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My Heart of Secrets

I watched my father have several affairs when I was growing up. By “watched,” I mean he took me to his girlfriend’s house(s), where I sat in the front room reading a book while they disappeared into the back room for an extended period of time.

The conversation in the car when we left was always the same: “Don’t tell your mom we were at XXX’s house – she wouldn’t understand.”

“Okay, Daddy.” The day I said my first “okay” was the day I became keeper of my father’s secrets.

There were times I heard my parents fighting. My mom, yelling out accusations that he had been spending time with this woman or that woman, while my father denied it.

I stayed quiet.

I didn’t fully understand at six or even ten-years old what exactly was going on, or why my mom didn’t want us to be friends with all those nice women. But in my teen years, it started to make more sense.

When I was seventeen, I cheated on my boyfriend. I pushed down thoughts that what I was doing was the same thing my father had done years before.

It became easier a few months later, when I cheated with a second person. And even easier when I went back to the first guy I had cheated with and did it again. I kept it a secret.

My boyfriend started talking about marriage after I turned 18 – we went ring shopping. That night, I left his house and spent the night with someone else, where I also talked about marriage (we had been seeing each other for six months, and he had no idea about my boyfriend-turned-fiancée).

I poured out my heart in my journal.

Was I just like my dad? Would I ever be able to have a relationship that I wouldn’t screw up? I had to make a choice…right?

Instead of a choice, I added a fourth guy to the mix.

It continued this way for a while, but by the next year I had broken up with all of them. I wanted a fresh start. I got it when I met the man who is now my husband. We were married after a few months of dating, and this year will be our 10th anniversary.

In our ten years, I have been faithful. (The fact that my husband is a very jealous guy helps – he would figure out something was going on quickly.) I don’t often think of my cheating past or worry that I will turn out like my father anymore, but today I read a book that brought it all crashing back – a book about a cheating mom and her daughter who grew up to cheat, just like Mom.

I felt the tightening in my chest. And unbidden thoughts of a guy who works at Starbucks that flirted with me two weeks ago come to mind. I have avoided that Starbucks like the plague since he gave me a free scone and told me I have beautiful eyes.

I don’t want to cheat on my husband.

But I realized today, I am still terrified that, one day, I will be unfaithful.

Ask The Band: Worn Out

Sometimes we all need a little bit of advice now and then. Do you have a burning question you’d like to ask us?

Do it! Ask the band.

The Band, I’m in a terrible funk right now.

I’m having some kind of weird mid-life crisis, though I don’t know if being just shy of thirty counts as “mid.” Either way, my main problem is that I just want to be left the hell alone. Of course, wanting to be left alone and actually being left alone are two completely different things, and the sad truth is that I will never be left alone.

It’s not due to the bipolar depression, although I know damn well it’s a contributing factor on my worse days; it’s simply because I’m tired. I’m tired of going through the motions of my daily life, getting up early to tend to all manner of things. I’m tired of everyone in my household demanding something from me at all times, whether it’s my daughters, who want/need all of my attention since they are both so young, or my husband wanting to constantly have sex, or even the damn cat for bitching about not having food even though his food bowl is completely full. (The cat is an idiot.)

I have no friends – all of them live in a different state because we moved away 2 years ago in order for my husband to pursue a new job opportunity. We have family not too far from us, but we barely see them as it is, so they wouldn’t dare step in and watch the kids in order for me to get the hell away for a little while.

A few days ago, one of my friends told me to come visit her so we could go on a bender, and to be honest, I would fucking LOVE to! It would be an opportunity to get away and have some fun for once, since all of my hobbies have gone to shit since becoming a stay-at home-mum five years ago. However, even if we still lived close by, that bender would never happen because my husband, while a great guy, is insecure as fuck, and at times errs on the possessive side of things. He would be paranoid about me cheating on him even though I’ve been a million percent faithful.

Pretty much all of my time I try to reach some semblance of reprieve by burying myself in my laptop: reading the news, blogs, messaging friends or (my secret shame) reading and writing fan fiction. (Now The Band knows my horrible secret!) Sometimes I listen to music. Music is a major way for me to unwind, and the advent of Spotify has been very useful since I can listen to stuff that I’m too cheap to purchase via iTunes. My husband thinks that I have some kind of bizarre internet addiction, but that’s so far from the truth.

I know this is a form of escapism.

I’m grumpy, I’m exhausted, and I’m just flat-out sick of everything.

This is my dilemma. I just want my family to back the shit off, but at the same time, it makes me feel like a terrible person. I don’t want to play with the kids. I don’t want to engage in “sexy time.” I don’t want to do the goddamn laundry or feed the goddamn cat.

What should I do?

I Will…Come Out On Top

This year, it’s time to take action. It’s time to pull our heads out of our asses and make some plans for world domination.

How? By telling the world, not what we want to do this year, but what we will.

So what will YOU do this year?

It’s already been a rough year for me. Just seven days in, my five-year old son was diagnosed with Leukemia. It has floored me. I am still in shock. Daily I struggle with the WHY WHY WHY of it all.

