Wrap me up

She was supposed to be here this week. I keep thinking about that. I thought of her this evening. We were sitting outside on our tiny porch enjoying our dinner made from the last of the food in the fridge, impressed that I had made it stretch that far, especially with my son’s appetite. The sun was setting to the left, my favorite time of day. From somewhere past the apartment complex we were facing, came a flock of blackbirds. I love watching birds fly. They flew overhead and disappeared behind us. Then more came. And more. And more. They were silent and determined and beautiful. They reminded me of a scarf she had given me. I was there when she bought it. It was the last one, and I secretly wanted it, but I said nothing because I knew she liked it. I had plenty of scarves anyway. It’s not like my neck would go cold. A few months later she wrapped a necklace with it and gifted it to me. These days it lives in the back of my car with all my other belongings in purgatory, but tonight it was flying through the sky overhead.

I try to imagine how this week would’ve gone if she had come to visit as we had planned. She wouldn’t have fit here though, quite literally there is no space in my house for anything else, let alone another adult human being. It wouldn’t have worked. It’s been a miserable week with this afternoon and early evening being the only bright spot in an onslaught of tantrums large and small and mostly continuous.

When I think about what happened with our relationship, I feel confused because we had a lot of fun together, and I miss her, but it just didn’t work. She kept insisting I wasn’t trying hard enough which is ironic because I don’t know how many times I have felt that way about the other person in past relationships. It really hurts to be on the receiving end of that, and I understand now just how incredibly self-important and discounting an accusation it is (sorry ex-partners). Of course that wasn’t the only snag in the story of us.

What I realized though is that sometimes you really want to make tiramisu, but you have all the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. But you don’t want chocolate chip cookies, you want tiramisu. So you end up spending all your time trying to make tiramisu with the wrong ingredients when you could have had the most amazing chocolate chip cookies on the planet. In the end the tiramisu sucks and you feel completely inadequate and foolish for ever having tried at all and the chocolate chip cookies can go F- um… bake themselves because you don’t want anything to do with any of it anymore. It’s so disappointing though. They could have been really good chocolate chip cookies and now you have no dessert whatsoever. And I really love dessert.

I don’t know how anyone is ever going to fit in my life. I worry about that. a lot. I feel like the only people who stand a chance are people who have children because they “get it,” but if I date someone with children… well then they have children too, so we will never see each other. It might seem like I am saying I want to be with someone who is good with kids. Nope. I mean, that’s a given, but lots of people are good with children. I want someone who knows what I mean when I text them saying I locked myself in the bathroom because my kid is acting like a pyscho pants and I cant fucking take it anymore. I want them to understand how painful and how very true it feels in that moment when I –who have only ever been sure about one thing and that is that I want to be a mother- say I don’t want to be a mother right now. They need to understand, not just conceptually, but viscerally how dying seems like a viable option in that moment. AND they need to be able to help navigate out of that hellacious place without judging me for it. The not judging part is key.

You give up a lot of things when you become a parent. Some of those things I knew going into it and some of them were a surprise to me. Some of them I am still learning. Some of them may even be unique to me and my circumstances, I’m not sure. But you gain a lot more than you lose. Mostly, I have gained perspective.

It used to be really important to me this ability to make tiramisu, but now I think maybe I’ll never make it. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Next time though I’d really like to at least not burn the cookies. Because it’d be nice to be able to call and say: “The sky reminded me of you. I hope you are well. Thanks for keeping my neck warm.” Meaningful relationships don’t stop being meaningful just because you are no longer in that relationship. The impact is still there even if it tastes a little burnt.

The tears of my dreams

This morning I woke up crying, which most anyone who has hung around me much knows this is something I almost never do in waking life. Sometimes it’s a problem. I want to cry, but I can’t. I feel emotions very intensely and yet somehow I manage to express them with a great deal of distance, as if I am telling someone else’s story. I don’t know why I do this- I mean, I have some theories, most of them stem from childhood trauma and the result of growing up in a stoutly patriarchal society, where my worth was measured in how well I conformed to pre-suffrage movement expectations of women. I was shamed for “overly dramatic” displays of emotions, so I learned not to have them. I know this experience is not unique to me but rather common among women from a multitude of backgrounds. However, many of them still cry, so clearly my theory is flawed…

In any case, this morning I was crying.

