A Particular Petty
I don’t remember ever wanting to be a mother. When I was a teenager I fantasized about being married and having a great career, but that picture never involved children. At 15, my first job was at the Roy Roger’s across the street from my school, I would have been horrified had someone asked me to babysit their snotty-nosed little kids! For as long as I could remember, I thought of children as loudmouthed little rude people whom I wanted absolutely nothing to do with.
Fast forward to me at 21 years old, freshly married, waiting in the doctor’s office for pregnancy test results with my heart beating loudly in my chest. My husband (now ex, of course) was grinning widely—elated by the idea that just weeks after getting married we would soon be bringing new life into the world. I was heartbroken. We had literally just started our lives together, we were super active in our church, we had awesome friends and threw awesome parties, I had an awesome little figure I used to dress to the NINES in my awesome clothes. Now I was going to get fat and have to raise a child with barely any time to spend alone with my new husband. I was not happy.
When my daughter was born I was surprised by how instantly my figure bounced back and my maternal instincts kicked in (yes, in that order). I remember breastfeeding in my skinny jeans while my husband doted on me, thinking “Maybe this life isn’t so bad after all.” Then the storm came… I began to hate my marriage. I recognized that my husband was a great dad but not really that great of a husband. (This is the point in the story where I get really vague about the details that led to the ending of our marriage. There is a spattering of former mutual friends that likely read this blog and if the information got back to him I would look like the bad person so, I will skip the gruesome details).
We divorced. I fell apart. I still had to raise my then 3-year-old daughter and I didn’t really know how to do it on my own. I didn’t want to be a parent in the first place so how the fuck had I ended up raising a child alone?! In the beginning of our separation I had my daughter with me full time. After we figured out an alternating weekend tradeoff deal, I began to feel my freedom a little bit more. Or, so I thought. I spent my child-free weekends hanging out with friends laughing and laughing to cover up my loneliness. I constantly surrounded myself with people so that I would never have to feel alone. Until I was alone.
The Great Depression
I was lonely. When my daughter was with her father and my friends too busy to provide a distraction, I spent my time binge eating, drinking, crying and contemplating suicide. The loneliness was unbearable. I was naïve at that time, I had no idea that life was capable of such darkness and sadness. I had thought that those painful chapters in my life were over after the depression I suffered during my high school days. I knew I had to do something about it. I knew that I had to find love.
I needed a man’s love to pour into me. I needed a man to heal my broken heart and bring me to life again. I wish I could say that I rushed my healing process because I wanted to be well enough to become a better mother to my child but I wasn’t that emotionally woke back then. I was looking for balm to soothe my open wounds because at 25 I didn’t understand that healing is a whole ass journey and most times it is a lengthy one that can only be accomplished alone.
I sought love purposefully. I had a childhood friend I knew had always carried a torch for me, so I sought after him and prepared myself for a re-awakening. This was the man who would make up for all the pain that my husband had put me through. He would sweep into my life with right amount of affection and attention— he would appreciate all that I had to offer as a woman. I would slowly be made whole again… I had not taken into consideration that this man had lived an entire life since we’d last exchanged innocent, child-like flirtations. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could have my heart broken twice in a row. I just knew that the next man I came across would be a savior.
When I found out I was pregnant with his child I was living with my parents after having given up the house I was renting. I was panicked, scared and, as it turns out, still suffering from depression with an added touch of low self-worth. How silly was I? Involved in an uncommitted sexual relationship with someone who was vague about why they didn’t want to be with me while struggling with their own personal demons. I was a doormat. I was a ball of emotions held together by his attention and approval. My pregnancy hit us both like a nuclear bomb—there was no time to react or think, we both just exploded.
I checked myself into a mental institution the night I realized that I didn’t have the guts or the violence to properly kill myself. I didn’t have the violence in me to have an abortion, either. I knew deeply that I would be unable to survive it. I held that razor in my hand, sobbing in the bathtub of my parent’s bathroom, cursing myself out for not having the balls to do the damned thing already! I barely survived that night. I spent my entire pregnancy malnourished and depressed. I worried I wouldn’t be able to love my child because I was too sad. I was prescribed Zoloft but I never fulfilled it because I was too afraid of who that would make me. I didn’t think there was anything that I could do to shake the feeling that I was drowning.
