Tuesday, March 26, 2019

From the Archives - Hummus

The other day I noticed it was the 9 year anniversary of announcing I was pregnant to the world via Facebook. You know, the only TRUE way to announce anything. That "On This Day" reminder also wriggled loose the memory of writing the ORIGINAL post for Impressionista when I started it years ago... and then quickly abandoned it.

This post really took me back to all the jittered emotions of realizing I would be a mother. I can smell my old office at Moosejaw, feel the soft material of the couch we bought with our wedding money and see the sea-foam colored walls of our bathroom where I took the pregnancy test.

I'm very proud of this piece and feel fortunate to have captured that time. Enjoy!

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Hummus

All I want is hummus. It's 3am and I'm thinking about the half-full tub of hummus in my fridge. But, I don't have any pita and I polished off the tortilla chips at dinner. Hell, at this point I'll eat it with a spoon, I don't care. Just need that hummus in my belly right now. Ooh, there's that twinge in my abdomen again. It must be from the hummus. Smooth, creamy, garlicky hummus. Mmmmm... floating in a huge bubble made of Bubble Tape gum sitting on a chair made of Faygo bottles eating hummus. I think I fell asleep.

Whoa, that alarm is loud. Definitely don't want hummus for breakfast, so at least I'm not completely crazy. Man, my abdomen feels kind of weird. Not bloated or painful, just... weird. Who knew that eating 4 cups of hummus a day for 3 days can do this to you? I should let a doctor know. Maybe they will name hummus overdose after me. "Did you hear about Trisha? She went to La Shish and now has a severe case of Sheevani..."

Okay, enough with the hummus. What the hell do I have ahead of me today? Oh yeah, work and alone time after work. Paul is in the middle of his 10-day residency that kicked off the EMBA program at the University of Michigan. Have the place to myself, which I do love at times. I really miss him, but there is something about putting in a random disc of Sex and the City and watching the entire thing in stretchy pants. I've done this in front of him too, but I felt really gross the whole time. 

It's one of those days where the thought of the gym is incredibly unappealing. I'm driving home from work and approaching the intersection where if I turn, it's off to the gym I go and if I go straight, my cozy couch awaits. Oh hell, may as well turn. I'll feel better afterwards, I always do. Nice, there are a few elliptical machines open. The gym rush hour is very problematic for elliptical availability, but a lot of people must have opted for their couches like I was going to, so I score an elliptical with the greatest of ease. 

All of the hummus in my body is making me hate this workout. I need to burn my personal requirement of 400 calories. Usually I can get there in 40 minutes, but at this cal/hr rate, I'll be making ellipses with my legs until bedtime. Breathing is difficult, the level of sweat is inappropriate and I have a scowl that is offending the beefcakes at the bench press machines. Maybe I'll just do 20 minutes and eat a light dinner. No no no, I always suffer during the first few minutes, but then I pull through and feel great. Besides, I know I'll be attacking so much hummus when I get home, so let me try and burn off at least half of what I'm about to shovel in my face. 

The green LED numbers turn to 400 calories and I let out an audible sigh as if I just finished an Iron Man Triathlon. I see the time, 53:26. Wow, it's never taken me this long to get through my workout. And I still have weights! No way, I'll do them after my hummus feast... I'm probably just hungry. Why do my legs feel like lead? I hope I'm not getting sick. I've already called in fake sick this month, so a legit call would make it seem like I was faking. It's all very complicated. 

The nightly call from Paul is short like the rest of them. He sounds exhausted and overwhelmed at all the work ahead of him. He feels this residency is as much a psychological test as academic. I say that he's super tough and can handle it. I'm not bullshitting either, he really can handle it. I, on the other hand, would have caved after the first day. Who the hell are we kidding? If I applied for the Executive MBA program at the University of Michigan, they would have called for an interview just to laugh and ceremoniously burn the application in my face. Don't mistake me for insecure, I'm just a realist. Love loads of things about myself, but none of them are even remotely about my prowess in academia. For example, I make killer nachos, but there's no Masters Degree for that. 

