ex-girlfriend

I wrote this a long time ago, but it feels like a good time to publish.

i wonder why you let him call me crazy.
i wonder why you let him make you crazy.
i just wanna give you a hug right now.
i know that’s not how, not how
ex-girlfriends treat ex-girlfriends.

but i’ve been in your shoes —
i know how it feels,
and it’s tough to walk on cobblestones
when you’re wearing high heels.
i’ve been in his car, speeding along a mountainside;
there’s a line between living on the edge and fighting to survive.

you’re in a black saab, and it’s racing toward the shore.
you’ve never seen that manic look in his big blue eyes before.
you don’t want him to stop; you just asked him to slow down.
and i hope you wake up, wake up before you drown.

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a terrible photo of a Rocky Mountain road. I will always wish I could take awesome photos like Hanna Scott can, but in the meantime I bow to her greatness and post this crap.

Babies are transportable.

When I look back at old posts, I sometimes think, “How many times am I going to come to the same conclusions?” Every time I think I’ve learned something about myself, it’s like I have to learn it again and again until it sticks. Every time I think I’ve come to love and accept myself for who I am, I find myself going out of my way to reaffirm it, explain it, justify it.

I’ve gotten a bunch of hits on old posts lately, and whenever I see someone reading something I said two years ago, I can’t help but look back to see what I said two years ago. And what’s interesting is that it’s often exactly what I’m saying today. (Or, of course, knowing me, it’s sometimes the complete opposite.)

In my first post from 2012, when I was still happy in my relationship, I had this unnerving feeling that I’d rather be single. In my most recent post, I went on and on about how I realized I wanted to be single all along. I knew it in June when I first recognized the feeling of true love, the fact that I’d never felt it before — and I also acknowledged that committed romantic relationships aren’t for everyone.

But then I hop into a cab with a driver who lectures me that I shouldn’t buy a house because, *when* I get married, the man I marry will benefit, and I realize that not everyone lives in this modern world where women can define their lifestyles and have children without partners or even have same-sex partners or partners that they’ve chosen not to marry or any variety of family structures that doesn’t look like man + wife + babies. Or I get on an Amtrak train to New York, and a conductor asks me “Why are you traveling on your own?” — a question that would’ve never been posed to a man traveling alone with a child in the middle of the day on a Sunday, or probably at any time. Or I hang out with a guy who immediately assumes that “it must be hard to get out of the house, i’m sure you try” — and in trying to comfort me, you’re actually patronizing me. Because, actually, I do get out of the house quite. a. bit. As it turns out, babies are transportable, sir.

And I know that no one means to be cruel or condescending; you’re speaking out of ignorance, or maybe out of some experience you’ve had with someone else, and you’re applying that mindset to every single mother you meet. Which, really, is still just ignorance.

Here are the facts: Some people just want to be mothers, and some of us know deep down that we can do it best on our own. Would it be nice to have a second income around here? Sure! Would it be nice to win the lottery? IT SURE WOULD. But hey, for me, money isn’t a good enough reason to get married, and I can’t think of any others.

I’m someone who has always forged my own path. I leap, and I go in my own direction. My past relationships have worked out best — or rather, most seamlessly — with people who have chosen to follow me. I know that’s not fair. I have credited myself with “improving” some of their lives — moving them in the direction of “better” careers, “better” educational opportunities. In other words, I imposed my values on them and made them “better” in my eyes. I pushed them to embrace things that made me happy, not giving worth to the things that they may have actually wanted.

I know now that I was wrong. But I also know now that part of the problem was that I didn’t want a relationship that would force me to adjust my life in any way. I didn’t want anything that wasn’t incredibly convenient.

To quote my drunk self breaking up with a college ex before falling asleep and telling him we’d talk about it in the morning, I just feel happier and more comfortable and more confident when I’m single. That still rings true for me.

And that’s okay.

What I will admit, though, is that there has been one point during which parenting has been particularly hard for me — and that’s while I’ve been dealing with seasonal depression. It usually starts around Thanksgiving and gets progressively worse until it peaks in February or March or whenever it’s really cold. It made it hard for me to follow through on all the things I wanted to do for Max’s birthday, and it made me disappointed in myself for failing to make the party as perfect as it should’ve been. It makes it hard for me to remember that I’ve ever been cheerful, that I’ve ever done anything right. It makes me question myself and question the people around me and push them away and pull them close and confuse them because I don’t know how I feel about them and I don’t even know how I feel about myself. It makes me self-conscious. It makes it hard to fall asleep at night and hard to wake up in the morning. It makes me less likely to go outside where I have to face people, and it makes me feel guilty for staying inside. It makes me eat more, and sometimes it makes me eat less. It makes me slack as a parent. I was so good about morning routines and bedtime routines and healthy dinners and reading together, and then I just fell off. I couldn’t keep up. I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to be better. I felt guilty for not being better. It was an endless cycle of feelings of insufficiency and self-hatred.

