Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I'm Taking a Ride with My Best Friend

My rock since the age of 10
~~~

"I swear, I almost lost it today." I said as we walked down the back alley to where I was parked.

"Oh, the moaning guy?"

Kavita and I had just finished an intense yoga class at our favorite studio, which was walking distance from her house. Our hair was slick and our faces aglow with sweat.

"I was right across from him today... and I got eye contact mid-moan!"

She laughed her perfect, feminine laugh that had the pitch and time signature of a commercial jingle. Our yoga classes together were the perfect combination of attention to fitness and bonding over the farcical aspects of it all. The studio we frequented sometimes felt like we were in an SNL sketch, but we were also in on the joke.

"So, hey... I wanted to talk to you about something," Kavita said in a sing-songy voice tinged with a hint of serious.

"What's up?"

"Well, you are one of my closest friends ever.... and for my wedding, I was wondering if.."

|| PAUSE

Brain Voice: This is it! My first time as a maid of honor! Yay!

|> PLAY

"... if you'd be my bridesmaid?"

Brain Voice: Oh. Um... oh. Keep your face pleasant, keep your face pleasant. Don't look shocked, don't look bummed, don't look shocked, don't look bummed. ACT YOUR ASS OFF!

"Oh my god, totally! I'd be honored!"

"Great! You mean so much to me, Sheevs. I couldn't imagine my wedding without you in it!'

"Like I'd ever say no! You're only my best friend!" I tried to sound breezy, "Who else is in your wedding party?"

"My bridesmaids are you, Carolynn..."

Brain Voice: DAMMIT LUMP, GET OUT OF MY THROAT! THIS IS FINE! SO WHAT IF SHE WAS YOUR MAID OF HONOR! SHE'S ALWAYS HAD MORE FRIENDS. SHE HAS MORE OPTIONS!

"... and my maid of honor is going to be... Amy."

The moment she said Amy's name I could have sworn I saw a hint of guilt in her eyes. Or perhaps it was just what I was searching for in that moment. Either way, there was a moment of pause and I knew I had to break the awkwardness with reassurance.

"So awesome, Kav. It's going to be so much fun!"

"I know! I'm so excited!" she said. Another awkward pause.

Brain Voice: This lump is getting bigger and the tears are a-coming so get the hell out of here!

"Okay, well I should go. I need a shower bad!"

"Okay! Thanks for saying yes, I love you." Kavita came in for a hug despite the breeze-dried sweat coating our bods.

"I love you, too," I squeaked out as I closed my eyes in a futile attempt to dissolve the oncoming tears. We parted and I looked down at the concrete as we said our goodbyes.

I sped-walked to my car about 100 yards away hoping she couldn't sense my trembling lip and flooded eyes through the back of my head. Even though I reacted pleasantly and said all the right things, I knew deep down that Kavita could tell I was hurt. That's why we've been incredibly close for so long. Best friends. Well, she was my best friend... at that moment my heart was breaking knowing I wasn't hers.

-------------------

Welcome to the post I've been dreading for a long time. In fact, I'm still not ready. This is a hard thing to write about because it cuts into those recesses of my soul that make me cringe. Even though I'm confident about the progress I've made, it still doesn't make it any easier to reflect on times of great selfishness. But I cannot deny it, for most of my life... I've been a shitty friend.

Pride's-maid
The opening story was a turning point for me. Jealousy was an emotion I had long dismissed as useless and beneath me, and I had been cruising on a jealous-free streak for years. But, I had to admit on that drive home... I was jealous. I couldn't deny how close Amy and Kavita had become, but I took for granted that our history would carry more weight for that kind of decision. Throughout our friendship, Kavita had that quality which drew people in, so her friends-circle was always larger than mine. The girl's social life was constantly jam-packed. While there were times of feeling a bit lost in the mix, I never thought for a second that our bond could be weakened by her robust social circle. That conversation in the parking lot launched me into a deep dive on how I've contributed to my lack of social circle. And it hasn't been an easy one.

