nature decided to flip me off, and thinking maybe I’d prefer wrinkles to this. Isn’t that what women my age should be more worried about? Why is it that I’m stuck looking like the before shot of a ProActive commercial instead of considering my future in Botox?
Meanwhile, my hairline has decided to embark on an outpouring of teeny, tiny little hairs, growing ever so slowly, framing my face in such a way that makes all hairstyles look unkempt. I may as well be headed to prom instead of to the store for more boxes of Ms Clairol like the rest of the women my age are doing.
Apparently it’s all a crapshoot. But congrats to me on the no wrinkles or gray hair yet.
I experienced a “gallbladder attack” for the first time in March. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I knew it was one of the most painful things I’d ever experienced. Since then, I had 5 or 6 more attacks — all of them kept me awake literally all night and included vomiting and fits of sobbing.
I changed my diet as the weeks went by, but at first, none of the tests proved that the gallbladder was for sure the culprit, so I was basically guessing. In May, I went to the ER twice. The first time, I finally just walked out when it was taking too damn long (“eloped,” they call it). The second time, the idiot doctor claimed it was just stress because I started crying while he was asking me questions. He released me when he decided it wasn’t a heart attack, despite the fact that I was still reeling from pain and would spend the next 5 hours at home doubled over.
The day my parents told me they were leaving me, I only half believed them.
They weren’t exactly the outdoorsy type, and moving five hours north to a tiny little town that had no cell reception or satellite TV certainly didn’t sound like something they could handle.
Plus, we’d never been that far away from each other.
Ever since my brother and I were kids, we would spend summers with my grandparents. But we could sleep easy knowing mom and dad were less than a 30-minute drive away. And when I moved out of my parents’ house at the ripe old age of 18, I migrated only about eight miles south of them, despite my incessant need for independence.
To our family of four, five hours may as well have been five days. The Grapevine actually the Great Wall of China.
Fast forward a few months, and my dear makers have purchased a house twice as large and half the cost of the current one they sold in practically minutes, and are ready to leave Southern California, where they both lived since birth.
There are times now when I make the trek for a weekend stay and I still only half believe that they live there. After four years, you’d think I would come to terms with the change — but four years can’t combat the other 25 when seeing my mommy and daddy didn’t require a numb bum and two tanks of gas.
They live a completely different life up there now. The one-lane road to their house has no street lights, and even though we were never the water sport type, they now own a pontoon and fish off it in the nearby lake.
They talk funny now, too. They tease me about traffic (“What’s that?” they ask. “You mean the one stop sign?” They think it’s funny … ) and they refer to SoCal as “Down South.” They send me pictures of bears getting into the trash cans on their driveway, and tell me mortifying stories about spiders and scorpions. Not only does everyone in their city have the same area code, their phone numbers have the same three-digit prefix.
My brother followed them up there soon after. They beg me to join them every chance they get.
I often think back on the day they told me they were moving, and how excited they were to leave the hustle and bustle of this place. I know they’re happy there.
But for the life of me, I’ll never fully believe that they’re not just a few minutes away.
Oh, and you’ll have to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of Orange County before you get me to move up there.
This post was previously featured on a site called The Smartly. It has since been shut down, so I am reposting here.
I could have gone to the park with my son. Maybe gone swimming, or cruised the mall to drool over shoes I can’t afford. I could have watched the shows saved up in my DVR, or the Netflix movie I’ve had for more than a month. I could have sat and done absolutely nothing.
Instead, I spent a rare holiday off hovered in the corner of my bathroom, organizing the linen closet.
Well, that’s where I was physically.
Mentally, I visited a million different places.
I visited my little brother’s high school, the day of his graduation. I teased him right before one of my favorite pictures of us was taken. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember saying something to irk him just a little — and the looks on our faces, frozen in time on this glossy 5×7, confirms my memories. His, tight-lipped and pre-eye roll; mine, big laugh and milliseconds away from a lighthearted “just kidding!”
I stopped by Catalina, a beautifully warm day about 7 or 8 years ago. Thanks to a hangover, I was late to meet my then-best friend and we almost missed the boat. She was good-spirited about it, even despite my bad directions, and we giggled around the entire island as BFFs do. In this 5×7, I see our carefree smiles and wish life were still so simple. Or, at least, she were still my friend.
The most memorable stop was a rooftop in Santa Barbara. The gloomy clouds had cleared for the small wedding ceremony, and the soft sun made my white dress glisten just enough to make it look like I spent a little more than I did. The 5×7, captured in an appropriately fancy-but-not-gaudy frame, seems to have been taken a lifetime ago. Before the child, before the overdue bills, before the divorce.
Ah, but it’s so easy to be back in that moment, standing at the top of the stairs, smiling at the photographer while the groom kisses my cheek. I hear that Israel Kamakawiwo’ole song I can’t actually listen to anymore, and I smell the empanadas. I feel the rings on my left index finger. My heart flutters, and breaks again, for old time’s sake.
Back to my day off, and I’m oddly ecstatic to be sorting out a mess that’s long been in need of a clearing. Linen closets are too small to fill them with glossy ghosts.
This post was previously featured on a site called The Smartly. It has since been shut down, so I am reposting here.