The List 


I had my list of reasons on standby in the back of my head. Like a wallet full of condems, I kept them there ‘just in case.’ If ever there was a chance that I could feel like staying, I would quietly recite my list of reasons in my head.  

1. He didn’t hold me when I needed him to. When I had delivered a fetus into our bathtub, he should have held me. He didn’t. I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I just wanted him to hold me. I was emotionally and physically drained from the ordeal. I was sore and numb at the same time. I only wanted him to hold me, nothing more. He yelled and dismissed me. He complained about the dirty dishes. He told me to get out of bed and clean the kitchen, while my uterus was still spilling out of me, tears still wet on my face.  He made me feel hollow at a time when I needed to feel solid.  

2. He scared me. My anger rises slowly, like a burning piece of paper under a magnifying glass. It takes a while to get going, but when the flames rise up, they engulf the paper completely and all at once. His anger was like rogue bottle rocket ricocheting through a house. I never knew what he was going to hit. I never knew how far he would go. I only knew to get the fuck away from him when his passions flared.  His temper was unpredictable and abusive.

3. Instead of supporting me, instead of building me up, he criticized me and shot down my dreams like enemy aircraft. He didn’t believe in me. He treated me like some sort of fast food burger that he had to settle for because he couldn’t afford a real meal. He treated me like a mistake, like I was a karmic punishment.  

4. I did the same to him, and that hurt just as bad.

I never really loved him, and yet I did and still do. There’s another list too. The list of reasons why I stayed for as long as I did. The list of all the things he got right.  That list is just as long as the other. But for a long while now, no matter how hard I strained my eyes, I couldn’t read it.  I didn’t want to.  I still don’t want to.

Where The Wrong Roads Lead


When I was in high school, my friend was dating a guy in his early twenties. We would hang out at his friend’s apartment.  I’m not really sure who lived there, but it was dark and empty, like a bad movie. There was always a couple of strung out girls with babies on their hips. The furniture was always mismatched. It looked like a place that people were half moved into or half moved out of. There was nothing on the walls. Even the bedrooms were empty.  
I met some real characters at that place. A skinny guy with messy black hair and eyes that matched. He had piercings all over his face and bad tattoos painted across his entire chest. If I was to see this guy today, I would definitely keep my distance. But at sixteen, I was intrigued and entertained by his dark and mysterious tendencies.  

There was a duo of goofballs who always hung out. I have no idea what their real names were. We called them Frog Man and Chaz. They had to have been in their thirties, a couple of dried up, old school eighties rock protégés. They had good pot.  

And then there was a guy who sort of stole the spotlight. He was a very big dude with a Cheshire Cat smile. He was always smiling. He always made everyone feel like family. He was the kind of guy who used charm as a tool for survival. He was good at it, and I always got the impression that he had to be.  He had nothing.  That guy grew up in a completely different world than I did.

 One night while I was over there, that guy went around hugging everyone goodbye and then took off with a backpack and a couple of people I had never seen before. About twenty minutes later, seven cops went barging through the apartment looking for them. Apparently the girl was a run away. I didn’t see him again until a few years later. I was nineteen and he had hired into the furniture factory that I worked at. He and a few of his buddies hired in through a temp agency to help with some increased production demands.

His face lit up when he saw me.  Still smiling as always, but his eyes had changed since the last time I saw him. He had taken on a predatory gaze behind his deceiving smile. 

Working at that factory was one of the best times in my life. All my friends were still working fast food and retail gigs while finishing up college. 

I didn’t go to college.  I used my open house money to move into a shitty apartment with my high school drop out friend. We were drunk the entire time we lived there, which was about a summer. She ended up getting pregnant. I moved home. My parents were disgusted in me. Not because I didn’t go to college, but because I had whored around all summer and caught a bad reputation for my family.  

