Category Archives: Spirit

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.

Effin Happtastic.

I don’t know what it is.  Bad genes, too tight socks, lack of potassium in my diet? But I was never one of those overly happy people.  In high school it was the perky-cheerleader, in my early twenties the America’s- sweetheart- social darling type and now it’s the Stepford- ish-PERFECT MOM, or the light-as-air-spiritual-looooove-organic-girl-next- door type, I’ve always been leery of these overly happy types.  It was as if they had something, even if that “something” was just the energy to put on a happy face, that I myself did not have.  Essentially I was a half empty type and on top of that I was envious of others half fullness!  Perhaps I am slow, but it only occurred to me fairly recently that happiness is one of those things I’d have to actually work on, as opposed to just wait on.

This little worker bee came across Marc and Angel Hack Life and they are truly happtastic individuals. Have a look-see at this article:

12 Things Happy People Do Differently

“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed.  I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live – that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
-Dan Millman

“Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness.  These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives.  (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)

I want to honor and discuss each of these 12 points, because no matter what part of life’s path we’re currently traveling on, these ‘happiness habits’ will always be applicable.

  1. Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value.  Kinda cool right?  So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness.  And that’s without having to go out and buy anything.  It makes sense.  We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
  2. Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism.  No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it.  She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life.  People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous.  If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority.  Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out!  If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made.  What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place.  If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an older version of yourself.
  4. Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain.  (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.)  Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside.  What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness.  How extraordinary is that?  Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on.  A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin.  Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
  5. Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships.  Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely?  WHOA!  There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with.  We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
  6. Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character.  Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable.  Forrest Gump knows the deal.  It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan.  It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
  7. Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being.  You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion.  When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system.  You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
  8. Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still.  It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task.  Action and awareness are merged.  You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional.  You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing.  Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
  9. Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy.  It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences.  When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic.  It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
  10. Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force.  Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere.  When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing.  Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
  11. Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us.  We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever.  It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.  Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
  12. Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be.  If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected.  Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft?  Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.”

As if these twelve items were not enough to both daunt and motivate the hell out of you, go check out their site for more list that inspire. I really enjoy practicing number one and two. I struggle with number three . . .  a lot.  I feel like I have been working on number seven my whole life and I could definitely stand to work on number ten.

What about you guys, how do you stay so effing happtastic? Got anything to add to the list?

One interesting take on a happiness mantra:

 

 

Dear Ms. Love n Happiness & The Case of the Ever Empty Heart

In this weeks installment of  Dear Ms. Love n Happiness the question comes from a dapper and endearing young man who I will refer to as Mr. Empty.  Oddly enough, Mr. Empty is far from being empty. In reality he has a huge heart and is endowed with the kinda gifts that change the world,  he just doesn’t know it yet.

Mr. Empty asks:

Dear Ms. Love n Happiness:

Why, even in a relationship, do I always feel ’empty’?  I am now in my early twenty-somethings, have been in multiple medium-term relationships, yet have not found myself filled with joy, or anything close.

Thank you,

Mr. Empty

Dear Mr. Empty,

Who are you trying to kid? This is no relationship question. I know you are far too brilliant to actually believe that any relationship or for that matter any thing external could fill up this emptiness you are experiencing. You just want me to be the boring ol hag that tells you what you already know. Fine.  Knowing full well that I am about to be trite, tired, cliché and commonplace, I am just gonna say it anyway: All those warm fuzzies you are longing to experience . . they have to come from you first.

If you are anything like most of us, you have to hear things 1 billion and a half times, so I’ll give it to you again and this may sting a little: All the girls you bed, all the money you make, all the art you create, any drug that you take will  not fill up that hole.  Duh.

Here is another little nugget of truth that may piss you off before it sets you free:  Your pain is not special. Whatever it is that is gnawing away at your insides, your childhood, something you didn’t get, something that you got you didn’t want, whatever you call your cross: It. Is. Not. Special. Neither is mine. Neither is my moms, or my lovers. Not my sisters,  not the guy on the bus who smells funny, not the asshole that broke my heart, and sadly not even the bitch that seems to have it all. None of our very painful burdens are special. What a heartless bitch, right? I know.  But think about it, they are not special because we all have ’em. Look around, from the most prestigious and powerful to those on the fringes of society, we are all running around with heavy loads to bare and trying to fill up aching holes.  And believe it or not, this is really good news!  Once I saw that this false feeling of emptiness is part of the human condition, so much of the problems power over me was taken away.

Now at this point you have a choice. Many people choose to get all dark philosopher prince on the shit and question the existence of God, don dark-colored garb, shake their fist at the heavens and write mad treatises from caves. Whatever. It’s been done. Do it again if you want. But, I think that what you really want is something different. You want to live from you heart and your soul. And this here is how I think it’s done, clearly I am still working out the kinks myself:

1) Find something you believe in with all your being and get your arse involved. 