The Early Days
It was the late 80s and another Indian party was in the weekend plans. I figured I'd see my usual friends, eat the usual Gujurati fare (or pizza, if the host was feeling generous) sitting on a newspaper island, watch the Saturday night line-up on tv (Golden Girls followed by Empty Nest) holed up in one of the bedrooms, and wait until my parents were ready to leave sometime during SNL's Weekend Update.

I had no idea this particular party would be where I'd meet Kavita and the trajectory of my life would change. She was a tiny thing with shiny brown hair and big brown eyes who had just moved to Michigan from California. My memory betrays me as to every detail of our meeting, but I know we bonded over the fact that we were both gymnasts and it snowballed from there. We had all but abandoned the rest of the kids at the party and were in our own world. Our conversation easily rolled from one subject to another and we laughed all throughout the night. Little did we know how many laughs and chats we'd enjoy together for years and years to come.

Kav and Sheevs
Kavita and I were inseparable for the better part of our tweens and teens. Countless weekends spent at each other's houses, sleepovers, movies, going to the mall, you name it. It was as close to a sister as I could have imagined. We had our own language, tons of inside jokes and plenty of in-depth conversations about every trivial concern that youth presents. I mean, was Tom Cruise hotter in Top Gun or Cocktail? (Always Cocktail) She was my refuge from the mean girls in junior high, the nice girls with whom I couldn't seem to connect and really, from myself. As I wrote about in a prior post, I never felt like I belonged, so sometimes I'd recoil and feel sorry for myself. Kavita changed all of that. It was a friendship the likes of which I had never known before, and from the onset, I knew it was very special.

As you grow up and learn about yourself, the same happens with the close friends in your life. This was no different for Kavita and myself. Once we broke out from under our parents' roofs and our worlds broadened with college and beyond, so did the situations that tested our friendship. We saw sides of each other that were surprising and, sometimes, we didn't like what we saw. We got through those strenuous times, but not without some temporary bruises and permanent scars to our relationship. Looking back, I know I could have handled so many of those times with more maturity... after all, Kavita had been the one constant in a revolving door of friends, and many times, I neglected her needs in favor of my own.

Shit Streak
Sigh, here's the tough part. I've never been under any delusion that I'm perfect, but looking into yourself and facing all the shittiness is on par with watching a sex scene with your parents. It's uncomfortable and you just want it to end. Unlike watching simulated humping next to your mom, the outcome of this soul-searching is positive and totally worth it. So... here goes:

The Ways I've Sabotaged Friendships:
  • Avoided calling friends back
  • Put boyfriends ahead of friends
  • Never reached out to friends in need 
  • Forgot milestones and special occasions
  • Pretended to be too busy to help friends out
  • Took friends for granted
  • Avoided conversations to address real concerns
  • Lied in order to maintain an image
  • Got defensive if any of these shitty actions were confronted and never took accountability
All of this started in junior high and continued from there. In a nutshell, I was selfish. If I wanted to hang out with my boyfriend when I had plans with girlfriends, I'd ditch my girlfriends. If a friend was going through a hard time to which I couldn't relate, I'd make up excuses to avoid them. I hated talking on the phone, so I lost some friendships because my selfish ass couldn't be bothered to call someone back. Now, I know these could be a lot worse. I wasn't shitty in the sense of starting rumors about people or stealing dudes away. It was the lack of nurturing that slowly eroded relationships that, believe it or not, I did care about. But, I didn't put in the work, took them for granted and then played the victim. So gross, right?


A Deserved Honor


