Sunday, November 24, 2013


Sometimes, maybe, worth is overestimated.  

Maybe we can start believing something is overly important, of greatest value.  But in reality it is worth very little.  The oyster with no pearl.  

Often, also, we grow to believe those things which are very important are no longer worth anything.  We grow to believe recognition defines value, appreciation determines worth.

And I really sometimes feel like the latter.

And fear I am the former.

I don't remember one particular conversation in my childhood about my worth.  I don't remember a lecture about how boys should treat me or not treat me.  Maybe they happened, but I don't remember them.  I remember standing up conversations in living rooms with boys, scared of Larry.  And I remember lots of good and valuable life lessons, which had much more to do with growing up and danger and heartbreak than sex ever could or did.  

At most I remember maybe two conversations, before the age of 17, which went something like "don't have sex" and lots of conversations afterwards from lots of other people, which went something like "sex is bad".  And I still roll my eyes.  But not for the reasons you think.  

I do distinctly remember breaking up with my first love and coming into the Long Avenue kitchen around midnight, breaking the news, and first being asked, "since the best birth control only works 99% of the time, what are the chances you're pregnant?"  Strange foreshadowing.  But I don't remember thinking I deserved more.  Or ever being told I did.  More than the jealous selfishness of that first relationship nine years ago.

Or after the second relationship, which ended because of major differences in values.  A relationship I was mostly admonished for ending.  (Understandably.)  But I was never quite able to process how I wanted, needed, to be a priority.

I have a laundry list of regrets between then and now.  Over the years I have had friends preach repeatedly about how much I'm worth.  They say I'm beautiful a lot and talk about how much I deserve and I just quietly laugh at the word "deserve".  We don't deserve or earn any of this.  

I allowed a lot of bad things.  Disregard, disrespect mostly.  

I was admonished for bad decisions.  Judged for them.  Still am.  And most of you right now think I'm mostly talking about sex, which I'm really not talking abut at all.  You think I should be, but I'm not.  Because regardless of what you believe, sex or the lack of sex, has nothing to do with this worth I'm talking about.

But, one of the hardest things you will ever do is change your own perception of yourself.  

I remember someone once saying the Vaughan girls were the kind of girls you married.  At the time I remember thinking he was right.  

But I haven't thought about that in a long time.  I haven't trusted someone with so much of a future, and no one's tried to stay yet.  And the tendency for those of us, for whom love comes slowly, is to repeat mistakes.  Or to give up entirely.

I wasted two years on one, who despite his good heart, had no idea.  I spent another year on someone who, to this day, remains a mystery to me.  Two weeks was spent on one, who turned out to be dangerous.  Because of him I proved to myself my ability to put Judah first, no questions asked.  

This time around, it took roughly nine weeks.  

Nine weeks and I asked myself the question about six weeks in.  

This, this is the breaking of a cycle.  

Do I still believe I am that kind of woman.  And I wondered, quietly, if maybe I have been overestimating my worth.  Or have I been ignoring it?  

Is it possible I am worth as much as some say and it is wildly acceptable to set the standard high.  And to look someone square in the eye and let them know.  I will work hard and love well, but I expect the same in return.

Is it possible, instead of believing my worth had been overestimated, it has been underestimated?  

And if so, is there any redemption to be had?

I don't know, really.  If you can come back from all this.  But here I am trying.

Is it possible I can wake up tomorrow and reclaim a greater sense of worth?

Maybe that's what I've been doing already.  Since the beginning.  Since the first time I walked away and closed a door because I knew whatever it was I had, was not what I needed.  

Because it seems to hold true, your worth is not determined by how you are treated.  

And so it follows, you may not have to wait to be treated differently to experience restoration.

Friday, November 15, 2013

give a damn

"Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands." - Brene Brown

A few weeks ago I blocked a phone number.  Thanks to the nice new iOS, a contact in your iPhone can be blocked without going through your service provider.  Finally.  Since we are impulsive, forgetful, self-sabotaging creatures, I can't really think of a better idea than being able to eliminate temptation.  (This, of course, is why I eat all the cookies at once time.)  To eliminate a problem, however small, is a great luxury.

This person was rude.  They were rude and derogatory and disrespectful to me.  And worse, they were the kind of person who was sure they were right.  Because no one had ever told them they were wrong.  Right about me.  They don't even really know me.  Sitting in the grandstands, they knew all there was to know.

I had to give myself permission to let it go. 

People have always had lots of awful things to say to me and about me.   

A lot of awful things I have let sink in. 

That I choose to believe, simply because they were said.

