Good evening, Maria lovers. It’s the final night of the past decade. The decade in which we all grew up together and shit got real. The decade when we learned how horrible human beings could be, but also how kind and how much we need each other.
I don’t have a definitive song for this post, which is odd. My mental jukebox is playing loops and nothing seems to convey the optimism, hope and inspiration I feel going into the new decade.
I’ve mostly been off social media, but popped in today to find everyone is posting notes on their decades. So oblige me a bit as I reflect.
Dr. X reminded me yesterday that just over a decade ago I was freaking out about a job interview, worrying that I wouldn’t be any good at the job. I thought about that woman, the one who didn’t know her own mind at all, the one who was riddled with anxiety and panic attacks. A decade ago I had a two-year-old and a five-year-old. I was somewhat happily married, though the seeds that would grow into the weeds which choked out our Eden were starting to take root.
I was STRUGGLING. I had so little self-confidence that I gave all my power to a garden-variety narcissistic white man, one who espoused “I’m one of the good guys,” but gaslit every single experience of sexism I was starting to flag as a burgeoning feminist. And in that experience, I also became an angry, ugly, horrible person. In trying to make myself fit his ever-changing demands to make our marriage better, I tarnished my heart of gold. In trying to accept his pessimistic view of the world as my reality, I became monstrous.
In fairness to him, I was also a bit entitled. Like him, I was sold a bill of goods about what a marriage and a life were meant to be. And when we began to have fundamentally differing opinions on what that life should look like, we grew resentful of each other. I kept lowering my bar and asking if he could perhaps start moving up a bit so we could meet in the middle. Nope. My expectations were also all over the place. You can only grit your teeth and say, “Fine, fine” for so long when you don’t actually mean it.
In 2012 his depression really began. He was drinking and smoking a lot of pot. He was struggling to hold down a job. And we were spiralling down fast. Sometimes I wish that I knew about thought work then, about the kind of mindset that could have maybe turned our trajectory around. But I didn’t and maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.
We each own our own behaviours. I know now that I was an enabler, rushing in to fix everything rather than letting him learn from his own mistakes. He asked for space and I gave him a wide berth. I made my own life outside the marriage and he resented that, although when I would scale back to give him my attention, he resented that too. I could not win. I loved him though. Seriously. Still do.
Then our child grew gravely ill, was diagnosed with a rare, progressive and deadly disease, survived a major surgery and the complications that go with it. We walked through fire together and came out the other side, but as different people. The years of triggers and processing that trauma… well we only just figured that one out this past year, thanks to the help of some key friends who read this blog. The journey to healing was long and tough, emotionally more so than physically. Tough love helped us in the end. So has compassion. But I’d also like to commend myself on providing a strong foundation and surrounding us with a community of caregivers and people who love us dearly. It’s only in this past decade that I really learned how to be a good mum.
The aforementioned wide berth given to my partner of the time meant getting into debt so he could go back to school. I was proud of him when he graduated. I know how hard he worked. I was hopeful it was a new start for us. But alas, he decided his new profession was not for him. While all this was happening, I was taking on more and more at work, pushing myself into uncomfortable places so that I could get a foothold or grab the next rung on the ladder.
If I’m honest, I was also pacing myself, holding myself back a bit. I was worried I was surpassing him by a mile. I knew his “pride” did not like how any of this was going down. If you watch my fave show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, my ex is a bit of a Joel, but without the family backing to make his dreams come true. His “pride” kept him from truly supporting and helping to fuel the one career in our household that was taking off. Misogyny fucks with us all.
Halfway through the decade, my ex-partner moved to another city for space and a possible job opportunity, eventually came back to try and work things out, but found he still resented me. When I think of me during that time, I feel pathetic. I feel sorry for that woman who listened to the man she loved (but was always furious with) tell her he didn’t love her anymore. I think of her going on a summer island vacation with friends and kids and how she still tried to work on it, because he was too cowardly to end it and she was still trying to be a good wife. In sickness and in health, she thought. He’s just sick with depression and taking it out on me. I can be stronger than that. Each time he broke a piece of the marriage bond, she changed, until she barely recognized herself.
Eventually, through therapy and homeopathy and journaling and meditating and all those things, I woke up. It took YEARS, but I am so grateful to the past decade for that eventual alarm bell. The one that said, “It’s OK to say, ‘enough.’ Being kind to yourself and ending your suffering is OK.” The one that said, “You are not the horrible person your brain is telling you that you are.” Accepting the death of my marriage gave me new life. Accepting 100% responsibility for my part in it forced me to push myself harder to examine my self! To learn who I am, what I want, that I’m worthy of love and good things.
Despite this story of woe, I’ve never been more grateful for my ex. Much like Midge and Joel on Mrs. Maisel, Theo and I have a mostly solid co-parenting relationship. It’s evolving all the time. As I learn to let go of my control freak ways and let him take on more, even if it means he screws things up, he takes on more responsibility, easing my load. Watching him grow as a person, alongside our children, has been rewarding. He’s getting better. He’s finally learning to have compassion for others, how to consider others before himself. It’s not something that comes naturally for him. He comes from a family of self-obsessed individuals, where I come from a family of loving, but co-dependent abusers. His weaknesses forced me to be stronger, and we are learning how to be better people, together-apart, as really good friends.
I am pushing myself harder and higher. More kindness, more compassion, more forgiveness, starting with myself. I am starting to believe in my birthright, that I am someone who can make a difference and makes a difference in people’s lives regularly. I’m openly embracing my gift instead of downplaying it. I am good with people. I have the kind of heart that can love the world. My career is an important one to the well-being of humanity. I am learning to make it count, all of it, to monitor my energy but to use it wisely. As the Christmas card from my deeply introverted employee wrote, “Your enthusiasm and energy are infectious.” I’m owning that!