Sure, your heart is empty and your soul is shriveled up.  But, my hand to God the best prescription  for this emptiness is to give more of yourself.  Giving  gets the heart pumping harder and your soul stretching. Its gets you out of the Philosopher King head and into your heart where the fuzzies live.  You will find, as a natural consequence of  giving to others that your own healing starts to occur.  You will realize that the cause you choose to  get fully behind is the one you need most for yourself.  (Is it a coincidence that I am writing a book about my experience as a single mom or that my dream is to start a program for broken-hearted little kids who want to write, or that my best friend helps troubled teenagers through art, or that my neighbor works with gay children?)  In short, heal others and you heal yourself.

2)  Realize that cynicism is overrated. 

You are very brilliant, and for brilliant people it’s easy to use your intelligence to find all sorts of evidence to support cynicism.  I know because I spent my entire college career doing just that.  I paid about 60k a year so I could sit around and commiserate with a bunch of other Sad Sams. We studied Nietzsche and Pound. We psychoanalyzed every halfway optimistic text within an inch of its life.  We compared horrific childhoods and told blood curdling stories about he atrocities committed in the name of faith or love. Oh- we had so many super pseudo-intellectual  reasons for our emptiness.  Our emptiness was a big, beautiful badge that we proudly wore. It was symbolic, it was artistic. It was bullshit.  I walked away with astronomical student loans and a still empty heart.

3) You gotta believe in something.

For me belief is not something I can categorize, summarize, rationalize, or intellectualize. For me, belief was something that lived inside me all along.  I just had to quit beating it down with a stick and let it come out and live a little bit.  For you, and for everyone else, belief is a personal experience. How you experience it, how you express it, how you access it could be as different as  my fingerprint is from yours.  What I do believe is universal is the fact that somewhere, maybe deep, deep, damn deep down in all of us, we know our truth. We believe in something outside of ourselves.  Life is a process where our knowing gets covered with shit. I suppose the challenge is to start shoveling the shit!

4) You gotta use your powers for good

The darkside really does not need any more help, they got that bizz on lockdown. Plus, the pay off and benefits are shitty. Mr. Empty, I would suggest that you take all your brilliance and all the energy you have put into to constructing your identity as the: intelligent, artistic, deep, emotional, wounded dark and slightly cynical man into something new. Use your  immense powers for good and build yourself as the man who experiences joy and fulfilment and lives surrounded by love.

I have a feeling joy is right around the corner. So take your remedy for a while and then lets compare notes. I  know a whole tribe of non crazy, at least in the dangerous sense, mildly cool peeps who are on the same plan.

Namaste Cuz!

♥ & ☺ ,

C.

Oh, and spreading all this love n happiness is kinda hard work, so laughing helps too.

“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!

An Open Letter to my Father, the Meth Addict:

I’d like to take a moment to thank you for the two gifts you gave me. One: roughly fifty percent of my DNA. Two: the image that is seared in my mind, the vision I see every time I close my eyes, of you, my father, being tased by the police. You are the perfect picture of white trash mania, handcuffed, feet bound and flailing around the parking lot of a third-rate convenience store in suburban hell.  “I’m being burned alive!” you scream, as your cracked out saucer eyes roll back in your head like some kind of epileptic monster. For a moment your eyes focus and you look at the camera that is filming your thirty minutes of derelict fame, and I can see where the drug went in and spooned out heaping portions of your soul. I can see that you are a hollow shell of the man you used to be. You thrash around more, screaming obscenities and shout “Oh God, someone help me!” Help you? Didn’t we all try? And who helps us, the charred victims you left behind on your mission to burn yourself out?

I tried to help myself by staying as far away from you as possible. For the last ten or so years you’ve been either absent or an addict, and I’ve grown accustomed to cutting you out of my life. The first time hurt, a lot. While I was busy studying my face off in college, you were busy perfecting your Methamphetamine addiction. While I was working to get a job and navigate the adult world, you were busy alienating your wife and children, driving your once successful business into the ground and picking your sores because you believed bugs were crawling under your skin. But I didn’t understand what was going on. It didn’t hurt that you are a fantastic liar and that being your daughter; I am predisposed to buying into your bullshit.  I didn’t even know what meth was, until the day I heard it speak.

One Saturday morning you were expected at my house and you never showed up. Nor did you bother to answer any of my phone calls. Sunday afternoon, after still hearing nothing from you, I began to worry. I placed a call to every hospital between your house and mine. Monday afternoon I placed a final phone call with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

You answered.

But it wasn’t you. Or at least, I thought it was not you. I thought I’d misdialed and called hell, the ranting and raw voice on the other end sounded more like a demon then my dad. You did not know where you were, or who you were. From all I could gather, you were in the woods somewhere hiding from The Faceless Men who had been following you for either days or years, you were not sure which because, as you informed me, time was not what we thought it was. After you divulged all that information to me you panicked:

 “Wait?! Are you one of them? One of The Faceless?? Did The Faceless send you? They put the bugs under my skin and now they send you to trick me. They want to lock me up; they hate me because I know the truth. I know how to fly!! Who the hell are you, you slut bitch??”