I spent years underwater.
I was not alive for the first 3 years of my youngest daughter’s life. I still look at her in awe of how she is such a bright and happy spirit considering how completely broken I was when I carried her. I loved her instantly, but I still hated myself so my love wasn’t enough to raise me out of my funk. I was a single mother with two children, two baby daddies and suicidal thoughts. I was a lonely ass target for men to sweep in and woo me with empty words as an entry pass into my body. Sex was the only time I felt alive, the rest of the time I was just pretending. I maybe mentioned this in a blog post before but I still think of how my little girls used to follow me around our apartment watching me with their large eyes. Finally I asked them why and my oldest responded, “We just want to see you.” I realized at that moment that I was a zombie.
I still couldn’t do much about it or figure a way to dig myself out of my infinite sadness. It was around this time that a friend’s comment about my mental health pushed me into the decision to start writing again. I started this blog as a way to tell my story and to experience a release. I felt an awakening whenever my finger hovered over the “Publish” button for each post. I was surprised by the positive feedback I received and the fact that anyone even read my posts at all! I began writing poetry in journals at that time and came up with the idea to read them at local open mics to try to get more people to read my blog. I never imagined I would receive the kind of response I did the first time I shared one of my poems on stage. I was nervous but I was also tingling with excitement and anticipation—for the first time in a long time, something that I was doing felt right!
For the first 2 years of my “career” I was selfish. My brother lived with me at the time and he was a homebody type so as soon as I put the kids to bed I was making my way to the next open mic. I learned something new about myself each time I hit the stage and I never felt more inspired to write. I was finally waking up, but it still didn’t make me a good mom. Well, actually I should practice some self-compassion here and say this: I ALWAYS had food on the table, a roof over our heads and a stable well-paying job to sustain us. I have always been the champion and poster child for functioning depression mainly because I didn’t want to be a completely shitty mother and because I cared a ton about how people would perceive me not having my shit together. (Low-key I still do not have my shit together. I have so much catching up to do from years of not properly taking care of my responsibilities—that’s a whole other blog post!)
The more I wrote, the more I expressed on the mic and connected to people who appreciated my point of view, the more I smiled. Instead of moving silently through our apartment or barking orders, I spent more time talking to the kids and getting to know their personalities. Who knew that I had spent years sharing a space with these cute little people who were funny and fun to talk to?
Motherhood has since changed so much for me over the past 3 years. In the beginning I worried about how I was going to pour love into little babies when I had no one to pour love into me. I was obsessed with my own loneliness—but once I began to write I was able to enjoy my alone time. Blogging and performing poetry started out as a release and ended up being a beacon of hope that has led to a complete change in my lifestyle and mindset. On top of that, hanging out in creative spaces with like-minded individuals helped me to realize that I was not alone. A great deal of us are suffering in life and artistic expression provides therapeutic healing.
Sometimes, in the middle of a dance party with my daughters or while gossiping about that day’s school events I marvel at how much I appreciate my life now that I find joy in motherhood. I had gotten used to living a life of striving for perfection but after I came to the realization that we are incapable, it relieved so much pressure! I wasted time anxious about screwing up motherhood, while I was screwing up motherhood by being anxious and depressed. I was focused on all of the wrong things. As it turns out, all I needed to do to be a good parent was to allow myself room to be imperfect and to actively pursue mental wellness. Writing, speaking, sharing my story and connecting to others helps me to stay mentally well.
I have wacky friends, I work too hard, I might be a little too honest and psycho-babbly toward my girls but it’s who I am. We all do the best we can with the resources that we are given so I’m sure I’m going to screw them up somehow—at least I am authentically myself. I now have a better understanding of my role not just as “caretaker” but as the person who will embed life philosophies into their little brains mainly by example. I’m tired because I work a ton but I am present. I am at Girl Scout meetings, nagging about clarinet lessons, organizing birthday parties, shopping, chatting, singing pop songs, doling out advice, embarrassing them in public and all the other bullet points to the job description of mother.
