Survival Mode

I didn’t take a shower this morning. I did the calculations in my head and knew I wouldn’t have enough time. The 5 year old was up all night, although she thinks she slept. I was awake listening to her coughing and wheezing, alternating from sitting at her bedside to lying in my bed praying to get at least a few hours of sleep. I knew the morning was going to be a nightmare with me getting everyone ready to the soundtrack of her whining. Nails on a chalkboard…

So, she’s whining and I’m trying not to yell because everyone thinks a yelling single mom is angry because she’s heartbroken and alone– really we’re just so exhausted all the time. I made the decision not to shower because my mid-day workout includes a shower so everything would be fine. Then my mother called with the news that my sister had been rushed back to the hospital.

And that’s fine. Life still has to happen even if I want to ball up in a corner and cry and be scared. I saw her just yesterday and in the back of my mind I was thinking she didn’t look as well as I’d seen her before. But who wants to be scared and face those kind of thoughts? So we chatted and I left because life goes on. I hung up with my mom and shuffled the kids out of the door because life had to continue. I could take them to school and leave work early to pick them up. That’s fine. Everything is fine.

We rush downstairs into the freezing sleet, I ignore the hole in the five year olds tights because there was nothing I could really do about it at that point. I unlock the door and as they climb into the car I notice my back tire wet and sagging onto black pavement. It was completely flat.

I am amazing at survival mode. Something comes over me and I’m making decisions and getting shit done under pressure. I thrive in survival mode: I.am.supermom! I don’t know what happened this time. I told the kids to go back into our apartment. I sat on the couch, emailed my boss then stared into space. I took a shower.

I really wanted to cry but I feel like the tears are suspended and I would have to put in effort to release them. I’m just so angry that survival mode let me so down. I should be with my car insurance company figuring this shit out, but I’m on my couch writing this out hoping it will somehow release the tension in my body and let me get shit done. Life goes on! This is fine! Why can’t I move?

Fuck you, survival mode. You have let me down.

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Loving A Soldier in A Time of War

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I had felt this pain before, I was no stranger to it. Except this time, I was more angry than hurt and sad. Here I was being stood up and utterly disrespected, mostly likely cheated on as well– I felt like a fool.

Because of work schedules, JW and I only have snippets of time together, usually meeting up late nights after I have a poetry event and he finishes his shift at his second job. It’s not an ideal situation, especially since my kids are with me full time outside of an occasional sleepover at their grandparent’s house, but we do our best to make it work. This night, we were able to link up and plan to meet at his house at 2am with the understanding that he would arrive a few minutes after me. A few minutes turned into several… into an hour. I was stuck. At the time staying with my parents temporarily and unable to enter into their household that late at night/early in the morning, I knew I was going to have to sleep in my car because this inconsiderate asshole had decided to stand me up!

Or had he? My mind raced back to a few weeks ago. He called me on my cellphone and put me on speaker as he was being pulled over by a police officer. “I’m going to jail,” he kept saying, but I feared much worse than that. It is never a good time to be a dark skinned male of 6 feet 4 inches. He was a threat without even trying, which I know because being in public with him is a bizarre experience. People have no sense of space; they seem to be always touching him. One time he was even challenged to a fight by some random drunk man who happened to be white—I don’t know if it was racially based. I do know that he was born with a target on his back, matching the target my two brothers and my father had on their backs.

In high school I wrote a poem in my journal called “No Peace in This House” because I knew there would never be any peace as long as my brothers were outside in the world. They were far from perfect young men, but the court dates and trumped up charges for smoking a little marijuana with friends never seemed to add up as punishment befitting their petty crimes. After hearing my brother tell the story of an officer harassing his friends and exclaiming, “Looks like that’s assaulting a police officer to me,” after brushing past a tree branch, I knew I could never trust law enforcement again. Fast forward years later, the stories pile up higher and higher and every black man has at least one. JW has several. JW with his long limbs, easy smile and soft voice is not a tender boyfriend and loving man to the world—he is a threat.