I often wonder how I went from being an honor student who was involved in all the nerdy after school activities, to literally drinking myself through near death experiences and random sex with some shady ass men. Looking back, I wonder why my parents didn’t see that drastic change as something to be concerned about, something to sit down and lovingly discuss with me. I am certain now, looking back, that my extreme rebellion was a result of nearly dying from a burst appendix. I remember thinking that my life would have been such a waste, had I died. Because I had never really lived.  

Why did my idea of living consist of following the worst behaved people into a life of drunken promiscuity? Why didn’t I see college and a career as a goal, rather than getting high and running around with strange people?

I thought working in the furniture factory was a legitimate career choice. And I loved it. I made a lot of friends there that I am still friends with today. I found a few guys to share some after work romance with. We used to pitch in for a shitty hotel room to party in on the weekends. We all got high together at lunch. And I got the summers off with unemployment benefits. It really was a good gig at the time. But everything changed when those predatory eyes and that big deceiving smile hired in.  

He was trouble, and I could smell it. And I was right. He and his friends had been dealing crystal meth in the factory. He tried to blend in, but his aura had a stench to it.  People recognized that he was not a good guy.  But he still tried to blend in.  He even heard about our hotel parties and decided to host one himself. I was the only original who showed up. I walked in the door of the hotel room and looked around at the scariest bunch of dead-eyed guys that I had never seen before. I was the only female, a nineteen year old blonde with a rack worth bragging about. I knew the moment I walked through that door that those guys were going to hurt me.  

I began to plan my escape. I acted happy to see him and ready to party. I told him that I would be right back, that I had left my cigarettes in the car. I walked out of the door, got into my car, and drove the fuck out of there as fast as I could.  

The next Monday, one of his friends walked up to me, and laughingly told me I was lucky I didn’t stick around that night because they had some big plans for me. That guy robbed the local KFC a few weeks later, by bashing the managers head in with a baseball bat. He is now in prison.  The guy who had big plans for me is in prison now too.  

A couple years after I had escaped whatever plans he had made for me, I saw him walking down the sidewalk in my hometown. He recognized my car and flagged me down. He told me to stop by later that night. I didn’t go, but a girl who went to high school with me did.  According to a witness’ testimony, she had been sitting on the couch, smoking some pot with him. The witness who lived in the house had gone to the bathroom, and when he came out, she was being rolled up in a rug, thrown over his shoulder, and carried out of the house. They found her body a few weeks later, in a thicket just north of town.  

It took ten years for the investigation to wrap up with a conviction.  He was already serving time for some other crime.  He will be in there for the rest of his life.  I don’t think he acted alone.  He supposedly wanted to murder someone simply for the experience of it.  It’s hard to speculate since I wasn’t there, but the story never made sense to me.  I remember seeing him a few weeks after she went missing.  He hugged me and my body froze with fear as I was wrapped in his big deadly arms.  My body could sense the danger in him, the primal dance of predator and prey. 

I grew up in a town like Mayberry. It was quaint and quiet. We had one bar and three churches. Nothing bad had ever happened in my town before. It is still hard for me to wrap my head around. The sweet gothic girl who shared an art class with me, who had taken her talent to art college and was just home for a vacation and to visit old friends…the girl who pulled off the goth look before it was cool, and she did it with absolute elegance. She was a beautiful person. She was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister. She didn’t deserve to leave this world so young, so violently. She was a person. And he killed with his bare hands. My world was never the same after that experience.  The kids I grew up with were never the same after that.  Our innocent little town had been diseased with murder and heartache.

It never escapes my mind, when I think of her, when I think of him, how easily that could have been my body in the thicket on the side of the road. It never escapes my mind, that I once called a cold blooded killer, ‘friend.’

I will never forget her.                                         May she Rest In Peace.

Stupid Tulips 


I took my kids to Holland, Michigan for a weekend getaway. I haven’t had a full weekend with them in a while because of school, so I wanted to do something special.  

The weather was crappy. I had cramps. My kids fought the entire time. They complained about going to the little island of tulips tourist trap because it wasn’t very exciting.  

