Happy Birthday, Cal. I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

kurtcobain

Sometimes it is too hard to write about love- the density of its emotions, the significance of its role, the fear of its absence, the silence after its exit.

I have tried many times to tell my daughter how much I love her. I wish I knew enough words.

When Cal was born, I made a promise to us that I would stay alive until she turned 30. I was 19 then, and 30 more years of living seemed like a heavy commitment, but I wanted to wait until my daughter was a real grown-up before I left her to fend for herself. I don’t know why I picked 30, but that age seemed so old and unknowable to my teen mind.

I know now that 30 isn’t old at all. When I reached that milestone age a few years ago, I certainly didn’t feel very grown-up, and I still wasn’t ready to fend for myself. I mean, yes, I avoid my mother’s phone calls occasionally because how many times can one person remind you to eat the entire box of oranges she bought on sale at the Korean market to keep scurvy at bay. But even now, if my mother dropped dead, there would still be a deep and unfillable void. And even if I felt like a real adult, I think it’s still okay for an adult to want to be someone’s child too.

On Saturday, Cal turned 14. None of her birthdays have ever been complicated productions. I lacked funds before I got married. I got funds now, but I’m lazy as fuck. This year, I decided to use the last three ounces of Give A Fuck I had stowed away “just in case” to plan a surprise Golden Birthday Snack Time. If you think about it, no one ever expects a celebration during afternoon snacks. As you can see, I really understand the concept of “surprise.”

I spent weeks scouring the devil’s playground (also known as Pinterest) for ideas and tutorials. After attempting some of the crafts, I figured out that DIY is bullshit. I’m into DISE. Do It Someone Else.

I ordered the ombre birthday cake. I helped Harv make the tea sandwiches. I covered the entire dining room floor in glitter wrapping paper. I finally used the Cricut I bought six years ago to make a “Happy Birthday Homegirl” banner. I fought with four very large and unruly balloons and lost. I set out trays of specially-ordered desserts.  I waited for her to come home. I wondered which detail would thrill her the most.

The next morning, as she was getting ready to leave the house, she came into my bedroom and gave me a hug. “Mommy, thank you for yesterday. That rock candy was so awesome.”

Despite all of the privileges in her life, Cal still loves the small and simple pleasures. Maybe that’s why she’s so happy all of the time. I don’t take time to appreciate everyday miracles. I wait for big moments. I try to create big moments.

She’s my daily reminder that happiness only comes when we allow it into our lives. That I don’t have to be perfect to be good. That big gestures aren’t the only ones that count.

I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

glitterfloor

14on14(flourishinprogress on Instagram)

P.S. This will be my last post for 2013. I’ve never allowed myself an “official” break, and I’ve always been riddled with guilt when I go for too many days without hollering at y’all. Maybe if I make this break official, it will give me some peace of mind while I play catch-up for the next few weeks. There are so many half-finished items on my checklist. I’m looking forward to a fresh new year. Although these past 12 months have been ridiculous, I know so much more about myself and life and happiness because I lost small bits and then big chunks of all three this year.

I’ll still be working the Facebook and Instagram grind. “Like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for (t)hug life thoughts, not-seen-on-this-blog pictures, and other mildly entertaining but useless shit.

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Take good care.

Thug Matrimony

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I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’ve only forgotten my wedding anniversary twice. Since I view life as a series of small victories, I’m not shy about reminding Harv that I’ve remembered FOUR out of SIX anniversaries. If you’re math-minded, that’s well over 50%.

We celebrated this year by going to an Earth, Wind & Fire concert, not only because their pimp game is still strong, but because it’s the one band we can enjoy together. Usually, I’m on the rap grind, and Harv likes Nerdist podcasts. I can’t remember the last time I heard music in his car. It still pinches my insides to know that Harv doesn’t understand any of my Trick Daddy references, but I’m a big believer in the Hands Off Policy. I never force the people I love into bettering themselves. Instead, I offer gentle reminders that they’re living in darkness.

I might say, “You’re only a dime-store version of yourself without _______.” (Possible endings: regular exercise, a multivitamin, self-worth, Tupac) (Note regarding endings: I don’t exercise or take supplements, and I have ongoing issues with self-worth, but I listen to a lot of rap so that makes me an expert in life, money, boss bitches, cars, parole, and Tom Ford.)

Harv never dismisses any of my helpful and extremely valuable suggestions. Instead, he always stops what he’s doing to make eye contact and listen. And even when I change my mind halfway through a thought and divert the conversation in another direction, he doesn’t act like he’s chatting with an elderly shut-in suffering from dementia. Only a handful of people have made that comparison, so it’s probably not even a real thing.

