Soulful Sisters

I am a child of the 80’s. I grew up when our daily soundtrack was Madonna, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, Prince, Wham, and Culture Club. We loved men who dressed like women, women who were sexually assertive, and the more skin tones in one picture the more accurate representation of who we were, what our world looked like and who our cliques were. Growing up in a progressive inner city, with 60’s parents, provided me with an environment that nurtured my empathy on many levels. I was tuned in to the emotional frequency. I listened to how friends felt, how they loved, why they hurt. I saw through the “assholes” and got to know the person inside. I heard what made them complete, feel appreciated, and knew what they needed, etc. Our differences were obvious in most cases. We were all over the globe racially, spiritually and culturally but the longer we grew up together, the more similarities we shared and the fewer differences we noticed. I always listened with my heart. For most decisions in my life, I rarely used logic to guide me (I know, I know…. it was and has been an issue at times). Being passionate was an understatement. While others applied logic to their lives, I followed my heart. Always. Yes, always. 

Like many children do, I was drawn to the adults who shared their own emotional journeys with me; who told me their own personal stories of spiritual exploration and emotional growth. As I matured, they shared more and told me why they loved they way they loved and why love mattered. Their connection to the human spirit was a magnet for little open-hearted me. I felt a physical gravitation towards them, turning to those grownups for approval, and found myself swayed by their outlooks on life and personal priorities of what made them happy. I felt the most nurtured by the older cousins, aunts, uncles, friends of my parents, who not only knew I was emotional, but who accepted me for who I was and continued to ignite the part of me that had a deeper understanding of others. 

Not everyone is an open book. Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve. And not everyone is comfortable meeting me at that soft squishy place. So I received the negative feedback as well. Most of the men resisted the emotion on that intense level. It was difficult for my dad. When I was sad, it was out there. Tears, choking on my words, lots and lots of feelings. But it was too much. Too much reaching down deep into that awkward place. Where we show our vulnerable, weak and sensitive side. It didn’t work for Dad. He expressed to me often when I cried, that he wasn’t there for that. Didn’t want to sit through it. His words were, “You know I don’t do well with emotion like this.” If it was about something in my life that required feeling it, not making a judgement call or decision, he didn’t know how to respond. It was uncomfortable for him and eventually for me. My takeaway was that I could not talk to my dad about anything personal, because I was an emotional person. I could essentially cry at any moment. The risk was too great. And since I had never found comfort from him when I tried to connect on that level, I learned to not seek comfort from him at all. 

Mom went deep with me most of the time, listening to my feelings explode and talked about love and passion with me. She shared moments of her own life where she had fallen in love, been hurt, felt alone, etc. Right up until my teens. Right up until I fell in love for the first time. And then my sharing and feeling things became too much for her as well. I understand now in hindsight that I was extremely sensitive, and it was difficult to tell me to simply snap out of it. I was also very stubborn. I was always pushing, stretching my wings and at times it was too much. She felt she was losing control while I was finding my strength. At 17 I was falling in love for the first time and following my heart, not my mind – at all. She understood the passion of a young girl in love for the first time, but wanted to pull me back in. She based her mothering on her own mother. She wanted me to have rules that she had in the 1950’s. The problem was that it was the 1980’s and I wasn’t having it. So I pushed those boundaries. Pulled away emotionally. And then when I started to feel big things….feel what it was like to be “in love”, to be physically involved, intoxicated by the love drug for the first time, with raging hormones, I found out early on that she wanted to be close, but she wasn’t comfortable talking about all of that

Sex was taboo. I should be ashamed of myself if I was having it. I came to her after I had gone to Planned Parenthood by myself. I could never lie to anyone, and I so desperately wanted us to be close, so I told her. She was disappointed in me. I thought she’d be happy that I was being responsible. But she was disappointed that I had become sexually active. She couldn’t be there for me, and still try to keep me in line. She didn’t want to hear about the boys, the broken hearts, the jealousy, the emotions, or the girlfriends and friendships that were everything and then nothing, once she knew I was sexually active. To be honest, I don’t really know what else she was feeling, other than the disappointment. I did feel a bit of jealousy coming from her? I know that’s weird but I also know it’s common. I was choosing boys over my mom. I was listening to girlfriends over my mom. I was becoming friends with my boyfriend’s mom. I was pulling away. I learned how to hide emotions in my home right around the time those hormones and emotions started to rule me.

Friendships are the other “family” in our lives. But they are the family we choose and when we’re young it serves a purpose in our heart. But as we get older, our friendship needs change. The friends who stick around and become part of your emotional DNA based on loyalty, commitments and unconditional love, become family. Those friendships bring as much love to our lives as our solid family, but they also bring commitment, drama, heartache, healing, progress, dedication, patience, nurturing, understanding, loyalty, strength, acceptance, and passion. And if we are true to ourselves, we start to understand and appreciate that friendships can vary and land in different circles. Not everyone fits in every circle. But for the inner circles, there is a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of those relationships.

