Another Day

{{Another re-post.}}

 

Mommy? Do you love me?”

 

I cringe. Not because I hate the question, but because I hate she has to ask it.

 

I used to ask my mom the same thing, over and over again, every day, and I never received a satisfactory answer. Seems my daughter isn’t either.

 

I’d always thought my mom was too guarded, too closed, too unaffectionate to give me the love I craved, but now I’m beginning to think my constant need for reassurance were — is it possible? genetic.

 

As a child, I was painfully unsure of my lovableness, much like I am now. I was raised by a mom who was underconfident herself and a dad who made sport of teasing us. He didn’t mean any harm, but he didn’t affirm me, so busy was he poking and pushing my buttons.

 

I overcompensate with my own children. I slather love on them daily. I snuggle, kiss, hug and rock. I’m often reprimanded by my oldest that I’m “smooshing her,” but I can’t help it. I love my kids something awful. But some days, I think it’s more about me, than them. I crave overt validation, I push and push as if I can force them to love me back.

 

Either way, despite my best efforts at constant loving, my four-year-old is as I was, or am.

 

So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where and how we end up these days. What makes us who we are, what we become, that kind of thing. It’s nothing new, but now with two children of my own, I am painfully aware that every little thing can have an impact on them. And that despite everything we do, sometimes a trait is just imprinted in our DNA.

 

Like I said, I always imagined I was a product of my environment. Up until recently, I believed with every fiber that I didn’t get enough love as a child. But after hearing Toots ask me the same question — Do you love me? — that I did as a kid (and still do as an adult, God help me), I think maybe despite my far-reaching validation and daily affirmation of her beauty, her lovability, her herness, just maybe, she’s going to be like me.

 

And I hate it. I don’t want that for her. I want her to be comfortable in her skin. To not need to be loved, or at the very least, to not care. To be herself and let the chips fall where they will. To be confident and secure. My heart breaks when I see myself in her. Other things — my love for the spooky, my crazy imagination, my empathy — she can keep. But that insecurity? I want to break it wide open, scatter the pieces to far corners, sweep them up and throw them the hell away.

 

It’s not as if she sees my insecurity. I’m not a role model for it. First of all, I’ve come a long way, and feel much stronger and valid than ever before. Secondly, I’m hyper aware that what she sees is what she does. I never let her see me doubt myself or question my right to be loved. Rather, I conduct these things in secret. Sure, I bet some of it seeps through and she picks up on it, but my husband cancels so much out. He’s just as loving as I am, and our girls have no reason to wonder if we love them.

 

So why is Toots asking?

 

I pore over photos of her. Looking for something. So many pictures show a girl with a thousand-mile-stare, an intensity a four-year-old shouldn’t know. I remember this girl. I am this girl. And perhaps I should be thankful that she has a guide, a mom who understands. I can downplay the doubts, pump up the confidence, minimize the thoughts that plague her. Or maybe let them play out, and continue to love her as I do, and know it all turns out OK.

 

Because it does. And she shall.

 

Toots in repose

 

Five Social Faux Pas of Yore

1. Shucking and jiving in the St. Mary’s school office, laughing with Don Caruso, the popular boy. Fart voluminously, wetly, and lingeringly; endure complete silence.

 

2. Frolicking at an Indigo Girls concert, mistake friendly lesbian’s threat of “I’m going to kiss you” for “let’s be platonic pals.” Go in for a peck on the cheek, receive full frontal tongue assault.

 

3. Enjoying third fully loaded hamburger post-second-pregnancy at a beach party, spot single friend with amazing muscular non-fat body; a little-too-passive-jokey-aggressively say, “You think you’re so pretty.”

 

4. Conversing at a social media happy hour, enjoying talk with a nice man in a wheelchair, ask “What happened to your legs?”

 

5. Making merry at a New Year’s Eve party, tip glass toward angry silent man, spend the next hour toasting he and his wife with couples counseling advice bastardized from Dr. Phil, and assorted bad poetry such as “Compromise is like Marriage Sunshine.”

 

Whenever I Call You Friend

{{I’m re-posting this because it came up in conversation last night, and it’s always good to revisit the topic of who surrounds you.}}

 

I’ve had occasion lately to think about friends because I’ve met so many new people since I logged online. Count up the folks I’ve encountered through blogging and Twitter and it’s easily hundreds of people I’ve made personal contact with in the last year alone. Some people I’ve hit it off with, others I could take or leave, and still others have become “close” casual acquaintances. I haven’t been exposed to this many new people and potential buddies since I attended college 20 years ago. I love meeting new people, but it does raise the question of quality vs. quantity. I crave deep relationships, and although I really really enjoy acquaintances as well, I find myself feeling like something is lacking when I spread myself so thin that I can’t focus on nurturing those friendships that extend below the surface level.