After six simultaneously long and short years, I’ve realized that these everyday courtesies differentiate bomb marriages from bombed marriages.

The problem in our marriage is that only one person is being courteous.

I’m the other person.

Once in a while, I’m a good wife. Harv brought home half a pound of candy from a business trip last week, and I saved him three jelly beans. Actually, it ended up being only two beans because the tip of the third one had already touched my tongue before I remembered anyone but myself. After I put the bean back, I couldn’t stop thinking about germs, so I ended up eating it. Not giving contaminated food products to a spouse is also another form of courtesy.

I’m quick to point out imperfect minutiae, but on the rare occasion Harv offers a suggestion, devoid of judgment, I’m all Your high standards are unreal, broseph. Everybody throws wrappers on the floor if a trash can is too far away . LET ME LIVE MY LIFE. 

Harv has never given up on me, even during the lowest moments of my depression and self-sabotaging behavior. When I ask him why he stays, he replies, “Because I think you’re worth it. I hope one day you know you’re worth it too.”

Instead of feeling gratitude, this always makes me wish he had married someone else. It must be hard waiting around for the woman you think your wife could someday become to show up. It’s a lot of pressure to know that someone chooses to see the best in you, despite daily reminders otherwise.

Last year, on our fifth anniversary, I tattooed the title of a song I’ve been listening to for over ten years on my arm. It’s my promise to Harv that someday…I’ll fly with you.

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Ghetto University (Notes on Getting Over the Past)

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The first time I landed in rehab, I met a woman who’s addiction ended up saving her life. She had two children, a husband, a home in the country, and a small apartment near the Ivy League university where she taught (for late nights when she was too exhausted to make the long drive home).

A few months before voluntarily checking into rehab, she sunk into a low place where she felt broken beyond repair and decided that what she wanted most was to kill herself. But before doing it, she wanted everything around her to be perfect, because she hated the thought of inconveniencing anyone. She deep cleaned the carpets and laid liners in drawers and responded to student emails and wrote letters to her daughters. No matter how many tasks she completed to tie up all of the loose ends, the list just seemed to grow. To numb her exhaustion, she started doing meth. What began as an occasional boost quickly grew into a raging addiction.

When she realized that she had spiraled from “just” suicidal to suicidal addict, she was forced to admit that what she had previously defined as her rock bottom wasn’t really the bottom. This inability to determine just how fucked up her life could become comforted her. She decided that leaving would be so much worse than staying and that she was, in fact, NOT broken beyond repair.

I’ve thought about her a lot over the years.

I turned 33 yesterday. If someone had told me on my last birthday what the year ahead would look like, I would have started drinking immediately and stayed shitfaced for the entire twelve months. Unfortunately, I don’t have any psychic friends, and I don’t keep alcoholic beverages in my home.  (Side note: My mother still brings up that one time in 1992 I called the Psychic Friends Network for eleven minutes at a rate of $3.99/min. Please let it go, ma.)

I allowed myself to feel dirty emotions like grief and regret and shame. I sunk into a deep depression. On days when I spent the majority of my time in bed, hiding away under the masses of pillows and blankets, I agonized over the poor life choices I’ve made since becoming a teen, and I realized that I hadn’t ever carefully considered what it is that would make me feel like a whole person.

And because I am not yet whole, I am afraid that my pockets of emptiness will swallow anyone that crosses my path. I don’t hug my daughter as much as I want to. A very large part of me believes that my dirtiness will rub off on her and sully her remarkable sheen.

Processing my past took me to Ghetto University. I’ve known for some time that by holding on to the ghosts of people and places and moments that are no longer part of my present experience, I’ve relinquished my right to enjoy life. But still, letting go seemed like such a waste- all the effort I had put into obsessing about what could have been or what I was owed or what I still owed others.

I stayed away from blogging. Everything I wrote looked exactly the same, week after week. I was waiting to be perfect to start again. Which is, like, totally fucking weird, because I’ve never been perfect before. The probability of stumbling into perfection while eating Kit Kats in bed and then throwing the empty wrappers on the floor is extremely low.

Because I have lived for so long suspended in the belief that I’m not equipped to make smart decisions for myself and that I don’t really deserve forgiveness, I didn’t know how to step out of that pit at first. Peace seemed foreign. But strange places can be wonderful.

I’m still working my way out, but all of it, every ugly crack I’ve tripped over, has been worth it.

I must remember: I do not have to be perfect to be good. This applies to you too.

FiPghetto

P.S. Yesterday also marked the 3rd anniversary of this blog. I had no idea when I started that this would bring so much goodness into my life. For between-post updates and random (t)hug life thoughts, “like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page or follow along on the Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) grind.