Friendships float throughout our lives. They are not stuck in your life; they stay because they want to be there. For example, when you marry someone, you have just created a new family bond. You’ve formed a link. When you have a business relationship, you are committed to the success of both of you, your team. You’ve created a link. There is a commitment there to one another for the sake of the business, but it’s clear. Marriage is a pretty clear commitment, or it should be. Siblings, cousins often come through family but sometimes the connection goes very deep. And with the connection of both blood and a choice to develop a friendship, it can be some of the most powerful relationships. My mom had this kind of friendship with one of her sisters. Out of four daughters, Mom was #4 (youngest) and as adults her best friend was also sister #2, her older sister. Their friendship made them more like twins. They also looked more alike than any of their other 3 siblings. They went through divorces at the same time. Moved from a small town to a nearby inner city as newly single moms together. Their individual friends were THEIR friends. They were part of the same clique in their 30’s. They shared work groups, traveled together, with ALL of their friends, attended one another’s work parties, double dated and had dinner together at least twice a week at my aunt’s house or at our house. Because of their closeness, I felt as though my cousins and I were more like siblings, rather than cousins. 

But a friendship is 100% voluntary. With family there is often an expectation that you’re going to work things out, or just deal with not being fond of one another, if it comes to that. Especially if the family has any common interests. You will get along for the sake of the entire family. Luckily I do like my family, so there’s more of a desire to get along. I love them and care about them deeply. Being an only child of my mom’s, with most of my cousins in multiple-child families, there have been times where I’ve felt more needy to have a friendship with them. And I’ve probably been hurt more times than they have, by being left out of things. But as I’m learning, even family has limits and it’s ok to set boundaries. To be honest I think the entire reason I ever started blogging is to help myself set, establish and nurture my own boundaries. So take it from me, you can start living the life you want at any age. Such a Hallmark thing to say, but there it is.

Not only are our friendships 100% voluntary, but if there is a desire to keep someone in your life, it’s also voluntary to put the work in if things get funky. Not everyone knows what they want in a friendship, nor what they are capable of giving. A meaningful friendship should never be taken for granted.

I had never had any expectations in a friendship until my best friend R asked me once while we were literally, “getting back together”, after not speaking for about 6 months, what my expectations were for our friendship moving forward. We hadn’t had a falling out, but more of a separation for personal needs. She instigated the separation. I misunderstood it. I started connecting with her again via text like, hey, what’s up? Why are we not talking every day? I was hurt. Thought she had left me because of my depression. Thought she bailed on me. Thought I was too much for her. (There is still a part of me that feels I was….but I’m trying to work through that self-conscious/insecure/PTSD). But according to her, she needed to find herself and get her own head together. We were both struggling financially and emotionally. Our lives had both hit individual dark places where we were both holding on as best we could, putting one foot in front of the other. We were living two very different lives, but suffering the same. She was fighting daily to stay optimistic. I was fading every day. Could NOT pull my emotions together. Every day made me feel that I was never going to see a better day. We were both driving for a ride share service at horrific hours of the night, driving about 55 hours a week to make a part-time income. Both being spoken to daily by entitled, arrogant, rude passengers, pulling us down emotionally and challenging our inner strength. Every once in a while we’d have one of those incredible connections with some random passenger that made us thank the universe for putting the special spirit in our car, at that moment, when we needed a spiritual boost ourselves. But for the most of it, it was hell. Constant hell.

We leaned on one another hourly, not just daily. And then she sent me a text about how we’re both struggling but in different places and she might disappear one day if it just gets to be too much. She might try to start over and leave this behind. I honestly felt like she broke up with me. It sent me into a deeper, darker depression. But my hurt and bitterness forced me to ‘pull a bitch’ at my rock bottom and head back up, whether I was ready or not. So I did. 

I started focusing on my new-ish career. Started staying in the new office more, driving those ungrateful passengers less and less until I finally did not need that “side” full-time gig, and even without R in my life, I was getting through. But it was still dark. She was the only person whom I’ve ever had a connection with that never ever ever made me feel judged. Ever. I wanted her back in my life. She was my sister. Spiritually we were absolute twins. Emotionally it’s as if we were literally split in half at birth. From the highest mini manic moments, to our deepest hormonal crashes, we don’t need words to express what our hearts are feeling. I can see through her, she can see through me. And when we laugh, which is often, it’s always from our souls and bones. When we speak to the universe, we speak to our ancestors, together. 

A few years ago, while all of this was going on, I called another friend of mine from childhood, who is one of those beautiful and soulful girlfriends that float in to your life via a phone call twice a year to have a deep conversation and catch up. Even though we don’t hang out, get together or talk often, our spirits always connect on that deep soulful level. I reached out to her because she’s a therapist by profession, and I wanted a referral because it was time to work on me and get help for my depression. It was time to get my life back. We chatted briefly one day and I told her what was going on in my life. Working, not driving as much, lost my ‘person’ and feeling like some things are improving, but I need to talk to someone. She gave me some suggestions regarding my insurance, etc. And then asked, “Was R your ‘everyday-person’?” That was it in one question. Didn’t need to explain the extent of our friendship and what R meant to me after that question. “Yes”, I said. And just like that, she knew exactly what I was experiencing. And I didn’t feel I needed to say more. “Yes, she was my everyday-person. And now I’m not so depressed and would love to call my best friend, and I can’t. So I think it’s time I get therapy.” 

So yah, I wanted HER back in my life. There are two things that will stop me from following my heart. My ego is big and that does get in the way at times. But if someone has hurt my spirit, I will no longer be guided by my heart when it comes to them. She hadn’t hurt my spirit. Matter of fact she had always nurtured my spirit. But then she left me. And my gut feeling told me that I was supposed to be nurturing her spirit also. And as my head cleared more, and I could have rational thoughts, I realized that I might not have been nurturing her spirit when she needed it also. We were both struggling. The epiphany that resulted was that I needed to look at myself more and see if I was giving back as much as I was taking. So, fuck my ego. Fuck my stubborness. Some things you need to fight for. I was following my heart once again.