 

In the online world, so very many people are called “friend,” but now the term is obviously defined differently than the “friend” that existed before Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Now, a “friend” can simply be someone you met in passing at a mom’s night out. Having an online presence practically guarantees that you’re exposed to a whole new world of people who “know” you and whom you “know.” It’s especially challenging when you end up liking so many people. Maybe an overgeneralization, but most bloggers I’ve met I love. You see each other at tweetups, blogger events, etc. and eventually or instantly become friends. There are so many things people who communicate online have in common –a love of writing, probably, but also of being more than (more than a mom, a dad, an employee). Also? Most people I’ve met this past year, are hilarious. Which really throws a kink into things because I adore hilarity. And next thing I know? I’m keeping in touch with 8,000 people I like to “talk” to online.

 

Still, there’s more to friendship than shared interests and humor. There’s shared time for one. My in-real-life best friend was around when my heart was first broken, when I first lived on my own, when I worked my first professional job, when my mom died, when I met The Rock, when I married him, when I was pregnant. We’ve been through so much together, so much I can never experience with my “new” friends. But I don’t think I’ve spoken with my best friend, who lives in Chicago, for months. My online friends? I “speak” to nearly everyday. And for some of them, I have a deep, abiding love akin to how I feel about my longtime friends. But there IS a difference, I know that. With my best bud, I know she is there for me through thick and thin and vice versa. She’s a proven good thing.

 

And although I love so many of the people I’ve met in the last six months alone, it begs the question of what is owed. And intention. Are some people “friends” with others to climb the popularity ladder? To “steal” some of his or her influence? Sure. It confuses me and I wonder about the intention issue all the time with online buds. Since I don’t have any status of which to speak, I usually am on the receiving end of being shut out of “circles” and this hurts. Also, you KNOW with your longtime in-real-life true blue friends that they will try not to screw you over for status, get competitive (usually) due to a raging ego, want the best for you, and not hurt your feelings (not on purpose anyway). But what guarantees are there for newfound online friendships? Even though you enjoy the person’s company, do you really know him or her? You just don’t have the shared experience with each other to know he or she isn’t an a-hole in real life. Already, I’ve felt excluded (on purpose) and worse: not liked as much as I like. Nothing worse than unrequited online love. Well there is. Like global hunger and political conflict. But we’re talking pretend world here (as my husband affectionately refers to the blogosphere). Because really, there is absolutely no guarantee that what you expect from a friendship (mutual love for one) (being there for you for another) in real life will exist in your online friendships. There’s just no precedent or expectation for good behavior. No one owes you anything just because you have them in your Twitter stream.

 

After all this, there is one conclusion I’ve drawn: online friends — when they cross over into your real life — are just like any other friend. Soon enough, you figure out that some are passerby in your life, some stick around forever. Some turn on you, some define the very word “loyalty.” I guess there really is no difference in the end.

 

So ignore this post. It’s not as insightful as I thought.

 

And? Tweet me.

 

P.S. For the record, I have met several true blues online I would trust with my heart any day.

 

Keep Writing

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

 

I found this on Google Plus the other day (credit to original sharer), and it spoke to me like nothing I’ve seen on the craft of writing.

 

I feel exactly this way: I’m not done “baking” as a writer; there’s so much more I can do and so much better I can be, and it gets discouraging to think I’m not busting past mediocre. But to hear Ira say “Keep going”; a mantra I’ve repeated again and again over this past somewhat difficult year, plucks my soul string. I get it on the inside, I really do; I know it, I feel it, I shout it: KEEP GOING.

 

Big Birthdays

 

My dad and I. Do you see the look of terror disguised as happy-go-lucky in our eyes? It’s because big celebrations frighten us. I’m pretty sure it was because my mom was German.

 

Just thinking how I’m going to be…older than I am now for my upcoming birthday, and how I never properly celebrated such things. I’ve never been a GO BIG birthday party person, or expected to do TONS OF STUFF on my special day, and I think it’s because I am the daughter of a German. My mom was pretty unimpressed by celebrations (unless they were religious) and didn’t tend to enthuse much about anything (unless it was God and His angels).

 

I remember my mom’s 50th birthday party, when my aunt gifted her with $100-an-ounce Joy perfume, and my mom was all “Thanks. Smells good. What’s next? Oh my Law! Is that a stuffed St. Francis holding a Happy 50th puffy heart?

 

So, celebration apathy runs in my genes a little.

