What the What is My What?

I am almost 38 years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have a pretty clear picture of WHO I want to be, but that person is financially secure and not drowning in debt. That is the part I struggle with. How do I get to that place without succumbing to the everydayness (sure, that’s a word) and apathy of it? How do I find something that lights my soul on fire (because, really, isn’t that what everyone is ultimately looking for) AND pays the bills? When I hear people say things like, “My job doesn’t even feel like work because I love what I do so much,” I want to barf all over their paycheck. I mean, good for you. Really. But I’m bitter and jealous and I’m allowed to be. So here is the part where self-help gurus everywhere tell me anything is possible if you want it badly enough, work hard enough, and believe in yourself. It IS possible to achieve your goals and live your dreams. Well, the truth is, I believe that. The problem, however, is that I have no identifiable goals and dreams other than raising my son well (but I’m putting a check mark next to that one already because it’s a given and, unfortunately, doesn’t pay very well), and being financially secure, preferably while also having more time to spend with my Roo (that’s my son, for those of you just joining the party).

Let’s take a quick detour to the land of goals, shall we? How many times have you been advised to set “SMART” goals? In case you are one of the lucky ones who have never had to do this, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. I get it. I get why that makes sense. But, man, I don’t know if I’ve ever rolled my eyes harder.  And maybe it’s just me. Maybe most people have goals they can actually define in this way. Maybe I’ve just never cared about anything enough or wanted anything badly enough to even take the time to set the goal. I read personal development books (that term sounds so much more sophisticated than “self-help”) and listen to podcasts and everyone is talking about goals, goals, goals and how to find your path to achieving them. Meanwhile, I’m just over here screaming, “But how the living F do I know what I even want to do???”  Sure, I’ve had fluctuating dreams; for about two weeks, I was really passionate about opening a non-profit under Dave Eggers’ 826 model, and for a while I only wanted to work with dogs (because, ya know…humans). Recently, I’ve been interested in social media marketing. But nothing sticks. Nothing has really had a hold on me.

Having a child has changed how I perceive time and its value and, suddenly, I so strongly want something else. But there’s no point in a why if there’s no what to apply it to. (Huh?… Stay with me here) My point is, I don’t know how much therapy, soul-searching, and reflection it’s supposed to take to figure this out. I am inspired by people like Rachel Hollis (who, incidentally, I have developed an enormous platonic crush on) who do their job well and light a fire under my ass. I’m excited to go to the PA Conference for Women next week because that’s how I felt when I left the conference last year. Sure, the books and the podcasts and the conferences help me find the tools, or the how.  So, I’ve got my why, I’ve got my how, but what the what is my what?!? I feel like this is typically the first piece of the puzzle for people, but, for me, this piece must have slid between the cracks of the couch or jumped into the dark hole where all the missing socks go. Never stop searching, though. Just like those socks, it’s gotta be there somewhere. Holler if ya hear me. 😉

The Problem With Pets

I had five dogs. Had. As in past-tense. That number dropped to four a few months ago, and then to three last night. See, the problem with pets is that they give you unconditional love, companionship, and cuddles for years and years and then they force you to make some of the toughest decisions you could ever have to make and, ultimately, leave you with a tiny piece of your heart missing. I realize it may be hard to understand for someone who has never loved a pet, but for anyone who has, I don’t care if it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, mouse, parakeet, potbelly pig, aardvark, whatever, it’s a crushing loss.

When I was a kid, I was terrified of dogs, yet I always wanted one. I figured if it was mine, I wouldn’t be afraid. But my parents were not dog people (again, note the past-tense), having never had dogs of their own growing up, so, instead, I had some goldfish and a hamster I refused to touch and hated from the moment I got it home.  In college, I dated a man (and I use that term loosely) who had the sweetest baby of a pitbull (this dog literally spooned me when I cried) which rendered me completely unable to survive without a dog. Side note: My love of dogs is the single positive thing I got out of that relationship. When I moved back home after college, I begged my parents to let me get a dog. They agreed I could get a small dog, and I adopted a five year-old chihuahua who I named Nacho (His name in the shelter was Chi Chi. Why do shelter dogs always have the dumbest names? But, I digress). The first night I brought Nacho home, he completely won my parents over by pawing at their hands any time they stopped petting him. My parents hadn’t realized the wealth of intelligence and personality dogs possess and were instantly smitten. Nacho was a total lovebug and I still wish I had more time with him. Our story, however, did not have a happy ending. I won’t get into the tragic details here, but I needed to talk about Nacho because he was my first dog and will always have a piece of my heart. If I didn’t mention him, it would be like I’ve forgotten about him, or he was insignificant, and neither of those things is true.