“It’s me, Dad” I whimpered, “It’s your daughter.”

“HA! Daughter. I have no daughter you Faceless bitch, I come from where they fly and I have no daughter.”

And you hung up. And I did not speak to you again for seven years. During those years you made your rounds of meth dens and prison cells and occasionally you would leave me a paranoid message from a blocked number. The first few I listened to, afterward I cried uncontrollably for hours. Eventually I learned to hit “erase” the moment I heard your demon voice coming through the receiver.

My son was about a year old when you called me and this time when you spoke where I used to hear the drugs I heard pain and regret in your voice. Eventually, you convinced me to let you back in to my life. I decided to let you in my house for a few hours. You stepped off a bus carrying a backpack and I almost threw up. Your eyes were cloudy and your hands were drawn up and shaky.  You had been chewed up and spit out.  When I could bring myself to look at you, I could detect that something was missing and that it may very well never come back.

You handed my son a stuffed zebra. I made you a plate of pasta. I took you to the playground where you watched as I pushed your grandson on a swing. Afterward we sat on my patio while you chain smoked and I listened to you talk. It was your voice again, but somewhere in the distance I could still pick out the tone of the demon.

“I don’t know how to ask this,” you said, “but, do you ever think about what we are? I mean do you ever wonder what we are supposed to be doing here?”

I stared straight ahead at the candle in front of me.

“Of course I do Dad. I have wondered every day for as long as I can remember.”

“I want to believe that we are here for something. That there is something here,” you grab where your heart should be.

Your face is distorted by candle light and the shadows of the clouds passing above.

“I do believe that. I have believed that for as long as I can remember.”

I put you back on a bus because I did not trust you to sleep even one night in my house. I put a smile on my face as synthetic and engineered as your bathtub poison and I said good-bye to you. Afterward, I cried uncontrollably for hours. I knew you were not done with the drug and I vowed to cut you out of my life again. This time the decision was not as hard. I looked at my son’s big brown eyes, the same ones I inherited from you, and I knew I’d never let him see the demon that resides in your eyes now.

The years that followed brought more of the same for you, tweaking and doing time. Occasionally I’d receive a call from a number I didn’t know and my heart would race. One day, I figured, someone was going to call and tell me you were gone for good this time. I was standing in my kitchen cooking dinner when you called again.

“What are you doing?” you asked.

“Making meatloaf,” I said.

“Oh, well, I just got out of prison.”

“Oh, well, it’s nice to know you are alive. I tell you what; if you manage to stay sober for six months you can give me a call. Otherwise, stay away.  I can’t keep losing you over and over again.”

And perhaps I should have left it there.

But I didn’t. I let you back in. But not just back into my home, back into my heart.

I looked on as you spread mulch and raked leaves with my son and fiancé. I watched you slice a cucumber in my kitchen and my heart soared.

You left my house, hugged me and said, “I love you.”  I believed you.

And then like a recurring nightmare, it started again. You didn’t show up when you said you would. Weeks passed and phone calls went unanswered. Finally I mustered up the courage to confirm what I already knew.

I open my laptop and, as I have done countless times through the years, I type your name into the search engine, followed by the word: arrested.

All the breathe in my body was beat out of me. The headline reads: “Man tased after fleeing police, kicking out cop car window. Deputy says man’s behavior consistent with meth use.”  There is a laundry list of charges including: armed robbery, attempted kidnapping, fleeing and eluding, and felony obstruction. I cannot fathom what I am reading, but as fate would have it there is a link to a video, where I can watch with my own eyes as you supply some of the best footage imaginable for a scared straight film or a public service announcement.

I’d like to tell you what you have done. I’d like to explain how you have hurt so many. I’d like for you to understand the love that you shit on the last time you went out to score. I’d like to say to you that I am ashamed to have your blood in my veins.  I’d like to convey the nausea that wells up when I think of where you are now.

 Most of all,  I’d like to tell you that all my sympathy for you dried up like one of your nasty meth scabs the moment I saw you restrained like an animal and shouting to the camera, “Show my kids this video, please, show my kids this video.” I’d like to make you see all of this and more, but it’s pointless because you are gone. I cut you out again, and this time with as little hesitation as someone cuts out a cancerous growth.

So thanks again for your contribution to my life. I’ll never know why I always valued mine immensely more than you valued you own.  Watching you destroy as much life and love as possible taught me how to grow lots of both for myself. Your disregard for your spirit and your purpose here gave me an even greater reverence for my own. I suppose that inadvertently you taught me a lot.

The last text I received from you reads, “I just want you to know, I’ll never be high again. I’ll always be there for you. Sleep tight, I love you.”

And the last words you will hear from me are: “Fucking. Liar.”

Sincerely,

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.

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!