Sigh, I really do feel yucky. Oh, and there are the cramps. Ding ding ding!! My period is coming, that's why I feel like this! The symptoms are just more intense this time around. Probably because my body is adjusting to getting off birth control. That's right, there is nothing stopping this lady from getting pregnant! I was hoping to get it over with before the start of Paul's program, but these cramps indicate that we have not succeeded. Oh well, it was the first month of trying. I'm a bit disappointed... patience has never been my strongest trait. Paul will have to schedule some hump time between work and school, that's just how it's going to be until we get this baby made. 

I peel myself off the couch, throw away the empty tub of hummus and make my way to bed. I'm so groggy, I run into the door jamb boob first. OUCH. These jugs are really sore this time around. PMS must get worse after 30. As if the slowing metabolism isn't bad enough. My eyes are already closed and I haven't even pulled the covers off the bed. I am so tired. Oh, and I'm pretty sure it's not even 8:30.

As my eyes open, the cramps are a bit more intense. I think about the date and whether this period is on time or not. It's so hard to tell since the adjustment post-birth control has messed up my cycle. I wasn't even sure we were having all the sex at the correct times, but figured the more, the better. Hubba hubba. Oh well, my bod is loudly telling me that period will be here soon, so I'll run out at lunch and get supplies. 

I'm staring at a boring spreadsheet when my co-worker announces she is expecting twins in August. I'm very happy for her, but surprisingly overwhelmed with sadness that it's not me. Not sure I want twins, but I do want to be pregnant. Alas, my sore ta-tas and uterus are telling me I'm not even close to pregnant, and almost on cue, the PMS emotions are starting as well. I choke down tears as I leave for Target to pick up the damn period products. Ironically, the pregnancy tests are very close to the products needed when you're opposite of pregnant. They mock each other under the bright retail lights. I figure I should pick up a few tests to use next month and after, if needed. 

The call with Paul this evening is filled with tears of disappointment. My supportive husband is clearly distracted by his mountain of schoolwork, but is remarkably patient with my complaining and reassures me, "We'll get there... it's only the first month." I agree. He has to go; his group is waiting to start their project. I say how much I miss him and wish I could hug him right now. We hang up and I look at the calendar on my phone to calculate the days since my last period. It's easy to remember since I had started on Christmas Day. It was a Holiday Period. Hmm, I guess I'm about 5 days late. Weird... but, I'm positive my period will arrive with the next few hours. I've been having a period for 18 years, I know when it's coming. 

Well, I should just rule it out, right? At the very least I'll practice how to take a pregnancy test. I mean, I've taken 3 before, all of which were HUGE reliefs when they came up negative. A baby on the MSU campus wasn't ideal. But... let's just confirm. I'm peeing on the stick and shaking my head because I'm totally wasting this expensive test. My period is probably just late because I'm stressing about getting pregnant. Whatever, I've peed on the stick... now I wait for the answer I already know.

Since I'm not frugal when it comes to pregnancy tests, I had purchased the one with the digital readout because I don't trust blue or pink lines. My heart is pounding so hard as I wait. It's been 47 seconds and I cannot take it anymore. I lean over and glance at the test. My breath catches and I feel dizzy.

"Pregnant"

I freeze with my mouth agape for a few seconds. I'm startled back to reality by the drool falling over my bottom lip. I blink a few times in case my eyes are playing tricks, but nope. There it is. My hands are shaking as I pick up the test to get a better view. This is a defective test... it must be. I can feel my period coming, I swear. Ugh, I wasted money on this janky digital test! I better take another one. 

Okay, I guess this is for real. I stare at myself in the mirror, looking at a pregnant woman shaking her head in disbelief. I feel both numb and exhilarated at the same time. How should I tell Paul? He won't be home for another 2 days and I definitely cannot wait that long. Group project, my ass, he needs to know he impregnated me! He answers on the 3rd ring with a muted greeting. I blurt it out.

Neither of us know what to say. He is happy, I am happy. We keep the conversation short and say, "I love you." I look back at myself in the mirror.

