My phone makes me lonely

phoneHe sits a few feet away on the couch. I’m in my comfy chair. Lonely, I reach for my phone.

The next hour goes by. He is lost in the world of the History Channel and me into my little box.

I really want connection.

He probably does too.

But we are tired.

Always so tired.

So instead of asking for the hug I really need, I like photos on Facebook.

Instead of telling him how angry I am about the way a friend treated me, I read the news and feel the hopelessness of it all.

I used to think my cellphone was my friend, helping me stay connected with the people I love.

Now I’m not so sure.

The more hours I stare at its little white screen, the more acutely alone and isolated I feel.

I read a friends post and I know they are sad. I want to put my arms around them and let them cry big tears into my neck. I want to hold them tight, feel the warmth of their skin and let them know they are not alone.

Instead I write, “I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time.” I might add, “<<hugs>>” or “I’ll pray for you.”

Lame.

These are not the ways humans find comfort and connection. Our words are powerful, but eye contact and touch are infinitely more.

There is never time though. We are all so busy.

It seems nobody wants real comfort anyway. Not really. That’s a version of intimacy very few, myself included, even know how to handle.

Better to text a friend a sad emoticon with, “I love you. I’m sorry. Things will get better.”

Maybe share a quote of inspiration or a funny picture.

Typing the words is easy. Saying them and following through are completely different and require much more.

How many times have I saw a post of a friend whose pet or family member has died and I’ve typed, “sorry for your loss, let me know if there is anything I can do”?

Far too many times to even recount.

How many have taken me up on my vague offer of help?

None.

They aren’t going to do that. To ask for help in our culture is to admit you are weak. Americans are supposed to be strong. Pull yourself up. Push past it. Get over it.

We assume if they don’t turn to us, they have someone. I’m sure their spouse or close family is offering all the support they need. I’m sure they are fine.

We tell ourselves they would ask if they really needed something.

We stay hidden behind our devices, safe from really being there for them.

I’ve been told to keep things in perspective, be grateful for what I have and to just choose happiness.

I’m trying.

This week my body is telling me to stop it. I can’t just push it away. I can’t will myself to just be fine. There is no way to reframe the pain I feel in my heart.

Pain is pain.

It’s not competitive. It’s not subjective. It’s not a choice.

What I feel does not have to be explained away or pushed away. I can’t take a pill to make it disappear. I can’t bury it with food or drown it with alcohol. I can’t distract myself away from it with movies, TV or my cellphone.

I’ve tried all of that.

The pain keeps returning and it demands to be felt.

So I’m going to allow myself to slow down again, even though the voices in my head call me “weak,” “pathetic” and “crazy.”

I’m going to be gentle with myself. I’m going to try and be open. I’m going to ask for help.

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This warrior is going to cut out her bit of sky

Tears flowed easily all morning as I felt pain radiate from my burned hand and crawl all over my body. It coursed like blood through me, stabbing me with the overwhelming sadness that has become my default emotion.

I made myself get out of my car and sit under a tree in front of my children’s school. No more tears, Bridgette. Just write your sadness.

My injured hand jerked across the paper as I wrote sappy poems about the meaning of life, letters to my younger self and declarations of finding happiness.

Then I looked up and one of my friends was standing there. The sunlight shining through the trees framed her face and she looked like an angel.

“You looked sad, so I thought I’d come over.”

We chatted for a few minutes about the book she just completed, our children and the power of music.

This is life, I thought.

Connection.

Love.

Compassion.

She picked up her boy from kindergarten and then brought over a CD of the band we had been talking about. As she pulled away in her truck, she and her joyous boy called and waved to me.

Thank you for that act of love friend.

You pulled me back.

Sometimes I feel like a caricature of sadness, like I have one of those little storm clouds drawn over my head with rain falling on me.

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It’s ridiculous and I want to slap myself awake.

But it is what it is.

I have been using that expression for weeks now. During that time, I’ve barely written anything. I’m not running. I’m impatient and being a crap wife, mother, daughter and friend.

It is what it is, though, right?

I’ve been telling myself that I’m using that phrase because I’ve reached a place of acceptance.

Nope.

It’s just another excuse. Another way to say “poor me” and not make myself accountable for my actions.

It is what it is.

Blah.

Enough already.

Time to fight.

That CD my friend gave me is a band called “Nahko and Medicine for the People.”

This is the stuff.

Seriously good medicine.

One song in particular, “Warrior People,” has become my rallying cry. I’ve been listening to it about a dozen times a day and singing it loudly until my voice cracks. Some of my favorite lyrics:

“I’m just a human being on another fucking journey.”