~~~

I met Amy in college through a mutual friend. She was a casual acquaintance until my last year at MSU, when we became very close. I introduced Kavita to Amy, and their bond was born after Kavita moved into a house just a street over from where Amy lived. For awhile, we three would all hang out together and have the best times; parties, dinners, bar nights, movie nights, long chats about anything and everything, etc. But, me being me, my attention strayed to my new boyfriend (now husband), and I selfishly left that incredible friendship behind. Amy was one of those friends who could turn your mood around with one conversation. She was soft-spoken, wise beyond her years, incredibly thoughtful, funny and a damn good time. While I was off in new-love bliss, Amy and Kavita's friendship blossomed into a beautiful relationship I didn't fully understand until years into it. That day when Kavita told me Amy was going to be her maid of honor, I finally got it. I had been too busy nurturing my relationship with Paul, all the while starving my friendship with the one person who really understood me from the age of 10. I could be as jealous as I wanted, but I could never deny that Amy deserved to stand next to Kavita on her wedding day. She was there for her in a way I wasn't for some of the most transformative years of Kavita's life. Sure, I checked in every now and then, but if you'll refer back to that list above, I'd also committed some crimes of friendship that no real best friend should ever be guilty of.

Amy died of cancer at the age of 37. I attended her memorial and it was one of the most beautiful events I've ever been to. In a huge tent on her front lawn in Traverse City, over 300 people gathered to remember her and say their goodbyes to this incredible person. By the time Amy had been diagnosed, she and I had grown apart to the point where our only contact was "say hellos" through Kavita. I was so angry that she was robbed of the long life she deserved. I was also so angry at myself, for squandering what could have been an amazing friendship with Amy. As I sat and listened to person after person speak about how Amy impacted their life, I couldn't help but think of how idiotic it was to let that friendship slip away for absolutely no good reason. That day I vowed to carry on how Amy had lived, and become a friend who isn't selfish and who shows her love every chance she gets.

It's Not Me, It's You
I tell you what, being a shitty friend sure gave me a heightened awareness of when I'm being treated like a doormat. I've given myself a well-deserved flogging in this post, but I do have to recognize that there have been a good amount of relationships I needed to kick to the curb. While I spent a lot of years trying to get validation from the wrong people, this self-exploration into my own actions has helped filter out a lot of folks who I didn't realize were toxic to my well-being. Also, I don't need a ton of friends... and that's okay. I still enjoy nights by myself and rather than seeing that as a flaw, I choose to own that as a part of who I am. People like Kavita are just naturally social, and I've spent a long time feeling lesser than because my calendar didn't look like hers. I'm finally learning that as long as I'm tending to those special friendships that enrich my life, I'm on the right path.

Never Let Me Down Again
My best friend is Kavita Desai Mears; always has been, always will be. I feel so fortunate that my missteps of the past didn't sever the bond we established back at that Indian party. She has taught me so much about love and friendship purely by example, from dropping everything to be by my side during my father's last days to frequently checking up on me after the move to Denver...  and about a million other little things. I hit the jackpot with her and I'll never take her for granted again.

Today, I know I'm a better friend. I'm not looking to tally up a social circle that will fill a sports arena, but rather surround myself with positive influences with whom I can genuinely invest my time and love. I check in, I help when they're in need, I listen when they need an ear... I show up. Life is too short to be a shitty friend.

--------------------

I recently found a note in my daughter's backpack that she had written to a classmate. In it, she stated that she didn't appreciate the way this girl was treating her and that she "didn't deserve it." My eyes immediately welled up with tears for a couple reasons; first, I hated that some little twerp was being mean to my sweet girl, and second, heart-swelling pride for how she confronted it. I asked her if she'd just written the note or gave it to the girl. She told me she gave it to her, but the girl just flung it back at her after reading it. We discussed how that made her feel and some of the specifics of the situation. It wasn't anything major, just the normal crap that starts around 3rd grade. She sighed and looked at me with her sad eyes and I saw myself.

"Sweetheart, if someone shows you they aren't interested in being your friend, just let them go. But for the friends who are kind to you, take care of them and return that kindness and love... always."


