Sunday, September 13, 2015

Never Leave The Girls Behind

Growing up, I had lots of friends. As a young kid, into middle school, and into high school, I was always part of a crowd. Once boys became a focus for many of us, we would drift.

There were a few members of a few groups who stayed close. All through high school, and wherever they went after, I've heard the stories of trips they took together, who was in the other's wedding party, this one was Godmother to that one's kid.

I was not one of them.

I had been screwed over a few times. I shied away from the groups and followed the boys. After all, wasn't the prince going to save me?

So I never had the trip with the girls to Acapulco. Never did the girls ski trip to Vermont. Never went to most of their weddings. And I've never met most of their kids.

At 19, I got involved with the father of my oldest. I spent seven years blindly devoted to a man who was incapable of being faithful back then, and only when my son was born did I realize it was NEVER going to get better. I moved back to my parents' house, and spent the better part of a year and a half sporadically dating, but mostly alone. Still no girlfriends.

When my boy was not even two years old, I met the man I would marry. We dated for two years, then moved in together for five, just so he could "see if he could handle raising someone else's kid". That concept was a debacle for another post, but he finally married me. All through those years, I lived for my man. I didn't go out with friends, and hardly kept in touch with anyone from my childhood. There were two or three of the girls I was closest to in school with whom I would exchange Christmas cards, but no flourishing friendships to speak of.

Now, please understand, it was never my husband's idea for me to have no friends. Like I said, being screwed over in the past gave me some real trust issues. Besides, I just wanted him to love me, and for us to build our life together. We were a couple, and all I really needed was for him to be my partner. In everything.

Looking back, that idea may have been the undoing of my marriage. That's not to say, my choices forced my husband to go sleep with my cousin. But I will definitely take responsibility for putting an awful lot of pressure on him to keep me entertained. I don't mean like, put on a clown suit and dance for me...I mean like when he went fishing with the guys, I was left behind, alone with the kids. If he was going to a business dinner with his partner, I was left alone with the kids. I never created a backup plan for myself, and it left me feeling slighted and neglected. I needed him to devote as much time to me, as he did for his own recreation, and he didn't understand that.

There were plenty of times he encouraged me to make plans with old friends. Most of the "girls" from my past were all women with husbands and kids of their own by then. We had lost touch for so long, it was awkward to reconnect. And let's face it, all the running I did from the time my Spartacus was first diagnosed with autism, and all the sleepless nights that followed left me completely exhausted. I really just wanted my husband.

MAC worked while I was home with the kids. I was constantly running to schools and therapies for the boy, and because MAC owned his own business, he was able to arrange his schedule so he could be around to pick up and drop off the girl from day care, (which he owned, thank God!), and dancing school...we were always running. Keeping up with the house and dinner, was a challenge, to say the least, and that was always an issue for him. I did make time to meet my parents for breakfast from time to time, and did the annual Christmas shopping with my sister, and he could never understand how I could justify going out with my family when the laundry wasn't being done. He didn't understand that I needed to see PEOPLE. I needed to have conversations with grownups. He didn't talk to me all that much unless it was about the kids. He was tired. I get it. But I was lonely.

There was a two year period when MAC's childhood friend moved into the downstairs apartment in our house, and he ate with us every night. Having an extra person at the table forced us into the dining room, and made us eat like a real family, with real conversation. That happened during the time my girl was 4 to 6 years old, and I think it was probably the happiest time of my marriage. There was life, and conversation, and real interaction. I felt human.

When we made the choice to move to the suburbs, we had to leave our friend behind, and it was just us again. The first year we were out here was hard. Money was tight, and that could've torn us apart, but we actually got closer for a short while. I still had no girlfriends to talk to, but I had my cousin. My best friend, and the one woman I wouldn't have to worry about screwing me over.


We were always together. Always. My house, her house, everywhere we went. I could tell her everything, and she confided in me. I finally had a best girlfriend. We were Lucy and Ethel, and we laughed our asses off. Until her husband left. And that's when I started to notice things were changing.

I don't want to talk about how wrong that all went, but I do want to say, when I figured out what was going on, and I ended my relationship with her, it was only the beginning of what was taken from me. My husband stayed in the house, for another two years, but the marriage was over already. So when he finally left, he had taken 22 years of my life and tossed it away, he took the closest friend I ever had, he took my daughter's original Godmother, and because of all that has transpired, he also oddly ends up taking my whole extended family...all MY cousins, MY aunts...the whole situation has been an eye opener in regard to who ever really had my back. It's a short list, but at least I know.