“I teach my children who to trust and how to listen.”

“I will learn to be peaceful but I keep my knife at my side.”

“Used to be restless, now I am relentless.”

“Everything you do in life is definitely relevant.”

I’m really getting bored and tired of feeling like an injured puppy lying around licking my wounds.

Time to be the warrior that I know I am.

As I write these words, I can’t help but feel like a broken record on repeat. I’ve said them before. I’ve been in this place before. I keep feeling stronger, but then…

It’s always something.

There is always another stumble down the stairs of sadness.

Always.

And it’s OK.

I have lots of fight left in me.

As I struggle along, I keep my eyes upward these days. The sky has become a beacon of hope for me. I stare up and remind myself how small I am and how truly out of my hands some things are.

“He built himself a house,
his foundations,
his stones,
his walls,
his roof overhead,
his chimney and smoke.

He made himself a garden,
his fence,
his thyme,
his earthworm,
his evening dew.

He cut out his bit of sky above. And he wrapped the garden in the sky and the house in the garden and packed the lot in a handkerchief and went off lone as an arctic fox through the cold unending rain into the world.”

–“Fairy Tale”, Miroslav Holub

sky

Warm waves, surprise thoughts and Cuban coffee

beach

Trudging across the sand alone, a strong breeze hit my face and my sunglasses pressed hard against my nose. The only other person on the beach was a worker setting out beach chairs for the day.

“A storm is coming in,” he says to me. “Probably will have to just drag these all back in a few hours.”

Setting my bag down on the shore, I took off my sundress and ran like a child into the waves. I let the water hit my face hard and push me over. Snapping on my goggles and fighting the current, I swam out until my feet barely touched the sandy bottom. Then I waited for a wave to crest, dived under and flipped around to watch the water crash above me. Surrounded by bubbles, I surfaced when I was out of breath.

When my body got tired I went limp and let the waves push me to shore. I lay gasping for breath on the hot sand. I stood and barely dragged myself to my bag. Eyes closed against the sun, I stretched out and let the warmth blanket me and the calming sounds of the waves lull me to sleep.

“That is a stupid thing to do.”

A strong male voice that was surprising close hit me like a jolt. Startled and disoriented I felt the heat of my body and the scratchy sand under my face.

“I don’t care if it’s stupid, just do it.”

A female voice, high and filled with annoyance, answered even closer and I felt around for my sunglasses.

Drool was along the side of my face and my entire body was sticky with sweat and sand. Rolling on my side I saw them. A couple, maybe in their 50s, tan and in matching swimsuits was standing a few feet from me.

“Just hold the damn coconut and let me get the picture,” the woman said pushing the round, brown fruit into his hands.

Could it be they don’t see me? I thought.

“Want me to get a picture of you both?” I said. My voice sounded so raspy and odd that I wasn’t even sure I said it.

“That would be perfect!” the woman said in a very different voice. Her hair was flowing around her face and I noticed she wore a lot of makeup for a beach day.

I dragged my body up and could feel how exhausted I was. Several late nights, travel, wine and vacation had set on me like a drug. My body was more relaxed then I could remember it ever being before.

This couple snapped into picture mode before I was even up. There they stood in a pose that I imagined came from years of comfort and familiarity. His hand around her waist, she holding the coconut like a sweet newborn baby and both with matching smiles that accentuated the laugh lines around their eyes and mouths.

“Thanks,” he said and offered to take my picture holding the coconut.

Shaking my head, I gathered my things as they started to banter about placement of towels and what they would eat for lunch.

The walk back was hard. I could feel the extra weight on my body like I was carrying one my children piggyback style across the hot sand. I silently chided myself for how bad I have mistreated and neglected my body.

When I arrived back at the resort I found a bathroom. I looked in the mirror and laughed. A long, crazy almost hysterical laugh.

Here I am, I thought.

Sand was stuck on me from a combination of salt water, sweat and drool. It was all over the left side of my face, my neck, arm and leg. A crusted layer of sand accentuated the laugh lines around my eyes and mouth. My skin was slightly red and shiny. My hair was a tangled impossible mess.

Here I am, I thought again.

Everything I have done in my life has resulted in the person I was seeing in the mirror.

Laughing at myself some more, I made a half-hearted attempt to clean up and then headed out.

I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Wandering around the gorgeous resort, I found myself sidling up to the Tiki bar that had just opened for the day.