Fast forward to my adult life… I had three dogs for a long time, Eva, Zoe, and Marley. Eva has always been my heart. I swear that dog just got me.  When she was my only dog, and even for a while after, I took her everywhere with me: friends’ houses, camping, even on a plane to San Francisco. Zoe was always my goofy little loner, and Marley, well… he was a little stressful at first but he’s a sweetheart and a mama’s boy. My husband has two dogs, Rohan and Tuffy, so when we got together, we became [almost] the Brady Bunch of dogs with five between us. I am grateful to have fallen for a man who shares my love of dogs, especially small ones. I find comfort in knowing he’s secure enough in his masculinity to be seen walking down the street with a chihuahua wearing a pink and purple puffy winter coat. The chihuahua would be wearing that, I mean, not my husband. Just to clarify.

I lost Eva a few months ago at just about 14 years-old in the most horrific way. Long story short, she was attacked by a dog I agreed to foster. We tried to keep them separated, to be safe, but the dog pulled her through the bars of a baby gate with no provocation or apparent reason, and after a week of surgeries and care at the emergency veterinary hospital, we ultimately had to let her go. This was, and still is, devastating to me on so many levels, so many guilt-ridden levels. But I’ll save that PTSD story for another day. Zoe was 15 years-old (possibly older; she ended up at the shelter as a stray, so we never knew for sure), with Lyme Disease and some sort of neurological issue. So, while not shocking, she did take a drastic turn for the worse suddenly and you can just never truly prepare yourself. Last night, I made the decision to let her go, as well.

Anyway, all of this to say that I came to have a dog family I’d never imagined. I often thought about how strange it was, if you really think about it, that I had all of these little animals who lived in my house, slept on my furniture, and relied on me for literally everything. But dogs give so much in return. Things that money can’t buy. Things that a perfect job, a perfect body, amazing friendships, even a fantastic marriage can’t replace. But the fact of the matter is, we will most likely outlive them. There will come a time when we have to decide whether their quality of life is sufficient enough to keep them with us, or whether it’s time to put own desire to hold on to them forever aside and let them go. No matter how big or how small, how young or how old, they will always be our babies, which only makes that decision and the subsequent loss that much harder to swallow. In the end, we can only try to focus on the gifts we gave each other, the lasting memories made, and the fact that for however long we were together, we took good care of them, gave them food, shelter, love and affection (and, in my case, Snuggies and Michael Jackson costumes), and cherish the paw prints left on our hearts.

This is dedicated to my precious girls, Eva Tiffany and Zoe Sophia (Yes, they have middle names. When I was pregnant and all hopped up on hormones, I thought it would be hilarious to give all of our dogs middle names. And it was.)  I will love you forever. I hope you’ve found each other on the other side of the rainbow bridge.

#tbt

When I was in middle school and high school, I wrote a lot of poetry. I have binders full of them in a storage bin somewhere. It was full of teenage angst, depressing words from a white middle-class privileged girl about the pointlessness of life. But it was an outlet, and I was proud of it. I even won a contest in a local newspaper once. As an adult, I’ve come back to poetry now and again, but not in the same driven way. Looking back, I don’t know if I’d say that I was actually ever a talented writer, but I never needed to be. It wasn’t for anyone else. So, I’m putting my self-criticism aside, and sharing something I wrote just three years ago, in a place filled with a volatile mixture of darkness and hope.

A critical battle to fight with limited weapons,
A war I am simultaneously convinced I can win
And sure I am destined to lose.
The melody of love or the low bass of comfort,
A soft cleansing rain turned into a reckless storm,
A world of possibility hidden under a brutal reality.

Something so full must surely have a leak
Something so strong must eventually turn weak.

It’s a ray of sunshine and a choking shadow,
A heart full of hope dusted with an empty doubt,
My greatest victory undone by my worst defeat,
The biggest smile followed by the smallest disbelief,
An endless ambition stunted by a crippling fear,
The warmest hug disturbed by the coldest stare.

A constant duality with an unrelenting grip
A past and a future blurring my vision
A candle blown out by an unreasonable wish
And a rainbow outdone by the darkest clouds.

If the worry doesn’t kill me,
The wonder still will.
If the truth can save me,
I will grow stronger still.

Until I resolve this aching duality
I fight the good fight and keep my head held high.
Until I patch these holes in my soul,
I’ll do what I must just to get by.

Fake Hair, Don’t Care. Or Do I?

