How to Break Your Addiction to the Past

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I started this post before I left for Atlanta at the end of April to speak at Mom 2.0 Summit. It is one of the few times in 44 months that I didn’t finish and publish a post the same day I started it. I guess I finally figured out how the internet works because I suddenly felt shy and naked about sharing so many of my sordid imperfections and poor life choices. This leads me to believe that I’m a slow learner cuz, like, 44 months? Come on, homegirl. Instead of working through that fear, I decided to go to Target to see if they had any Easter candy left at deeply discounted prices.

I lived in Atlanta for two years after Cal was born until I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 21. Most of the memories from my time in Atlanta are fragments because I am filled with shame when I remember the gas vouchers I received from my social worker so I wouldn’t miss my welfare appointments and the rotisserie chicken I had to put back because my food stamps didn’t pay for hot prepared foods and the time I didn’t buckle two-year-old Cal into her umbrella stroller and she fell out. Those little moments are the base notes, and they are the ones that stay. Occasionally, I recall something funny and beautiful, but like top notes, they evaporate quickly.

On this most recent trip to Atlanta, my past collided with the present. The dark waters of all the fucked-up shit I used to do started filling in the empty corners of my memory. I suddenly understood why I’ve been feeling like a fraud for years and years. My life is so good now. Is it okay to admit that? I get the sense that if your life is pretty solid, you’re supposed to point out the flaws and defects, but it’s such a weird and wondrous privilege for me to be able to say those words and actually mean it that I don’t want to dumb it down or cut into its beauty.

My life is pretty good. But on many days, I’m still not very happy. And I’m not happy because I still see myself as the person I was 5 years ago. 10 years ago. 20 years ago. Not much has changed in my self-view because I am a prisoner to my past. I live in fear of it and I keep my sins close because I don’t want to be surprised when every bad thing I’ve done boomerangs and slices me in two.

When I came back home from my trip, I had forgotten that I had even started a post. As I was about to open a page to start a new post, I saw the title of this one.

How to Break Your Addiction to the Past

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I gave myself a couple of high-fives (looks like clapping but more boisterous) for being psychic. Some sixth sense knew that I would go to Atlanta and come back ready to untether myself from the myths I’ve believed about myself for so many years.

I don’t keep in touch with many people from my past. Sometimes, it’s by default because they are dead or inaccessible due to incarceration or other unfortunate circumstances. Mostly, it’s by choice. Regret was not one of my strong suits when I was younger. I assumed that every mistake I made would add to the rich patina of a fast and wild youth, something I could look back on with amusement. Instead, it’s the kind of past where I now have to ask questions like I did in Atlanta.

I stayed in town for a couple of extra days because JK, my best homegirl and one of the few vestiges from my past that is still a part of my life, now lives in Atlanta. JK threatened to kick my ass when we first met, but somehow, she became my ride or die. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.

On the last day, I spent a few hours with JK’s homeboy who was in charge of looking out for me (clearly, these people know that I am too irresponsible to be left alone). Almost an hour into casual conversation about everything and nothing, he stopped mid-sentence. I saw a shift in his face, and he said very slowly, “I….I think I know you. From a long time ago.”

There are few things I dread more than hearing these words. I had no recollection of meeting him, but he looked so sure. So I asked the question that I sometimes have to ask because my past is what it is.

“Did I sleep with you?”

He didn’t hesitate before saying “no.”

“So why were we hanging out then?”

He went on to describe multiple occasions in which we had spent time together, just the two of us. Once for coffee at Starbucks. Once to an arcade. Once at the one-bedroom apartment he shared with several friends. And once, at the weekly stay motel I was living in with Cal. He had even met Cal. “You were easy to talk to,” he said. “And look at you now. You look like you’re doing really well. Nothing like the girl I knew back then.”

I believed him. His words brought me so much comfort and relief. For a long time, I believed that I was beyond repair and very, very bad. But this person who had known me Then and met me again in the Now saw the truth.

For hours afterwards, we filled each other in on the last twelve years. I realized that my misery and shame and fear and regret changed nothing but my present. And my present is good. Really good. Out of habit, I still find myself turning around to meet my past. But then I think about the shitload of problems this has caused and I remind myself I am free to move on. Anything is possible. This is how I break my addiction to the past.

“It may have just been a moment for you, but it changed every single one that followed for me.” – I Wrote This for You

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Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: I kick it on FB, like, all damn day.
Instagram (@flourishinprogress): My Insta profile reads: Hallmark ornament collector on the outside. Ghetto as fuck thug on the inside. Just letting you know in case you’re looking for flower pictures and shit.
Twitter (@ElizabethJLiu): I write stuff on here sometimes. Oh. I tweeted this out yesterday, but does y’all know any track that says “Versace, Versace, Versace” besides the one from Migos?

Thug Office (Notes on DIY: The Nightmare That Never Ends)

thugofficeafter3

Even though it’s been almost seven years since I married Harv and stopped working two or three part-time jobs, the privilege of freedom still feels foreign to me. It blows my mind that I can do as I please during the hours that suit me.