I felt a thud in my chest weeks and weeks after he and I had first had the conversation about his desire to never marry. It devastated my soul and I knew that this was an absolute in our relationship. I would never be MRS. JW and the decision to let go of that possibility was a huge thing for me to do. It was an emotional process. That night in the car as I sat and waited in fear and uncertainty I felt that same thud in my chest. Waiting here like this, heart beat accelerated and anxious about the unknown was an absolute in our relationship. As long as he is free to roam about this country he will be at risk of injury or death at the hands of the authorities or the afraid.

Is there any wonder why so much strength lies in the black woman? We are tasked with the challenge of turning our anxiety into a ball of fearlessness, optimism and emotional support for our men (family, significant others, close friends) every single day.

He eventually came home. I climbed into the passenger seat and said nothing as he looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I thought I was going down.” To be honest, I was scared shitless that he was, too.

What is it like to love a civilian? What is it like to have the privilege of loving someone without the added fear that you will lose them to the war…?

 

I Know Why the Caged Mom Drinks: Second Day of School

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I either feel as if I have it all together or as if I am desperately drowning in a sea of stress—there is no in between. Today was only the second day of school and I managed to botch things pretty badly.

I traded in my piece of shit cell phone for another piece of shit refurbished phone just the other day. Naturally, the phone has been giving me all sorts of problems, one of which is that apparently my alarm is not working. This morning I woke up suddenly in a panic with a foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sure enough, I had awakened at the time me and the kids were supposed to be piling into the car and heading off to school.

I screamed the kids awake, yelling at them to get dressed—as if any of it was their fault in the first place. I didn’t have the breakfast snacks for them to eat in the car, they didn’t have time to brush their teeth and I didn’t have time to wash my face or respond to the email my boss sent me the night before. In spite of all this, I was ready to shove us all out of the door when I notice that the button on my 9 year old’s uniform shorts was holding on for dear life. Her summer plans to “lay around and do nothing” came to fruition and the end result is that she is all tall, lanky limbs with just the tiniest bit of pudge in middle—just big enough to prevent shorts that fit just two months ago from fitting right now in the time that I need for them to fit the most! A replacement pair would be easy enough but because my life is complicated, all of the kid’s school clothes reside at my parent’s house across town. We were late enough but guess where we had to drive—ACROSS TOWN to go get a new pair of pants!

We stop by my parent’s house (after morning traffic, of freaking course!) and my mother doesn’t say much but I can feel the judgment. I know she thinks I’m running so far behind schedule because I was possibly out drinking the night before, worshiping Satan, or something else irresponsible that would distract me from being an actually good mother. Only I know that reality is: I fell asleep at 10pm, had all of my ducks in a fucking row but still screwed it up. As the 9 year old changed clothes and we grabbed granola bars to race off to the school I tried my hardest not to beat myself up about it. However, insert more judgment from the faculty as we did the walk of shame to the main office to pick up late passes, and I just couldn’t convince myself that I wasn’t a total failure. I walked back to my car thinking to myself: “Wow, and it’s only day 2.”

…I was 20 minutes late to the staff retreat at work. The last of those 20 minutes spent looking at threatening text messages from my new boss who was wondering why I dared to be so tardy for such an important work event. I sat in a meeting room for almost a full eight hours listening to content that had nothing to do with me, all the while mentally beating myself up for all the careless mistakes I made that morning. Even now, I am jotting this all down in a notebook as I sit in the Laundromat at 8:30pm with the kids who are in desperate need of a meal and a good night’s sleep.

Single mothers are supposed to be super heroes—meanwhile, I can’t even find my fucking cape…

*I originally wrote this post for Mytrendingstories.com, visit the website and search my username “Whiskey” to follow the I Know Why the Caged Mom Drinks series and other original posts that will not appear on this blog.*

I’m Not Going to Cheat on You

-Because bad sex is a thing. It is a very bad thing that occurs way too often in life and I am not going to trade all of our bomb sex for what could be terrible, very bad, no good sex.