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Good Wife

A blissful moment captured during our first dance as husband and wife. 
~~~

Click HERE to listen to this post

I stood in the bathroom shaking my head at myself in the mirror. My mind was filing through the adjustments and rearrangements for the next 4 days. Behind me in the reflection, Paul emerged slowly, head down and hands in his front pockets.

"I feel like I can't tell you about my business travel without you getting pissed at me," he said.

This was about the 98th time we'd had this discussion and I was exhausted. He'd been a consultant for over 4 years, so you'd think I'd be used to the travel. As his role evolved, the travel had lessened, but it was often enough and always seemed to come up at the last minute, leaving me in a lurch to scramble for babysitters or rescheduling appointments. Once again, my plans and commitments came in second.

"Would you rather I jump up and down with glee every time you go out of town!?" Oh man, I chose the bitch lane. Paul's eyebrows were raised with concern and, unlike me, he took a few beats before responding.

"Well no, but you know this is part of my job. I'm never going to have a job that doesn't involve some amount of travel."

I couldn't deny that.

"Yeah, because that's what you choose and I have to just re-arrange my life to accommodate it."

He couldn't deny that.

There we were, saying the same things we'd said for years knowing the other wouldn't change his or her mind. Correction: I knew he wouldn't change his mind. I could argue against his travel and demanding career until I was blue in the face, but deep down I knew it was up to me to hold the door open for him to achieve his goals. It was his career paying for our lifestyle, so I didn't really have a dog in this fight. At least that's what I've told myself for our entire relationship. Money = Power, even in marriage.

--------------------

If I were a superhero, I'd be The Over-Compromiser. As I reflect over the past 11 years of my marriage, I see evidence of my buried feelings all around me. There are several reasons why I do this; lack of self-worth, lack of confidence to voice my thoughts, and probably most common - keeping shit calm and easy. The path of least resistance may as well be called, "Sheevani Boulevard," since, when it comes to relationships, I never want to be the cause of conflict. I keep the peace by not saying my piece.

Breadwinning
While parenting takes the cake for how deeply you learn about yourself, marriage is a very close second. Since we had been together for a full five and a half years, Paul and I knew each other pretty well prior to taking our vows. During our time as a non-married couple, we each had our own lives; our own friends, our own places, freedom to spend our money however we saw fit. I knew there would be an adjustment to living together and figuring out how to combine our single selves into a joint venture. The surprising part, for me, was how much I'd lose myself in the process. And that's on me, folks.

I did not marry a controlling, stubborn jerk-face. In fact, Paul tirelessly reminds me that our marriage is an equal partnership. Years of self-imposed blindness to that fact has caused this current thirst to re-define my identity in our marriage. I'm a lucky woman who has the support of a partner in every sense of the word, but sadly, that hasn't been enough to thwart these struggles brought on by my own issues. On the surface, things seemed easier if I absorbed his needs as mine... or so I thought.

I'm hella awkward when it comes to money. So awkward, I use the word "hella." Please know that I'm making a "smelled a fart" face while I'm writing this, because I'm so uncomfortable. But here goes.... My husband makes a lot of money. I don't make a lot money. We all know how money creates an imbalance of societal power, but I naively never expected to feel that in a marriage. I figured since he works hard for the money (so hard for it, honey), my input is worth very little. I've quietly given him most of the power in our marriage and now, 11 years in, I'm trying to win some of that power back.

Look, I'm no victim here. I knew what I was marrying into. Paul was never withholding about his lofty career goals or the lifestyle he wanted. So many things on which I've compromised are things that have allowed for a very comfortable life for our family. Paul has earned his EMBA, worked his way up the corporate ladder, we've built a couple houses that are the exemplification of my childhood dreams. Am I suffering? Not in the least. This is more a realization of how burying my needs took a toll on myself and our relationship. I mean, I went to a Nickelback concert for f*ck's sake. By the time Paul introduced the idea of moving to Denver, I had established such a pattern of "giving in" that the inevitability of me agreeing opened a Pandora's box of resentment.

The Denver move was our biggest test... by far. While I had always fantasized about moving out of Michigan, it was more the situation of it being Paul's idea that got under my skin. I knew Colorado was beautiful and Denver was very cool, but this decision was the heaviest one in our entire marriage. I felt the weight of all my past compromises crashing down on me. Haven't I already given enough? What if I hate it? Would I ever forgive him? My emotions would bubble over with every Denver chat. Lots of tears, listing my personal sacrifices, more tears, and plain avoidance. I had paved such a smooth road for Paul throughout our marriage, that when he ran into these potholes after 9 years, he didn't quite know what to make of it.  He was unaware of so much I had been holding in, of how lost I felt and how much I was resenting him for things that could have been remedied had I spoken up. Since he always welcomed my thoughts and feelings, there was confusion on his part about how much I hadn't said.

"I've always told you this was a partnership... you have as much say as I do. Especially when it's something as big as moving to another state."

"Not really," I said through tears, "You'd hate me if I said no to Denver."

"I honestly wouldn't," he said while rubbing my feet, "Your happiness is the most important thing."

"Look, you make all the money. I'm just along for the ride... and it's a ride you've always controlled."

So many of the rough patches in our marriage can be traced back to our flawed communication skills. Before any actual discussion, I had assumed so much about how Paul was feeling or how he would react if I voiced my point of view. I also burdened myself with the guilt of my own emotions. Sure, I was the one who re-arranged my goals and expectations to accommodate his, but given our secure life, wasn't that the right decision? Am I a brat to complain about my perceived lack of power? Would I have felt better if he'd left his consulting job, abandoning everything he'd worked for?

I'm a true believer that everyone is in exactly the right place in their life at every moment. The move to Denver forced Paul and me to re-examine how we approach each other about everything from pillow selections to when our kids should get phones. We don't let each other get away with a dismissive, "I'm fine," response anymore. Those years I spent over-compromising taught me so much about myself and what I'm capable of. And frankly, I NEEDED that because I spent years doubting my potential. I mean, when your basement floods while your colicky baby and sick toddler are screaming and your husband is across the country, you can't waste your time feeling sorry for yourself... you just gotta figure it out! And I did. I figured a lot of things out by myself.

--------------------

There's always a more adaptable person in a marriage, and in ours, that's me. I'm okay with that, as long as that doesn't mean I'm suppressing my feelings. Earlier I said I felt I'd lost myself in the process of combining our lives, but today I can honestly say I'm in the process of finding myself.. my true self. I've hung up my Over-Compromising cape and am simply an equal partner in a marriage that is a work in progress. It may not all be easy, but it's hella worth it.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why So SERIOUSSSSAH?

Here's a go-to funny/goofy/horrifying/boner-killing face when things get too heavy.
~~~