*This is why I deleted my social media.  The internet is a platform for unfiltered, unsolicited, destructive, uncensored, competitive language.  Where no one is held accountable and the community can be wildly superficial.  This means, now, the only people who speak into my life are the ones I actually know.* 

(Also, I have had to learn how to pick my friends better, which is why at this point in my life I can probably count the good ones on one hand.  In any given week I have real, constructive conversations with maybe four of you, excluding the family.  Makes for some terrible loneliness and a lot less drama.  But it probably should stay this way.)

People have always had lots of awful things to say to me and about me.  They have so many opinions and so much advice.  Unsolicited.  But I listen and absorb it and internalize it and then shame myself because someone, who doesn't even know me, thinks poorly of me.  I made someone mad, just by existing.  And they must be right because they chose to say it. 

Maybe some of them were right.  I've explored that option too.  Regardless, what I wouldn't give to naturally, biologically, genetically be predisposition not to give a damn what they think?  Those people in the stands?

I was encouraged by one of the four the other day to "shut that shit down".  A huge smile broke across my face when I got the text message for a couple different reasons.  1) She was smart enough to call me on my cowardice. 2) I love when she says shit. 3) She cared enough not to let me make a mistake I would regret. 4) She doesn't lie to me.

That kind of criticism I can handle.  It may make me choke at first -- like a big smack on the back.  Knock all my air out.  But just long enough for me to remember: this person loves me.  Genuinely

Today I blocked another phone number.  Full of compliments and sugary words and then flares of nasty temper.  I hate tempers and I hate manipulators even more.

Someone in the grandstands, knowing all there was to know.  Who would never be accountable for their words and had no interest in reciprocity.  So I eliminated the problem. 

I will never be one of those people who believes to be honest we have to be brutal or harsh or destructive.  I don't respond well to that.  (Aside from athletes, I don't know a lot of people who do.) Sometimes we have to be honest and tell each other to shut shit down.  We have to be honest and tell each other to choose optimism when it's the hard choice.  We have to tell each other to stop being paranoid and we have to tell each other to stop being judgmental.  We have to tell each other to be brave and when to stop making the decision that will kill us.

But I do believe we have to have filters. 

The people who love us should have a voice in our lives.  Ultimately, even they do not determine our worth.  The people in our lives who love us should help us become better people, should challenge the weaknesses and spotlight the strengths and be willing to stand in the treacherous line at Moe's on a Monday with you and not say a word so everyone can get their queso. 

But what about the people who don't? 

I am not the center of any universe.  Neither are you.  But in the system, which is our lives, other people hold certain spots.  They transition through certain positions, or maintain certain perspectives. 

This is the realization I adopted, which got me back into the gym.  I was intimidated by the other gym members and I had to remind myself of where they stand.  I had to remind myself: those people see me, but they don't care about me.  What I do, don't do, how I sweat or don't sweat, how my ass looks in those pants... is not something anyone anywhere thinks about for longer than it takes for me to walk out of their line of vision. 

This does not make me insignificant. 

It means I can sweat and work and make gains and progress and not worry.  (But this is why, when the front desk guy started calling me by name, I got really paranoid.  Because now I am a tiny bit more significant in the one place I wanted to remain invisible.)

Who loves me? 

Who's invested in me?

Who do I allow to have influence over my emotions, my decisions, my opinion of myself?

The number of people who love and invest in me is dramatically smaller than the number of people in the third category.

I want to fix this.

I want to be able to hear criticism and determine whether or not it's constructive.  I want to be able to hear a compliment and determine whether or not it's genuine.  In the blink of an eye I want to be able to assess the answers to a series of questions (which may be up for revision):

Does this person love me?

What is this person's motivation?

Is this person right?

Is any part of what they said helpful?

What role do these loud, loud voices play in my life?  Do they have weight?  What is their influence?

And then give myself permission to smile and nod and keep going.

The last, hardest question for me to answer is: does this person matter?  Because, frankly, there are people who love me who do not matter.  And there are people who matter who do not necessarily love me (i.e. my boss). 

It sounds harsh to me.  I feel callous when I say it out loud or when I think it to myself.  But I'm not asking if an individual is important.  We are all important.  We all matter.  But do they matter in my life?  Does what they say matter to me?

Too often my answer is yes.

And that needs to change.

Very few of you truly matter to me.  You know who you are.  Chances are, I'm trying to be a lot more like you, which is why I chose you.  Thank you for choosing me.  And for hating my monsters as much as I hate them.  And for crying with me.... and for the past two years, crying for me. 

You matter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

maternal instinct

I was reading my friend Fran's blog this morning.  Just because I remembered she was pregnant and I wanted to know her perspective on the experience.  Already,  her journey is entirely different than mine and I'm wildly jealous of anyone who gets to be excited about pregnancy.  But she said something, which this morning especially, resonated with me. 

Something about not being overtly maternal.  Something about knowing you could be a mother... but not necessarily yearning for it, the way some of our girl friends have and do. 


