Pity Party and the Woman that Did

So it’s 4 AM on a Friday and I am drinking  a beer- not because I’ve been up partying, but because it has been a hard week and sleep hasn’t been coming easily. At the moment, beer is the only comfort food I have in the fridge, so I’m working with it.

As you can imagine by the opening lines to this post, it’s been a weird week, Internet. From romantic situations, to my period coming a week early and everything in between, my life has been at a constant state of chaos. If I’m honest with myself, I feel pretty shitty. Ok, I feel really shitty. I preach all the time that, “I’m a badass! I don’t fuck around! I am a fierce bitch!” but the truth is, I don’t always feel that way. In fact, a lot of the time I am really tired from putting on that face. Sometimes, I look at being 27 and feel too old to be single. I see challenges at work and think I am in way too far over my head. Once I am in that mindset I break everything down and once I am in a billion little pieces, I come to the conclusion that I am nothing. 

  • I am single because I shout too loudly at hockey games and because my nose is big, and because I am not soft enough.
  • I suck at work because I lack a tech background and sometimes I get pretty awkward on the phone.
  • I am an awful friend because I am way too consumed in my own life.
  • I am an awful daughter because I am not in law school and engaged to a Harvard grad.

Why are you so ugly, confused, loud, obnoxious, flaky, awkward Jess?!? Why?!?!

So typically when I feel like this, I cry, which I am sure is exactly what Queen Elizabeth did every time Mary Queen of Scotts gave her shit, or whenever someone referred to her as the “Virgin Queen.” 

Oddly enough though, this week I didn’t, I put on my game face and went into battle. Not because I was trying to be a badass, but I was so sick of having other people dictate my mood. I was going to just get through, dammit! I didn’t care what that meant to anyone, not even me. 

At the end of it all, I realized that there was something different about me now than there was several months ago. The old Jess would have called out of work and spent the day on a NyQuil and hard liquor binge. I would have given up any sense of responsibility or self respect. I would have deleted everyone from my life for a couple weeks and be miserable.

But not anymore. 

This Jess got through. She went into work every day and had at it twice as hard. This is the Jess that moved halfway across the country with just two suitcases to a city where she knew no one and made a little something of herself. This is the Jess that drove from Chicago to Boston and back by herself in some the worst winter weather known to man and didn’t die.This is the Jess that still spends a fair amount of time with her heart at least a little bit broken, and can still bring it every single day without backing down, as much as she’d like to. 

This Jess is me. I wasn’t this person last year. I am now, and that’s something to be proud of. I became that woman when I was puffing by chest out telling everyone I was a badass. I became that person through hundreds of moments when I felt like giving up.

While i was too focused on all the things I could’t do, I was actually doing much better things.

So here’s to the man who is too busy to realize that his daughter is writing a piece she’s sending to the New Yorker. Here’s to the friend who thought I was too masculine, and to the one keeping me on track. Here’s to the guy who one day will brag to his friends about all the things I do/ have done, and follow it up with an, “And she’s drop dead gorgeous on top of all that!” Here is to the legendary stories I will be able to tell my niece that happened to her aunt in the span of one year.  

Here’s to the girl who was, and the woman that did. 

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Better v.s Different

“You can do better than him.”

That’s something all of my friends have said about all of the guys I’ve dated. It’s supposed to make me feel better. I know they mean well, but one of my former coworkers challenged that notion.

“No Jess,” she said, “I’m sure all the men you date are good men, but you should be doing different. If something is off, or not working out, or you feel pushed in another direction, you should be doing things differently.”

While I didn’t want to see it then, she had a point. You hear the cliched saying all the time, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Someone who values vintage might not appreciate the modern and vise versa. They don’t need better, they need different. 

When I moved away from Boston, I didn’t need better. I needed different. 

When I told my current roommate I was moving out, it wasn’t because I needed better, I needed different. Maybe I need to live with someone I love less, unless that person is a lover. Maybe I needed someone less like me. Maybe it wasn’t about either of us, and that I was just ready for a new adventure. Either way, I opted to move out because while I though I sure why, I knew I needed different.

So here’s to different-to trusting yourself even when it’s scary or painful, and for bright and new beginnings for those that leave, and who are being left. May you find that often times, different is actually better even if it starts out feeling like the worst.

Edye

Edye, when I was three I didn’t know a damn thing about lost causes, so when I watched your lankly frame walk out of my life for the first time, my childhood innocence convinced my broken father to go after you. Do you remember that? You were wearing white Keds, carrying nothing but a purse, walking slow as you were bracing for the chase. Dad was wearing a plaid button down, and moved too quickly to even consider buckling me in my booster seat. Instead, I road copilot-our fruitless pleads screaming after you. 