Literally all because it got cold.

And the cold is relative. I know because I faced the same seasonal depression in LA. It would rain for days in January, and it’d be 40 degrees, and I remember being stuck in bed playing “Robot Unicorn Attack,” telling myself I’ll just give myself a break today and tomorrow I’ll go outside. Tomorrow I’ll get something accomplished.

When the sun came back this year, everything changed. Sure, it was followed up by a small snowstorm during which my son got pink eye and I got a sinus infection, but then the sun came back again, and everything was fine.

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I spring cleaned.

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We went to the greatest show on earth!

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and Max got to see the elephants before we start to acknowledge animal cruelty

I wonder if I can really settle and stay in DC when I know that I’ll feel this way just about every winter. I wonder sometimes if it’s worth it to stay for the sense of community and the incredible career opportunities available here. I built a community in LA, I built a community in DC, I can build a community in Honolulu.

Maybe I really do need to get out of this place. It’s lucky babies are transportable.

UPDATE: Everyday Feminism has published a few amazing articles on this subject — not specifically regarding single mothers but singledom in general:

Sunlight and marriage

I suppose I needed spring to come to realize that I’m happy.

Sort of suddenly, I decided to stop dating. It happened during a week that I had two dates planned and a sitter lined up. But the sun came back, and I didn’t want to go. I wanted to go to the park. I wanted to play with my kid. So I canceled my dates, and I put my sitter money towards circus tickets.

I enjoyed learning about other people — and in doing so, I learned a lot about myself. And the things that I want.

I don’t want a relationship, and sometimes I feel guilty about that fact. Sometimes I tell myself that it’s something I don’t want right now, but someday I’ll reach the level of maturity required to realize that I want a traditional family structure. Because that’s what I’m supposed to want.

But in reality, I don’t.

I have a colleague who’s getting married, and it’s so interesting — and so beautiful — to hear him talk about how fulfilled he feels with what he’s found. It’s special in a way that I can’t totally comprehend because love is not logical. Love is not perfect; love is recognizing and accepting imperfections while inspiring each other to move forward and grow. I think. I know and understand that I feel this way about the family that I chose to create, but I haven’t had the patience to feel this way about someone else. Because, for whatever reason, I don’t care. And I worry sometimes that I’m supposed to care and that I’m missing out on something important.

Sometimes I look at couples and can’t help but think I know something they don’t know. Like I know what they’re giving up. Like I know what they’re risking when they choose to be vulnerable with each other, and I feel like I’m vulnerable enough in enough other ways that matter, for things that are worthwhile.

For things that are worthwhile to me. That’s what I need to remember.

What makes me happy isn’t necessarily going to make someone else happy, and what makes someone else happy isn’t necessarily going to make me happy. Sometimes I’m judgmental, and it’s ridiculous. Because: look at my life. It’s not what everyone wants. Plenty of people question if I’m happy or assume I struggle with single motherhood.

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the struggle is so real

But that’s not how it works for people like me who grew up without families. Perhaps my expectations were lower or just different, but I already have what I’ve always wanted. I feel like I can check that box off: I’m fulfilled.

I always thought of getting married as something I might do for fun one day. I think about the party and not the idea of a lifelong commitment. Because that idea isn’t attractive to me. I don’t view marriage as a goal for my life. Ending homelessness, eradicating human trafficking, and eliminating poverty are my goals. I think about raising and loving children, helping little people grow and learn to love themselves. I think about adopting. I think about making the world a better place.

And in this better world that I imagine, I am completely free.

But it’s tough sometimes to hear about the things that make other people happy without wondering if maybe they’d make me happy, too. There’s a sense of guilt and shame around a woman’s choice to be single — and especially a single parent. I see a lot of articles circulating through the interwebs these days about how we need to stop judging women who choose to remain childless. I think I’d love to see more articles about women who choose to remain unmarried and still have kids on their own timeline, not because they waited around and didn’t find the right person in time, but because it was what they wanted to do.

In completely unrelated news, here are pictures of Max reaching for light switches:

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NEED TO TURN THIS OFF

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off please

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gonna go ahead and make sure this one is off

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definitely off

Wintertime

We didn’t win the White House Easter Egg roll lottery. What else is there?