And since I still believed my depression was the cause of her going MIA, I was ready to be a better friend. I wouldn’t pull her down like I had the past few years. I was in a better place. I could listen more. I still needed the space to feel my depression when it hit, but I needed to check in with her as well. I hadn’t done that. I was so wrapped up in my own head, that I never looked up to what was going on around me. I honestly don’t know if it’s healthy to put expectations on ourselves like this, while battling depression, but it is how I felt. I knew that there had to be a balance in there somewhere.

So I stalked her via text like an old piece of ass. She would respond every once in a while. And then more. And then we started to talk and share. We talked about how life was better, for both of us. Eventually we were back to ourselves via text. She didn’t tell me right away, but eventually I learned that she had moved out of state during the months we hadn’t spoken. Her reasons for keeping it confidential were her own reasons, and had nothing to do with me personally, but she wasn’t ready to let the old world back in. She had her own things going on. But finding out she wasn’t here anymore? That was a hard pill to swallow at first…. (and unfortunately, I still have not seen her face to face since she moved away two years ago.) 

As our conversations progressed and we started needing to share more with one another as we do, she started to state what she needed in a friendship and what her expectations were. Basically, since I was the one to break the silence and come back to her, she wanted to know how committed I was to our friendship moving forward. She wasn’t sure whether or not I was that kind of friend. The life-term kind. Even though we had been friends for 19 years, she shared a bit more with me about her experience with friends in the past and how her own friendships weren’t always supported by her upbringing. She wasn’t raised to put a lot of stalk in friendships. Part of that was due to her religion, part of that was due to her surroundings. In her adult life, sometimes girlfriends got funky. They never had her back 100%. Or they walked, with no loyalty and commitment to her. I’ve experienced the same kind of struggles or disappointments. I’ve had friends walk away for so many reasons. 

Heartbreak isn’t just from family or partners. Friends can do a pretty fair amount of damage to the psyche as well. I’ve had friendships where I realized after years and years that I was the “best friend assistant” who they asked to do everything for them because they felt they were superior due to income levels. I’ve had friends call me a “bitch” whenever we were around other friends, as a joke. I was the “annoying bitch”. I can have a raunchy sense of humor, can always laugh at jokes aimed at me, and don’t get easily offended, plus it was funny – in a shock-humor kind of way. But after a while, when you realize you are only the bud of the joke, and not respected when the laughter stops, you suddenly feel that it’s not that funny anymore. 

I’ve had friends judge my life and take me out to dinner so they can ask me why I’m not more successful…. When I was literally at my rock bottom. They would ask why my business wasn’t thriving like so-and-so …. Why was I driving for a ride share company? (When they were buying businesses.) What I heard was, why can’t I seem to get rich like them? Why am I not good enough? It played right into the insecurities I have from lack of support throughout my life. I have often felt as though my value and worth has often been linked to my weight and my financial success. Of course they will say it’s not, but it’s where the focus always goes. In this case, it was all based on how I couldn’t build my business as quickly as other people.

I’ve had friends suddenly decide that I was the one they should all gang up on and talk shit about just after my mom died and while I was going through my divorce. I had just turned 40. My mom had just died. And I was now filing for divorce. I called the friend I thought was my best friend at the time at 1:00AM when I couldn’t stop crying. (For the record, she went to bed at 3am every night. Had her first client at 1pm every day because she was a night owl). I was literally told, “You call me at 1AM and act like you’re the only one who has ever gone through a divorce…….I mean I know you’re still grieving your mom, but we can’t all be there for you just because you have a break down.” 

ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.? This happened 10 years ago with the women I thought were my closest friends at the time. And for the record, one of those friends had been divorced 3 years earlier, and I had no problem being there as she needed throughout the entire thing. 

If I haven’t made it clear, R and I come from opposite sides of the country; with opposite upbringings. We are also different races, one was raised on the west coast and one in the south, brought up in different churches with very different beliefs and faiths. With such contrasting childhoods, we came away with a homogeneous world view. Our trust or mistrust in people, our childhood fantasy that everyone was good, our wounds from those who crushed our empath spirits, and our deep love of love, are what consistently bond us. 

When R presented this question to me, I was like, damn, I’ve never been questioned like this before. At first I felt defensive, thinking this was putting me on the spot. Why do I have to prove myself right now? And then I realized that not only did I have some innerwork to do on myself, but I did have some expectations for my needs as well. So if we were going to do this, let’s do this. Let me find the perfect best friend by stating what I want in her friendship. And let me also hold myself accountable if I haven’t been the friend that she needed. I’m 50 years old and feeling like this is the first mature friendship I’ve ever had. It was good. I grew in the moment. And am still growing with this on my mind daily, hence this blog.