Here we go... life will never be the same.

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And it wasn't. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Sexual Healing

After her bath, I massaged lavender lotion onto her warm, damp baby skin as she coo-ed with delight. My heart began to pound in anticipation of what was to come in a few minutes. Establishing this pre-sleep routine was key. We had been co-sleeping since she came home because, well, it was the only way she slept for more than 15 minutes at a time. To keep my sanity, I kept her close to the warm comfort of my body where I could nurse her with ease. With her in the bed with me, my own sleep never went beyond a shallow nap since every sound or movement sprung my eyes open to see if she was okay.

"You have to do it, Sheevani, it'll be hard, but SO worth it!"

"The first two nights will be AWFUL, but then you'll be in heaven."

"Just be prepared for tons of crying the first night and then it'll get easier and easier after that, I promise!"

My thoughts were consumed with all the advice I had received from friends and family. The past 4 months of operating on 6 hours of very broken sleep were taking it's toll and tonight that was all going to change. Tonight... I was sleep training. Oh god, can I really let her cry and cry without comforting her?!

Shut up, Sheevani, just DO it! You've read the books, discussed methods with friends and heard countless times that it's guaranteed to work!

Paul was across the hall in his office. We were 5 months away from the end of his EMBA program and his time was more occupied than ever. I was on my own with this sleep training stuff because that was the agreement. I knew he'd help me if needed, but as with all of his marathon study sessions, I never felt quite comfortable interrupting.

My girl succumbed to the swaddle with very little resistance... hmm, that was encouraging. We walked laps around her dimly lit room as I held her heavenly-smelling cheek up to my lips and hummed a couple lullabies. I noticed her eyes getting heavy. Slowly, I lowered her into the crib, humming until the little burrito was out of my hands. Her eyelids were barely clearing her pupils...  oh good, maybe this will be easier than I thought!

Twenty Minutes Later...

She had fought her way out of the swaddle when I scooped her up and held her against me.

"Mama's here, baby, Mama's here..."

Her body was shaking and the cries seemed almost involuntary. Her tiny fingers dug into my shoulders and tears burned in my eyes.

"It's okay, I'm here, don't worry...."

The crying slowed and I cradled her in front of me to kiss her tear-soaked face. She immediately vomited all over my chest, no doubt a build up of air from the desperate gasping cries she suffered through for over 15 minutes.

Well, I tried and failed. I was not cut out for sleep-training. We went back to co-sleeping and my sleep would be terrible for about another 10 months, while my girl was as comfortable as could be. Motherhood has been full of those types of situations; choosing discomfort for the greater good of your kids. I just didn't realize this sacrifice would affect so much down the line...

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When I think about the stress I put on myself to sleep-train my daughter, I shake my head at those early days of parenting... where so many books are read, methods are researched, advice from family, friends, random moms at Target are given focused attention. I'm not knocking anyone who does that, hell, most of us read at least one book. But, once I accepted that both my babies would never be ones to follow methods, I felt a freedom to create my own method: keep them alive and relatively happy no matter how I felt.

This post isn't actually about babies, sleep-training or the stresses of newborn parenting. I may not have done everything perfectly, but today I look at my kids as happy, polite and loving little people (who thankfully sleep soundly in their own beds), so I must have done something right.

No, this post is about being in the "re-entry" period of my marriage to Paul. I read about this concept in a magazine a few months ago. It refers to a time in a marriage when you re-connect with intention after a long separation. This could mean anything from a military deployment to, in my case, coming out of the super-dependent phase of my kids' lives into a territory where Paul and I actually have more time to... re-introduce ourselves to each other.

Groomie Roomie
A baby in your bed doesn't really allow for intimacy. And honestly, in the beginning, we weren't all that in the mood anyway. When I'd hear about couples getting pregnant a few months after birthing one kid, my first thought was always, "How the hell do you have any energy for sex?!" Then again, if either one of our children slept like proverbial "babies," perhaps we would have been one of those couples. It's not just about sex either. The level of physical affection drastically lessened after we had children. Again, not intentionally, just an unfortunate side-effect of diverted attention and, if I can be so blunt... laziness.