 

I mean, I do like to spend the day with my loved ones. Go to dinner with my husband. See a show. It’s just that the BIG stuff never made it with me, and I find it foreign when people like to really do it up for birthdays. Speaking of which, I felt the same for my bachelorette party. I just wanted to hang out with my pals, maybe dive bar it up, then grab a bite; much to the chagrin of my best friend who suggested Vegas, confetti, and Chippendale’s (We met in the middle. I stayed in San Diego wearing a miniskirt on top of a piano sipping out of plastic penises while everyone sang “Going to the Chapel.”)

 

I think it’s OK, right? To not need the hullabaloo? And I think it’s OK to want it too. That said…I have to tell you about my friend.

 

She’s the BIG person. Likes to celebrate her birthday all month, that kind of thing. For instance, Day One of her BIRTHDAY MONTH, we went to a group breakfast. Day Two we met at a restaurant for dinner. Day Three we spent 12 hours at a spa. Day Four we flew to Acapulco. You know. And her birthday was on the 22nd, so you can imagine.

 

Now, it’s her husband’s birthday month coming up, and we’re (by “we” I mean the “whole neighborhood”) going to Palm Springs for three days of golf, spa, and cheese. Of course, his “real” birthday is in the middle of the month, so after Palm Springs, we’ll probably all head to the Eiffel Tower to blow out his candles.

 

And I like that. How people see fit to celebrate and DO.

 

So to the point of this post:

 

My birthday is in November.

 

A Thousand Little Pieces

You may have noticed the rash of re-posts lately, which I’m using to fill blog gaps while I do the million things I’m doing. I’ve tried to resist the feeling that I must publish something…worthy. A story, an anecdote, a vlog even. Because you know, that’s what you’re supposed to do to keep your blog fresh. And man, that ambitious sentiment is paralyzing.

 

So I’ve been frozen since BlogHer. So many “shoulds” and “need tos” and “strategies.”

 

Instead of me. Unobscured by the minutiae of “must.”

 

Because at BlogHer, surrounded by all the…energy…I withdrew a bit into myself. And it felt right, it really did. There’s so much forced trying to be something, or anything, that I rather enjoyed the me I am. Devoid of ego. And the needing of people to make me believe I’m somehow more worthy than I am. You know, right now, just this. And so I sat along walls, and on chairs, and at stopping points, quiet and OK. Still it stirred: Must I raise my voice to be noticed? Must I dance or drink or talk or showcase? The answer always was no, but it left me in a crossroad, and not entirely sure what to do next because I still…was processing. So I just moved along, letting it be.

 

I’m writing this now because I must write. Bust through the I need to tell a story, and just present what’s going on as it is, in my voice. And let it be enough.

 

Because I’m very much not going to let myself be ruled by the need to be someone other than I am.

 

I’ve seen too much of that lately.

 

So melodrama aside, a maudlin introspection I’ve raised to a high art form, here’s what’s happening:

 

First, I’ve been busy, Lord criminy. I lost a big editing contract because the company I freelanced for was sold to another conglomerate, an operation that doesn’t so much outsource editing, and the shake-up led me to other projects. Still some editing, along with writing, and blogging, and consulting. A lot of little jobs I enjoy, but which take a lot of time. Plus you know, the kids are home for the summer. Which is a nice little recipe for crazy head. I’m writing a lot right now, mostly for business, and so my words have been reserved to what brings in some money, which isn’t always the same as what feeds the soul.

 

BUT: I’ve also partnered with a good friend in a new venture that IS soul-feeding, but encompassing too, and that’s taken a lot of mind time and creativity juice. In the midst of this and in the between, I’ve aimed to finish my manuscript. The one I’ve aimed to finish, always.

 

I can’t wait to show up here and say it’s done.

 

THAT would be especially good for the soul.

 

I suppose all this is to say that I’m shedding certain ideas about myself and forging ahead to embrace new…perceptions. I’m making things happen, even if it’s quietly.

 

And after BlogHer and the ambition-seeking and the forward-looking and the re-purposing and the over-evaluating, I return once again to let myself not be ruled by the need to be someone other than I am.

 

Sometimes we live years in hours, trying to reclaim that certainty. Sometimes we never claim it.

 

I chose the former.

 

High School, In Outfits

{{This is a re-post.}}

 

I can’t remember much about the person I was in high school. That teen identity sorta fused with the person I am now (frighteningly similar) and the girl-woman I perceived myself to be during that time. I’m quite sure I came across as goofy, overly earnest, and random. I do know I thought a lot about clothes, and concocted the perfect outfits to wear for each auspicious high schooly occasion: football games, late night Denny’s dinners, barn parties. The labels of my day — Esprit. Hunter’s Run. Guess — whirled about my head at night and I still recall the acrid carpety smell of the Vernon Hills Hawthorne Mall fitting rooms.