And now, I'm in the heart of middle age, and besides my immediate family, I'm wondering what connections I have in my life. I have made some friends. Moms of my daughter's friends have become confidantes and I'm learning to reach out. I have also rediscovered some of those long lost childhood friends and love catching up with them. More than anything, the friends I have made online have been my lifeline. They are the ones who understand, and support, and never judge me. I think without the connections I have made on Facebook and among the autism and blogging communities, I would surely have gone mad from loneliness.

But I'm still left with an emptiness. Now that the happily ever after is all up to me, and I have  discovered I am comfortable and content with my own company, there are still times I feel completely alone.

Which leads me to the point of this whole, long, rambling novella!

I wish I had kept in touch with my friends.
I wish I had the memories of the vacations.
I wish I had kept an outlet for my OWN connections all through the marriage.
I wish I hadn't put all my life eggs in the one basket of a husband.

Maybe if I had kept my friends in my life, I would've felt validated, and I wouldn't have needed so much constant attention from my husband.
Maybe if I found other ways to occupy my time, he wouldn't have felt it was such a chore to spend time with his wife.
Maybe if I had allowed people in my life, I would've felt more supported, and wouldn't have needed so much from one man.

Now, all those thoughts sound kind of like I'm having regrets. I assure you, I'm not. Regrets and guilt are emotions that take too much energy from finding answers and solutions. I believe with all my heart that everything that has happened in my life, and everything that I have ALLOWED to happen in my life were all a part of what has led me to become exactly who I am. I love myself now more than at any other time in my life, and I will take responsibility for all the mistakes and errors in judgment. That surely doesn't excuse the betrayal that ultimately ended my marriage. But it allows me to move forward with a plan to be smarter. To do better. To make ME a priority. I don't plan to become selfish, but I fully intend on being self AWARE.

Only I can make me happy. It is nobody else's job. My happiness comes from inside, and it's the choice I will make every day for the rest of my life. If ever I meet someone who wants to make me happy, he'll discover I already am. And if he ever makes me UNhappy, he'll be gone.

But more importantly than thinking about ever finding another man in my life, I intend to make up for all the lost time I spent without friends. Girlfriends. The other women who will understand when I need ice cream and someone to watch Steel Magnolias with me. The women who will let me drag them through the mall, even when I have no money to buy anything because even window shopping is a form of retail therapy. The sisters who will come and drink wine with me while we pull out that giant Christmas sled.

I'm going to spend more time focused on really connecting with friends. And I hope that by telling this story, I can inspire a younger bride to always have an alternate outlet for connecting, apart from her husband. Putting all your eggs in one basket is rarely a good idea in any aspect of life. It's a good idea to have a backup. Just make sure the ones you choose to have your back are never the ones who are behind you with a knife.

Friday, September 11, 2015

I Am The Positive Change That Came From 9/11

"Where were you on 9/11?"

We hear the question every year. It's one of those things that will always stick with us. I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. My oldest son had just walked to school with a friend, and my little guy was 16 days from his first birthday. We were in our kitchen as I fed him his breakfast, and MAC was in the garage, as his business was booming at the time, and he was home doing some work in the house that day. I had the news on, as I did every morning. I was watching Good Day New York with Jim Ryan. I watched the whole, tragic event unfold and then I ran to my son's school to bring my kid home.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

In the midst of chaos, and terror, and sadness, and devastation, the "RUDEST" city in the world came together in unity in a way that can only happen during a time of tragedy.

On that awful day, as survivors desperately sought a way to get home, and family members were frantically trying to reach ANYONE who could give them news of their loved ones, strangers were reaching out a hand to pull someone to safety. Nobody cared that day what color you were, what language you spoke, how many tattoos you had...if you were within arm's reach, somebody would help you along. It's not what you could pay attention to as it was happening, but the stories came out days later. And there were LOTS of them.

There were a few isolated incidents where the narrow minded hot heads sought out anyone who looked even remotely like they could be Muslim, and tiny flames of hate were fanned. I remember feeling disgusted, and thinking how awful it must be for someone like my friend Ehab, who made my coffee every day at my Dunkin Donuts window. I remember asking him if he felt safe. He said there were a few people who made him nervous, but for the most part, the locals were especially kind and treated him like the beloved member of our community he was.

I remember feeling perplexed. There were preconceived notions of who these terrorists were, and I struggled with my own fear and the ideas of prejudice I had been exposed to as a child. I had evolved to a certain degree on my own. I had friends of all races, gay, straight, immigrant...but even though Brooklyn is a great melting pot, there are still lots of folks there who are very provincial. They belong in their corner of the universe, and outsiders do not. Each new faction of settlers in "the neighborhood" was seen as intruders. So there were lots of people whose opinions about the subject of terrorists was completely one track. But it didn't sit well with me.