A real friendship is a real commitment. I’ve explained to my daughters that it’s perfectly fine to have a variety of “inner circles”.  Don’t have the same expectations for everyone. Some friends are perfect to travel with. Some friends are perfect to get together with once a month where you do something specific together. Some friends like the same movies, same books, and food. Some friendships are formed when you’re raising your kids. Some friendships are formed as couples and groups. Some are traditional friendships, where you go back and the history alone creates enough stories to keep you entertained when you spend time together. And then there are the soulmates. The ones who become your oxygen. The ones you need. Your go-to people. And then oftentimes, there’s the one, the “bestie”, the “bff”. For me, I’ve always had the one. My person. My daily person. The one that I don’t speak to for a while, but I can text out of the blue, some random phrase and they instantly laugh, and know the whole story behind it. That one person is usually also the one I need to talk to when life crashes. I would say I’m right down the middle with my needs…. I equally need 100% alone time — as well as needing patience and nurturing from my person, when life crashes. I might occasionally give off mixed signals. One minute I’m needy and crying to them, and the next minute I’m crawling under a rock licking my own emotional wounds, hiding out from the world. My poor husband just has to suffer through it all. But I have to say, he might be the greatest man in the world with his patience to understand me. Hands down. You know you have a good man when the only time your “bestie-person” screams at you is to tell you that you’re being a dumb ass bitch when you tell her about an ugly fight that you and your husband had, where you screamed some nasty shit him, and she literally scolds you because of how amazing your husband is to you. My husband absolutely loves her and she loves him. And, fortunately I love my husband’s best friend as well. I refer to him as my husband-in-law because they came as a package deal and I could not be luckier to have these two men in my life.

But I digress. A true friendship takes work, commitment, patience, unconditional love and a similar emotional world view. As we reach the grand age of 5-0, our needs change. Our priorities change. Those changes bring into focus what we really want to spend our energy on and with whom we want to spent that energy with. But the one consistent thing, is our hearts and how we love and what we need in return. It tends to grow with us. For those of us who are empaths, your “daily person” should absolutely be an empath as well, or someone who appreciates an empath without conditions.

One of my favorite “female bonding” movies was Boys On The Side with Drew Barrymore, Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker, 1995. It brought these three very different women together, and formed a friendship between them with such unconditional love and acceptance. One of my absolute favorite scenes was when Mary-Louise Parker’s character is on the stand, as a defense witness for Drew’s character. She is being cross examined by the prosecuting attorney who’s trying to paint the picture that these three women would lie and say anything to protect one of them. He questions her about why she didn’t think the abusive boyfriend was good to keep around for her friend (Drew’s character).

I don’t know why but this scene has always stuck with me because of how simply she described the bond between women.

“I know you think (that to) a girl like her, a man is the most important thing in her life but she didn’t need him. She had us…… I don’t know what it is…but there’s something that goes on between women. You men know that because it’s the same for you. I’m not saying one sex is better than the other…. I’m just saying like speaks to like. Love or whatever doesn’t always keep, so you find out what does, if you’re lucky.”

Our girlfriends are our oxygen. The energy that we receive from and exchange with our girlfriends is just as valuable and necessary for a complete life, as some feel family, a partnership or marriage is. Our souls need those connections. The love shared between best girlfriends can be like a happy drug for our spirits. It strengthens us, let’s us exhale, gives us power, boosts our self esteem and always releases tension from everything else we’re juggling.

At 50 I can honestly say that I’ve had a few soulmates in my lifetime, and I am now very specific as to what I want in my life today. Since I’ve always been the “one-person-bestie-at-a-time” for the most part, as I matured, grew, and progressed as a woman, my needs from a best friend have evolved as well. The energy has to work. We have to vibe more often than not. Understanding, acceptance and ability to nurture as needed, are my top 3 needs. But it is vital that I surround myself with like-minded people. And sometimes I need the broken souls around me, because they bring with them, the most understanding, the most accepting and greatest ability to nurture. And let’s not forget the same sense of humor. We can only work through life’s struggles by finding that twisted sense of humor that takes the edge off. I need to know we see one another eye to eye. Going forward in my life, I need the equal spirit, the twin spirit, the one who has absolutely walked in my shoes. I am one who bonds over heartache as well as joy, but there has to be admitted sorrow in there somewhere, in order for us to find our common language as soulful sisters.

Depression at 50

It took me 49 years to understand that I am an empath. I’m 50 and still trying to forgive myself for being this emotional. As if I need to “forgive” myself for feeling, but I’ve held this against myself my entire life. It is the “thing” I haven’t been able to fix or correct. I feel as though I’ve let everyone down because I couldn’t be strong enough in the moments that my emotions brought them out of their comfort zones. I wasn’t aware this was a bad thing until people expressed that sometimes my topics were too intense, too heavy, or too deep. I have felt it all too much. I’ve cried too many tears, shown too many emotions, failed to bite my tongue too many times, cried when everyone else held it together, and worn my feelings on my sleeve too often. My life has not been filled with others’ appreciation for my rivers of tears. My emotions have been tolerated and I have been accepted, at times, for my sensitivity. But in order to progress I can either forgive, or experience the breakthrough that it is perfectly acceptable to be emotional and sensitive. As my husband says, someone has to be.

I stopped going to certain people when I was sad or dealing with something highly emotional. Like my dad, my dad’s entire family, etc. mainly because they were stoic. And mostly men. I’m not sure which part was more influential. The traditional American masculine attitude, or the Scandanavian stoic culture they came from. An unemotional family at certain depths. They weren’t cold, just private and hidden. Deeply emotional matters were handled privately, without children present, never discussed with others, no ‘talking through’, and rare moments of physical affection or saying, “I love you’s” within our family. They laughed, loved the family gatherings, family stories, and truly loved one another – there was no question we were loved. They were kind, giving, and humane. There were tears when there were long goodbye’s. Tears at memorials. Tears at weddings, etc.