Paul and I had sort of resigned ourselves to being cuddle bums with our kids versus intimate partners with each other. We weren't celibate, by any means, but it certainly wasn't the same as before the kids came along. The cliched traps of being young parents didn't miss us... we were exhausted, all our energy went towards our kids, romance was only reserved for anniversaries or Valentine's Day out of obligation to the occasion. I wouldn't quite say we were unhappy, but we were certainly neglecting our own needs for connection. This lasted for years... years that flew by before we knew how distant we'd become.

Not Tonight, Honey...
There was a lot of "we" in that last section. For many years Paul and I seemed to be on the same page when it came to romance and intimacy. But, if I'm being brutally honest here, I'm the one who had a harder time rediscovering our sexual connection. As our kids got older and we had more time to ourselves in the evenings, Paul's readiness to get back to our own "bedtime routine" arrived much quicker than mine. Don't get me wrong, I was excited to have time with my husband again, but for reasons I didn't want to face right away, I wanted to spend that time watching a movie or having a nice chat versus a sweaty romp in our newly kid-free bed.

I've mentioned in previous posts that digging into serious issues, especially between the both of us, isn't something at which we excel. For months and months, I just avoided the topic and Paul quietly accepted my rejections. When we finally did talk about it, I was so overcome with guilt and confusion that my garbled explanation was buried in tears, deep breaths and "I don't knows." What I didn't want to face was that maybe... I just wasn't into sex anymore and perhaps would never be again. My mind would spring into scenarios of being a frigid wife who finds out her husband is having an affair... sure I'd be pissed but deep down I would think, "Well, what did I expect? He's not getting any at home!"

What those scenarios didn't factor in, however, was that Paul's dedication to me is far beyond what I deserve. The first chat went really poorly and we didn't get anywhere with the 2nd or 3rd chats either, but eventually we started to crack the fragile eggshells on which we'd been walking. My lack of interest was opening up some old wounds for Paul that I never even considered. Unbelievably, I had never put myself in his shoes. If I were the one being rebuffed, of course I'd question my attractiveness and self-worth in the relationship. Once I got over feeling "attacked" over my extinguished sexual drive, I began to approach my feelings with a different lens... and I was slowly figuring out why I needed more time to reach the same place where Paul had been for months.

Perfect Strangers
Paul and I have gone through a lot in the last 9 years. Besides having two kids, we've gone through a masters program, the loss of my father, career changes, building 2 houses, postpartum anxiety, extended colic, moving to a different state, and many other ups and downs surrounding all of those transitions. Making it through all of that changes people... and we are changed people. The part of marriage that I think often gets buried is that your relationship is ever-evolving, and that every major life event reveals a new side to the person to which you have promised yourself.

We have both revealed a lot about ourselves during the past 9 years; some bad, some good, some GREAT and some just f*cking terrible. Up until 2010, our relationship had never been tested very much and I naively thought, "Sure, having kids will put some stress on us, but once we get used to all the changes, we'll go back to normal." Only, I didn't take into account the amount of "new normals" that would take place in the years to come. And this is typical life sh*t that millions of people go through all the time. It's not as if we suffered through tragedies that happened to us... we dove headfirst into transitions with our hearts in the right place... and that place was blind optimism.

Once we moved to Denver and the isolation of being in a completely new place forced us to face our issues, things started to shift. First off, I began to forgive myself for the way I was feeling. It was almost as if I needed to float over the timeline of my life and figure out who I was again, and only then could I figure out who WE were again. I had spent so much time feeling an incredible amount of shame, that I never really allowed any compassion for myself. When I woke up to the reality that the past few years have been an emotional rollercoaster, my nurturing side spun inward and I finally realized it was okay to take a little time to rediscover my intimate side. I needed to be patient, and I asked Paul to be patient as well.