‘We drove two and a half hours to look at stupid tulips,’ my fourteen year old muttered with disgust.  

The whole trip was kind of a disaster. I lost my temper and told them that I would not be taking them on vacations anymore and that maybe they should go live with their dad.  I spit anger and called them spoiled and selfish.  I screamed that we might as well pack up and go home.  I told them they were acting like assholes because I spent the very last of my bank account on this trip for nothing at all.

As soon as those words came out, I instantly hated myself. I hurt them and I knew it. No matter how much I apologized, I couldn’t take those words back. I couldn’t make them feel wanted after telling them that they should live with their dad.  The guilt of my explosive emotions is haunting me today. I have thoughts creeping into my head that maybe I’m not cut out to be a single mom. I’ve lost my muchness, as the mad hatter would say. I’ve lost my worth as a single mom and I don’t know how to get it back.  

This is the type of thing that pushes the gates of depression wide open and it’s really hard to pull them back. I start thinking about the damage my mom has done to me, how I’m still working through those hurtful words well into my thirties. I think about how that painful inheritance is crawling through to another generation.  Maybe I can’t stop my mother’s disease from blooming inside my head, like an ugly weed that I keep pulling out but it keeps growing back. Maybe the girls would be better off living with their dad.  

I hate myself today. I hate that I hurt the people whom I love the most. I hate that a weekend away, filled with so much beauty will always be remembered as one of the ugliest times in my life. I hate that I have been pulling these weeds in my brain for so long now, and I am getting too tired to tend to my garden anymore. I am out of ideas on how to fix this.

Godlike Creatures 


Give me something to believe in.  Or don’t.  I don’t care.  I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. I don’t even believe in dirty or pure. I do believe that we are all just like the moon, shining bright but we all have a dark side.  I also believe that the purpose of life is to collect and share love.

If God is love, Satan is tragedy and loss, war and greed, waste and destruction.

And that’s kind of how it works, isn’t it? We as humans experience a series of personal tragedies throughout life, and the only way to overcome the pain of tragedy, destruction, or loss…is love.  Maybe that’s what religion is getting at.  I don’t claim to know any answers.  I pay much more attention to the questions, anyway.

What if our godlike souls work as filters, cleansing the atmosphere of negative energy?   What if emotions are just carbon in the filter?  Maybe we go through the tedious process of life to transform the world into something better.

What if we die, and our bodies hold all of the murky, dark energy here on earth while our golden souls fly free to whatever lies next?  What if nothing happens at all?

What if an aura is really just the atmosphere of your body? Why do the oceans dance with the moon in a gravitational pull? Why do I care so much?

I have no fucking clue what happens next. But I certainly enjoy daydreaming about it. I think that is why I’ve never chosen a religion. The commitment of tying my mind to a single belief, one that has been prepackaged by somebody else, is too much of a threat to my creative side. I hold on to the ideas that resonate with me and leave behind the ones that don’t. And in between all of that, my mind is free to wander through the many rabbit holes of my consciousness.  

I could never give that up.  Maybe that’s the point.

Home 


So, I just spent my first weekend free from school in six months. I have never appreciated a good Saturday more. The warm spring sunshine was a welcome sight.  

I haven’t really had a weekend to myself in my new place. I moved just a few weeks after school started. This has been my fifth move in six years. I can’t seem to keep grounded.  

The gypsy life has landed me into some pretty intense spaces, each one representing a brief chapter in my life. My new place, my little trailer in the woods, has been my favorite chapter so far.  

I thought I would hate it here. I didn’t think I could make this place feel like home, but it’s the most at home I’ve felt in any of my other places.  

I didn’t have a lot of options. I was living in a very small house with an unstable person. He was manipulative, unsympathetic, and an alcoholic to boot. I literally took the first available rental in my modest budget. A 1970’s trailer in the country.  