Really crying, not just a few lonely tears, but small icy rivers slipping out the corners of my eyes, creating a large salty pool on my pillow.

I was dreaming, and in my dream, I was dreaming. I dreamt that I was watching myself cut myself open. What I was cutting looked exactly like me, but as it was cut away I saw that it was a hard exoskeleton and lying inside this shell was a softer version of me. The sight of her startled me awake.

More accurately, I woke up in my dream and began to process what I had seen, noticing that there were three of me: one who was watching, one who was doing the work and the one who was quite literally being broken open and set free… she was the one who was crying.

The symbolism of the dream was obvious even to my still dreaming self. I sat there awake but still in my dream, replaying the dream within the dream and analyzing what took place. I could still hear someone crying…

That is when I woke up, momentarily not comprehending that I was crying. With tears still falling from my eyes, I realized the sound was my own.

Everything was so much more beautifully tender and real without a filter. I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because I could feel.


To the blackberries on the interurban trail,

I promise to never take you for granted again. I offer you my hands, the bare skin of my forearms. I will reach through your brambles and ignore the scrapping of your thorns, the stinging sensation spreading up my arm to taste the sun kissed juice of your fruit exploding in my mouth.

To the apple tress in the October moonlight,

I had to go. I had to try. I hope you will understand. I did not fail. I am not returning to you as a last resort. I am not returning because I couldn’t make it there. I made it. I wasn’t any happier than I had been, I wasn’t any more important, and I wasn’t any more financially secure. I was just in a different location. I learned a lot about myself on the way. And I learned a little more about self-acceptance.

To the purple starfish clinging to the side of the rocks at Teddy Bear Cove,

I return to you in reverence and with wisdom. You need me. I need you. We belong together. I will give away all my worldly possessions and sacrifice my well thought plans to be in your presence again, to be wrapped in your glowing oceanic gaze.

To the blinding angle of the sun in winter,

I am no longer afraid to stand in the light, and for those days when I am not feeling quite so brave, I have sunglasses.

I want a good life. I want sunshine and berries and apples and starfish and laughter. I want dancing, lots of dancing. I want a quiet place to read a book and drink tea. I want to watch my son discover the world around and within him.

I don’t want to be rich; I want to be happy.

I am happy here.

The great return

Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic ~Frida Khalo

I sat naked on the edge of the bed, my legs tucked beneath me, lost in my own thoughts, as he got dressed. I felt him looking at me, turned my head to meet his gaze, and he said: “He never should’ve let you go.” I looked at him, blinking. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to refuse him, to explain how I am such a complicated bundle, how there were plenty of reasons my exes should have all run screaming, but I didn’t. I couldn’t because the way he was looking at me stopped me from making any disagreement. I took him back to his car, said goodbye and went on about my day, but I kept hearing his words play back in my head. I tried to make sense of them, and I realized no one had ever said anything like that to me. Then it occurred to me that maybe this was just the first time I had been able to hear it. To hear someone say I see you, quite literally I can see all of you, you have hidden nothing and you have nothing to hide, and you are worth whatever work is required felt like it might be the best birthday present I have ever received. But the truth is my ex-husband (whom my friend was referring to) didn’t let me go. I did. I let me go. Because I didn’t know that I was worth the work. And it is only recently, many years after losing sight of my shore that I have found my way back to myself.

I still feel like my life is a mess. I feel haphazardly. Like I have permanent bed head. Like I forgot my glasses somewhere… again. Like all my bills are overdue. Like I feel dizzy at the end of the day and try to remember the last time I had water… this week. And there is always some deadline for something that just passed. I have no idea how many friends’ birthdays I have been too busy to notice. Like Christmas… did that happen? Is it May?! When do I get to breathe? When do I get to sit quietly and drink tea? Why does everything feel so relentless? And when did I stop being good at being busy?!

This year more than any other has given me stretch marks on my soul, which is how I have come to believe that maybe the hippies are right. In three days, I am turning 28. This is my Saturn returning. I am crossing over a major threshold and entering a new stage in my life.

