Dark and Stormy with a twist

I haven’t been writing much lately. I keep starting to while I’m in the shower. I begin the first few sentences in my head. Then I turn off the faucet and leave the warm steamy world of rushing water, and there’s this beautiful man on the other side of the glass door. He says my hair looks like fire tendrils and my smile gives him goose bumps. His skin smells like home and his lips taste like a mixture of vanilla, honey and butter and the smell of oak and leather, kissing him is like sipping bourbon, but not because he’s been drinking. In fact he hates whiskey, which is admittedly a strike against him since I am from the South, but I forgive him because when I look into his eyes I forget I had a to-do list. We can do anything or nothing at all; it doesn’t matter as long as we are together.

A friend told me once about how she and her honey would just sit on the couch and hold hands. At the time I didn’t understand this. It sounded boring. Now it’s all I want to do.

I am almost thirty, and this is the first time this has ever happened to me.

I have dated a lot of people. I have fallen in love with many men and women, but despite determined effort, I have never really understood this whole relationship thing. I have dated people because it was convenient, because I was lonely and because I genuinely hoped that loving them would somehow be enough to quell my insatiable discontent with life, with myself. We had good times, I cared for them deeply and I learned a great deal along the way, so I don’t mean in any way to belittle the gravity of those experiences. It wasn’t that I was lost or aimless; I had a clear idea of what kind of relationship I wanted to be in… it’s just that I never was in one.

Naturally, I began to wonder if the kind of relationship I envisioned truly existed, so as any intellectual obsessed with matters of the heart would do, I read articles and conducted extensive field research. When I found examples in other couples of what I wanted it was both inspiring and worrisome. At once their presence both confirmed the existence of the thing I desired and denied the possibility that I might have it. I dated -with a few exceptions- really great people: beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent people. I was doing everything right, so if I couldn’t attain the connection and joy I saw apparent in others’ relationships clearly the only logical explanation was a personal defect, that my parts were assembled incorrectly. While my superhero power is loving people, my kryptonite -in bitter irony- is being in an intimate relationship with them.

I believed that an ideal intimate relationship would be the place where I would retreat from the harshness of the world, but my relationship was always the storm from which I felt I needed to retreat. I would write to try to understand the storm, I would dance to try to move the storm out of my body, but there was always a storm. It was coming or going or raging in full force, but there was always a storm. In truth, I am rather stormy. When I was a child, I would dance outside in the rain. I would wake up in the middle of the night and watch the lightning strike outside my window, feel comforted by the booming roar of thunder because it matched my insides. I was always very self-contained: calm, quiet, well composed, but my inner world never felt that way. Over the years, I have done much work to understand and navigate through the squalls, but they remain a constant piece of who I am. Given this fact, it makes sense that my relationships would mirror this intensity …or at least they always have.

This time though feels distinctly different. I actually want to sit still. And even on a terrible, horrible, very bad, worst day ever, when I am having a really rough time, it’s still a pretty good day because he’s there with me.

Mostly, I haven’t been writing because I have been to busy being in awe that this is my life, that it could ever be this good. I cried this week from overwhelming happiness, and until recently I didn’t know that was something you could actually do. While I understand that even good things sometimes end badly, I am daring myself to be hopeful. It is a struggle to give in and be optimistic because I am such a devoted critic, but for now I am simply grateful to be here with him.


The human body is the best work of art. ~Jess C. Scott

It happened slowly, casually as if it really wasn’t happening at all, until then it was.

One day after I came home from work, I made us dinner. It was nothing elaborate, but it was tasty and wholesome, and we sat down together to eat. I was exhausted and the day showed on my face, but I was happy to be spending time with people I care about. At one point, I leaned over the table to pass my son a glass of water, and as I sat back down, our guest looked at me and said “¡Mami, estás gorda!” It took me a second to register that his tone was in jest. I couldn’t find a response, but I know my face betrayed my displeasure. He laughed and said “I know you’re not supposed to say that to women, right?” All I could do was shake my head. He said it again, and I responded quietly unable to look him in the eyes “Please don’t say that. It’s not funny.” I decided not explain to him the history of torment and body shame he was calling up with his ill timed, unwelcome banter. He is an incredibly intelligent and well-read human being; surely he knows how inappropriate such a comment would seem. I said nothing because I decided being tired had made me overly sensitive, and like most women I have been socialized to assume my internal response is disproportionately emotional and should be suppressed. After a good night’s rest though, I was still annoyed.

It didn’t come up again until a few weeks later when he saw a picture of me dancing. In the picture I was wearing stretchy capris and a tight ¾ length sleeved shirt and because of the angle and the moment captured, you could see clearly all of the contours of my body. Upon seeing the picture he repeated “Pero mami, estás muy gorda” and laughed. This time I glared at him. “Mami, I’m kidding” Still glaring “You are like the tiniest thing ever” I crossed my hands over my chest and glared a little less intensely. “Look! I can practically put my hands all the way around your waist” He did. I relented: “I know that, but I don’t like you joking about me being fat. Please don’t say that anymore. It’s not funny.” But it happened again despite me saying every time that I didn’t like it and that he needed to stop. It became such a regular occurrence that I began to stop noticing as much when it happened. The last time was at a restaurant and in front of my son. This time my son was asked to participate: “Isn’t your mom fat?” To which my son replied by glancing at me perplexedly, and that is when I realized that whatever this is, isn’t going to work.

My six-year-old son does not understand this is a joke, nor should he because it’s not a joke I find funny nor one I’d want him repeating. What he sees instead is a man telling his mother there is something wrong with the way she is, specifically wrong with the shape of her body. His mother who is 5’7” and weighs -on a well-fed day- 119 lbs is nowhere near any clinical definition of being overweight. However, if that is the image he associates with being fat, what kind of insanity and distorted ideals of women’s bodies and/or his own body does he have to look forward to in his adolescence and adulthood? He is also being shown that women’s wishes are not to be respected since he has heard me ask for this teasing to stop and it has instead continued. This conversation would be no less upsetting if I was indeed overweight. My actual weight is, in truth, irrelevant to the greater issue that my son is being shown implicitly and explicitly that women are only worthwhile if they conform to an ideal that someone else has of them, rather than for their personhood. This is not the kind of man I intend to raise my son to be.

I see and hear messages about how my body is less than perfect all the time everyday from magazines, movies, songs, shopping malls and especially commercials. Depending on how I am feeling about the rest of my life, those messages have greater or lesser impact on my internal thoughts. It takes concerted effort to maintain some semblance of a positive body image, and the last place anyone should ever hear criticism about their body is from the person who has the pleasure and good fortune of seeing them naked.

The whole experience caught me off guard, and I was startled to find how quickly I found myself feeling undesirable and unworthy, even when logically I could explain it all away. The next time someone attempts to hit on me by complementing my shoes, I will make sure they have also noticed the incredible woman standing in those shoes before I give them my number. Because I do have great shoes, but the rest of me is far more impressive.

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.