Click HERE to listen to this post

It was sunny and 53 degrees in March, which meant every single person in Michigan was outside in shorts. I took my kids to the nearby park to enjoy some fresh air after a 3-month hibernation under gun-metal grey skies. This was the type of day not to be wasted by true Michiganders, because another deep freeze probably wasn't far off and it would last for at least 10 days.

"Isn't this amazing?"A fellow freed mother said to me as we were pushing our kids on neighboring swings.

"Oh my gosh, I needed this SO bad," I said.

"Right? My kids were driving me nuts being indoors all the time!"

"HIGHER MAMA!" my son yelled.

"Okay.. get ready!!" I reared my arms back and gave him a hard shove. He squealed with glee as he soared into the air.

"Poop! Fart! BUTTS!" said the little girl on the next swing. Adorable dimples sank into her cheeks as she laughed and laughed at her outburst. I giggled with her and looked over at her mom, who was not on board.

"Lauren, no thank you. Let's not use those words, please!"

"I have a farty butt! I have a farty butt!" she continued. I laughed even harder which only encouraged her impromptu comedy set: Lauren! Live at the Swings!

"I have a poopy butt!!" my son added as he swung past and they both cackled with laughter.

"I'm so sorry!!" said the mortified mom.

"Oh, don't worry about it. My son is a big fan of all of those words!"

The kids continued with their poop-fart symphony, laughing and swinging the whole time.

"Lauren Marie! We do not use potty words like that! Stop it now!" said the mother who was getting angry now.

"POOP BUTTS!" my son yelled.

"Buddy, that's enough poop talk," I said out of obligation for Lauren and turned to the mother, "I'm sorry."

"Oh, don't worry, my daughter started it. I think she's learning it at pre-school or something. It's so annoying!"

"Farty poopy," Lauren whispered to my son and they giggled that perfect kid-giggle that always puts a smile on my face.

"Okay... off the swing. We're leaving, Lauren. You know Mama does not like that potty language."

Lauren's face fell as she slid off the swing. Her mother continued to lecture her as they walked away and into their car.

"Is she in trouble, Mama?" my son asked.

"Well, her mom just didn't like her saying those potty words, buddy."

"Oh. Mama?"

"Yeah, bud?"

He jumped off the swing, let out a clapper fart, laughed and ran to the slide. I laughed, too... I mean, farts are funny.