But to ask someone what was wrong, and then to allow them the freedom to cry while they talked to you, one on one, face to face, never happened. It would’ve been awkward and uncomfortable for the person listening. I’d be told to pull it together, act like the men do, don’t cry while I speak, don’t show my emotions openly. Chin up, hold it in and then speak. If you can’t do that, we’re not going to talk. Unfortunately, the emotional distance that developed between myself and others was my coping mechanism and my protective shield. It only took one negative response from someone to forever change the way I approached that person in the future. If I felt rejected from someone I was trying to talk to, I’d never try to share my life with them again. This shifted the energy within my relationships. I would start off “Chatty Cathy” and one comment about my talkative or serious subject matter, and I’d program myself to avoid talking to those same people ever again. This affected relationships with my dad, grandfather, uncles, and some “aunties” that were lifelong friends of my mom. Being that my coping mechanism was effective, supported by my ability and determination to strengthen it, I quit many relationships. I can be as fake as the next bitch, but you’ll never see the real me again or get to know me. I strengthened the ability to shut my mouth and not speak to these individuals. I became better at staying away. This avoidance spread into gatherings and family get-togethers. I would tell myself that I no longer wanted to fake these relationships, when I can read their energy and see the disrespect on their faces. I found myself jumping to say, “No thank you,” when invited to family functions. I had finally discovered my kryptonite. It was THEM. It was the dismissive and judgmental responses I received from them when I was simply being, ME. I had two choices if I were to protect MY energy. Don’t be me, or don’t be present. 

After years of trying to not be me, about  7 years ago I chose to remove myself from those whose energy drained my self esteem. The people who did not believe in me or care for me, were my kryptonite. Sure, I could try and develop thick skin. I could try and develop a new personality that didn’t care what others thought of me. I could try to be more like them. I could put on that same mask I’ve been putting on most of my life. But the bottom line was that I couldn’t. And I can’t. The healthy resolution was to pull away. Only surround myself with those who lift me up. By creating this space between us, without them in my daily existence, I lessen my chance of being exposed to that which blocks my energy from the shining sun. It made sense. Intellectually I didn’t understand what I was doing until just a few years ago. I shamed myself for hiding and slowly pulling away. I believed I was pulling away because of my inability to confront and / or overcome my sensitivity to their dismissiveness and shame. I felt like my decision to pull away was childish. My discovery is that I am slowly learning how to care for me. It’s MY depression. These are MY triggers. MY emotional strength is important and pulling away is protecting ME.

Over the course of the last 25 years I have found that I’ve actually been protecting myself when I’ve completely pulled away from those whom I no longer trust. I don’t trust them to not hurt me in some way when we talk or when I share. I don’t trust that I can be myself in their presence. I don’t trust that I will like myself once I’ve seen myself through their eyes. It’s easy to see oneself through another person’s vision simply by the questions, their dismissiveness or the way they ask or the way they frame their responses. If the response to things you share, always begin with what you should have done, as opposed to hearing and / or appreciating what you have done, if you have any insecurities whatsoever you will walk away questioning yourself. It would throw me off every time. I would cry all the way home from family holidays, outings with friends, etc. because I was defending myself in my head all the way home. THAT is not healthy! And when you feel it every time, at the same magnitude, with the same people that you are craving acceptance from, there is no inner voice fighting off the negativity that has spread into your intellect like red wine on a white couch. What’s the saying? The negative is always so much easier to believe. You can bleach it, clean it, but the stain will always be there to remind you. I am not my authentic self if I can’t be me. I don’t enjoy time spent with people when I have to be someone I’m not. I have to act like them, not share with them, not show any (sad) emotion, and more importantly, don’t ever, ever show that life is hard, or that you are human and don’t have great days. It will make them uncomfortable and they will blame you for bringing their mood down. 

When the resistance to your deepest emotions comes from a parent, or the adult figures in your life, it changes who you were meant to be. It creates a shift of energy as you mature. You learn to cry alone, read non-verbal messages and dodge emotional bullets. Knowing that I might cry while talking to my dad or my grandpa, would make me avoid talking to them at all costs. It wasn’t until my 40’s that people, whom I deeply cared about and respected, started to tell me that they felt I was emotionally intelligent. It blew my mind to hear such an intense compliment, that contradicted what many adult authoritative figures told me. I was told, “You’re too emotional. You wear your emotions on your sleeve and don’t keep anything private….” “You talk too much….” “You share too much….” 
I knew I would cry when my grandpa or dad wanted to talk and I knew they would get angry because I was crying. I was told on more than one occasion, “I can not continue talking to you if you’re going to continue crying. I am not comfortable with tears and an open display of emotion, so either you stop crying or we stop talking.” I wasn’t sobbing. I wasn’t gasping for air with snot running down my face. I had tears flowing steadily as I wiped each and every one before it got to my cheek bone. My voice would crack but I would clear my throat and talk through a clenched voice. If I could just feel that I was being heard, that the person cared about these feelings I was feeling, I could take a breath and relax. But it rarely went that way. 

My maternal grandfather would smile out of awkwardness, but not out of impatience. He would just look at me from across his home office desk and smile, knowing I was trying to get the sentence out. And by knowing he was waiting to listen, it allowed me to trust that I could be me. His gentle smile, all the way into his 90’s, helped me catch that breath each time. This was proof that I could control the emotions, if someone was willing to survive the emotions with me. He became the man I turned to for so many things.