Still, I can make this year my bitch. I cannot – and WILL NOT – let the whole year be a sinking ship.

I will take care of myself. This means giving myself a break, letting myself off the hook, taking days off work when I need to, continuing my healing through therapy, taking naps… It also means getting dressed every day, showering, and not letting myself slip into a depression. I will continue to do things that bring me joy – like travel – and try to let go of the worry.

I will be there for my son. I will advocate for him and help him create good memories to balance out the less palatable ones. I will continue to give him a stable home life with structure despite the bomb that has gone off in our life.

I will keep working toward my goals – personal and family goals. My husband and I have plans for this year and next – plans we’ve been working toward since we met – and I will not let them get derailed. It would be easy to push everything aside, but the RIGHT thing is to show our son how to live in the face of adversity.

I will nurture my primary relationship. I’ve been stressed and overwrought and altogether tapped out emotionally lately. It’s okay to have low points, I know, and my husband and I are helping each other as best we can. Our relationship is important and provides a foundation for our life as a whole. If we take care of our marriage, the rest of our life will benefit.

I will allow myself to stumble.
I will give myself permission to be less than perfect.
I will celebrate my victories.
And I will make it through this year.

A Letter To My Exes That I Can’t Send

We all have letters we’d like to send, but know that we can’t. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser. Letters where actual contact is just not possible for whatever reason.

Hello Ex #1. You were wonderful. You were kind, thoughtful, loving, attentive. You were there for me through a very rough time when my parents were divorcing. You were loved by all of my family. You were an amazing first boyfriend and I loved you with all my heart. Thank you for being such a wonderful first.

Hello Ex #2. You were revenge on my parents for splitting up and “ruining everything”. You were MANY years older than me. You were fun because you provided everything I needed to escape my shitty teenage reality. I drank and did drugs. You became a heroin addict. I became pregnant. I made an incredibly difficult decision to abort and then a really smart decision to leave you. Please stop trying to “friend” me on Facebook. I am never going to accept the request. You are in the past. Stay there.

Hello Ex #3. You were my self-punishment for the abortion. You were incredibly gorgeous and charming. Then you weren’t. You picked fights over everything. I could never give you enough of my time and energy. I let you isolate me from my friends and family. I hated myself. You hit me. I only ended it because my friend would have killed me (figuratively speaking) if I went back to you. After all, she got a black eye when she stepped in front of me to protect me from your swing. You suck. I was stupid.

Hello Ex #4. You were very charming, sweet and funny. We had so much in common. Eventually I moved in with you. Then you stopped working. I supported us (and your friend) for two years. I kept giving you chance after chance to make something of yourself. How could I leave you high and dry? You had no job. You’d be kicked out of the apartment. Where would you go? What the hell was I thinking? When I finally left, I did it all wrong, but you were just fine. You found someone else to take care of you. I pity her. I was proud of me for thinking more of myself and wanting more for myself than what you were giving.

Hello Husband. It took these exes and so many more for me to grow up and learn self-respect; to learn how to love someone else correctly. And to learn to be loved the right way. Yes, sometimes we argue, but you know what? Those arguments are healthy. It took me a lot of years to learn how to argue healthily. We communicate, we share our feelings and our points (sometimes loudly, but always respectfully), we compromise where it’s appropriate, and give in sometimes, too. We work together to make us work. You always think of me, my needs and how things will affect me before you make decisions. I’ve learned to do that, too. You love me so much. I love you equally. We have a beautiful life and three beautiful girls. We have had some REALLY hard times in the nine years we’ve been married. But we work through them together and we are stronger for it. My love for you grows and my respect for you grows. You have my trust.

Thank you for growing with me.

Ask The Band: Is Donor Insemination The Right Thing To Do?

Can I do it alone?

I have a son. He’ll be four in a few weeks – a sweet, smart, active little boy with a big heart. However, his father and I split up over a year ago, largely because I wanted more kids. While we had agreed upon it previously, he later decided that one was enough. He loves our son, of that I have no doubt, but he refused to have another child.

I’d had enough.

The breakup was nasty but I agreed to shared custody. Leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done – not leaving him, but sleeping under a different roof than my son. However, our custody arrangement is such that I see my son pretty much every day, and most nights. At least it’s bearable.

My son keeps asking me to bring home a baby for him (which is just so darn cute), but I wish it were that simple. I want another child. My biological clock is ticking louder every day. In a few months I turn 40. Somehow that number has always seemed the age I should be finished having kids.

For the past nine months (irony, anyone?), I’ve been actively searching for Mr. Right. Someone intelligent, attractive, single, honest, interesting, gentle, kind and creative, who likes kids and wants to settle down – and who hasn’t had a vasectomy. There isn’t anyone like that in my regular life so I’ve tried four different internet dating sites. So far I’ve met 18 local men and, well, short version: no luck.

So I have a choice.

I can take the risk and wait, or I can cut out the middleman (pun intended) and just do it myself with the help of a local fertility clinic.