--------------------

For as long as I can remember, I've always been a total goofball. Making funny faces, contorting my body and speaking in accents or voices that aren't my own, were just the pastimes of my childhood. Back in 2nd grade, I'd do impressions for my brother of the kid who always fell off his chair in my class (everyone had that kid, amiright). I'd do a physical comedy routine mimicking how that boy fell off his chair almost everyday. I'm sure my body took a beating constantly tumbling off our kitchen chairs, but seeing my brother double-over in laughter to the point of barely breathing made it all worth it. He was my first audience and I was totally hooked. From a very early age, I knew I needed comedy in my life, and if I wasn't able to watch it on tv, I'd create it myself with a mirror and my nutball brain.

Growing Pains
Being an adult is serious business. Just ask Linda. Don't know Linda? Wrong... we ALL know a Linda. She's the person in your life who never lets you forget how depressing being an adult can be. Whether she's going on about her property taxes or the thrill of curbside grocery pickup, she paints that picture of adulthood that makes you long for a time when you didn't think about your cholesterol on the regular. Don't get me wrong, all of those things are important and as boring as they may be, I've performed my adult duties pretty well; I give firm handshakes, have real wine glasses in my house and own at least TWO blazers. I was always in a hurry to grow up... but I knew I never wanted to be a Linda.

What I mean is, I never wanted to lose that goofy side of myself. As a child, it always seemed like adults were very serious drones who only talked about the news, house upkeep and their office jobs. As a lot of us know, getting older means more responsibilities where things just naturally get more serious; health issues, aging parents, money, marriage, kids, insurance jargon, retirement planning, etc. While I can't really brag about doing all the "adult" things perfectly, I can proudly say that my fun side has remained intact.

What's the DEAL with Cancer?
Easily one of the most grim times in my life was my father's battle with and subsequent death from prostate cancer. There were so many dark days full of fear and helplessness, but thanks to my father's innate comedic sensibilities, he could also lighten the mood while the rest of us were struggling to keep it together.

My Dad treated his oncologist appointments like a social visit. He always made a point to make every nurse or medical assistant smile by cracking a corny joke. At his memorial, his oncologist shared a particularly funny moment after she had informed Daddy that chemotherapy was the only option. "Well, I'm already bald, so that's fine," he had said. For a cancer doctor, patients like my dad who could bring levity were a necessity for survival, she expressed.

My darkest day with his illness is burned in my memory. My mother was working late at the salon and my dad had had an accident in the bathroom. Given his physical limitations from the cancer along with his terrible eyesight, he wasn't sure if he'd cleaned it up very well, so he called and asked if I could stop by after work. I heard so many emotions with each crack in his voice; shame, sadness, anger, frustration.

"I don't want Mummy to have to clean it up after working all day," he said.

"Of course, Daddy, I'll come straight from work."

A couple hours later, I walked into the dark house and found my father sitting on the couch in silence. I didn't say a word, just got the supplies and cleaned the bathroom until it was spotless. After I was done, I sat next to him on the couch and turned on a lamp.

"Was it really bad?" he asked.

"Not at all," I lied, "You pretty much got all of it." He nodded slowly, refusing to make eye contact.

"How about some dinner? Can I make you something?" I asked. Daddy said he hadn't eaten all day and was pretty hungry.

"Okay, I'll see what's in the kitchen... as long as it's not refried beans considering what I just cleaned up in there..."

Not at all sure how that would land, I turned to Daddy and poked his arm jokingly. A slow smile crept across his face and he nodded for a few seconds.

"No chocolate either..." he responded with a chuckle.

It wasn't much, but it was enough.

Children At Play
Once you have kids, you change. I don't care who you are or where you come from... parenting is an all-consuming test of will, patience, stamina, gag-reflex and a host of other crevices of your mentality you had never exercised before. Since I waited until I was 32 to have my first kid, I saw friends go through those tough first years of parenting while I was still baby-free. The change was subtle, but I could sense the vibe was much more serious as their priorities shifted to the needs of their progeny. I wondered if I'd go through the same thing when I became a parent. I wondered this while laying in bed at 10:45 am on a Sunday because I had just woken up... sighhhh.

Cut to a few years later and YUP, I had boarded the same boat as those dear friends. I never judged their seriousness; it was just an observation of how fast people "grow up" once a kid is in the picture. And you SHOULD grow up and be serious. My kids quickly shoved my priorities into the correct lane. Sure those all-nighters binge-watching Dexter were fun, but I'd always feel bad about my-- nope, those nights were awesome and I'll never regret them.