Signs all over proclaimed things like “If You’re Drinking To Forget, Please Pay in Advance” and “Dear Lord…Let this Be a Flip Flop Day.” The bartender was about my age. Her name was Michelle. She recommended the Key Lime Colada.

An older couple from Phoenix shared the bar with me and we talked for over an hour about life, marriage, kids, travel and retirement. I kept drinking until my lovely friend came to retrieve me.

This was four days into my trip. Days that had been unlike anything I had imagined they would be. My friends embraced me with more love than I can explain and I felt full in a way I didn’t know I needed to be.

Amazing conversations driving in the car at 1 a.m. Cuban coffee. Some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. Creativity. Cuban coffee. Unbelievable sunsets. Spirituality. Did I mention Cuban coffee?

I felt nourished in every way possible. My soul had been feasting and was just so full.

Sitting at that bar a realization flooded my body and I felt a surge of something new.

I did not miss my kids.

For some reason I had imagined I would spend the entire trip pinning away for them like missing limbs that had been cut from my body. Somehow I had told myself that a “good mother” could not possibly enjoy vacation without her children. That my very essence would be crushed and I would weep at the sound of their voice on the phone and be worried anxiously the entire time.

None of that happened.

I did not miss my kids.

I knew they were fine and I allowed myself to be fully present in the experiences that were planned for me. Soaking in it and revealing in this feeling of freedom and comfort, I let it wash over me.

A phrase kept surfacing in my mind.

I feel so adult.

It’s a ridiculous thought for someone who will be 40 in a few short years, yet it was there. It kept coming back and I realized what it was. I do everything with my kids. I have become so into their world that I forget sometimes that I do have choices and life OUTSIDE them.

It’s not that I don’t do anything adult. However, most of my “adult” things involve eating sweets and watching movies my kids are not allowed to. It’s almost like I’m a teenager and I “sneak” these little things as a way of rebelling against my parents.

I am an adult.

I am in charge of my life.

***

On the long plane ride home I sat in the middle seat. The man on my left was flying into S.F. for a job opportunity. He was young, maybe late 20s, he was full of optimism and hope for his future. The woman to my right was in her 50s and was visiting her only child away at college. She was so excited to see her and you could see the pride and love she had for her daughter radiating off her.

When we landed we all said our customary good-byes and headed our three separate routes.

As I walked off the plane I was filled with excitement to see my children. My heart started to pound and I could not wait to see them.

My daughter ran and leaped into my arms and peppered my face with kisses. My boy said “hey” and I got a glimpse at the teenager he will be soon. I gathered them both into my arms and kissed them.

I love my children more than anything in the world.

But I did not miss them.

And that’s OK.

me

And then I lost my mind…

Walking to my car I was so engrossed with my phone that I didn’t even realize I had arrived until I bumped into it. I unlocked the door and continued my texting conversation without missing a beat.

That’s when I saw a shadow.

It was just a moment of darkness and then the light returned.

Immediately I locked the doors and started my car. I set down my phone and returned to reality.

I was in a parking garage.

Downtown.

Alone.

Late.

As I drove down the ramp toward the exit, a tiny little whisper entered my mind.

“What if that shadow was someone in the parking garage about to rob me?”

Good thing I locked the doors.

I’m safe.

Inserting the parking ticket into the machine, I exit the garage and wind my way through downtown to the freeway.

Time to get my dance on.

“If you feel like happiness is the truth…”

Not this song AGAIN! I snap off the radio in frustration and enter the freeway.

Some quiet is a good idea.

“What if that shadow was someone in my car?”

Wait…WHAT? Stop it.

“What if they are waiting until we get far away from the city to stick a knife to my throat?”

NO! Stop it.

“What if I never see my children again?”

AHHH!!!! Stop it!!!

The thoughts start spiraling down into a deep, dark place filled with regret, fear and panic.

Sneaking looks into my rearview mirror becomes too scary and I almost pull over on the freeway and run away from my car.

Stories I’ve heard of women being raped and left mutilated on the side of the road start playing in my head. Every image of abuse and death that I’ve tried to suppress start playing like some absurd, grotesque slide show of my impending demise.

“How could you be so stupid to not check the car?”

There it is.

The reason it all started.

I didn’t check the car. I paid no attention to my surroundings.

STUPID PHONE.

I almost roll down the window to chuck it, but realize it might save me if I am indeed sharing the car with a murderer hiding in the third row. He could easily be under that giant karate duffel bag back there.

Don’t look back. Don’t look back. Don’t look back.

I look back and it seems the duffel bag has been moved from where I remember seeing it last.

Panic time.