When you are not allowed to feel how you feel, but instead feel the pressure to hide those feelings, a shift of trust occurs. Those people are no longer allowed “in”. Especially once you have grown and hopefully had experiences and relationships with people who needed and appreciated those feelings. Once you realize that you are not a horrible person for not being a ray of fucking sunshine 24/7, it can create quite a change in the way you view the world. Suddenly, it’s OK to be me. I don’t have to be what they always said I should be. 

Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of blaming others for how we turned out, but I’m not trying to do that. I’m not fond of the way my fragile state was handled, but whatever. I would have benefited from a bit more understanding and patience. They weren’t bad or cruel people. They were simply polar opposites emotionally. Throughout my life I felt flawed because I wasn’t what they kept expecting me to be. Finally, at age 50 I am recognizing that sometimes we need to stop blaming ourselves for not being what other people wanted us to be, and let go of the shame that was placed on us, for simply being who we are. Forgive them for not being what you needed, but forgive yourself also. You have nothing to regret. You are an amazing person, just the way you are. And thank fucking god for your ability to feel things deeply. This world needs your heart.

My bible for the past 20+ years has been The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I look up quotes often to remind myself of the spiritual strength I developed after reading it cover to cover. This is one of my favorites:
“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
― Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

What’s that thing called when you speak and then realize what you just learned about yourself?…. Oh yah, epiphany. 
Inner voice: And THAT is why you learned how to be depressed luv. You WERE the happiest little girl organically. But you weren’t allowed to FEEL anything else. So you suppressed it when your empath self expressed emotional moments. This suppression of emotions manifested into hidden, troubled, over-thinking thoughts. It fed the inner dialogue of putting yourself down and being your toughest critic so that you were prepared for the shame. They were quick to tell you what you “should’ve done”, since you can’t make any intelligent decisions of your own. This crushed little spirit was manufactured by dismissive attitudes, emotional blocking, and a resistance to letting a child build emotional strength, that they didn’t have or know how to develop themselves. 

“Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.”
― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

The challenge is to stay above the depression. It’s easy to sink. I have sank multiple times. And I have crawled back up multiple times. I’m not sure where I am on that journey at the moment. 

Depression at 50::::::
I am now 50, creeping up to 51 and I suffer from depression and anxiety. Two years ago I was diagnosed with panic attacks. I go, go and go. Putting on the happy face, the funny personality, I tell the jokes to make others laugh, I always try to find the humor, and I tell myself that everything is fine. And then I crash when too much builds up. When too much falls through. When not enough is building. 

It takes one trigger to knock me over. And when that happens, I hide, crawl under a rock and lick my wounds for a few days, avoiding as much contact as I can with anyone outside my home. I smile big enough to hear it on the phone if forced to take a call; I smile when I run into people; I type emails and texts as though everything is great adding all of the happy emojis to let everyone know, I’m good. But it’s not. I’m not OK. I’m often sinking.

But life is not going to stop for me, so I try to stay motivated. I push through, while trying to build a newish career, finding daily patience in our 6th month of quarantine, while also continuing to attempt to be a positive, motivating wife and mom. I feel like a baby every time I find myself back under that damn rock. Caring for my children brings me pleasure and brings about this organic burst of energy. Children need Mom. Mom responds. Period. But if they didn’t need me, I’d stay under that rock.

My daughters are 18 and 20, living at home and attending college online. They both work and use their money to buy their specific groceries, clothing, personal needs, etc. It works out well for us. As a parent, it’s always fascinating to see your children develop their own mental strength and determination, especially when you might not possess all of those qualities all the time as their parent. Their dad and I divorced 10 years ago but made sure we maintained a healthy friendship. That might be the one thing I am the most proud of, that I have done as a grown up. I continued a friendship with my ex husband in order to provide my daughters with a united family. I knew that growing up with a single mom myself, seeing my dad every other weekend, contributed in many ways to my self esteem and confidence suffering. I did not have the regular presence of my dad in my life. And I had to navigate their resistance towards dealing with one another. I had to be dropped off and picked up at a grandparent’s home, so that Mom and Dad wouldn’t run into one another. 
Juggling the emotions between my parents was difficult as well. Mom was hurt, angry, bitter, etc. throughout my childhood. Dad moved on with a happy marriage, more children, etc. and got on with his happiness and enjoyed his new life. I juggled the conflicting emotions between them. When I knew I was about to go through my own divorce and saw the look in my daughters’ faces, there was absolutely NO FUCKING WAY I was going to put them in the middle of their dad and I. Our marriage didn’t end gracefully. There was drama, betrayal, pain, broken hearts….. but I remember telling our daughters, “Mommy and Daddy are really hurting right now and we might be angry at one another, but this will pass. We will move on and we will heal and we will forgive. We will ALL be OK and we will get through this. Your dad and I will ALWAYS put YOU first but we just need some time to heal, but I promise, we will all be fine.” 

And we were. We are. He’s a great friend. I still consider us family…. his fiance, my husband, our combined children….. have created a very healthy village. And I made that happen. I made us be OK. I said I wanted it, we talked about it, I made it clear to others that I was going to go through a different kind of divorce. Now, mind you, I have an ex husband who was 100% willing to make this a healthy relationship as well. He had been married before and my bonus son from that marriage suffered quite a bit from his parents’ drama. My ex said he didn’t want to go through that again. I promised we wouldn’t. And we did not. *I know many people who don’t have the support from the ex spouse and I feel for them and their children. The ONLY people who suffer from selfish parents, are the children. Period. If you love your children, fake that goddamn friendship with the other parent if you have to. 