And now that I have this freedom (from: poverty, addiction, other shady shit), I no longer list every good idea in the Someday category because I can devote time to fulfilling my dreams. Last Wednesday morning I really had a hankering for the chicken teriyaki special with a fried rice upgrade at the mall food court. Guess what I ate for lunch that day? I set a goal. I make it happen.

In January, I slipped on a spray of greeting cards as I walked into my office. As I laid on the floor, I contemplated my two choices: A.) Tear the greeting cards into tiny pieces and then ask Harv how to work the fireplace or B.) Clean/clear the junk from my office. I picked choice A first, but Harv said that choice B would set a better example for Cal. Caring about your kid creates so much extra work.

What began as a weekend project to pack away a few boxes of clutter turned into a complete workspace overhaul. Today is Day 96. My ideas and expenses notebook turned into a rage DIY journal. Some of the legible notes are below.

Day 2 {January 18, 2014}
I’ve been saving this Moleskine notebook for five years. They seem to be very popular with white people. 

Day 2b
Harv saw my last entry and he said it’s not ok to typify only white people as Moleskine users. Maybe I’m racist. But I can’t be racist because I like Eminem.

Day 4
I just packed my 24th box of craft supplies and random junk. The boxes take up the length of the hallway and it seems impossible that so much came out of one room. Harv keeps asking me why there are so many unopened packages of stickers. I just said they came from a big value pack. Can his wallet be considered a value pack? I want to brighten up the space. Maybe new curtains or some wallpaper. The beige blinds are starting to bring me down. They don’t reflect my real personality. I want my new curtains to say, “I look like a Hallmark ornament collector on the outside, but I’m ghetto as fuck on the inside.” What says that? Silk dupioni? 

Day 5
Goddamn. I forgot how expensive curtains are. Maybe I’ll do wallpaper.

Day 5b
Wallpaper is fucking expensive. From now on, if I walk into a house and it has wallpaper AND curtains, MAD RESPECT. That’s the real kind of rich. Not hood rich like all those people that got everything in their mama’s name because they got bad credit.

Day 5c
Harv said he would help me paint if I don’t call him at work for the rest of the day.

stripes1

Day 10
I think I have to make my own glitter paint. Every article I’ve read so far says I need special paint crystals formulated for house paint but I mixed in three packages and it’s not very glittery. I need Trinidad James level bling.

Day 11
I bought every bottle of Martha Stewart florentine gold glitter at Michaels. Wallpaper would have been 1/3 of the total cost for the paint and glitter.

stripesprocess

 

Day 19
Painting looks so easy on TV. Harv says if I call HGTV “fuckin liars” one more time then I have to stop this project because it makes the vein in my right temple really pop out, and I think he doesn’t want to lose me.

Day 19b
Painting has been very therapeutic for me. I’m not that good at it, but I’m extremely decent. If the room is a little bit dark then it looks perfect. I’m no Bob Ross. I’m more of a Rick Ross.

nobobross

Day 27
Harv bought me some custom pillows. Actually, I ordered them and just sent them to his office. Now that the glitter wall looks so pimp, I’m not liking the off-white on the rest of the walls. Maybe I need to paint those too.

customgold

 

Day 28
Pinterest told me that gray looks good with pink and gold. I bought 5 different Benjamin Moore grays today. Meh. 

Day 29
Testing out 6 more grays.

bmoore

Day 29b
I don’t really like gray now that I think about it. Harv asked me if I regret starting this project and I just let the sunken look in my eyes be my answer. Sometimes words aren’t necessary if the emotion is powerful enough. 

Day 30
I went to the hardware store 4 times today and the young paint guy was there. He suggested white. This is all new to me but, apparently, there are a fuckload of whites. A lot a lot a lot of whites. This is reminding me of the gray swatching.

Day 31
I asked Harv if we could just move and he said no. Also, I Urban Dictionary-ed “pimp” and “thug” to see which one fit me best because that’s going to be my room’s theme, but it looks like I’m both.

Day 65
Picked the whitest white available- no pink, no yellow, no green, no blue, no gray tints at all. Still no curtains so I had to cover my windows with 7 pillowcases and 1 brown paper bag because I just realized that I hate sunlight. It sort of looks like a crack house window now. I’m glad I don’t smoke crack anymore. Crack is whack. I wish I came up with that.

crackwindow

Day 70
I want to run away from home but the main thing keeping me here is that I have no marketable skills. I can’t do anything well except talk on the phone. :(

Day 81
I cut my finger on cardboard while I was looking at frames for the dozen gold foil art prints I ordered. There was a lot of blood. It was a finger murder.

Day 82
:(

Day 86
I spent 7 hours hand sanding an Ikea console because the first coat of paint had a lot of bubbles and dried all fucked-up looking. I got the surface smooth again, This second coat seems to be drying in streaks. Fuck this shit.