We are still traveling on that road back to a solid intimate connection, but I feel better than I have in years about our progress. Everyday an effort is put in to connect, whether it's a shmoopy text, an extended hug or kiss, a boob or butt graze... we are putting in the work! It's almost like we're dating again. I'd say that's weird, but when you think about it, I have to get to know this man I married all over again... he's not the same guy I knew back when we took our vows, and lucky for me, he's a much better guy after everything we've gone through. It may take a bit until I put-out on the regular... after all, I'm a lady.

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I'd be lying if I said I'm 100% comfortable sharing all of this on my blog. There was a lot of back and forth in my head about putting this out there, but one nagging thought kept drowning out all the others. During that time of feeling sexually dead, I felt so incredibly alone and embarrassed. My closest friends in the world didn't even know I was going through this because I feared their reaction would be, "Oh man, I have no idea what you're talking about." I rarely have an agenda with my posts, but with this one I hope I can comfort anyone who may be going through a similar situation. For months I just wanted to feel like I wasn't a horrible partner. If this incredibly revealing post can help anyone, then I'm glad I wrote it.

Also... I just realized how dirty "re-entry" sounds and well, I'm here for it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Inspiration Cessation

I have no idea what to write about this week. Since starting this blog last October, I've had a steady stream of inspiration that drove the following week's topic. In the days following my post last Tuesday, my mind has been open to receiving the next writing adventure, only... nothing arrived. The well is drying a bit, but I don't want to skip a week over something as silly as zero inspiration.

Well, it's not completely true that I have nothing to write about. There is an ongoing list I created which holds all of my ideas and while I've dug deep into most of them, there is one I haven't yet explored. It's about feeling like an imposter in most aspects of my life. My struggle with imposter syndrome is definitely a subject that's rife with examples, thoughts and emotions, but it didn't feel right to post about that this week. The last couple of weeks I have written about subjects which were heavy and, quite honestly, more emotionally draining than I realized. Plus, I haven't figured out how to write it without eliciting an unwanted pity party. So, this week, I'm taking a little break from the heavy and trading that in for some good old triviality.

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Sitting here at my desk, staring at the screen, I'm just going to allow whatever thoughts I have to drive this post. I'm a servant to the randomness in my brain.

Basic Bitches
Lately I've been grappling with the very real possibility that I'm a "basic bitch." Now, I realize that's a derogatory term, so naturally it bummed me out that my love for Target, Starbucks Chai Lattes and Bruno Mars kicked me into a category that I have been fighting for a long time. But, why am I fighting it? Why can't I embrace this side of myself? Is it really so bad? Hell, I may as well write about it in my... oh god... BLOG. 

I decided to look up "Basic Bitch," and man, there are a lot of mean articles... mostly highlighting girls/women in Ugg boots drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Now, I've never owned a pair of Uggs, nor have I ever partaken in a PSL, but I couldn't help but feel bad for the women who happen to love both of those things. The deeper tone to these articles is to highlight a spoiled, shallow, white privilege and I get that. I won't defend any of that, believe me. I mean, I live in a suburb of Denver, I'm surrounded by white privilege. I once witnessed a woman throw a tantrum at a Honda dealership because she couldn't be bothered to press a button in order to stop the automatic engine shut-off. Sitting across from her in the service lounge, I have to admit, I found myself disgusted at her first-world problem basic-ness. 

But, I do struggle with defining people, especially women, by something they wear or drink. I was looking at the women in the pictures of these trolling articles and thought about the many things I didn't know about them. There are too many cynics in this world and I refuse to be one of them. I'll have my moments, of course, but I force myself out of that dank hole of judginess so that I don't turn into something much worse in my book: Bitter Bitch. Maybe that lady getting her mani/pedi just got off a volunteer shift at a food bank. It's possible the gal sipping her iced mocha has a collection of vinyls from her grandfather who was a funk musician. Why couldn't that lady who threw a Sex and the City themed 30th birthday party also write Star Trek: The Next Generation fan fiction in her spare time?