In recognition of this shift, I have decided to stop picking myself apart with all the ways I am failing, to push myself just a little bit less hard and try to find a way to look at myself a little more gently. When I catch a glimpse of my reflection looking like a hot mess, instead of cringing, I smile, a real smile. When I end up lost on a completely different highway going the wrong direction when all I wanted to do was exit so I could turn around, instead of feeling inadequate, I just laugh. When I show up one minute late to work instead of a few minutes early with child in hand, bags falling off my shoulders and a frazzled look on my face, I let it go. And when I leave work at a reasonable hour to spend time with my son, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty for prioritizing my family. I have realized that if I am able to assume the best in others, then why not assume I am doing my best and let that be enough. Because maybe all this time they were right, maybe I am magic. Maybe we all are.


Being your ex-wife is pretty wonderful. It’s better than being a wife ever was… except for the part where I realize the amazing adventurous, kind, patient and infinitely generous version of you that I see now -the one someone else has brought out in you- is the one that I wanted to be married to. It’s not that I am giving her the credit for your metamorphosis, not entirely anyway, but I do truly believe that in a healthy and successful couple-ship, partners bring out the best in each other, you inspire one another to be more of who you really are, underneath all the neurosis and insecurities and the whateveries. And most importantly you encourage each other to keep growing.

So I am happy for you that you’ve found that, that you have that kind of relationship in your life because you deserve to be happy, to be loved like that.

But I guess despite the passage of time, I still don’t really understand why we couldn’t do that for each other. I only know that we didn’t.

I only know that the variable that changed in the you + me = not-very-happily-ever-after is replacing me, and now the equation is much more successful. I feel sad and confused and –as is such a common sensation for me- like I fucked it all up.

Also I never really realized how much you liked me, like as a human being not just as a romantic partner, or how much you paid attention to me and the things that I value and care about. I didn’t know. You never told me before, but I also didn’t ask.

When we divorced I seriously questioned whether or not I ever loved you, whether or not I had ever loved anyone, but what I have come to realize is that I was asking myself the wrong question. It is so obvious to me that I loved you, I have loved many many people. In fact, loving is something that comes very easily to me. It’s my super human power. The question I really needed to be asking myself was whether I’ve let those people love me back, whether I was able to accept their love. I didn’t trust you to love me. I kept waiting for you to break my heart, and ultimately I ended up breaking my own.

So now we hang out together as a family and tell stories about “Remember when…” and it’s cute and easy, and I wonder why it ever seemed so damn hard. The conclusion that I keep circling back to is it’s got to be me, not that I am unlovable, but rather I don’t know how to be loved. I know I am loved. That is not the same thing as letting someone love you.

I know you are never going to go salsa dancing with me, we likely wont ever carry a full conversation in Spanish, my taste in movies will forever provoke protest, etc. Ultimately, I see what has always been true: that we make such great friends, that is what we were always meant to be, and I am so grateful that we get to keep being friends. And seeing you be amazing in your new relationship gives me hope, that I didn’t ruin you, that I am not ruined, and that someday when I fall in love with someone new, someone who will dance with me, I will learn to let them love me back. That maybe I will learn to love myself as much as they do, as much as you did.

Mis cejas

He told me I have nice eyebrows. Eyebrows. Not you have beautiful eyes or I like your smile or I love your laugh or even damn girl your ass looks good in those jeans. Nope. Eyebrows. He likes my eyebrows. It is the most random complement I have ever received, but I don’t really care because I’m not interested anyway. I told him thank you, and let him know that I was with someone else… which in that moment, was no longer actually true, but I didn’t feel the need to explain that to him. Later while we were dancing, he asked me if my boyfriend would be jealous. I raised my eyebrows. Boyfriend? No te dije novio. Dije novi-a. I turned under his arm. ¿Eres bisexual? He asked. I nodded. We continued dancing. ¿Ella es bella? He wanted to know. Sí. I replied. He leaned in for a spot turn and with a flirtatious grin, asked ¿Más qué tú? I nodded emphatically. He raised his eyebrows in disbelief. ¿De verdad? I stopped dancing and looked him in the eyes: Yes, she really is.

But what I really wanted to tell him was that she made me nervous from the very first moment I saw her. Nervous in that way that fills your stomach with a strange fluttery feeling, and I knew even from across the room that I was in trouble. Then she smiled and I melted. It took me two weeks to even get up the courage to talk to her, and then magically one day, I got her phone number in an uncharacteristically sly and unassuming way, and she got mine, and we haven’t stopped talking since.