I want you to know that’s the last time he ever wore a shirt like that-of this I am certain. But that’s not what this was all about. Or maybe it is, if only with the same splintered strand of an idea that nothing was ever the same after each time you left. How many were there, mom? I lost count. How many times were we forced to start over after you? From custody battles to missed birthdays, from long fights in the night over the phone to unattended graduations, I was always marked by the presence of your absence. The last time I saw you before I knew you were dying, you held me with such love and yet you could not wrap yourself around this obvious disconnect to get through to me. I wanted to love you back in that way, trust me I tried, but where you held on to all the times when we were together, I saw all the years you were gone. I saw all the Hallmark commercials for Mother’s Day, actors with their perfectly manicured nails and pale pink carnations wondering what that felt like, like I was on the outside of an emotion looking in on something that I couldn’t relate to.

Yet, no matter how many times you walked out, I was always waiting when you came back. Even when the coroner checked your pulse and pulled the red blanket over your body, I stood there for what felt like days in my stale breath waiting. I guess I was expecting an encore. It didn’t make sense that your symbol crashing in intervals, marking my entire life would mute itself into a slight tremor before becoming nothing at all.

In the following days after, I would detour my flight back to Boston, stopping in New York, your home city, in attempt to hold onto every part of you I felt was fleeting. I remember you describing SoHo like it were less of a borough and more a bizarre. Though the January air was raw and the weather was seeping into my sneakers, I still expected to stumble into hidden book stores and be approached by palm readers, like you said it was in the 70’s. Instead, I paid ten dollars for a croissant at a place where the frothed the coffee and wept quietly to myself when the attendant at the MET wouldn’t let me check my carry-on suitcase up front.

The New York you loved was thankless, Edye. Your home couldn’t care about you dying, least not in the way that I did. New York saw no difference between you leaving decades ago and me showing up just for that day. January 21st could not tell your physical and my internal death apart.

Everything would continue to feel gray even as the seasons changed. I still feel like that middle hue sometimes-as soft as I am hard, and as vocal as I am nondescript. It comes out in stuttered words and me staring off into space. I am either brought back to life by something simple as dandelions, or stay in a trance that wears off as I sleep, in between dreams. What was once me waking up still feeling like you’re still around, has been replaced with me feeling like you never were, and that I somehow spored from the universe like a celestial strawberry.

As I write this I ask myself what is all this is for. You can’t read it, and thankfully we reconciled things enough while you were still around for me to be at peace with the indefinite hurricane that was what it was like to love you. Your uniqueness is too farfetched for a copy cat. Your snarling laugh cannot be mimicked. It was your perfect balance of heaven and hell, of color and darkness, of song and noise that made it impossible for my loyalty to be anything but relentless though I wanted to badly to abandon my post for sake of my own starving heart.  It took me years after kissing your ashen forehead for one last time for me to realize that your death was never about me, or about us, or what you once had and lost. You had been dying for something your entire life, a something that I will never get to see, be obtained by a woman I never really got to know in the way I wanted to.

 

Half Orphans- For the Motherless

I was listening to Pandora in my office when the third Mother’s Day commercial in the past 10 minutes came on.

“JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!” I yell loud enough for the boys in the warehouse to hear.

“You alright, Jess?” One asked.
“Yup!” I shoot back

He comes in to ask what’s up, but backs off when I assure him I’m fine and don’t want to talk about it, passing over a fun-size Twix as a peace offering to quell any further out burts.

They all know she’s been dead for a couple years now, yet I wouldn’t expect them to see a correlation between my sudden bad attitude and anything referencing Mother’s Day. Furthermore, I wouldn’t expect them to know how to handle it if they caught on. I still don’t even know how to handle it.

It’s a few days prior to the holiday and I am already starting to feel that familiar pull on my heart-the one where I am aggressively reminded how much my mom’s death actually hurts me. It is literally on every street corner, from flower displays outside the Mexican Market, to conversations from passers bye. It starts like the feeling of a slow leak in my chest and grows into a hurricane. Every ad feels spiteful, like the brands are mocking me.

“Give your mom the perfect gift this Mother”s Day! Oh that’s right, you can’t because she’s dead. That’s too bad.”

On Sunday, everyone on Facebook will posts statuses about their mothers, and for fear of being a wet blanket, I’ll refrain. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me but at the same time, I really want to talk about it. I want to talk about how even when she was still here, she still wasn’t most of the time. I want anyone to know that her lucidity made her leave when I was small, and that her on and off absence made her really hard to love. I wan’t to talk about how despite all that, I still did, even though it hurt much of the time.

Not a day goes by where I am not equally uplifted by once knowing her, as I am crushed by her being gone. It’s as though when she died, my sky opened up, but the earth sank beneath my feet at the exact same time. I have been in limbo ever since, but only really feel the panic of it on Mother’s Day-the day holiday that forces me to come face to face with what I am without.

So what do you do when you’re looking that emptiness in it’s eyes? You tell yourself that it’s okay. It’s okay if you want to spend Mother’s Day reaching out to all the moms you know, or if you want to spend it in your apartment drinking yourself sick. It’s okay to hate the holiday, and for it to make you feel depressed, bitter and angry. Most importantly, it’s okay to cry about it, to let it all out. Feel the hurt, no matter how small you feel or how big it feels.  Even for those of you who’s moms are still alive, but you no longer talk to, you’re allowed to grieve too.

Remind yourself that she may be gone, but you are still here.

I am still here.