I turn the music on and off for several minutes trying to decide which is worse, hearing my attacker or being surprised when he jumps up to kill me.

Every passing car I search their faces to see if they are signaling me that they see someone in the back.

I swear I can feel pressure in my back, like someone leaning on my seat.

Now I’m crying.

My poor kids…would they know how much I loved them? Would they remember all the little things I did for them? Would they forever be haunted by the memory of me leaving them to see a play?

How could I be so selfish to go see a play without my family?

What is wrong with me?

The freeway exit is ahead and I’m now convinced this is the moment my attacker is waiting to pounce. He has enjoyed watching me panic. I can almost hear his breath.

I exit and stop at a red light.

Should I run? I could just leave the car right here and run for it. The gas station is right there…

STOP THIS.

I turn on the interior lights and look around the car.

I’m alone.

The duffel bag is against the back door and nobody is behind it.

Light turns green and I drive the rest of the way home in a daze.

***
In just two days I am flying on an airplane without my family.

I am headed to Florida to stay with a very dear friend and her beautiful family. It is an early birthday present from her and I’m so grateful.

Yet…

The fears that spiral in my mind have gone into hyper drive. Untruths are being yelled in a voice so loud that it’s hard to hear anything else. I’ve been tempted to cancel…to crumble and fall into a heap so I can feel safe.

Yet…

I am going. When I am quiet I can picture the beach. I can see their happy faces and almost feel their hugs. The break from my life that I so desperately crave is just within my reach.

Yet…

Fear feels like such a part of my skin that I can’t seem to shake it.

It is following me as I count down the days and is clouding everything I do this week. I’m not going to share all the horrible, ugly things that keep surfacing.

Trust me. It’s stupidly dreadful.

Yet…

I am going.

Yesterday my sister heard my panic and did something amazing. As an early birthday present, she took me shopping and bought me a heap of adorable clothes that fit. I’m more grateful to her than I can even express. Feeling better about how I look is helping me to shake some of the fear loose.

My kids are going to be fine. Daddy and grandma have fun things planned. They will be loved up and safe. This is their chance to miss me and I them.

Fear and guilt are my two favorite punishments that I live in daily.

They are making me so tired.

My body and mind are craving this trip.

Sun.

Sand.

Friends.

Change.

Rest.

I am going.

See you soon.

Bowie, friends and finding order

I am in love with the Goblin King.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then we can’t be friends. Sorry.

The Goblin King, aka Jareth (which I would have named my son if my husband hadn’t vetoed it), aka David Bowie is from the 1986 movie “Labyrinth.” I can’t explain my love. Maybe it’s his voice, or that crystal ball, or the idea that there is this magical King out there waiting to whisk me away when the world gets too hard. I don’t know. I just know that I love him and he makes me happy.

This week I’m clinging to things that I love. I’m holding on tight to family and saying yes to friends. I’m letting life happen and happiness in. I’m telling depression to take a freaking hike already. I’m sick of your face.

I went to karaoke with two of my dearest friends from high school. One of them just drove her daughter to college. The other just lost her mother. We clung to each other and it was like no time had passed. We song/screamed/laughed our way through “Love Shack” and all seemed right with the world.IMAG2138

I went to a throwback 80s concert and danced like a crazy person. We moved from our cramped seat on the floor to the open bleachers. With space on both sides and the air whipping through my hair, I danced so hard that my legs are still sore two days later. “The Safety Dance,” “Pop Goes the World,” “The Metro,” “Take My Breath Away,” “A Little Respect” and “What is Love.” Yep. Even rocked a pink side ponytail and jelly bracelets.

The summer was filled with last minute play dates, spontaneous road trips and way too much eating out. It was everything summer should be. But I’m lost. I’m realizing that I need order. Predictability. Rhythm. Whatever you call it, I do better with it. So, I made a family menu and schedule. Even posted it on the fridge. Just that act made me feel a bit more in control (a topic I’ll tackle at some point).

A new book always does wonders for me.  I started reading “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs. Not something I would normally read, but it’s good.  Scary, intriguing and hard to put down.

This is the kids first whole week of school. We made it through the morning with nobody yelling or crying (not even me!) We were on time and the kids skipped off to their friends without looking back. Success.

As I head into this week, I will hold tight to my dear friends, dance every chance I get (sorry kids) and make sure to get a daily dose of my dear Goblin King. I hope you find a little peace and love today (just hands off my Goblin King!)

“There’s such a fooled heart
Beating so fast in search of new dreams
A love that will last within your heart
I’ll place the moon within your heart”

–David Bowie, “As the World Falls Down”