I wanted to tell him that loving her has made me a better person. I have been small and powerful, gigantic and fragile and everything in between. My heart has become a kinder, more inviting place. I have grown more patient. I have learned to give better hugs, to sit with terrible and watch it transform, and to not take so much so personally, especially when angry. I have learned to be vulnerable and let others bear witness to my own sadness. And to not always be so strong and solitary.

The way I interact and empathize with others has changed because of my interactions with her, and if I were to tell her all of this, she would brush it off, not acknowledge that she has been any sort of positive influence, and she would tell me I am prettier than her. But gifts don’t always know they are gifts. We can’t always see the light and warmth we emanate.


And as I was typing this I received a call, notifying me that my grandfather had passed away. I told my son what had happened, and he was thoughtful for a moment before he said earnestly: It is a good thing he died after Christmas. My maternal grandfather had passed away on Christmas day when I was a child, so I had to agree, but I was curious to hear his reasoning, so I asked him why, and he told me: Because that way he didn’t miss out on getting presents!

Presents. Presents are pretty important when you are five, so in his own five-year-old logic, my son was showing a great deal of empathy for his great-grandpa, but what it immediately made me think of is the way people talk about the present as a gift. I started thinking about presents and the present and this one brief and delicate life we are given. And I realized that the best way to celebrate the life of my grandfather is to live like every single day is Christmas. Like unless we live our life as if we are driving a stolen car we are not living it. Like being loved and loving others as often and as honestly as possible might be the best present we could ever hope to unwrap. Like no matter how it turns out, loving another person with your whole heart is never a mistake. Like being heartbroken is really just an opportunity for your heart to grow bigger.

Sit with me

I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. Seeing him show up in surprising ways like the face my son made at dinner last night in exactly the same way my father would have if he had been there. Or like when I was searching for a recent email in my inbox that I needed to respond to and my search pulled up a chain of correspondences with my dad about Christmas, the one that ended up being his last. Five years later I miss him. I don’t think that missing ever really stops. It just changes.

I remember when he was dying and we would go and sit with him and watch TV. I hated it. It felt like such a waste of time. I mean he’s dying and we are sitting and watching some bullshit TV show. I didn’t get it. I was uncomfortable. I was young. Nothing really made sense, and I was frustrated. I wanted to do something, but there was nothing for me to do, but sit there. Why did I need to be here to watch him watching TV?! I didn’t feel like I was needed. I felt like I was just in the way and that the best thing I could do was to be independent and on my own so at least I would be one less thing he needed to worry about. And there was plenty to worry about. So I left.

It was only after he died that I started to understand the value of sitting with people, on the phone or in person. Sitting with you means I value you, it means I don’t need you to be or do anything other than you are, it means even though I could be doing a lot of other things I am sitting here with you because you matter to me. This is a lesson I am learning again with my son. He is always wanting me to play Legos with him, but what playing Legos means is he plays Legos and I sit and watch. It. Is. So. Boring. And I often think: Why does he even want me here? He’s not actually playing with me. Sometimes I build my own creations, and sometimes I try to help him, but usually we play beside each other not with each other. I can last for about 20 minutes before the anxiety of everything else I could be doing while he is playing independently takes over and I creep away to do the laundry, write an email, etc. Then he usually ends up following me, asking me to come back and play with him.

What I’ve realized though is that he doesn’t really need me to play Legos (clearly he is quite skilled at this) he just wants me near, wants to be noticed, wants to know that I am there, that I will be there. So now when I’ve hit my max of sitting idle, I’ve started bringing the laundry into his room to fold, writing my emails or lesson plans or whatever while I sit next to him. He keeps playing, occasionally pausing to ask for assistance in locating a particular Lego piece or to show me his new invention.

It’s the same reason we ask friends to go shopping with us, why we want them at our sports events, why dancing is always more fun when my friends come along even if they don’t actually dance. Because I don’t need 100% of your attention 100% of the time. I just need you to be here, to remind me that I am real, that I matter enough for you to sit here with me whether I am happy, sad or too confused to even know what I feel.

I can’t sit with my dad anymore. I wish I had sat with him more, and that’s not something I can fix, but I am grateful that this experience helped me learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with feeling inadequate and unproductive and to. keep. sitting. anyway.  Quality time looks like a lot of different things, sometimes it even looks like sitting in silence next to someone you love because there really is nothing to be said, your presence is all that is required.