I wondered if all these angry people who were calling for the heads of anyone who might have a middle eastern connection realized that it was exactly that kind of blind fear of "what we don't understand" that led these evil terrorists to commit such a heinous act.

As I spent the next few weeks finding bits of charred paper that was still drifting over the river on the wind, I also began to make a concious effort to see everyone I encountered for their character, and paid less attention to an accent, or the style of clothing someone wore. Before 9/11, I already had a pretty open and accepting mind. AFTER 9/11, I became accutely aware of the impact of hating someone, or disregarding a person's right to be HUMAN, based on a biased and uneducated opinion that had been passed down for generations. And I surely wasn't going to allow my children to be raised surrounded by judgment and hate. I let everyone around me know, I would not tolerate anyone teaching my kids to hate, simply for the sake of letting the ugliness ride. My wishes have been MOSTLY respected, except for a few extreme cases, and I am blessed to have strong children who have followed my lead, and nobody else's. They have even taught me a thing or two.

This morning I posted a request on my Facebook page, for readers to comment with a memory, or positive action that they relate to 9/11. One reader mentioned how Autism Daddy had highlighted the unity that followed. ( challenge with all things technical prohibits me from tagging, but go find him. I have enjoyed his writing for a long time!) This reader mentioned how she wished it could've stayed that way, and I told her it HAS!! In me. I felt a positive change in the people around me in the days and weeks that followed that devastating day, and I carried it with me. Even in the "rudest" city in the world, we all became like brothers. We can fight with EACH OTHER, but anyone ELSE screws with us, they screw with ALL of us:)

I may have moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, but I will always be a native New Yorker. Having witnessed the greatest atrocity on American soil in my lifetime, I can honestly say, I come from truly badass stock. I am a proud American. I was a few miles from the attack that day, but I am a survivor. My heart breaks for every life that was lost that day, and I refuse to fall victim to the plot to perpetuate the hate that caused this travesty. In honor of all those lost souls, I vow to live my life open and accepting of every human. I will, at the very least, presume goodness in each person until it is proven otherwise. Instead of judging, I will LEARN. I will ask questions and get to know people instead of resting in my preconceived, erroneous notions. I will put forth the kindness of which all those victims were robbed. I can't promise I will always succeed, but I can damn sure do my best.

If you lost someone on that horrible day, if you lost your faith in humanity, if you were traumatized by the attack, please don't allow terror to win. We all have the power to keep alive the unity of the days that followed 9/11. Like so many other possibilities, it's all about making the choice.

Choose kindness.

Choose acceptance.

Choose understanding.

And if there is ever a question as to whether or not you should reach out to someone you don't understand, always "err on the side of compassion"~Jess, Diary of a Mom ( tag here, either! But find her...she's awesome!)

To all those who will forever miss the ones they lost that day, my heart is with you💗

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Samara!

Social media is kind of magical. We're connected to the universe and somehow we encounter people we might never have had an opportunity to know. I have made friends from all over the globe. It always manages to blow my mind.

And then, we may also connect with folks who have always been right in our own back yard, but we have never managed to find. That's magic, too. 

We both grew up in New York. We are both divorcing. We are both single moms. We are both smart. We are both pretty badass. 

And we live five minutes apart. 



I'm a little older than she is. She is the same age as my sister, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that we could've crossed paths. But we didn't. Not until a certain PunkRockPapa brought us together. 

It's comical to think of myself as a punk in my fifties. But in lots of ways, I've always been a punk. I don't follow the crowd. I don't follow the rules. Marching to the beat of my own drum? How about dancing, instead? However I need to fly in a given moment, that's how I'll fly. Maybe her own free spirit is what I love about her:) It's why I'm drawn to her. 

There are lots of ways we are completely different. There are so many life experiences she has conquered, both good and bad, that I was never attracted to, or I never had the chances she had. When she writes about all she has experienced and survived, I find myself enthralled by every word. Some of her life stories lead to controversial conversations, and whether or not she realizes it, that's a positive contribution to "changing the world". When we talk about the hard stuff, it makes people think. It makes people discuss. That's how we make changes for the good. 

While we seem to have made a really great connection, and I feel like I have made a really good friend, I'm still waiting for the chance to meet her. Trust is a hard thing to give away when it has been trampled all your life. I know that story all too well. But I have never allowed that lesson to crush the possibility of remaining open to making new treasuring friendship. I hope she someday allows herself to be open to a cup of coffee with a friend. 

In the meantime, I'd like to wish my friend Samara the very happiest of birthdays! My birthday wish is that she always knows she is loved, and that she believes with all her heart, she is worthy of all that love.