It took me a minute to get over the carpet squares and the paneling. The faux brick wall paper in the bathroom was not exactly easy on the eyes, nor was the banana yellow bathtub. But soon I realized that the place had character for days. The gold plastic lights, tucked away in fake paneled ceiling beams bring me back to childhood memories in the smoke filled bowling alley with my mom. There is no better feeling than showering in the sunlight that pours into my very own shower window. I love falling asleep to the rhythm of rain drops tapping on my tin roof. I threw a rug over the carpet squares.

I basically won the real estate lottery with a property line that runs along the neighbors pasture full of pot bellied pigs. The view doesn’t get any cuter.

We have deer grazing in our yard every morning when I leave for work. We can hear coyotes screaming as they chase prey down the nearby river bed at night. I grew up on forty acres of woods, with a pond and river access. This feels like home to me.  

It’s amazing how your perspective can change. About houses, about people, about life.  

Worthiness 


There’s a conditioning in society that occurs, where we as humans attach our value to other people’s expectations, our productivity, our bank account, our waistline, etc. We often sabotage our own happiness because we feel we are not worthy of living a happy life. We either feel obligated to remain small because we feel guilty for being happy in the presence of friends and family who aren’t. Or we take on the shame of those around us.  

I believe that a low self worth is the virus that leads to depression, anxiety, drug addiction, and pretty much any problem that exists in today’s society. I also believe that raising our self worth is the antidote to these issues.  

It’s not just a female thing either.  Women do have it rough.  We live in a society that treats women as if we just exist for visual pleasure.  Magazines, television shows, movies, advertising, it’s all geared towards making women feel as if our value lies in our physical appearance.  It’s disgusting and disgraceful.  

But men have it rough too.  Men are taught to hide their emotions.  Just as we women are seen as supporting roles, men are forced into the leading roles.  And that’s a lot of pressure for someone who has no emotional outlet.  

Both sexes are constantly being manipulated into comparing themselves to unrealistic idols.  Both sexes are constantly being pulled away from vulnerability.  Low self worth is a disease that plagues everyone.  

I have encountered many people in my life who have a habit of tearing down the people around them to make themselves look better. These people are toxic, especially if you don’t have a solid foundation of self worth. But these toxic people behave that way because they are suffering from an extreme case of low self worth. The only way to combat this toxicity is to first build your self esteem up by realizing that their criticism of you is not real. It’s an expression of how they feel about themselves. It’s a projection of their innermost demons. And when we are able to recognize that deficiency in toxic people, we are able to maintain our own foundation of self love while interacting with these people. The next step is to show them love and worthiness as an example. Not every toxic person is ready to see your example. And it’s not your job to force their eyes on it. But if you shine your light bright enough, eventually you will drive out some darkness.  

I have read many articles about narcissism, sociopaths, and psychopaths. Most of these articles will advise victims to cut toxic people out of your life completely. And if you are dealing with an actual psychopath, that advice is absolutely true. But most people don’t meet the criteria of a narcissistic psychopath diagnosis.  A lot of people are self centered.  As domesticated as the human race has become, we’re really just highly evolved creatures, trying to survive.  Survival has always required a little bit of narcissism.  

Everyone falls somewhere on the scale of narcissism and empathy.  It’s the great balancing act of the self and the ‘other’.  That other being a romantic or business partner, a friend, a government, or a society.  Self love is healthy and necessary.  We come into this world alone.  You can’t function as a human if you don’t care for yourself.  It’s just that some people operate just off center on that scale.  Some people act as if their lives are more important than any other life.  They aren’t.   Oprah’s life isn’t any more important than Kim Kardashian’s.  And her life isn’t any more important than mine.  But some people see a pecking order in society.  Those people are hiding behind an inflated ego, because they’ve lost the substance of self worth.  The people who lack balance between the self and others, people who lack empathy, certainly don’t have any for themselves.  