 

Still, I was a girl of little parental money for clothes, so I often borrowed friend’s outfits and conjured money from babysitting jobs to foot the wardrobe bill. What I couldn’t buy, I cobbled together from my parents’ closet. Oversized sweaters from my dad, inappropriately clingy silk dresses from my mom, pajamas. Thank God for uniforms. But every dress-up Friday, you’d find me in either (a) something I made with paint/bleach/stencils or (b) something horribly off in some glaringly disturbing way. Many times, I wore plastic slippers with my plaid Catholic schoolgirl skirt because I thought they looked like stylish flats, or a flannel pajama top that doubled as an oxford. And? I’m totally serious.

 

I loved bright colors and stripes and patterns and (did I already say bright colors?). Also, I adored juxtaposition, so I’d wear say, oversized sunglasses with a hobo ensemble because no one expects hobos to dress like Madonna from the nose up, am I right?

 

Hoborific

 

(These were my artfully bleached pants.) (And my straw hat.) (No relationship between the two implicit nor implied.)

 

And — I did mention the bright colors, right? Did I talk about the stripes too? ‘Cuz I had big love for both of those design elements.

I don’t think you believe me. So I’ll have to show you.

 

(Just so you know, this is hurting me way more than you):

 

Sushi and Stripes

 

(Dad’s sweater. You may recognize the bright color gene?)

 

Goofballs in the '80s

 

(Were stripes big in the ’80s? That’d make me feel marginally better.)

 

Eyes Wide Closed

 

(Eyes closed due to nuclear glow given off by shirt.)

 

You know what? I think I’m done here.

 

p.s. Just be glad I’m not posting the Moonlighting script I wrote my senior year.

 

Speaking of Hypochondria… (A Re-Post)

I’m the kind of person who goes to the doctor and then tries to resolve every single medical concern I’ve had over the year. No matter if I’m at the appointment for gout, I’ll also ask if it’s weird my nose has grown two sizes in six months, what’s up with my butt, why I’m so gassy, should my hair be so thin, what’s this on my elbow, should this thing be infected, and can I get a prescription for wine. The really strong behind-the-counter kind.

 

It’s a very charming trait I have. Some people call it hypochondria.

 

I’ve gone to the same doctor’s office for about 10 years, and while the doctors come and go (most especially the one who took off to beauty school in Texas. In the middle of the night. Without telling anyone. And left a note saying she was pursuing a career in cosmetology and fashion. Her name was Dr. Joan Collins, and I hope she’s very happy with her medical-cosmetic degree), my patient file has outlasted them all and is encyclopedia thick. I’m sure there’s a large red “HYPOCHONDRIAC” stamp on every page. I keep trying to distract the nurse who carries it around (true story) so she’ll leave it in the doctor’s office and I can page through it at my leisure. I’m especially looking forward to getting to the page where I thought I had Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

 

All this is to say that each time I go to the doctor and ask my million questions and have my billion health concerns addressed, there’s always the one thing I didn’t ask that turns out to be an issue. For instance, one time I went to the doctor and after all the “my joints hurt,” “I think my knee is going bad,” “How’s my heart?” “Is this a blood clot?” and “This mole looks especially mole-y” lamenting, my doctor said “What’s this?” Looking down, I realized she meant my belly button. “Oh!” I said non-hypochondriactedly, “That’s my belly button. It popped out after my second pregnancy and never went back in. So, is my left arm longer than my right?”

 

That’s not a belly button,” she said. “It’s a hernia.”

 

My belly button is a hernia?????” I gasped.

 

No, Your belly button is a belly button. This other belly button is a hernia.”

 

So stuff like that happens.

 

The other day, as you might know, I went to the doctor again. As I regaled her for hours with tales of sore stomachs and adult acne, she doodled in my medical file. Finally, she asked me to disrobe for my “well woman” exam. I kept talking as she got to my chest. “And then I ate an orange and ingested a part of the peel. Will I get Vitamin C poisoning? There’s hair in my throat. Will it embed in my larynx and grow more hairs? How long can I survive a hairy larynx?”

 

What’s this?” She asked, stopping at my right boob.

 

Oh God what?” I asked back, thinking that maybe it finally happened. My armpit was now a boob.

 

This mass.” She said, fingering something massive. “It’s about the size of a pea.”

 

“Oh my GOD, oh my God, oh my God. I TOLD you I probably had something!”

 

You could have been more specific than I have ‘everything.'”

 

How long do I have?” In my head, I’d already started making videos to my kids.

 

Just get it checked out. We need to be proactive given your history.”

 

I admit I cried a little. I mean, I thought I was so on top of everything that happened to and inside my body.

 

Does my massive boob have anything to do with the twitching?” I blubbered.

 

So now I’m going in for a blood test to see if my muscles are withering.

 

Thankfully the boob is OK.

 

It’s the gout/Lou Gehrig’s Disease/hair tumor I worry about now.