I feel like a stay-at-home mom lately. I’ve been working remotely for like a month, and on the days I’m not working remotely, it’s because it’s snowing and the whole city has shut down.

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Sometimes I get up and get dressed like, “Today is the day I’m going to go outside and go to work.”

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…and then my kid throws up all over me, so I change into something that I’m more comfortable with being covered in his vomit. (Sorry, PIRG.)

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Sometimes we spend the whole day at the doctor’s office.

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…but mostly we stay in bed.

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After awhile, Max was like, “I’ve had it, lady! I’m out of here!”

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…but then it turned out he hates the snow as much as I do.

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Sometimes working from home is tough. (Especially when you’ve got this face telling you it’s playtime.)

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…but we stay highly caffeinated

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and spend an obscene amount of time at Rustik when we need to get out

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and once in a blue moon, we take the Acela Express train to New York at the crack of dawn to work from there.

I guess that’s how we ended up at my last post, which I’ve been struggling to follow up. What can I say to make myself sound less angry? More mature? Less hurt? More forgiving?

Worst of all, why do I feel so ashamed and so guilty for feeling this way?

I think that it’d be easy for me to let go if I’d just stay away. There’s nothing for me back there, and I know it, and I’ve known it for a long time. But I go back, and I hate it, and I hate myself for it every time.

A year or two goes by, and I stay away. So much time passes that I start to feel good about the situation, almost. I start to feel happy, stable, at peace.

That’s how I end up back at square one. I tell myself, “Wow, I feel a lot better about the situation. Therefore, the situation is better.”

Only to go back and find that nothing has changed. Of course nothing has changed. Why would I think otherwise? And even if things had changed, it’d never be enough. Things are only better for me because I’m away. I know that, but I tear myself apart by going back again.

I think that’s why it’s important for me to write this stuff down. It’s not a bad habit, except in these cases, but I tend to block out the bad and focus on the good. My world is all sunshine and rainbows, like there is no rain.

I need to remind myself why I’ve stayed away to keep myself from going back again, because when I go back, I’m just setting myself up for disaster.

For you it’s just a memory, but for me it still lives on.

Forgiveness. It can’t be a means to an end. You have to mean it for it to matter. And I don’t know if you can give someone forgiveness who hasn’t asked for it. I’ve only been asked to move on, to forget, to start fresh — not to forgive. Because asking for forgiveness is an admission of wrongdoing. And you haven’t admitted that you were wrong; you’ve only told me that my memory is wrong. But there are some things I’ll never forget, no matter how hard I try to block it out, no matter how many times you tell me it didn’t happen.

Of course I wish it didn’t happen. I’ll never forget being thrown into walls, thrown into furniture, thrown onto the floor and kicked in the stomach. I’ll never forget being locked in the basement for days without food. I’ll never forget the night you handcuffed me to my bed, forced NyQuil down my throat, and beat me with a billiard stick. I must’ve fallen asleep at some point, but I woke up in the morning, still handcuffed. It was a weekday; I missed school, but I missed school so often that it barely mattered. I screamed for awhile, pulling at the cuffs, hoping someone would hear me, save me. But it was the middle of the day. No one could hear me, so I went back to sleep. A million times, she tried to have me committed to mental institutions, citing a number of depressive disorders that she’d diagnosed me with herself, citing the time I sat on my window sill when I was three and threatened to jump. I didn’t want to die because of a chemical in my brain that took away my will to live; I wanted to die because of you. And here I am, with a new lease on life, and you’re asking to be included. You think I’m denying you some privilege or punishing you, but the truth is that it’s not about you — I’m just tired of punishing myself.

And all you’ve done isn’t all I blame you for. I blame you for not protecting me. I blame you for putting me out on the street and leaving me to die. I blame you for all of the trauma associated with the physical and sexual violence I faced on the street. I blame you for abandoning me, showing up only after I beat all odds and survived and thrived, without you.

When I went to therapy at UCLA’s Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, I didn’t talk about my rapist; I didn’t talk about my rape. I talked about how I got there in the first place. I talked about you. That if I had just had a safe place to go then I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. That if I had just had a place to call home then I wouldn’t have met him in the first place.

And what I hate is that it was so easy for everyone to tell me not to go back to Anwar’s house. When I felt like I had nowhere to go but back to my rapist, I had the world’s support telling me that it was wrong. When I felt dependent on my abusive relationship two years ago, I had the world’s support to stay strong and stay away. But when it comes to my mother, I hear lines like, “You only have one mother,” and “You always go back and work things out anyway.”

