Category Archives: Single Mother

Top Ten Christmas Miracles of 2011

The Holiday Season has been so good to me that I almost expect it’s up to something.  You know that feeling you get when your Significant Other unexpectedly treats you to a super special dinner and in the back of your cynical little mind you think, “Is he boinking the blonde in accounting?” Or when your boss gives you lavish praise and you wonder, “Am I on the list for lay offs?”  Yeah- Christmas has been that kind of good. Some would say it was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!

 No ghosts came to escort me through portals of time and I spent no time conversing with an angel named Clarence. They are small miracles I suppose but none the less they are mine.

Christmas miracle #1: My four-year old son bought my “Giving is Better than Receiving” shtick.

Trying to teach Leo about giving, I volunteered us to buy Christmas for two children in need. Wonderful in theory but in practical application, it can be rather difficult to talk a child into buying toys for OTHER children.

In the days leading up to the shopping trip I talked excitedly about how much fun we would have being elves. I have learned that talking about chores, vegetables and other “undesirables” with as much enthusiasm as possible can be helpful with children. It’s tricky though, kids might be all, “Brocoli, hell yeah!” However they are just as likely to look at you like you’re an idiot and refuse. In this case the tactic was working pretty well  until the morning of the shopping trip.

“Are you excited about our trip later today? We get to be elves! Giving to those kids is going to make them sooooo happy and that’s what Christmas is all about!” I squealed.

“No it’s NOT Momma. Christmas is about getting toys and trucks and, and . . . and BOUNCY BALLS!” My son hollers.

Bouncy Balls?

Who says Bouncy Balls? Did Charles Dickens make an appearance at Leo’s daycare that I was unaware of?

Perhaps he just had not had enough Cheerios or juice that morning because when the time for Target rolled around he was in a significantly brighter mood. Still, lets not kid ourselves, I was walking into a potential hellish situation.

Boy was I wrong. He was an absolute angel. He spent some time looking at toys I knew he would give his left chubby cheek for but he never once asked for a toy for himself.  His excitement grew as he helped me pick out all the gifts. He knew just what to get the little boy. He was less certain about the little girl, at one point he stopped in his tracks and loudly said, “Uh, don’t girls like THAT?” Pointing an accusing finger at a Hello Kitty toaster oven.

I was beaming with pride as we checked out and by the time I loaded up the toys in the trunk I was doing that crazy happy cry thing I do sometimes.

From the back seat Leo asks me, “Momma, why are  you all stiffly?”

“I am so proud of you Leo! You did something that many adults (myself included) have a hard time doing.”

“Oh, but why are you crying?”

“Sometimes when grown ups are very happy they cry.”

“Momma, sometimes grown ups are silly.”

  True.

Christmas miracle #2: My Baby’s Daddy and I took our son to see Santa . . . together.

That’s right. Together. Was it awkward? Only slightly. We actually got along and may, I mean may have even shared a laugh or two. I left patting myself on the back for being such a mature human being, and thinking we may have a snowball’s chance in hell at getting along. 

#3 My four-year olds wavering belief in Santa was completely restored. 

#4 Fiance became one of those slightly creepy, yet magical Elf on the Shelf parents.

#5 No one got food poisoning from the Chinese food that by all practical purposes should have landed us in the hospital.

#6 I spent an entire holiday season with out getting down in the mouth about my dysfunctional family and was not once haunted by the ghost of Christmas past.

#7  XXX’s The Most Interesting Man in the world holiday ad campaign. One word: Brilliant!

#8 I hand crafted my Christmas gifts to Fiance and they didn’t suck!!

#9 I somehow managed to never set foot into a post office or mall.

#10 On Christmas Eve my son climbs out of the bath tub and as I wrap him up in a towel he looks at me with his enormous chocolate eyes and says, “Momma, sometimes I think I have so much love in my heart that it will grow and grow, like the Grinch’s heart. Only my heart will keep growing and it will just explode love all over you.”

I can feel myself raise my eyebrows. What is he up to? Does he want something? Another cookie, more stories, to open a Christmas gift? I brush the thought away like a snowflake from my shoulder and I pull him to me tightly.

“Sometimes I think mine will too.” I tell him as one of my dumb happy tears rolls down my cheek and on to his back.    

I guess miracles are not up to anything after all.

Annnnd, because if you know me you know that I heart George Michael. It would not be Christmas with out this:

Peace out Christmas.