This may be coming off as defensive, I realize, but my intention is... yeah, to defend myself and all women who just happen to like some things that society has deemed "basic." Okay, so I read, "Girl, Wash Your Face," but I hated it. Sure, I've watched Fixer Upper, but there is ZERO shiplap in my house. Fine, I do love sweater weather, but only because I run cold! If I could be so bold as to give myself a title that's more fitting... I choose to call myself Basic Lite. Even though I hoard Bed Bath and Beyond coupons, drink Pinot Grigio and wear a Fitbit, don't be fooled. I may enjoy some basic sh*t...  but I'm no boring bitch. #myjourney

Crepe Erase
After weeks of seeing a Facebook ad come up on my feed for Crepe Erase, I decided to watch the video featuring Courtney Thorne-Smith. Apparently it's a lotion that reduces "crepey" looking skin on your aging body. Seeing as how I just turned 40 a few months ago, the keeping-it-real algorithms have graced me with ads like these because apparently I have some sag-tastic skin to look forward to. I'm happy to report that currently my skin has zero crepe to it... in fact, it's as plump as a pancake. But thanks Facebook, for being the social media Debbie Downer who finds the need to remind me that soon I'll look down at my arms and find my skin resembles the discarded gift bag tissue after a birthday party. No really... thanks for getting in my head and making me crepe-paranoid.

Sidenote: Autocorrect has been correcting "crepey" to "creepy" every time and well, I've never agreed with autocorrect so hard in my life. 

Honk If You Hate Bumper Stickers!
Since when is a car a sticker book? I know bumper stickers have been around for a long time, and perhaps I'm just noticing them more now, but man, I feel like I'm reading more than I'm driving nowadays. It seems to be more prevalent here in Colorado versus Michigan as well, but I do not have the current statistics on that theory. One fact I can confirm is that bumper stickers have too much power over my emotions.

It amazes me how much people advertise about themselves via the ass end of their car. The other day, without even speaking a word to the driver, I knew he loved guns, loved 'MERICA, wanted Calvin to piss on liberals and that he had a MAN pick-up truck as evidenced by the lovely red testicles hanging off the hitch. Another driver I saw super hates that people keep moving to Colorado. She let me know that with words like Native, No Vacancy, You Got High, Now Go HOME stuck across the back window of her Explorer. These are the types of aggressive messages that get to me... not the cute family decals, miles ran in marathons or sports teams. I'm sure the point of them is to get a reaction and dammit, I hate to say they are getting many reactions from me.

I'm also fascinated by where some of these bumper stickers are sold. Below are some examples I've seen that prompt that thought:

  • I 💖 69
  • I'm a Drop an F-Bomb Kind of Mom
  • An outline of a hand doing the "shocker" (aka, two in the pink, one in the stink)
  • D.A.D.D.D. - Dads Against Daughters Dating Democrats
  • Political Correctness Offends Me
  • Kid Rock

I'm all for people expressing themselves, no matter what they love, but given the high rates of road rage incidents in the country, I am partial to keeping my politics, opinions and ideals off my car. If that's your thing, then go for it. I just know if I put my beliefs and interests on my car, that dude with the truck-nuts may purposely rear-end me... most likely because of the 25 Depeche Mode stickers.

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So, those are some of the random thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain this week. I hope I'll either figure out how to write my imposter syndrome post by next Tuesday, or that some other divine inspiration will enter my conciousness with ease. And hopefully it's not about the sudden need to buy some Crepe Erase.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Peace Be With Me... And Also With Me

I stared at the screen of the outdated PC in my brother's old bedroom, hoping to find a diamond in the rough of monster.com. Moving back in with my parents after college wasn't the plan, but since I didn't do much to prevent it, I sank myself into finding whatever job an unsure, unfocused and academically underwhelming woman could find. The phone rang and my attention was pulled to my parent's room about 20 feet away where my father answered. After about 15 seconds, the yelling started.

"Over and over, same thing!! Just figure it out yourself! I don't know what to tell you!!"

He hung up the phone and I sat in stunned silence. The call was from one of his oldest friends and I had never heard my father speak to him in that way. Earlier I had noticed that he seemed quiet, but I just shrugged it off as normal grumpy-old-man behavior. Ever since my dad had been forced into early retirement during my junior year at Michigan State, his moods could never be predicted. The phone rang again. I reached for the phone, but heard my father answer before my hand hit the receiver.

"Hello," my father said in a tone only reserved for funeral parlors, "Oh hi, Haren."

Haren Uncle was another close friend of my father's who never missed a weekly call. Only this week, I'm sure he wasn't prepared for what he heard on the other end. At first I thought my dad was choking, but then I heard the unmistakable sound of restrained sobs.

"I'm... I'm just... going through a lot, Haren," his words struggled to escape between whimpers.

My own tears, sharp as thorns, arrived on cue at the backs of my eyes as they always did when my father got emotional. I tiptoed to the doorway to see my father sitting on the bed, turned away from me. One hand rubbed his temples and his shoulders bobbed up with each gasp of tearful breath. I desperately wanted to understand what was wrong, what brought on such despair on a Wednesday afternoon. Haren Uncle must have been asking the same question and the answer was probably not one my father wanted his daughter to hear...

"I'm... I'm not at peace with myself."

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With every passing year of my life, I go back to that spied moment of my father more times than I can count. We never talked about it and I pretended not to know anything about that heartbreaking confession. That was just the way it worked in our family. Besides, even if I did ask, I'm not sure I could bear my father's unhappiness with the way his life turned out.

The last decade of my dad's life was tough to watch. Sure, there were happy occasions like the birth of his grandchildren and my wedding, but I could always sense an underlying sadness to his demeanor that I felt helpless against. The final 6 years he was battling prostate cancer, so the despair related to that was easier to spot, but prior to that diagnosis, I knew he was battling something far more intense than an illness of the body.

In the years since his passing, I've hypothesized a lot about what caused my father's final years to be ones of internal heartache. While he wasn't a man who spoke a lot about his regrets, I could identify few things that perhaps left him feeling unfulfilled or regretful. I dare not put them in this post out of respect for him, but my theories include struggles to which many can relate, and for me, ones that can be learned from.


Dream Leaver
I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. As a child, I was obsessed with mimicry and spent hours in front of a mirror trying to master impressions of friends, family, teachers, lunch ladies, you name it. Seeing that show and the many masters of impersonations like Dana Carvey, Eddie Murphy, Jan Hooks, Cheri Oteri, and Phil Hartman was mesmerizing. I didn't know how to get there, but I knew that if I could do what those funny people did every Saturday night, I'd be very happy.

Today, becoming a cast member on SNL is not my dream. Well, if by some miracle Lorne Michaels wants my 40-year-old ass on the show, I'd jump at the chance, but I know better than to bank on that happening. No, today my dream is much broader and nuanced. If I had to Facebook characterize my relationship with my dream, no doubt would I click, "It's Complicated."

First of all, I've been abusive to my dream. Until recently I spent years ignoring it, insulting it, being embarrassed by it, trying to abandon it... all the things no dream should ever have to put up with. But, my dream didn't give up on me. That is to say, it kept nagging me to pay it proper attention and a few years ago I finally woke up. The dream didn't look the same as when I was sitting on my couch laughing at Wayne's World, but just as I had, my dream had evolved into something I could actually commit to. It gives me great pleasure to report that my dream and I are now very happy together.

Today my dream is still to make a living with my talent, but it doesn't have to be on Saturday Night Live. It could be as a writer, performer, director, producer, teacher or coach in the field of entertainment, preferably comedy. I've come to the realization that some of the choices I made earlier in life have narrowed my field of dreams, and sometimes that does bum me out, but I also know that it's never too late to work hard at your goals. There were so many years where I denied that my dreams were worthy to follow, and the fact that I've turned that around opens the gates to being at peace with myself.

Regret and Envy
Having my first kid did a number on me when it came to pursuing comedy. Staring at this little human cued a surge of emotions, most of which were hormone induced, but after that it was about wanting this child (and future child) to see her mother as someone who won't settle for something less than her true purpose. So, at the age of 33, I signed up for Intro to Improv and the trajectory of my life totally changed.