But I digress, with great things like my daughters having a pretty good village surrounding them, I can toot my horn for the ONE thing I’ve done right in my life. It feels as though everything else however, contributes to my ongoing bursts of depression. I literally have no self esteem in any other place in my life. This recent prolonged dark cloud has been lingering overheard for about 5 years. Before that my last lingering depression was during my divorce. I survived and found my way. Prior to that, the biggest, heaviest dark cloud that has ever hung over me, was following my mom’s death in 2009. It was as if that trauma cracked open my depression and anxiety. The anxiety began when Mom was initially diagnosed in 2007. My anxiety kept me up until 3:00 AM many nights, and up again at 6:00 AM the same morning, in order to sit in our dark home office, with my 24″ Apple monitor scanning every possible medical journal I could find and read about lung cancer, before my children woke up. THAT was the beginning of anxiety.  Following Mom’s death, was the beginning of depression. 

This most recent bout of depression started when one entrepreneur  business adventure came to a sudden halt, our family moved out of a rented family home and into our own house. Our savings for the business dried up and we had to start over seeking new careers, at 45. Not the easiest thing to do, especially as a newly married couple, at the same time. My husband has been applying to jobs in his industry for 5 years, been on HUNDREDS of interviews, submitted thousands of resumes and job applications. Only to be turned down because the hired applicant was younger, fresh new energy, etc. Blow after blow to my husband. We could barely lift ourselves up day after day, let alone be the other person’s rock. However, my husband is often my rock more than I am his. As he puts it, only one of us can fall apart at a time. 

For five years it’s been a constant battle. My head is constantly trying to tell my emotions to be happy, find peace, be positive, attract positivity in my life while being happy, not depressed, etc. — all while convincing myself that self medicating is a needed crutch, isolating from the world is the down time I need, or that self sabotaging is just a normal part of life. I have an addictive personality, and form habits that get me through. I break the habits eventually once life turns around. Most of the time I replace the bad habit with a good habit, once the bad mood switches to a good mood. That is how I’ve always fixed it. I correct myself. I find the emotional depth of the issue and turn it around and apply the energy into building myself up again. And I do it alone, most of the time. Everyone used to hear my cries at the beginning, and then I’d pull away and not want to continue being a burden. I’d feel that I had dumped enough on my girlfriends, cousins, family and then go find that ever so welcoming rock to hide under while I cried my tears dry. 

I typically need to meditate, isolate, write, nurture, decrease stimulants, increase nutrition, surround myself with ONLY people I trust with my emotional well being. And based on my life over the span of the last 35 years, this has worked. I have healed. I have grown. I have progressed spiritually, mentally and purposely.

I’m not there right now. I’m desperate to find that new emotionally and physically healthy habit to dig me out of this funk. Writing this blog feels like godzilla took a foot off my chest. We have recognized that there is a problem. I can see it – my depression – a bit clearer now. There is some healing in writing for sure. I’ve listed it, told the history of it, recognized where it started, how it grew and have had my pity party. I want to change my life around because depression really puts the brakes on life. I honestly don’t know if I’m ready to change my life around. I would like to write again and describe how I have been lifted emotionally. I would love to come back and tell you that I have lost the extra 50+ lbs that weigh me down both physically and mentally, that hold the remnants of the emotions that have burned out and forgotten, or healed. I hope to come back and write about how I have found myself, at 50 (might be 51 since I’m coming up to it soon), and how I have taken life by the balls and am in the driver’s seat of my own destiny from this day on. But that all sounds exhausting and somewhat intimidating. Also sounds like a bit of a fantasy. Am I addicted to sadness? Do I get something out of it? I know that’s possible. 

I’m going to leave this alone now. Let this sit and season. Let these feelings and thoughts marinate while I take the next approach to facing the million dollar question, now what?

The Journey Begins

“When things are bad, it’s the best time to reinvent yourself.” – George Lopez.

There you are! And here I am. Which makes this a connection. I have an audience. Even if it’s only you. I appreciate that you are here…and following these words, and thoughts. I like to tell stories. I like to talk through the worst of times. I also like to laugh until my stomach hurts. I like to be shocked. Not creepy-weird shocked, just good ol’ shock humor. The progressive, blunt, intellectual, wise, brave, humble, based on facts kind of humor. Sometimes that can be shocking. And that makes it even funnier. We’ll get into that more as we get to know one another.

I like to be descriptive. I like to describe the ENTIRE scene, in order to describe and share the emotion and bring you inside my head. Always. It must always be emotional with me. I say that half jokingly, half with a sense of cynical and sarcastic humor, and half with a very serious, dumping-my-flaws-on-you-at-first-meeting-confession type admission. Yes, that’s 3 halves. If you’re going to sit here and correct me and judge me, you’re going to exhaust yourself. I trip over my words, I explain too much, I fuck up idioms and I suck at math. Soooo, it’s best if you just try to find the comedy. Patience will get you far. And if you’re lucky I might even make you shed a tear here and there (remember, I’m emotional).