“Dear Ms. Love n Happness,” Like Dear Abby off her meds.

Dear Readers (all two of you),  

You lucky dog! You have experienced me bending your ear about my wack-a-do problems. Now it’s your turn.

 I thought it would be fun to experiment with a “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” feature on my blog. Like this one: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/09/chicken-soup-for-the-soul-or-dear-ms-love-n-happiness/ and I could really, really use your help.

 Could you PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY please take a moment out of your crazy-ass life to do two things:

 1) Jot down a question about life and fire it off to me. @ ms.lovenhappiness@gmail.com

Don’t worry! You and anyone you speak about will remain completely incognito, unless of course you are glutton for glory.

Fear not! If you don’t have the time to craft a cutesy question, it could be a simple prompt. Think Mike Myers and Coffee Talk:  “I’ve been dating this guy for a few months and the first time I spent the night at his house he came to bed in pajamas and a breath right strip. WTF? This was an absolute deal breaker and now I won’t return his calls.  Am I shallow? ” I can take it from there. Of course if you fill inspired WRITE ON!

My areas of (supposed) expertise: Single parenting, parenting, dating, blending families, relationships, crazy ex’s, really, really ridiculously dysfunctional families, antics, rants, fun and trying your damnedest to live a good life. And!  Powered by the world-wide web and a library card, I will even do research if I don’t have the answer. I. Am. Not. Scared.

And, while I may be a snarky puss the majority of the time, I am capable of being rather kind: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/10/25/the-amish-instinct/ and kinda deep. Kinda. See: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/04/an-open-letter-to-my-father-the-meth-addict/

 2) Recruit a friend to do the same! Let’s face it, I am usually always stuck at a desk or chasing a toddler so getting my writing out beyond my circle has been tough. Please, let your friends, colleges and family members critic my perspective and crappy grammar! The more the merrier.

 Let’s Talk!

You are achingly beautiful and wise.

♥ & ☺,
C.
ps
This is like butta!

The Amish Instinct

“You’re just going to let me leave the hospital with this baby?” I asked cocking my head towards the bundle in my arms.

“Don’t worry Mom, you’ll do fine!” Cassie, a god send in scrubs, tells me.

“Do they teach you labor and delivery nurses to call your patients Mom? Is that some sort of Jedi mind trick you are using on me to increase my confidence?

“I have rolled some women outta here with babies in tow whose maternal instincts were questionable at best. Trust me, you got this. You got the instincts.”

“Yeah, well don’t forget the cat-like reflexes.”

“Rarrr.” I whisper into my babies tiny ear.

“Rarrr!” Cassie claws the air by my ear and parks my wheelchair on the curb. We wait in silence for my ride home.

But I didn’t completely trust Cassie’s opinion, or my maternal instincts. I always questioned my choices and at times I questioned my very sanity; especially in the very early infant days. Sleep deprived from late nights feeding and changing I would stare down at my son until he started to resemble more of a woodland creature, a Sprite or a Nome perhaps, then a human infant.  Or, I would be startled from a very shallow sleep, certain I had heard his tiny cry, and when I crept into his room he was sleeping soundly, purring like a kitten. I confessed to my very best friend, “I know this sounds weird, but I actually don’t mind the smell of Leo’s dirty diapers. In fact, they kind of smell good to me.” Ok, even I knew that sounded bat shit crazy.

I’d never doubted myself more than the first time I had to care for my sick baby. I was terrified and felt utterly incapable. “Where are my instincts now?” I whispered as I frantically googled symptoms and entered every Ask-A-Nurse hotline I could find into my speed dial.

Eventually I began to realize that every illness is not an emergency and that, to some extent, I know what to do when Leo gets sick. When he comes down with a little stomach bug, I calmly take his temperature and I only have to recheck it once or twice, you know, to account for possible thermometer malfunction. I go to the store and pick up all the staples, ginger ale, and bread to make toast, a new picture book and some Lysol wipes. I put the little one to bed and I even refrain from making a doctor’s appointment until I see how he is feeling the next day. I am satisfied, I am confident, I am using my instincts. Until I open up the ol laptop and start a search on WebMD. Now I am paranoid all over again.

Now that I am in four years deep, I no longer fear a serious malfunction of my instincts on a daily basis. I don’t worry that I will serve him rancid meet, or scald him in the bathtub or profoundly screw up his psyche every time I tell him “No.” But, I still don’t completely trust my gut level instincts as a mother; I always double-check my first reaction.