It’s easier to single out my rape and my abusive relationship as though they were just unfortunate, isolated incidents, as though they were in no way connected to anything that happened in my past. As though survivors of child abuse aren’t at increased risk for experiencing domestic violence. I blame it all on you. How dare you fail to recognize the extent of the damage you would do? And, even if it didn’t have far-reaching effects, wouldn’t it be bad enough that you kicked a child in the stomach? Even if I didn’t blame you for everything, wouldn’t just one incident of violence have been bad enough? And for your reference, a few things about apologies:

It’s tough to be a lady.

Specifically, it’s tough to be both a woman and a mother — to be both desirable and nurturing; to be fun and exciting and sexy and young and responsible; to maintain aspects of my personality that you wouldn’t associate with motherhood; to care for myself and my child; to breastfeed and to be comfortable breastfeeding in public but not breastfeeding anywhere and not wearing too many low-cut shirts and to stop breastfeeding at a time that’s most socially acceptable, regardless of the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year or longer.

It’s so hard to be the perfect mother.

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Am I sexy? Am I Mufasa? I don’t even know, guys.

Then, I add dating to the mix. And I’m not only caring for myself and my child…but I’m caring for you, too. You want me to respond to all your texts, but “oh my god that lady isn’t even paying attention to her child because she’s staring at her iPhone.” I have to pay attention to you, but “holy shit your kid just poked himself in the eye with a straw while he was in your arms and you didn’t even see it.” I have to magically hear and see everything. I have to strike the perfect balance between going out and showing my friends I still exist and that I care about them and staying in and ensuring that my son — my new toddler who’s just learning to stand up on his own — has stable routines and bedtime stories. And then I have to make time for you.

I don’t want that to be a chore.

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What even is that? A stick? Why do you have a stick?

Dating is fun. I enjoy it so much. I love going out to dinner and getting to know new people. I love cooking together and drinking wine and baking cookies and making out and having sex. I love going back and forth with stupid interview questions as we try to determine if we’re compatible for each other and if we could see ourselves spending the rest of our lives together. I love the friends I’ve made and the food I’ve eaten and even the lovely conversations I’ve had with people that I may never speak to again. I love the new phrases I’ve learned in Hebrew and the opportunities to practice my Arabic and the legal lingo that I’ve picked up along the way. I’ve had an amazing experience. I had never truly experienced dating before. I’d always just fallen into relationships. It wasn’t until I moved to DC that I really started to date. And I love it.

But then all of a sudden it gets so…complicated.

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asdf;j I enjoy spending time with you and can’t we just keep things the same and remember what I said about serious conversations?

And maybe the conversation just needs to be, “Hey, I want something more serious than you do, and if you’re not interested in that then I need to move on.” As sad as that would make me, I completely respect your needs. But I’m not going to be the one to say it because that’s not what I want.

I’m one of those people who loves the journey more than the destination.

There’s someone else in my life who I’ve become so close with over the last few months, someone who is intelligent who I enjoy talking to and venting to and challenging and being challenged by. You’re wonderful. I can see myself with you, down the road, maybe forever. And we do that — we picture our lives together, and we talk about the places that we’ll live and the kids we’ll adopt. And as much as I love picturing my future with you, I don’t necessarily know that I’m ready to commit to that future. So when you tell me that you’re confused and that you don’t know what I want, maybe it’s because I don’t really want anything at all. Or I just don’t want it all right now.

I’m a full-time mom with a full-time job, and I serve on the board of a local nonprofit. I love to volunteer, maybe to a fault. I cook and clean and take care of a household. I’m helping someone learn to walk, and I’m working on creating a safer world for women and girls and boys and men and people who may not identify as any of the above. I want to tackle poverty and human trafficking and violence against women. All of that takes up 100% of my time.

So I don’t want to have to work too hard for a relationship. I just want something that’s fun and easy and flexible. I don’t want to ask you to go out of your way for me because I know I don’t have the capacity to go out of my way for you right now. I don’t want to work that hard because I work so hard all day, and at the end of the day, I just want to cuddle with some wine and I don’t really want to think about it.

At least right now. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a month or a year or two years. I just know that that’s where I stand right now.

But then I look back at that book you made me and think, maybe I need to find a way to work harder on this one.

vday book

50 pages filled with 50 things you like about me — but it really says more about you: the way you listen, the things you notice, how much you care. <3

I think my next relationship will be very much long-term. I’ve jumped into a million relationships before, and I don’t feel the need to leap so quickly this time. But I don’t have to have that all figured out tonight. In the meantime, here’s an adorable picture of me and Max dressed as characters from Up.

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Happy 1st birthday, Max!

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Still hasn’t quite mastered the flying thing.