Showing Up Late
Have you ever showed up late to a really great party that seemed like it was doing just fine without you, but now that you have arrived everyone seems so offended by your tardiness that they ruin your good time? I have—it’s called motherhood. My least favorite thing about being a single mother is the stories people make up about my life because of their own perceptions. For starters, parenting is personal. There is no formula that every mother should follow and there is no official council that adjudicates how well or how poorly we are doing. The only measurement of success is that you do the best you can. Obviously, if you are prone to depression like me, then you have to find ways to do what’s best for your mental wellness so that you can be healthy enough to take care of your children. As I said, I still have pieces of my life I am mending back together because I allowed so much to fall apart when I wasn’t well.
It doesn’t help me to dwell on that fact. It doesn’t help me to scroll through my social medias and wish I were more like the supermoms who constantly post pics and updates of their children’s lives and seemed totally immersed in and fulfilled by the motherhood role. I have made a lifestyle choice that is frowned upon, why? Because single mothers are supposed to sacrifice and center their entire lives around their children? Nah, it’s just not me! To be completely honest, I think it is a stifling and super unhealthy and unrealistic expectation. Black women especially, we like being seen as strong and selfless but nobody wants to be depressed or stressed so we end up hiding that part of it from the world. My identity includes “mother” but is not the whole of me.
I just want to type it again: My identity includes “mother, but it is not the whole of me. I make sure my children understand this about me because I want it to be an example for how they live their lives. I think women have a tendency to bury themselves in motherhood because the process of finding out who you are outside of everyone else (after baby daddy dumps you, completely abandons the family or even dies!) can be daunting. Growth and self-discovery can be very painful, survival mode and coping mechanisms become our go-to moves. I don’t want to just survive I want to chase my dreams and individual goals while being a kick ass mom. As long as my children are happy there is really no need to care about how others perceive our lifestyle.
Lastly, I just want to share my biggest pet peeve of being a single mother: people seem to be so caught up on the terminology. As soon as you say it, here come the questions and inferences:
“Don’t you share custody with the fathers?”
“Do the fathers contribute financially?”
“Aren’t the children gone all summer?”
“Don’t you receive a ton of help from your parents?”
My close personal friends are aware of my reality, I do not understand why I am expected to explain this to strangers or people who perceive that women use the terminology to play on other’s sympathy. Do people want single mothers to suffer? Are we not single mom enough if we’re not working three jobs with government assistance as our only support system? I do have help. I do have family support. I save a buck or two by having the kids hang out at their grandparent’s house after school instead of paying daycare. I pack the kids up and have them stay with their aunts over the summer, I beg and bribe my siblings to watch the kids whenever I have gigs. They receive clothes and gifts and hugs and laughs and texts and birthday cards from a whole community of support.
The same community that can’t always be there. They are not there when I am lugging eight loads of laundry in and out of the car or when I’m three seconds away from a nervous breakdown while ironing uniforms for the next morning. Community is not there when I am in full blown, exhausted introvert mode smiling animatedly and engaging in deep conversation about My Little Pony. The Community does not make up for the absence of a father figure in our household. I feel hopeless and scared and exposed—if something were to happen to our family I would have very little to defend us. I put on a strong face and bear the emotional burden of raising those little girls while making sure my depression, wavering self-esteem and self-doubt never touches them. I am the main parent. I am the person who can do the most damage to their lives if I fuck this up.
I fucked up. I fucked up for years, but I am present now. I forgive myself for being late, I can’t dwell on it. My twelve-year-old is blossoming into a feisty little beauty, they are both hella smart, creative and fun. I’m just so happy to be at the party I don’t care what anyone else thinks or has to say about it! I am here now, and I am having a wonderful time.