Kids see the world so differently and it's a much better view than our old-asses have. I wasn't prepared for, well, a lot of things, but especially the fun of experiencing life vicariously through them. In those moments of adult seriousness, they remind me that not everything needs to be so heavy all the time. My days are full of goofball antics like salsa dancing around the kitchen as I prepare a meal or speaking in a dopey voice when I ask them about their day. The type of fun is different from the pre-kid era, but it's no less enjoyable.

I need the humor just as much as they do to cut the tension of being a grown-up. It's a form a self-care... much cheaper than the spa or gym membership!

--------------------

Back to the opening story. I probably sound super judgey of the mother and her potty language rules. All I saw was two kids just having fun, but she saw her daughter breaking a rule and that's her motherly prerogative. Just because I don't mind those words (in the proper setting), doesn't mean she should feel the same way. My hope for her and Lauren, however, is that whatever does bring them joy and levity is held onto with great might and not to forget the fun amidst the rules.

As you get older, things only get more serious. I've seen many people in my life abandon that lighter side of themselves and it bums me out, because I knew those friends before the metamorphosis occurred. I'm not saying people should never grow up, but I'm living proof that one can be a responsible adult and still perform a flawless fart fake-out. That's where you tell everyone to quiet down in a serious tone and then rip a huge fart to cut the silence. It's a classic Janak Desai trick that I'm honored to keep alive and hopefully my children will do the same after I'm gone.

If it's not my real children pulling me down out of the dark clouds of adulthood, then it's my inner child, who so desperately wants to stay alive and well. I nurture all of them the best I can... and, by all means, protect them from Linda.

Farts.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Old Yeller


The carpool pickup line is often where I find frustration, but deep breaths help. The more I don't lose my shit, the better for everyone in my life.