I can afford the procedures and they’ve accepted me as a client. I’m lucky to have a job that will pay me almost my full salary for a full year of maternity leave, and a great health plan that covers most costs. I make enough money to be able to support another child. What more do I need, right? Case closed! Decision made! Sign me up and show me the stirrups!

Then the doubts set in.

If I get pregnant this fall, my son would be five by the time the baby was born. Is it fair to him? Will I have the energy to do all the things he needs me to do for him? Will I be able to get him to school on time – help him with his homework? Will he resent sharing his bedroom? Will he resent sharing me? Will his father think that he can steal our son away from me because I have another child? I wouldn’t put it past him.

Is it fair to deprive a child from knowing his father? Will the baby wonder? Will this baby resent that my firstborn son gets to spend time with his father but he or she can’t?

I remember those first months (and first years) of having a baby. It’s exhausting. Not enough sleep, constantly on call, never a moment of privacy – and that’s what it was like when the father was there to help out.

What happens if I’m on my own? No one is going to make me a sandwich. No one is going to vacuum for me or unload the dishwasher. No one will change a diaper once in a while to give me a break. No will bounce a teething infant for an hour or two in the middle of the night so I can sleep. No one will pick up groceries from time to time.

I will have no one to rely on but myself.

I don’t have family around, and all of my friends are leaving town one by one – it’s their careers, I always knew they’d be going sometime. Could I hire a doula for the first few months? A nanny? How much would that cost? Can I afford it? How do I find one? Would she expect to live here in my tiny house? Where would I put her?

What would it really mean to have a child on my own? Can I do it alone? The only single moms I know had a hell of a time, and they had friends and family around to help. What if I have twins? How the hell would I handle that on my own? My mother was a twin.

Am I strong enough to handle it?

Donor insemination.

It’s the right thing to do.

Right? Tell me I’m right.

Please.

Dose of Happy: The View From Up Here

Recently, Sunshine and I went to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex to visit a friend of ours. Normally, when we go visit our friend, we stay at our friend’s house. This time, when we texted our friend that we were getting near, he texted back an address and told us to meet him there. We got there, and it was a hotel. See, our friend’s house was on the market, staged and ready for an open house early the next morning and he didn’t want us to have to feel rushed to leave, so he put us up in a hotel.

Now, our friend is one of those “go big or go home” kind of people. Well, maybe “live life out loud” or “live life at high speed” or something would be more like it, but whatever–the point is, our friend believes in living life to the fullest. And because he knows that we live in a tiny house on wheels, he couldn’t just get us a hotel room. He had to go and get us a suite, with a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom that on its own was bigger than our whole living room, kitchen and dining area combined. The living room and bedroom each had one entire wall made up of windows overlooking the city to the south, and to a city girl like me, the view was stunning.

Sunshine, our dog Mollie, and our friend took off to do whatever it is they do when they hang out–probably fossil hunting or some other grand adventure. I went shopping, as my ass has grown too big for my pants or my pants have shrunken too small for my backside, and there are just so many good stores in the DFW metroplex.

I got done shopping (in a surprisingly short amount of time) and returned to the hotel. After taking my purchases out of their bags and packing them in my luggage, I surveyed the living room area of our suite. There was this cute little armchair right in front of the window, but it was facing the wrong way, so I turned it around and plopped my ass down facing that wall of windows, and I watched the world go by from my perch on the eighth floor of this hotel.

There has always been something so soothing to me about watching the world from high up in a building in the middle of a large city. Maybe it’s because I can watch the city go by without being affected by the hustle and bustle and mad rush and overwhelming NOISE of it all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a large city and somehow wound up in a swamp and miss the hell out of city life. Maybe it’s a little of both with some unknown factors thrown in for good measure.

Whatever the reason, I sat there in that room and watched the world go by out that window and listened to the sound of the air whooshing through the vents of the air-conditioning system and the faint sound of the water in the fountain eight stories below me splashing on the concrete.

I sat there in that silence and watched the world go by, and felt such a deep peace.

That may not sound like much out of the ordinary to some of you, but to an addict like me, to sit alone and just watch the world out a window and enjoy the silence–well, that’s a miracle.

There were many years when I couldn’t be alone. There were many years when I couldn’t stand silence. There were many years when I always had somewhere to go and something to do and somebody to be.

I was able to sit there in that chair and watch the world go by and be content with just sitting still. I was happy to know that, unlike all of those people in all of those cars rushing by below me–I had nowhere to be, no pressures, no deadlines, no expectations to meet. I had only to sit and reflect in the silence.

I was able to sit there in the silence, with nothing to distract me from myself, and not want to crawl out of my skin.

After my addiction, failed marriages, prison time, and all of the other horrors that go along with addiction, it’s a miracle it is for me to be able to sit in silence and watch the world go by. It’s a miracle for me to sit high up in a hotel and watch humanity pass by without worrying that life is passing me by.

So my dose of happy this Monday is being able to enjoy the silence, to be comfortable in my own skin. I hope each and every one of you can find a few moments this week to enjoy some silence, and just be.