Judah had a procedure on his ears on Friday.  We woke up early, before the sun, and I did my best to keep him sleepy and warm and distracted from the hunger I knew he was feeling.  No food or water since 8 o'clock the night before.  Those were the rules.

We bundled up and made a few ridiculous trips to my dark, quiet office and back to our dark, quiet house looking for some necessary things I had absentmindedly forgotten the day before.  All while pushing panic and anxiety aside, keeping the what-ifs and apprehension at bay.

I picked up Judah's dad and I had to let him drive, because his legs are too long to sit in the passenger seat.  His almost seven foot tall frame barely fits in the Corolla at all. 

And we drove to the hospital. 

I had quiet flashbacks of repressed memories of the six of us in the mini-van.  I only remember driving at night with the whole family, only in the winter, only on Christmas really. But I remember it.  I remember hearing the two of them talk and not being able to understand.  I remember Garrison Keillor.  And I remember associating marriage with being the ones to sit in the front seat.  Being a wife, to being the one to sit in the passenger seat, because husbands drive.  Daddies always drive.

My mind was reeling, wondering if I could hold it all together.  It was a simple procedure to help drain Judah's ears so he would stop having so many ear infections; but it required general anesthesia and I couldn't be back in the OR with him.  I worried he would be confused and feel abandoned.  I felt guilty.

So the three of us waited in the waiting room, making awkward conversations with people who had no idea what our situation was, who had no idea the hell we've been through to get there... sitting together in the waiting room, the three of us.  Almost like a family.

The nurse called me back and I left Judah's dad in the waiting room.  We went back to the pre-op room and Judah got his blood pressure taken and one of those strange, beeping monitors they put on grown up's fingers... but they put on his toes.  Everyone exclaimed at his hair and at his protruding belly button and at his size in general.  Until his dad came back to sit with us, and then the questions stopped.  Like now, it all made sense.

And they ask us if we're married and they ask if Judah's a daddy's boy and they ask if Judah's allergic to anything and "oh my god, how tall are you?" and "is there a family history of...".

They quickly take Judah back to the OR and his dad and I wait, cautiously, until we know he's around the corner and then walk quietly, tiredly, anxiously back to the waiting room.

It's a simple procedure.  It took just long enough for me to waste a cup of coffee.  Then I heard it.

The doors opened and the nurse came out with a sheepish smile and Judah's big man cries bellowed through the hallway and his dad and I stood up, throwing things away and following the nurse.  Following Judah's cries.  The cries I recognized as well as his face, the cries no one had to tell me belonged to my boy.

There Judah is, then, in the dark post-op room in a nurse's arms.  Screaming, eyes closed, bloody cotton balls in his ears.  And I reached for him and she made me sit down first, handing me my not-so-little baby and he screamed and screamed.  She left the room because she knew, like I knew, there was nothing wrong.  But anesthesia is a bear.  The fog and confusion it leaves you in as you come out of it is nothing short of bewildering and all Judah knew was he woke up and there were only strangers.  I held him and whispered to him and juggled his thrashing body, his flailing arms and legs.  He's almost as big as me, without exaggeration.  But I rocked and crooned and stood up and sat down.  All while his dad looked at us, eyes wide.  Uncomfortable.  Because what was there for him to do?  He didn't know.

You see, I'm not overtly maternal either.  I always knew I wanted children -- lots and lots of children.  I still do.  I crave it, a large family.  I grew up telling others I wanted a family who made people ask "how did that even happen?" when we all walked in the door together.  Different races, cultures, ethnicities, sizes, genders... that's what I had in mind.  People still ask those rude questions, even though it's just the three of us.  Even though, for all intents and purposes, we are not a family.  How did that even happen...

 This morning, after our first full night's sleep since the procedure, Judah climbed into my lap on the couch.  Full night's sleep equals 9pm to 6am and so in the wee hours of the morning, Judah and I just sit.  It's still dark out and it's still cold and I am out of coffee and out of creamer.  So we sit in a daze watching the Today Show.  He leans his head back against my collar, his cheek pressed against my cheek and his hand laying on my forearm. 

And I think so many things on mornings like these.  I think, there is no where else I'd rather be.  And, I could be a better mother.  And, my family does not look at all like I thought it would. 

And there are mornings, just like this one, where I wake up and feel the wind whistle through the holes left by people who never intended to stay, hollowed out places for someone we've never met.  And I mourn for them all and do my best to speak them -- the right ones-- into existence.

But that never works.  At least not yet. 

So we sit, cheek to cheek, and I squeeze his little body and am thankful for him.  Thankful that despite my flaws and the deficits I entered motherhood with, we've learned how to do this.  How to do the hard things.  Answer the hard questions.  How to sit still and soothe the crying.  How to lay on our backs on the floor and giggle.  How to chase each other down the halls.