-Because I’m lazy and I don’t like to remember names.

-Because I’m lazy and I don’t like the idea of retelling stories twice.

-Because I’m an introvert and I have no interest in opening up to more than one person.

-Because I eat all of my food. Multiple dinner dates, mean multiple opportunities for me to stuff my face. I will become a house and lose both you AND the side dude and end up starring on the next episode of My 600 Pound Life. (However, on said episode I will be so adorable and vivacious people will love me! I will become a media sensation and my writing will FINALLY take off, propelling me into stardom and success and a life of glorious–oh,  sorry, I digress…)

-Because men have cheated on me before and I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain, betrayal and humiliation on anyone.

-Because I have cheated before and I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain, regret and humiliation on anyone.

-Because I love you. And in spite of what everyone says, for me, love IS enough.

Believe

I am growing a bit tired of myself. Every single day of my 30s it seems I am subject to experiencing something—even if it’s a minor occurrence—that has the potential to upset my world and rock my little foundation that I so carefully put together in my self-righteous 20s. For example, just last night I was perusing a love and marriage blog out of curiosity and boredom. After reading an article about the concept of “soulmates” (romantic or otherwise) I realize that I don’t believe in the idea of soulmates and the hype that goes along with it. Coming to that realization was a little surprising to me and one my friends even said, “Really? You being more of a free-spirited type I would think that you would…”As it turns out; NOPE

Does God really predetermine our lives and place us in the position to receive/meet this soulmate(s)? Or along our path, are we given the free will to make the choice of who to love and how much we will allow our bond to grow and endure with that person? I am not sure. I remember my two most meaningful relationships feeling as if the universe sanctioned our coupling. I felt the satisfying “this is where I belong,” and “this is where God wants me to be” emotions but in the end I feel like those same feelings made the breaking up process that much more difficult. Those very phrases turned into “Why would God do this to me?” and “Now we are not together where do I belong?” In the long run, I ended up fighting so hard for relationships that were not meant to be—and that’s not because the stars didn’t align the right away or I was outside of God’s will—but because it was time for me to choose better and move on. The action and effort that went into moving on emotionally from persons that I believed to be my true soulmates ended up being one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. It nearly killed me.

I still remember sex and intimacy with these men that I felt I was destined by God to be with. It felt impassioned and frantic, exciting and maybe a little scary. On some level, which I could never identify at the time, it felt out of my control. I am only 31 now but I feel I’ve gone through some things; as far as my romantic relationship goes I feel more settled. I am a willing part of intimacy and it is not cosmic forces and divine intervention. Love is not happening to me, I am not falling but I am making the choice to leap. Closeness and sexual acts no longer feel like a chaotic smorgasbord of unbridled emotion and sensations and love is not a place to belong. I always have a place within in me that I can call home. Life is all the more better with him in it but were I to lose him, were we to lose each other, I believe we would be able to find survival in the homes that we built inside of ourselves without missing the remnants we may have left inside of each other.

Regarding love and relationships, all of the things I thought I had such passion and belief in are so far behind me. The special wounds and empty spaces in my heart I never thought would heal or fill are an afterthought. I don’t have a soft spot for these past “soulmates”; I was able to move on and love again. I was able to choose love again, and I am happy that I didn’t succumb to the despair of my past thought processes that maybe I didn’t have much choice about who to love and how. It makes me wonder– what other ideals have I always used to define myself that have since fallen away…?

Urban dictionary

Soulmate: A person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet — a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before. As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone prior. Your soulmate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them. And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime. You are also all that much aware of the beauty in life, because you have been given a great gift and will always be thankful.

You See, I’m Very Poor

I felt something annoying poking into my chest, right in between my breasts. I looked down under my shirt and exclaim “Crap, my wire is coming out, I’ve had this Target bra for years!”  Something about it sounded strange, and sure enough I look up and my friend is staring at me oddly. She goes, “Um, that’s why, you’re not supposed to have bras for years.” This is when the Good Times laugh track cues and I stare sheepishly into the camera. Except there is no camera. I am poor without an audience and that’s the worst kind of poor.