Click here to listen to this post

~~~~

I didn't dare move him from the changing table. For whatever reason this was the only place he wouldn't scream and cry. Was it the fuzzy cover pad? Was it the cradled shape of the cushion? Was it the view of our popcorn ceiling? I didn't know and I didn't care... he was quiet and that's all that mattered.

Paul was quiet as well. He was sitting in the rocking chair next to the dresser staring off in the distance. Even though I had been consumed with the colic nightmare of our newborn son, I could always tell when something was bothering my husband.

"What's wrong?"

"I... I just can't take this anymore."

"Take what?"

Paul gulped and I could tell he was afraid to answer. An outsider would have confidently concluded that he was referring to our son's colic, but I knew better. Communication has never been our strong suit and the fact that he was diving into a serious conversation was a sign that something was pretty far gone.

"You," he said and looked up at me.

"What do you mean?" I asked even though the answer was blaring in my head.

"I know it's been hard with him being so fussy... but the constant yelling and snapping at me... I can't take it. It's too much." His blue eyes were watery, his tone careful and controlled, no doubt bracing for my reaction, which lately hadn't been careful or controlled. I looked at him and the guilt came crashing down on me all at once.

"I'm sorry," I choked out.

"It's like everything I do just pisses you off and I'm just trying to help." His voice was low and shaky and my eyes prickled with tears. Dammit, I'm f*cking this up too. The funnel of my frustrations with the baby was aimed right at him, and lately it had been overflowing.

He went on to tell me a story about the night before his biological father left his mother. Standing at the top of the basement stairs as a child, he heard the fight between his parents. He was too young to remember what was being said, but what he did remember was the yelling and how desperately he wanted it to stop. We had been together for 11 years and it was the first time I had heard this story.

"If this doesn't change... I don't know. I mean, the doctor says the colic could go on for weeks and..." he closed his eyes.

"And... I need to deal with this better, I know... I'm so sorry," I said.

Choking back tears, he looked up at me with mild relief that I admitted how unbearable I had become. I mean, I couldn't deny it. The difference in our temperaments was well known by both of us, but this was the first time I could see it unraveling our relationship... and it would be all my fault.

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I come from a yelling family. My parents were both hot-tempered people and unfortunately that character trait doesn't seem to skip a generation. What would start out as a regular chat could quickly escalate into a loud argument after an eye-roll or dismissive head-shake. It was as normal as watching Jeopardy every night. My parents constantly bickered and we kids were no different. I was more severe than my brother, that's for sure, but we all had that fiery temper that would get the best of us.

My husband grew up in the exact opposite environment. Things were discussed in a calm tone and everyone was patient with each other. If there were disagreements, they just, like... talked about it. When Paul and I were in that tell-each-other-about-our-families stage of dating, I would casually mention some big fights between myself and my parents. Paul would look surprised and ask, "You'd yell at each other?" I'd be confused at his confusion, "You didn't yell at each other?" I'd respond.

Mental Parental

Sigh, I've yelled at my kids more times than I'd like to admit. I yell and I immediately hate myself.  But, it happens because my nerves can only take so much on certain days. When I thought about being a parent, I vowed to be like Paul's mother who is this embodiment of calm and patience. I've never seen that woman raise her voice or get visibly annoyed. "Yes, that's how I want to be.. I don't want to be a yelling mom." Cut to a few years later when I'm running late for work, my husband is traveling for business, I have to pack everything for daycare and my 1-year-old daughter won't stop whining and squirming out of her coat. "COME ON!!! JUST LET ME PUT ON YOUR COAT! GOD!!!" Her little face turned to mine with a look of horror. "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry," I said as I hugged her tight. Ugh, so much for being the zen mom.

I wish I could say that I've found the magic formula that quells my penchant to lose my temper, but alas, no such luck. I do employ deep breaths, yoga, meditation, which does help, but there are times where even 1,000 deep breaths will not do the trick. The yelling is usually about not listening, hurrying up, cleaning up, too much whining or the rare occasion when they have broken a house rule. I've never insulted them, called them names or belittled them in the least. It's the normal cliché sitcom mom type shit. I regret it every time, which is why after the situation has settled, I sit down and have a calm discussion about why I yelled. Is.. is that better? I don't know... probably just trying to save face here, but I think my explanation to my kids as to why I get upset helps them. Believe me, I'm working on the scenario where the whole yelling part doesn't even happen, but until then, I do my best to be openly vulnerable in front of my kids about my faults.

Paul's temperament has helped me tremendously throughout our relationship, especially as a parent. His approach with the kids is very different and much quieter. I know observing his patience has drastically helped me flip many situations where I would be inclined to lose it. I've also learned that coming from a non-yelling household has it's downsides as well, like rarely expressing your emotions and keeping them all inside. We agree that we both are works in progress when it comes to communication, and further agree that we want a household where our kids can feel comfortable discussing anything with us.

Yell Hard, Love Hard

I'm afraid I've painted a picture of my childhood where we are all yelling constantly, flipping tables and slamming doors. Nope, not accurate. We fought and argued, yes, but that was balanced out with so much love and affection. I never faulted my parents for having short fuses, it was just a part of who they were and as weird as it sounds, I kind of appreciated the emotional release of it all. That's very hard for people like Paul to understand, but I guess that's the beauty of family. None of the unconditional love we felt for each other was lost in our arguments. Reflecting back on my childhood, I am now aware of so much stress that both of my parents were going through that I couldn't fathom at the time. Plus, I was pretty damn bratty... I needed some of that yelling, trust me.

Some of you reading this may be surprised to learn that I have this temper since, well, for the most part I reserve my baditude for the ones closest to me. The ideal scenario would be to harness the calm I easily demonstrate to friends and strangers, and apply it to my loved ones. It's not that I don't get annoyed with people other than my family, but I suppose that societal decorum takes over and I handle myself in a much better way. Why are we harshest to the people we love the most? Seems like it should be the opposite. I guess it's the security of their love that makes us feel we can get away with it? Or all the rage we've held inside while out in society has to be released somewhere. Either way, if I snap at you... it probably means I love you!

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I've come a long way with my temper and Paul is a huge part of that improvement. Conversely, I honestly think I've shown him the benefits of expressing his frustrations every now and then. I still get annoyed and impatient with things pretty often, but I'm trying to meet those circumstances with an intention to calm the F down and express myself in a productive manner.

These things don't change overnight, BUT I'M GETTING THERE, DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!