Day 93
The console has been sitting in the middle of the dining room for over a week and I don’t know what to do with it. I pushed it over when no one was home. DIY is not good for people with a lot of anger in their heart. Those people need to just go to a store and buy everything already made and painted. Even if it costs full price.

I found a new spot to work. For the past three weeks, I spread out a thick comforter in the hallway outside my office. That’s my new office. I’m asking everybody to please respect my space and not step into or onto my office without my permission, but it’s a queen size comforter and it takes up the width of the hallway. Cal can’t get to her bedroom, but I think a little bit of hardship is good for kids. Harv keeps on forgetting to knock and he says he won’t do it because I don’t have a door, but why can’t he just knock on the wall? I’m going to pretend I don’t see him until he knocks. People really need to learn manners.

Day 94
Damn.

Before:

EJLofficebefore
After:

thugofficeafter
Before:

thugofficebefore2
After:

thugofficeafter2
I think I lost a lot of brain cells spray painting everything gold. NBD. I am Thug Midas.

I’m really not racist, so don’t be shy. Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: FB is my fave.
Instagram (@flourishinprogress): Pictures with white people. Also pictures of some poor life choices but nothing illegal because I don’t fuck with felonies.
Google+ (Elizabeth Jayne Liu): I forgot I even had a profile, but I’m going to start using it probably.

You. You. But not you. You don’t deserve any love.

felist

I learned how to pronounce “corrugated” two days ago. A lot of people think that learning stops after you leave school, but just look at me, constantly improving and smartering myself. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to say it again, but not that many people want to talk about cardboard or metal.

The more I learn, both about myself and my surroundings, the more I start to question everything I already know- beliefs I’ve accumulated through personal experiences or because I just assumed they were the truth.

We went to church on Sunday, mostly because Cal had been asking to go for weeks and I finally relented out of guilt. I’ve been trying to incorporate more of what she wants to do into our plans. For a while, the simple task of driving Cal somewhere was overwhelming. It must be difficult and shitty to be a 14-year-old with a myriad of interests and a parent who says “no.” I feel so much anxiety about leaving the safety of my house sometimes, but I’ve worked out a pretty solid system to keep my fears in check. I allow myself to act like a little bitch until 3:15 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and then I just have to get my shit straight and be a functional human being until Cal goes to bed. My desire to be the kind of mom Cal deserves trumps my issues.

During service, I started thinking about the lessons I learned as a kid during Sunday School. My biggest takeaway was that Christians really like felt boards and activities that involve cotton balls. From the very first Sunday, I also learned that God is merciful and that Jesus loves without exclusion.

I want to talk about Jesus loving everybody. I don’t want Jesus to love everybody.

I almost never share this thought with anyone because I think it’s really telling about my true character. There’s just no way to say that I want him and him and her to suffer and suffer deeply without sounding small. Maybe that’s why I never grew any taller. Hate is heavy, and it pushes you down.

I believe that some people are defective and malicious and broken beyond repair. When I think about these people receiving God’s love and mercy, it makes me question my faith. It makes me angry to know that the worst AND the best of the bunch still receive goodness and grace, and the wayward often get more compassion. When I am confronted with a person who has caused me immense pain and an opportunity to be forgiving, I choose the other end of the spectrum.

I once told someone (a man that I was dating) that I thought he should kill himself. It is, by far, the most heinous thing I have ever said, not just because the sentiment itself was cruel and evil, but because I really, really meant it.

I hated him because I felt like he took everything away from me, and I hated myself because I let him. He wanted to be #1 in my life, first and best in every category. He resented the love I had for my daughter and the time I spent with anyone else.

By the time I said that fucked-up thing to him, I realized that he had carefully executed a plan to cut off everyone in my life. Because he was violent and because he would not “let” me leave, I sent Cal away for more than a year because it was the only way I knew to protect her.

I tried to keep the most shameful and volatile moments as late-night affairs because Cal would be sleeping then, and she wouldn’t have to witness her mother doing degrading things, like getting on her knees and begging for forgiveness for an offense she wasn’t even sure she had committed.

But Cal overheard us. I know this because recently, out of the blue, she turned to me and said, “Do you remember when he said that you were stupid and you cried? I don’t think you’re stupid.”

I want to turn away from my faith during these moments. I don’t want to be loved by the same God that loves that man. Coupled with that hard-to-stomach truth is the knowledge that the dude is still alive. Let this be a lesson that no one gets everything they want in life.

It gives me pause to think about him reading this one day. But I’m not sure if prisons have internet access or if he knows how to spell “flourish.” Not only do I know how to spell “flourish,” I can also correctly pronounce “corrugated,” so it’s pretty obvious that we’re unmatched. Checkmate, bitch.

Maybe God sent Harv soon after this man to show that for every badness, the goodness that exists is so overwhelmingly bright. Light always overpowers darkness. Always.

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P.S. Mommyonthespot, you are the winner of last week’s giveaway. Please holler at me (flourishinprogress at gmail) with your mailing address.

P.P.S. Pics from our Fam Jam over the weekend on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress):

famjamdvfI love you first. I love you best.