Recently my primal Mama instincts kicked me in the gut so hard that I didn’t pause to doubt, like a lioness, I just ran.

Fiancé and I were on our way to Chicago for a much-needed vacation. We exited the train and were making our way towards the mammoth escalator that leads up to the terminals when I spotted an Amish family walking carefully through the crowd. Time almost seemed to slow and the crowds parted to let them  make their way toward the train. The train doors opened and from under the wide rim of their black and grey hats I could see the looks of fright and wonder on their usually stoic faces as they boarded.

It happened so fast. The train doors started to close. “Please stand back, the doors are now closing.  Please stand back, the doors are now closing. These doors will not reopen,” said the voice of the train.  A little Amish boy, no more than six years old, had been left on the train platform. From the inside of the train his mother is desperately pounding on the doors and his father is looking around horrified as if he has seen the devil himself. The boy’s face crumples and he bursts into tears as his entire black and gray clad family is whisked away to some unknown world by a talking devil train.

“Babe!” I tapped Fiancé on the shoulder, causing him to look in the direction I was already running. I made a bee line for that little boy. Moments before I was about to scoop that rustic baby into my arms and get him some help; an older version of myself swooped in and gathered the boy into her arms.

“It’s ok, sweetheart. I’ll stay right with you until we get you back with your family.” She enveloped him in her bohemian scented, shawl wrapped, bangle decorated arms. This woman had twenty-five years on me but she still managed to beat me to the boy, and from a greater distance. Now she was whipping out a Kleenex from her gypsy sack.  A pro. A maternal powerhouse.

We sized each other up and had a brief conversation just by looking at each other.

“You got this?” My eyes asked.

“I got this.” Her eyes replied.

“Thanks.” Mine said.

“Thank you.” Hers said with a smile. I patted the boy’s head and told him with my hand, “You’ll be fine. She knows just what to do.”

I turned and walked back towards Fiancé who was waiting just outside the protective circle that passing women had made around us. We made our way to our gate and boarded our flight.

The plane took off and my heart soared. I did it! It took a dramatic Amish airport scene, like something out of a made for TV movie, but I did it. Momma instinct kicked in and I ran, no fled, to that little boy. I never stopped once to think about missing the flight, or what I would do with him once I got to him, or if he would even want my help. I just ran and God help anyone who got in my way. For once, I was on the inner circle of the mothers. I had trusted my mother’s instincts and it felt good.

“Rarrr!” I whispered, clawing the air all the way to Chicago.

An Open Love Letter . . . To Target.

Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

Image via Wikipedia

My Darling Target, how I love thee.  It is true that while in your presence I’ve been known to black out. When I awake I have purchased fuzzy Christmas socks in August,  a dozen bottles of mini nail polish, jeggings and a Hello Kitty cookie jar, and somehow these items came to a total over a hundred dollars. That’s ok, because, your little red bull’s eye came to represent a beacon of hope to me. Nine months pregnant, feeling like too much of a whale to be in public and slowly going crazy back at the nest, you were where I would turn.

Of course, you are one of a kind to me, but with your many locations I could pick a store off my beaten path and shop in anonymity. At that point, acquaintances were dangerous. They would want to discuss the fact that I was going to pop any day, or they might innocently ask me how things were with my “boyfriend,” or they may even be bold enough to ask me what my “plans were for after the baby was born.” In my hormonal and slightly paranoid state, I would of course interpret this to be a comment on my marital state, or lack thereof. To be honest, Target, I was deeply ashamed to be a . . . (gasp). . .

Unwed Mother.

I really have no idea where this strange shame came from. I am about as open-minded as they come.  I was a bohemian at heart before I started grade school. I think one of my imaginary friends was a homosexual. My friend group looks like a United Colors of Benetton ad, but for some reason, when I was pregnant, I found myself hiding my ring finger. So I would slip away, as much as a woman carrying forty extra pounds and the weight of the world on her shoulders is capable of slipping, to the place I felt the most free from judgment. And in a giant twist of irony, this was a suburban Target.  I would wonder your aisles, soaking in solitude and sipping on a sinful iced late.  Oh!  My dear sweet Target– you  created my personal version of heaven and put a Starbucks right inside your door. I can shop your wares with a caffeine buzz!