 Last week my hooptie/pimp mobile had a dead battery and needed a jump. I suppose my friend and I staring absently at jumper cables and trying to Google on our phones how to jump a car made us look like we needed help. A nice man was kind enough to stop and help us. He got the car started in no time and in my excitement (stupidity) I managed to step out of the car and lock the key inside with the engine running. This is my life. The guy looked at me wildly, “Why would you do that? We just got the car started?!!”  I looked over at my friend. She is aware of who I am and therefore was not surprised. “Because I’m stupid,” I replied. This stranger then goes into panic mode jibber jabbering about locksmiths and what to do. I let him finish—I can be polite.  But finally I said, “I’m going to go get a hammer and break the back window open to get into the car. I can’t afford a locksmith.”

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Image from: twitgoo.com

 Fast forward a week later, I’m driving around, it’s hot as balls so I turn on the A/C and I can’t figure why the air is not getting any cooler.  Well, that would be because I now have a trash bag taped into the space that used to be my window. I even keep a spare window (trash bag) in my purse just in case some teenaged hooligans rip it off…or the tape falls off or whatever. So no A/C for me. I pull into the grocery store right into a spot between an Audi and a Mercedes. I didn’t want to park there but I have to slide the car into whatever spot is easiest to maneuver out of because my car has no power steering. (I count no power steering as a form of exercise).  I go into the grocery store and head to the food court, I’m not there to shop but to pick up some family photos myself and the kids took a few weeks ago. Some people go to portrait studios, others go to Walmart…I went to a curtained off area in the Safeway food court. It was $18 and when I showed up for the appointment I half expected the guy to pull out his iPhone and take our pictures with it but he actually had a camera, thank God.

 Anyway, the woman hands me the pictures I ordered but of course that wasn’t all. She goes into a spiel about different packages and poses, and pricing points. She wanted me to spend more money! I immediately zoned out. Here I sit in yesterday’s clothes (choosing to stay the night at a friend’s house because going home would use up too much gas), and my window is a trash bag. I look up at her and I realize she’s asking me about any additional photos I would like to purchase. I open my mouth to speak, “No, thank you for asking. I can’t. You see, I’m very poor.” I said everything except that last part– I decided to spare her those exclusive details of my life. However, I have said this phrase to people before. I have bras and underwear twice the age of my youngest daughter… no, I can’t afford the deluxe picture package for $299.00, but I’m flattered you thought I looked like I could.

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When my jeans get holes in them I wear them anyway and just put on some heavy eyeliner and make it the “rocker chick” look. My kitchen sink is leaky but I won’t call the apartment maintenance to fix it because they may decide to be petty and demand I do something unreasonable like pay my rent “in full”. I can’t remember the last time my electric bill came in a white envelope, instead of the yellow ones they mail out for past due notices, and I have a trash bag for a car window. I am very poor.  It’s my own doing, part of living life to the fullest and having no concept of delayed gratification. Things are only worse when I go into a depressive state and become even more so indulgent and irresponsible. I need some discipline. I am not just bad with money but I’m not making any money right now sooooo I’m not a math genius but this does not bode well for me. Anyway, all this to say that I’m just going to own my poverty, I am who I am.

 I left the grocery store, family photos in hand (the $18 ones, of course) and walk over to my car. I notice a well put together guy giving me the flirty eye as he’s walking in the same direction and talking on his cell phone. Hey, I’m still wearing yesterday’s clothes but maybe I still got it! I close in on my car and I notice in horror (maybe only slight horror—I won’t be dramatic) as he stops outside the Mercedes I was forced to park next to. I take out my two keys (I have two broken keys that I have to piece together to make one key that I can use to start the car) calmly get in, and after several tries start my car and drive off with my trash bag flapping in the wind.  He was probably a snob anyway.

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Image from: ashy2classy.net