I have started this blog for a few reasons. I love to share. Writing is therapy. I’ve always believed that I can express myself on paper with such accurately emotional words and descriptions. People get what I’m trying to say when I write. I don’t repeat, stumble, ramble, etc. and if I do, I can catch it. I am a journalist major and even though my professional career dabbled in the teaching of the language, my constant side passion has always been writing. Although if you were to ask anyone in my inner circles, everyone would say I don’t have a problem talking. Oh I can chat. And keep thinking of another thing to add…. I have learned to shut up and LISTEN. Sometimes my insecurity kicks in and I think, no one is really, truly interested in what I have to say anyways. You start to get that feeling when you’re told that you talk too much. I was told as a child by a few adults in my family, “If you don’t have anything intelligent to say, don’t join the conversation. These people have different (in other words, “more interesting”) things they want to discuss”. Ouch. Why do those kind of comments stick with us, define us, throughout our lives?

So in hindsight, I guess it made sense that I found my voice while writing. I resisted it in school. Hated the long essays I had to write, or that my mom wrote for me and had me copy at 3am in my own handwriting. Hated it because I was am was (fuck it) AM a procrastinator. I was a horrible student. Never did my work. Total and utterly helpless “social butterfly”. But when my mom would find out, she’d do anything to make me complete an assignment, study for a test, etc. She was stressed working full time, living pay check to pay check, and I can hear her over happy hour with her sister, “I’ll kick her ass before I let her fail…. ” She would absolutely go off on me for about 4 days. Telling me how disappointed she was with me for waiting until the last minute…. and then she would read the book(s), write the paper and wake me up at 3am to copy it in my own handwriting. I would cry. She would yell. It would be a knock-down-drag-out fight every time. I hated it. She would use words in my papers that were way too advanced and intellectual for me to understand, pronounce and spell. I’d cry more. She’d tell me it was my own god damn fault and that next time I should do my homework on time! She had a point.

So I grew up hating writing. And then realized that, thanks to those papers and Mom’s threats, I actually learned HOW to write, even though I barely passed any other subject in high school. And then I majored in Mass Communications with a focus on Journalism. Go figure. Even after majoring in a field that focused on writing, I’ve never really put faith and energy into writing professionally. My creativity has gone down the path of photography, teaching English and media – but nothing directly in WRITING, journaling, blogging.

I’ve experienced some traumatic life experiences over the past 20 years and maybe, just maybe, sharing my experiences will help someone in their own struggle, grief, regret and help them along on their path of lifelong decisions. I blogged on a private site while my mother was going through cancer treatment. It was therapeutic. It still is. I was told by a few readers that they appreciated feeling as though they were there with us, as I invited them into our intimate moments through my words.

My mom passed 9 years ago. I’m grieving. You never really stop grieving a parent. I don’t know how one would. The loss of a parent is almost a physical pain. It changes who are you are. It changes where you were going. At any age. It’s part of life, but it’s also one of the things that makes being human so painful, as well as beautiful. There are quotes that remind us that life can not be fully enjoyed if we don’t also experience loss. It’s how we appreciate the details, they say. I guess? Maybe I’m stubborn. I am having a hard time appreciating my mom not being here. She was supposed to watch my daughters grow up with me. I crave her. I long for her. It hurts. And it always will. I have learned to live with the heaviness of her loss.

Even if you simply don’t speak to a parent, it pulls at a part of your spirit and is an intensely emotional loss. If you have issues with a parent, it messes with the rest of your life. No matter how much you try to push past it, it’s just there. It’s becomes an unending ache in your heart that you are constantly trying to overcome and push through, without much success. It’s so cliche but the act of writing absolutely sorts and organizes my thoughts. I suffer from anxiety. Writing helps. It’s no surprise that my grief manifested into anxiety following my mom’s death. Around 4 months after she passed I would find myself waking up at 3am, every night, with a knot in my stomach. It was panic. It was feeling like I had just received the worst news ever. That kick-in-the-gut feeling where you go into fight or flight mode. Every night. 3am. It can be exhausting. And then it starts to happen at different times, with various triggers. Pretty much EVERY thing triggers the anxiety now.

So I write. If I see it on paper or on the screen, it comforts me. Seeing the words, makes it seem manageable. Yes, that’s how I feel. I see it. It has a voice. I feel hopeful that I can answer my problems with solutions….by continuing to write. I can find my way. I can continue on my journey and grieve, feel, release, find strength or …….. just make a ton of fucked up jokes that just make it seem bearable.

As the George Lopez quote says, “When things are bad, it’s the best time to reinvent yourself.” I am on a journey to reinvent myself. Through spilling my life out here, to you. I hope I connect with others in a way that helps them. I hope I find myself soon….as I get closer to that beautiful golden age of 5-0. Yep. That’s coming up in just over a year.

There is a young girl within this shell of a human I call, “me”, who’s not sure it matters what the birth certificate says, as long as she can find herself soon and start really enjoying the upcoming chapters. Life has been hard for a while. Life was good. Then it fucking sucked. And then I floated for a bit…with dreams and visions. But it came to an end following various circumstances. And life became a challenge again. A struggle. So today I’m trying to survive and push and live and grow and mature and improve….did I mention survive? Every day I try to survive. There are parts of life that must be lived, experienced, accomplished — I’m doing the best I can with what I have. But I am on my journey to be “accomplished”. We will venture into all of this as I turn the pages, peel the layers, get high and blog or whatever. I will get to each detail. Because I must find my path now. I hope while I write and think, think and write, it adds something to someone else’s life out there. That would be an amazing connection. Be well. Let’s do this.