Within your sanctity, I would joyfully purchase a jewel toned Mossimo Empire waist top in a size XL reasoning that $13.50 for yet another top to fit over my belly was a small price to pay for the temporary increase in self-esteem.  I could shop, with little to no judgment from the foodie/health nut types who frequent my neighborhood grocery store, for the Market Pantry brand of spaghetti sauce that I adored and ate almost exclusively for the last weeks of my pregnancy.

We had a little routine, you and I, for our meetings. Once my coffee was secured, with eyes averted, I would discreetly walk past your “Club Wed” section. I didn’t really care to be reminded of the wedding I was not planning. I would then make my way to the baby section and spend hours gawking at baby bumpers, onsies and burping cloths. I would awe at the tiny shoes you carry, knowing that very soon I would be responsible for feet that would fit into these miniature shoes. Then I would well up with tears looking at the “big boy” section, wondering at the fact that my yet to be born child would one day wear a shoe size bigger then my own.

If I was not numbed and/ or emotionally exhausted enough from all this, I would wonder over to home section and stare at random items like, weed wackers or skillet sets. These domestic items objectified my unhappiness and shed harsh light on the uncertainty of my situation.  As hard as I try, I couldn’t make myself buy a weed wacker for a home in which I didn’t feel comfortable. I reasoned that I didn’t need a whole set of skillets; I could get by with one if it was just the baby and myself. Here in front of the storage solutions and slip covers, I was safe to quietly process things I didn’t allow myself to think about anywhere else. Like, exactly what were “my plans for after the baby was born”?

And if all this retail therapy got to be too much, I could always head to your dressing rooms. There I would find a bench to sit on and the privacy to shed a few tears before I put my brave face back on, complete with my new Sonia Kashuk kiwi lip gloss, and drive home to face my boyfriend. He never noticed, Target, how much time I spent with you, or the money that went into our relationship. Truthfully, he never noticed much. Had he asked me, I would have had to confess: I was having an emotional affair with you. You offered me the solace of routine, safety and small creature comforts, usually for under $29.99. Most importantly you offered me little glimpses of the truth I could barely stand to look at by myself.  At that point, no offence Target, I would have taken those things anywhere I could get ‘em.

Now, we’ve all moved on. I still visit your red sanctuary from time to time to pick up an inexpensive pair of shoes for my little boy, or stock up on some shampoo. But, times have changed darling. When I peruse your home goods, and neglect to buy cozy blankets or welcome mats, it is only I am searching for the very best for my family and my home.  When I cruise by Club Wed, or the baby section, I only see possibilities. Were I to shed a tear within your walls, it would undoubtedly be due to seasonal allergies or one of the sappy sweet greeting cards you carry.

We’ve been through a lot, Target.  I’ll never forget what you have done for me and I will secretly miss the frequency of my caffeinated shopping dates with you.

Ever Yours,

C.

p.s.

THIS IS AMAZE:

Every Time You Go Away, or putting your heart on the line

Hearts

Image by Jetske19 via Flickr

My custody papers inform me: “It is in the best interest of the child to have a close and continuing relationship with both parents.” And while I believe this to be true, let me tell you, joint custody can be a bitch. I would be a bold-faced liar if I said that I didn’t have my complaints about my ex’s parenting style — it makes me insane the way he manages to rarely be able to dress Leo in clothes that are seasonally appropriate or to get him down for a nap on the weekends. I could go on griping, I suppose most of us can do a bang up job bitchen about our exs. But, to be honest, I know how hard it can be. I myself  have been driven nearly stark raving mad by a little boy who insists on trying to wear a tank-top to school on the one day it’s so cold even the dog has on a sweater. Don’t get me wrong— Leo’s dad is a good dad, one that tucks him in, cuts his sandwich into triangles and cleans up the occasional scrapped knee— and for that I am grateful. And despite our sordid history and the fact that at times I feel as if he treats road kill with more regard than he treats me, I respect him deeply for the father in him. I had a “full-time” father who couldn’t have told you what color my eyes were and I know women that are raising children whose fathers can’t be bothered to bounce a child support check.  So, who cares if Leo comes back from his dad’s house a little rumpled and excessively dirty? I know he is well-loved while he is there.