I’m a hype girl. I rally. I get people to feel and to share and to care. I believe this will be an important gift in the next decade, as we need to rally together to stop the horrors we’ve been facing in the past decade — the decimation of the environment that sustains human life and the subjugation and marginalization of groups of people that are not rich white men.
In the past decade, I’ve raised two children into the double digits. I cannot be more proud of the absolutely kind, compassionate, caring, funny and smart human beings they are blossoming into. I know the next decade could see them outgrowing the family home. It’s already changed once as we know it and we survived and are closer than ever. I’m not worried. It will all be beautiful in its own way. Every phase of parenting has been the best (although I never want to live through 2013 again).
In the past decade I met my business partner, but only built our business this past year. I can’t tell you the feeling of how she loves me. It’s inspiring. It gives me the power and the courage to do great things for others, to love freely and openly. I’m looking forward to how we will grow together and help our community of clients grow too. We are candles who light other candles. Sometimes we drip wax on the birthday cake, but we light up the room together nonetheless.
In the past decade I built my village with my bestie. What an amazing village, seriously. My people love me and take care of me, and boy do we make each other laugh. She is the centre of it all, that round middle part of a kid’s drawing of a flower, from which all the petals emanate. She has supported me through my DARKEST days. She’s had a shit year, I’m sending her so much love. I want good things for her, that hardworking badass queen that she is. She is the first person who taught me true, unconditional love. There is nothing I can throw at her that makes her love me less. I am blessed to have her.
In the past decade, my bestie and I (along with a friend) ran a secret feminist Facebook group for 3300 women around the globe and that became the Women’s Studies education that I never got. I learned about White Feminism vs. Intersectional Feminism and realized that while I don’t identify as white (I’m not actually Greek like the real Maria Callas), my skin is light enough that I have benefited from white privilege and thus it’s my responsibility to do better to make the world more just and inclusive of all people.
In the past decade, I made several A+ clusters of female friend groups. Insanely wonderful covens of fucking hilarious, courageous women. You know when you’re watching a show like 24 (shows that are inherently racist to Middle Eastern people, but make Westerners feel like they are gods who need to protect the gates of heaven) and they show those overlapping cells of terrorist organizations? It kinda looks like that in my mind, but with lovely human women who share their resources, their victories and their losses with humour and grace and love.
In the past decade I’ve travelled. I’ve learned to jump in every lake I come across, because there are only so many swims in a summer. I learned the universe has my back when I lost my wallet on my way to my first trip on my own of life. I have been to my mother’s hometown and to the country of my ancestors. I found a future home in a warm country in Europe that has my heart and gave me a feeling of possibility when all was lost. And when all was lost, I was found!
In the past decade I’ve learned to love my body, as it is. I’m learning to see it as a home for the space that contains ME! I’m learning to respect it and care for it, to allow it to experience pleasure without guilt. Learning to loosen the tight spots and tighten the loose spots, but love them fully even when I don’t look like the patriarchy told me I should to have worth. My hope is that I can teach my children this lesson now, so they don’t miss their more flexible years and ruin their future mobility by sitting still for too long, but also so they can love themselves as they are, where they are. Learning to connect mind, body and spirit has been a gift, a skill I’m deepening by the day and one I wish for all of you too.
In the past decade I’ve had more lovers than in the previous 2-3 decades combined. I’ve written about all of them here. While I’ve chosen to take a six-month “fallow” period (my lady-fields have to rest before they can flower again), I’ve had a lot of fun in the past three years. I’ve learned how wrong I was about so many things. Finding out how wrong you are is fun too. I feel prepared to learn some things through dating again. I’m confident that I’m ready to get back on the proverbial horse. Giddy up! I’m ready to build the future with someone and I feel his vibe out there. I can’t wait for the magnetic pull of the universe to bring us together.
In the past decade, I’ve met famous people and politicians. I’ve become friends with every woman I ever had a WCW for. I am the first woman in my family to own her own house (though props to my sis for buying a condo solo). I have had my name printed in proper publications, next to work I felt truly proud of. My actual life has exceeded the dreams of my immigrant parents. I have so much and so much to give. Now I just have to practice reciprocity.
In 2020, I’m releasing shame and transforming it into vulnerability. Honesty without tact is cruel. Vulnerability without compassion can be aggressive. Practice a bit at a time. Read Brené Brown. Embrace your imperfection and then learn how to own your mistakes, how to forgive yourself and love yourself through it all. Remember it’s all just an experiment. We are travelling to places without a map (not one that any of us are wise enough to read, anyway). We are baking without a recipe. It’s all trial and error. Every decision gives us a data point.
2020 is going to be about re-writing your story and not getting attached to how it might turn out. It’s about letting go, letting go some more, giving away, shedding, releasing, trusting that you are held in the palm of a hand you cannot see. It’s about assuming best intent. It’s about examining your own privilege and thinking about ways you can share your privilege and use your gifts and your “too much” (whatever that is) to help those who have less. It’s about smoking out the lies we’ve been fed for generations as women. It’s about telling them who’s boss. It’s about saying sorry and meaning it. It’s about doing better next time. It’s about staying with yourself like a faithful dog. It’s about opening up wider than you ever imagined and letting people in, because people are good and this world is worth saving.
Happy New Year!
Forever your optimist and cheerleader,