Now that I've been in this field for over 7 years, I regret not doing it sooner. As I look around at my improv peers, some of them still in college, I can't help but ponder what my life would look like now if I had entered that improv classroom 10 years younger. Before marriage and kids, no encumbrances preventing me from taking every class and workshop, auditioning for every show, rehearsing as much as I could, properly bonding with my fellow improvisors. It's a dangerous path to go down, yet I do it more often than I like to admit. Regret serves no purpose in life, but many times I'm powerless against it.

Envy is another emotion I'm embarrassed to say I've felt many times. Growing up as 1st generation Indian-American, I was the only one of my peers who had a dream to be in show business. I was surrounded by friends who were all following the "normal" path of medicine, law, engineering, business... all the respectable and lucrative fields worthy of our community. When I'd sit in my room, dreaming of accepting an Oscar or Emmy, I was convinced that I'd be the first Indian woman to do so and it would be me paving the way for future brown boys and girls.

Now, you see Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minhaj, Sarayu Blue and many others gracing the big and small screens. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love seeing Indians who grew up like me becoming successful in Hollywood. I've read both of Mindy Kaling's books and often cite her as one of my biggest influences to keep pursuing my dream. What I envy is that they figured out how to break that mold of expectation that every 1st generation Indian kid goes through and, unlike me, they didn't let fear get in their way. I envy their drive and regret not finding mine sooner.

Keeping It Real
I don't want to sound like I'm giving up and saying I'll never achieve greatness in comedy. Quite the contrary... this is about acknowledging that if my ultimate dream is never realized, I can be at peace with myself and the way in which I pursued my purpose. Speaking of my pursuit, there are a lot of alternative ways I'm hoping to climb that ladder of success. Instead of waiting around to audition for the perfect role in a show or movie, I'm writing my own scripts and shows. Instead of only teaching theater-specific curriculum, I'm designing my own workshops based on my performance strengths. Instead of keeping my thoughts that may be helpful to others in my head, I'm sharing them every week on this blog.

After reading and listening to countless interviews with comedians and actors I admire, I've learned that no one's path is the same and 95% of the time, you have to make your own opportunities. It was such a freeing concept that was so foreign to me. My perception of "making it" in Hollywood was always the traditional route of getting an agent, auditioning for years and then getting some big break. Matt Damon was one of thousands of white dudes in Hollywood when he was going on auditions, so instead of waiting for the perfect role to come to him, he wrote Good Will Hunting. Mindy Kaling wrote a play conceived of her own style of comedy (where she played Matt Damon), which she put up herself and that led to her writing job at The Office. Every stand-up comedian writes his or her own material and works tirelessly at little clubs across the country with the hopes of it turning into a sustainable career.

I'm well aware that these types of successes are rare, but I'm still a dreamer. In this moment, I am at peace with myself because everyday I'm working toward my dream... a dream I've had since I was a little girl, sitting on my bed, repeating the midwest accent of the school librarian saying "Mondee" instead of "Monday." Of course, I do think about nothing coming to fruition after putting in years of work, but you know, I just don't believe that's going to happen. Plus, my definition of success isn't necessarily seeing my name in lights, it's more about making my unique contribution to the world of entertainment, on whatever level it ends up being. I'm realistic, but at the same time I assign no limits to the possibilities. Hell, maybe I WILL be the first cast member of SNL who started over the age of 40! Twice a week I stare at huge block letters on the wall of my daughter's gymnastics gym that read, "HARD WORK BEATS TALENT." I believe in my talent... I just have to put in the work.

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My heart still aches for my father. How I wish I could remind him of everything he contributed to my life with so much love. The flaw in that reasoning, of course, is that my view isn't the one that matters. It was about how he saw himself and his own evaluation of his life. Perhaps he didn't pursue something he always dreamed of... maybe there was a secret passion of his that he never nurtured. It's that perspective which has become a mantra of mine thanks to him. That private moment I witnessed so many years ago often flashes in my thoughts...  almost like a blinking warning sign on the highway to change lanes. It tells me work hard and focus on making my life mean something... to me.