But here’s the bitch: every time that little boy goes away for the weekend, a little chunk of my heart goes with him. Weekends “off” are a double edge sword. I might go out and have a cocktail with my girlfriends, or I could sleep in on a Saturday morning and not be awakened by the inevitable heart attack inducing cry for “MOMMA!”  I can wander around the book store uninterrupted by little tugs on my skirt and requests for every toy in sight. I know, this sounds like heaven to moms who rarely get a break, and it is– for a little while. But, sipping cocktails just makes me think of sippy cups. Sleeping in is overrated when you awake to a house that feels empty and quite without the racing of little feet. Truthfully, those little tugs are like a phantom limb, sometimes I reach down to smooth my skirt but there is no grubby hand to shoo away.

I color code my Outlook for weekends and Holidays with and without Leo. My calendar is so colorful it is lit up like a Christmas tree. And imagine the thought of pacing around on a cold Christmas morning, waiting for your son’s father to drop him off. Or, think about dragging yourself through the day that your son turns four. Even though you spent the entire week before celebrating his birthday together, you’re a sappy mess because you know you won’t get to see him on his actual birthday this year.

But I am doing what’s best, right? I have to brush away my tears and quit looking at his empty car seat. When I call him I have to infuse my voice with positivity. “Oh, Leo, I am so glad you are having fun with your dad today!” And I have to mean it, because his happiness and wholeness is more important than the ache in my heart.

I never once want to look in that little boys eyes and detect that he feels torn. He deserves to feel whole. He can have both his Momma and his Daddy. We may rarely be in the same room together, but I’ll be damned if I stand in the way of my son having everything he deserves. Yet, I worry. What if the time we spend apart causes him to feel less connected to this part of his life? What if he does not know how much I love every last ginger hair on his head?

I drop Leo off this morning and knowing that I won’t see him this weekend, I say, “Have fun with your dad! I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, Momma. But, that’s ok because we are attached all the time anyway. Right here.” He says, thumping his chest.

“That’s right! Right here.”  I say, clutching my heart.

I taught Leo that we are always connected. There is an invisible line that connects my heart to his, and no matter how far apart we are, we are always with each other.

“You can’t see it Momma, but you can feel it. You can feel it in your heart. You taught me that, Momma.”

“Yes, baby. I did and that’s the truth.”

And it is. And I am reminded, like my friend pointed out yesterday:

Sometimes you teach what you most need to learn.

And in other randomness: Who remembers this jam? Circa roller skate rink baby!

What to Expect When You Were NOT Expecting.

“Either you got a boob job or you are prego. Your boobs look HUGE!” Lynn announces. It was the end of a busy night at the restaurant where I waited tables and I was hunched over wiping down a shelf full of condiments. I took a deep breath, put down the mini mustard and say to Lynn, “Unless the University is giving out student vouchers for books and a boob job, I think it’s safe to say I must be prego.”

Lynn’s face turned the color of the ketchup I was wiping and I could have swept the floor with her jaw. Normally I would have fallen over laughing at her reaction, but I had only known that I was unexpectedly expecting a baby for a few weeks, and I was still busy picking my own jaw up off the floor.

That was four years and nine  months ago, but lately I have noticed an influx of my friends and acquaintances who have come down with a case of the “Unexpected Pregnancy,” or they, like my friend Lynn said upon finding out I was pregnant, “got knocked the fu$k up!”   I would like to point out that I am intentionally not using the expression “Unplanned Pregnancy.” I imagine that those are words that are most often whispered by not so well-meaning individuals around water coolers and hors d’oeuvre tables. “Unplanned Pregnancy,” is an expression that implies some sort inherent flaw in the mother to be, as if she was too callous and/or lazy to bother planning her pregnancy. I prefer the expression “Unexpected Pregnancy.” It sounds like a zany surprise, a last-minute house guest, or a freak weather pattern, and best of all there is no judgment. I mean, an unexpected house guest could happen to any one of us.

So now that we have the terminology down, I’d like to share a few of the things I learned during my own unexpected experience.  Here is what NOT to do when you are expecting:  please, please, please, for the love of God, do not go out and buy that book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” If you insist on buying it please read it slowly and sparingly, not obsessively and compulsively, like I did. Let me be clear, this book could scare the maternity jeans off even the most courageous mom-to-be. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a bunch of prego-elitist fear mongering and no matter how much I bitch, I’ll  never get back that hours of sleep and general sense of peace I lost due to reading that book. The text will go into long detail about birth defects that effect something like one in every one million babies that are born under a full moon. Then it will heap on guilt and have you believe that if your baby did have this rarest of birth defects it would most certainly be your fault. Everything from Alka-Seltzer to zucchini is hypothesized to have some adverse effect to your unborn child.   “What to Expect” will make you feel confused, paranoid and completely inadequate, and these are two areas in which pregnant women need no additional help.