I went through a phase (okay, maybe several) in my late 20s/early 30s where I wore clip-in hair extensions most of the time. I was especially fond of them when I was single and dating and thought I only looked hot with long, flowing (albeit synthetic) hair. I still maintain that they, for the most part, looked real and enhanced my look, the bottom line being they gave me more confidence, and confidence is largely where beauty originates. I ultimately stopped wearing them because I figured the constant weight on my fine, thin (and thinning) hair was probably not the best idea.

Two months ago, I decided my hair had had enough rest and it was time to revisit the extensions. However, my collection of fake hair in various styles and colors got shoved in one box or another when we moved and is now probably in a tangled pile somewhere in our musty basement. Well, that’s not entirely true… I did happen to see one dark brown wavy clump on the basement floor having spilled out of a trash bag. Its condition is less than stellar, though, and, although I have yet to actually throw it out, or even pick it up off the floor (it’s fun to make my husband think, if even for a split second, that there’s a giant rat with impeccable curls lying dead on our basement floor), I’m not about to wear it. So, naturally, I started searching Amazon for my new hair. Being the summer, I decided to look for the curly 18-inch ponytail extensions I used to rock on a daily basis as my go-to lazy ‘do. Previously, I got them from Ulta for somewhere around $50. But, this time, my savvy Amazon shopping self found them for $11.89, y’all! The exact. same. thing.  So, I started wearing the fake ponytail again this summer, again thinking it made me feel more confident and more attractive. Until one day, I looked at myself in the mirror wearing my fake ponytail and my pants romper from Target, and thought…Maybe I’m too old for this. Gasp! Like a ponytail extension whip to the face, I realized that I am old enough to actually be too old for things. What does this mean??? Does this mean it’s time to stop shopping in the “Juniors” section? Oh, quick side note… have you been to the Juniors section of Target recently (clearly I have a thing for Target. Don’t judge me. You know you love it, too)? It’s like stepping onto the set of “Clueless.” It simultaneously makes me feel super nostalgic and super depressed (And slightly irritated. I mean, get your own style, 2018!) But, I digress.

Anyway, I’m creeping towards 40. But 40 is the new 20, right? RIGHT? So, I’m still young. I still got it goin’ on, or whatever the kids are saying these days. I’m not gonna lie to you…being a MILF is totally on my list of big picture goals. Maybe I look silly wearing a long ponytail that sits at the top of my head because if I place it any lower it will fall out and everyone will wonder how a horse tail ended up on my office floor. Maybe I have to accept the fact that the section of the store meant for grown adult women is more my speed. Maybe it’s true that people I graduated high school with have children who are starting college. Maybe I need to start thinking about “anti-aging” skincare products. I think I can accept all of that.

But, seriously, when did I universally become a “ma’am”???

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Rockin’ my ponytail and Target romper.

But the Truth Isn’t ALWAYS Beautiful

So here’s the real deal… the truth isn’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s ugly, scary, earth-shattering. On this day, 17 years ago, the truth, for many people, became the latter. As we remember and honor all of the lives lost in terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and numerous other occasions, we’re forced to somehow come to terms with the fact that hate exists in the world, sometimes in a senseless and violent way, and we never know when the next attack will occur or who the next victims will be. It could be tomorrow. It could be us. These are the realities we uncover as we get older and our rose-colored glasses start to turn a dusty shade of gray. These are the realities to which I’d prefer to remain ignorant, if given the choice. This is the reason I don’t watch the news. And while I can certainly understand and appreciate the reasons to be knowledgeable about the world outside of our own personal bubbles, this is why I’d rather not know. Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss. As I reflect on the harsh truths of uncertainty and tragedy and the events of September 11, 2001, I thought it would be fitting to share this brief piece I wrote on September 25, 2014 following some news I’d rather not have heard…

 

I love fall. This is my time. Colorful leaves, hayrides, sweatshirts, pumpkin everything. But today, as the rain drowns the the beginning of the season, of my time, I sit in my Philadelphia office, above the rumbling of the subway cars, with more than a little anxiety. Instead of thinking about the myriad ways I could enjoy the upcoming sunshiney weekend, my mind is consumed with the news of an “imminent” terrorist attack on subway systems in the US. Now, every rumble below me seems louder than it used to be, every bang or screech suspicious. I could spend the rest of my fall days worrying. I could spend this season in a downward spiral of fear. But then they win, right? So I vow, instead, to enjoy my hot pumpkin spice latte (insert white-girl stereotype here) and make plans to soak in the sun and let my hair blow in the breeze. I will pray, in my way, for the safety of this country and the innocents everywhere who want no part of this, who should have no part in this. And, until peace wraps its warm arms around this Earth, I will play in piles of red and orange leaves, enjoy the chill of the fall, and appreciate with all my heart the fact that I still have a life to live.