I have exactly 12 days until my birthday festivities to try to look good in this dress. I’m turning 31 and that’s such a nothing age so I may as well look good. Also, my personal theme for this year is: I love myself. For this year, I hope to invest in my own mental and physical health while encouraging others to do the same.
Anyway, this week I have to eat, sleep and breathe ab work!! I moved from my apartment to a rental house this weekend and cheated myself by not eating on schedule AND eating junk. I probably gained back those precious 5lbs I lost–things have just been so stressful lately.
Maybe attempting 2 hour gym sessions at least 3 times this week will help. Ugh, I’ll keep you posted (I officially hate being a woman).
Reason #3,467 of why I want to lose weight:
If I am anything above a size 10-12 I look like a chubby video hoe in whatever I wear!
I put on an outfit this morning that was supposed to say “Its warm outside. I will dress accordingly and professionally. ” However, by the time I got off the bus with my pencil skirt riding high and my tank top riding low, I think I was saying, “Everyone step back please…I may twerk at any moment!” (Yes I am obsessed with twerking but only because I feel like it looks like I can do it but I can’t. I’m a walking false advertisement.)
Anyway, this is not how want to look while going over expense reports with my boss. Weight loss has to happen because I’m too poor and too vain to start buying baggier clothes. At the very least, I am grateful this skirt doesn’t have a slit in it anywhere. Seriously, what kind of sadistic, perverted fashion designer came up with that bullshit?
I throw the baby in the stroller and proceed to walk on one the angriest walks I’ve ever taken. I know that this is a new part of my life: walking everywhere. Hmm, where is my car? It decided not to start after being parked outside of daycare for a hasty afternoon pickup. My brother called and told me the news while I was coming home from work and I felt the heavy tension return home to my forehead. My first panicked thought was, “How the fuck am I supposed to get to the gym?” I can’t stop obsessing about this.
With the chaos of all that’s going on in my life, this is the least of my worries but I am fixated. Somehow my ability to get to and from the gym with ease equates to the final balance and happiness I feel I need in my life. Calm down guys, I know you’re poor and hurting and suffering loss— but the gym will make everything better! This “no excuses” bitch pictured above has got me believing that somehow this is the key. I suppose its not really her, its my reaction to her that’s messing me up. What’s my excuse? Bitch, I’m tired! This morning as I’m walking the baby to daycare in a stroller with a flat tire, we roll passed my busstop to see a bottle of hand lotion on the ground. I know instantly that its mine and it immediately sets fire to a stressor fuse in me that’s been burning for some time. Seriously, wtf am I doing in my life where I’m so poor and deranged that I actually contemplate dusting off my old hand lotion from the ground and putting it back in my purse? And how did I manage to drop it out of my purse without noticing? And why don’t I realize that I am not in a position to be throwing $1.50 down the drain like that? Let’s not even mention how my ashy hands will suffer! I need to get my life together– I need to go to the gym.
At the gym I can relieve some tension and even stop half lying to my co-worker about going. I suppose I’m not lying, per se, I do PLAN to go to the gym but my car, and fate, and the gods of hotness just have something else in the cards for me. I stood in the employee lounge listening to this little, beautifully shaped cock diesel goddess (she looks like the hot woman from 12 Years A Slave) complain about how she struggles with her body and I’m thinking “Wow, are we really having this conversation?” I try to listen to her with a sympathetic ear but my mind begins to wander to whether I should make the kid’s lunches tonight or just pass out when I go home, or if I should go on a liquid fast until my best friend comes to town then maybe I’ll have a flat stomach for when we go out drinking. I really shouldn’t be drinking, its fattening and too expensive. But, I digress.
My #lifeflow is like this blog post. It’s just a mindless stream of shit happening with no real flow or pattern and I can’t keep the reins on it. Furthermore, I don’t even know if I used the proper spelling of the word “reins”– and I really hate that I use words like “furthermore” and care about spelling! Anyway, I have no car, no money, no man, no common sense, no freedom, no life and all I need to fix it is the gym! The gym is home. I know my place there. I show up in my baggy t-shirt, dingy yoga pants and old running shoes and I know where I belong– in the back and far away from the mirrors and hot chicks taking #gymflow selfies. I belong on the treadmill panting it out, music blasting and tears flowing because I just need some sort of outlet to relieve the stress in in my life. Minor stress to some, but colossal stress to me. At the gym I don’t have to constantly fight the battle to be understood, accommodated, appreciated, loved, stress-free, worry-free, or problem-free. In the gym I ain’t shit and as I sweat it all out on that fucking elliptical I realize that here, I don’t have to be shit.
The new dulche de leche milkshake at McDonald’s is 850 calories of absolute ecstasy. I bought it for the first time and I sipped it, filled with delight each time a straw full contained about 3 tablespoons of caramel. Oh. My. God.
A side effect of struggling with depression, for me, is dealing with the weight fluctuation. I have ranged from hourglass, to Coke bottle, to 7Eleven Big Gulp way more often than I would like. I am not the iconic Janet Jackson, I cannot get away with this shit! The upside is that lately, I have a lot of time on my hands so I try to exercise at least six times a week—but I also struggle with control and discipline problems, so this does not always go well. I am positive that downward facing dog does not involve tears, and you’re not supposed to curse in between each sit up but I do my best to make it through. The eating continues…
Finally, I was able to put my finger on it (mmm, chicken fingers…). My terrible eating habits can be traced back to sexual frustration rather than directly to depression. Once the kids go to bed I feel like sitcom jokes get raunchier, commercials get sexier, and I’m sitting alone on my couch (ok, futon) wide-eyed, eyebrows raised going “Well, ok then!” I held onto my virginity for dear life until I was 21 years old—why the hell can’t I keep it together now? The problem is that sex is so available. Sex is attainable to the one-eyed cat lady down the hall, it’s definitely attainable for me, and all of us for that matter. Most women (even my crazy ass) have at least 2 guys that are available for her to sleep with at any given time…but I’m a dreamer. I want more. I’ve been intimate with guys I feel nothing for and it’s just not that awesome.
There are a lot of bold broads out here that are ridin’ around and gettin’ it—you have absolutely no judgment from me. I actually tried to be like that and it didn’t last for long. This is so silly—but I promised I would bare all—I called this period of my life “Rumspringa”. For those who don’t know, Rumspringa is a period of adolescence in the Amish community when they let their teenagers essentially leave the community in order to experience the world for a certain period of time. After all the sinning is said and done, they get to decide whether they want the renounce Amish culture and stay in the world or go back to their religious lifestyle. Since I am clearly Amish, it made sense in my mind to participate in my own version of this, though I was way past the acceptable age for it.
Needless to say, the first time I tried it I was about a month in before I was in love and three months in before I was pregnant. I should have learned my lesson from that experience, right? Not so much. After my new little baby was old enough and I thought I could handle dating again I decided to implement another Rumspringa. This perfectly sexy and random guy just kind of fell into my lap, just in time for my sexual awakening part II, BUT, due to a series of crazy schedules and miscommunications I never got to sow any oats, plant any gardens, spread any legs, WHATEVER. I actually ended up getting to know him the old fashioned way, catching feelings for the guy and WORSE admiring the hell out of him. After two failed Rumspringas it is clear to me that I am not about that life. Hitch up the wagon, Mama, I’m coming home.
I’ll carry this sexual frustration with me for God knows how long and hope I don’t need gastric bypass surgery before I find some relief. I don’t need to get to know a good burger with fried egg (yum!) or have the Defining the Relationship talk with an Oreo ice cream sundae before I hop into bed with them. I will wake up each morning, tasting the memories and humiliation of the night before on my tongue. I will throw on yoga pants and do the walk of shame from my bedroom to the DVD player to pop in an exercise video and cry. I will bear the burden of overindulgence. I am fully aware that my drive to work out is the equivalent of the smell of Altoids on an alcoholic’s breath but it’s a start. I would rather have my waistline suffer than play the dangerous game of sex with no feelings attached.