Now, what TO do (the very, very abbreviated version): Go ahead and get over all your preconceived notions of what a mom should be, which are probably based on what your mom was (or was not) and what society says a mom should be. Guess what? This is your experience, your life, and you get to determine what kind of mom you want to be. You want to make casseroles in your Manolo Blahnik’s? You want to make organic casseroles in your Tom’s? You never want the word casserole mentioned again in your presence?  Great, fine, whatever, because you are in charge now and this is one of the few perks of being an adult.

Immediately after this first step, proceed to step two: get over all your fears, insecurities and doubts about your ability as a mother. So, you’re unmarried? So, you don’t have the perfect job? So, none of your friends have kids? So you are afraid you don’t have a maternal bone in your body? So, your friends don’t quite trust you with their house plants let alone their children, your idea of cooking is a microwave chicken pot pie and you find the idea of breast-feeding simply repulsive? Well, this is my advice: So what? Really, it does not matter.

Line up all those feeling of inadequacy, look ‘em in their beady lil eyes and say, “So what?” Because, you are about to live outside of what you ever thought yourself capable of and you will look back and say to yourself, “damn, I did that!” Sounds deceptively simple, but make no mistake it’s actually one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced. But it’s worth it.

Take it from me, an admittedly somewhat selfish girl who found herself: pregnant, unmarried, in a dead-end relationship, with no nearby family, a waitress, a college student, with little to no personal example of what being a good mother was, and with the strong suspicion that I had accumulated enough liquor over the years that milk would immediately curdle upon making contact with my breasts, it is very much worth it.

 There is a sign above my son’s bed that says, “I am a Dream Come True.” The thing is, when he first came into my life I didn’t know this, but now I know there are no words that are truer.

 And my last piece of advice is: what you should expect while you are unexpectedly expecting is that you will rise to the occasion of creating the perfect situation for you and your loved ones, as only you can do.

Enjoy, and just be glad THIS can’t happen:

Shakespeare in Divorce

William Shakespeare, chief figure of the Engli...

Image via Wikipedia

To Thine Own Self Be True . . .

Besides boys and drinking, in college I studied literature. Yet, sadly I have to admit that my knowledge of Shakespeare goes about as far as Mel Gibson’s Hamlet to that one hit wonder from the early 90’s by his sister’s name.  However, I am absolutely gaga for the Bard. Or, at least I am supposed to be— a bookish girl who always loved words tends to make heroes and saints out of all writers, even the ones of which she is not entirely familiar. Then about four years ago, I fell even deeper for Shakespeare when I ran smack into him in Brooklyn. Rather, I ran into some of his words.  Although they were written about four hundred years ago, that day their appearance on an engraved sterling ring in a bohemian flea market seemed to come in a rather timely fashion. “To thine own self be true” read the inscription. “Damn Skippy!” I thought, did a mental fist pump, plucked the ring up and scurried back to Manhattan to continue loosing myself amongst the many people.

I was in New York for the soul purpose finding myself, trying to figure out what in the world I was going to do with my life, and sometimes the best way to do that is to lose yourself for a few days. I needed to go to a place where no one knew me, where no one needed something from me and where I was free to pound the pavement and scour the subway searching for answers. I had just turned thirty, my student loan bills were pouring in and every day I went into my office I felt as if I was spooning out a small portion of my soul.  My son was now almost a year old, and his father and I’s relationship was not going to get better. It was so diseased that it really just needed to be put down in a humane way. But—I didn’t have the balls, I was too terrified of the “what if’s” to see what was right in front of my face.

 As I wandered from burrow to burrow and NYC whizzed by me in a blur my vision started to focus and it became apparent to me that my dreams had shifted into a nightmare. I could no longer afford to press the snooze bar on my life and wait for things to get better, I had to push past my inertia and indecision and actually do something to wake up. When I saw Shakespeare’s words on the ring, I didn’t stop for too long to think about what they meant. I simply thought, “This is fate in a flea market telling you to get your sorry ass out of this pathetic relationship and get on with your life.”