 It is rare for someone to be a full blown narcissist with an inability to experience empathy.  These are your serial killers, child molesters, dirty politicians, and ruthless CEO’s.  These people should be treated as predators.  They are more than toxic.  They are defective humans.  But toxic people need love.  If we are to live in this world without war, we need to have a revolution of relationships.  Those of us with too much empathy need to heal those among us who have too little empathy.  And the only way to bring balance into our society is by blending those contrasts.  We all have to learn how to love unconditionally.  I’m not talking about romantically.  I’m talking about a humanitarian type of love.  

If everyone loved and respected themselves, the world would be a peaceful place.  Acceptance of ourselves will lead to acceptance of others.  

It all boils down to self worth.

How do you value yourself?  What spectacular uniqueness do you bring to this world?  Do you realize what a miraculous fucking creature you are?

Detachment 


I’ve finally made my way to the road of least resistance. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, trying to find the balance between detachment and contentment. I’ve been preparing myself for a life of solitude. I’ve been planning my life consciously as a single person.  
This doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea, but I can honestly say that I’m the only woman I know out of my friend group who is capable of this. Every friend I know spends their single time, looking for a husband. They might make plans for the summer, but they carefully schedule their lives around the possibility of a partner.  

I get it. I do. I understand the undercurrent of loneliness in the river of solitude. As humans, we are pulled towards love. And love is the precursor to sharing your life with another person. But I have the complicated chore of wanting love without the sharing of my life.  

So I have been researching the idea of love without commitment. I’ve decided that I don’t want a blended family. I don’t want to deal with a man trying to bond with my fourteen year old daughter or my eight year old who worships her father. She gets mad when I even mention how beautiful Johnny Depp is. She openly tells me regularly that she doesn’t want me to date. I can’t blame her. I don’t want me to date either. I’m not any good at it, and the last time I tried, I ended up living in a situation that was like Rainman meets Little House On The Prairie. It was awful and I promised both of us that I would never live with another guy. I am very well aware of the risk that promise holds with my daughter. I wouldn’t have made that promise if I didn’t intend to keep it. I’m all done with cohabitation in relationships. My family is sacred and I don’t want anyone interfering with it again.

But I do want love. I want someone to talk to about my day. I want to feel the sweet warm light of being loved. I want someone I can share my kidfree weekends with, who won’t try to merge into our lives. I want someone who can accept that my family time is not on the table anymore. I want a deep and transformative connection with someone, but I need that person to know that they will only ever experience the mother side of me through my stories and conversation. I want amazing sex and weekend getaways. I want smoking pot and looking at the stars. I want good morning texts and compliments. I want a genuine interest in each other. But I want these things with someone who is willing to squeeze a really big love into a very small space in my life.  
My options are limited at best. I can be a mistress. I can fall madly in love with a married man. I could be the other woman, who helps to fulfill the empty, mundane life of a forty something married man, going through his midlife crisis.  

I could break up all the love I have to give into passionate little one night stands. It is tempting to enjoy some stringless intimacy with complete strangers.  

Or I could date until I find some equally complex guy who would want to share my very unique boundaries in love.  

But options are expectations. And a life of detachment has no space for expectations. A detached life is more of a choice than anything. It’s not an easy choice either. Detachment requires the ability to live day by day, taking in whatever life hands you, and then just as easily, leaving it behind. Detachment is hope without expectation. Detachment is counting on only yourself, true independence.  

Detachment is planning the summer I want, without compromise. I have planned a marvelous summer for myself and my children. The itinerary consists of moonlight kayaking, weekends in a pink beach house, A Dave Matthews concert with a bunch of beautiful hippies and a motor home, reiki classes, Girls Weekend in Traverse City, an RV adventure with my ex husband, hiking the waterfall trails in the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan, going to an Amos Lee concert with a complete stranger, and whatever else I feel like doing. Because detachment is making the choice to create your own life, one day at a time.  

I have not had a single summer in over three years. I’m going to enjoy this one.