 So that’s what I did. I went back to Atlanta and instead of tactfully putting my relationship to sleep; it turned out to be more of a “shooting a lame horse” incident that went terribly array.  I proceeded to go through one of the worst “divorces” and custody battles imaginable. Although, to talk about divorce as being something better or worse than you could have imagined is somewhat pointless.  No matter how many people we know who have lived through them, how many sickeningly simplistic movies have been made about them, or how many times we have heard the staggering number that is the divorce rate, really there is nothing neither real nor imagined, that can prepare you for the reality of a divorce.

 A divorce is two people who were once so in love that they could see their futures in each other’s eyes and who now can no longer look each other in the eye. Divorce is when a stranger comes into a courtroom, wearing a robe and a grim smile, and proceeds to divvy up your life with the precession of a surgeon and a scalpel. Divorce is when bailiffs and court employees herd you through the system as if you are one of many because you are literally one of many. You might as well be assigned a number. Instead of Jones v. Smith, the tittle of your case should be: 1407b v 2356a, because you are now a cow in a large herd, a number, a statistic. Your life is no longer “personal.” And guess who got you here? You and the former love of your life. I don’t care what anyone says about amicable divorces. There is no such thing. Divorce is insanely heartbreaking no matter what the particular details of you and your ex’s relationship were. No matter how happy you are to see his broke-down ass go, it always hurts when they hammer the final nail into the coffin of what was once your greatest dream.

And while I lived through that nightmare, I wore my flea market fate on my finger and would stare down at those words making them mean whatever I needed them to mean that day:

To thine own self be true. Yes- I can face this bully of a man in court.

To thine own self be . . .  yes, I can survive the pity filled looks from the other moms at school and show my face in front of the many acquaintances who had “heard” my story.

To thine own self . . . yes, even though all I want to do is crawl in bed and sleep until it all goes away, I can muster up the energy to be present for my son.

To thine own . . . yes, I can start to believe in love again.

And eventually, that nightmare passed and somewhere along the way I tossed the Shakespeare ring in my jewelry box and hadn’t thought of it much until yesterday while doing a little organizing. I came across it my heart stopped for a second. “to thine own self be true” it whispered and I stopped what I was doing, left the little piles of neatly folded shirts and stacked papers, wandered over to my desk where I proceeded to do a little Google research and read about what other people think the words mean. The line is from Hamlet and is spoken by a father, Polonius, to his son who is about to take off and do some traveling, the proverbial “finding himself” trip.  What preceded this famous statement was mostly a fathers lecture on how his son better not lose his ass financially and that he better damn well avoid slutty women.  So, for many it’s hard to believe that the phrase, “To thine own self be true” was intended to have quite the same introspective, feel good meaning we have attached to it. But, I had to wonder, did it matter what other people thought about the words? Did it even matter what the Bard himself meant by these words when he put them in the mouth of Polonius? Not really, to me they were my battle cry, and my fortune to read.

When boiled down to their most basic and least poetic meaning, I take the words on my ring to mean: “Know who you are, cus the more you know yourself the less likely you are to screw yourself over.”

When dispensing relationship advice people have a habit of saying, “Listen to yourself, just follow your gut.” If you are one of those people, please, go ahead and punch yourself now. How can someone listen to themselves when they don’t know what they the hell they are saying??  In order to follow your gut you have to know which one is yours. Knowing yourself, as it were in my case, turned out to be more difficult than I would have imagined. I was always confusing who I thought I was supposed to be and who others wanted me to be with who I actually was. In most cases when I should have been “listening to myself” there were so many conflicting voices going on in my head I felt like a Schizophrenic.

Had I known myself back then I would have known to pay attention to the voice inside my head that said, “Um, this shit ain’t right!” When my ex brought me leftovers from his dinner out as a consolation for not taking me with him, or when the day I was moving into his apartment he went out with his guy friends looking like a character from “Night at the Roxbury.”  If I had known myself then perhaps I would have trusted myself when after watching my ex miss the entire third inning of a baseball game because he had to take a pretzel back to a stadium concession stand based on principle, I thought: “This guy is impossible to please!”

So now, at thirty-something I am finally getting around to being true to myself, to feeling my gut, to picking out my voice in the crowd, and to knowing myself. And sometimes, it’s not all that pretty.  Am I always blowing love and sunshine? Hardly. But I can thank Shakespeare in part for this: I won’t ever have any dreams blow up in my face or my hopes perish before my very eyes again because now a days I deal in reality, a nitty, gritty, true to myself reality and that is better than a dream—it’s true to life. y

And . . . to lighten all this introspection up: