Monday Notes: About Europe

Disclaimer: I realize all European countries are not alike. The entire continent is not a monolith. However, I have visited six European countries over my lifetime, and there seem to be a few commonalities.

TEENY-TINY THINGS

Europeans like things small. This ranges from coffee to living spaces. Our Zagreb Airbnb was 400 square feet; that’s the size of two dorm rooms or a garage. Maybe I’m set in my big-ass American ways, but even if I was alone, that wouldn’t be enough space. I’m a little over five-feet tall and around 135 pounds; the showers in both rentals were too small for me to wash my hair or shave my legs. I found this interesting, especially in the Netherlands, where the tallest people in the world live! How does the population function in capsule-like spaces? 

SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS

A Dutch Uber driver found out we were from the States and shouted, “Yay, Trump! Yee-haw!” in a facetious way. In our Rotterdam Airbnb, the owner asked us to use the heat sparingly, because “it’s not that cold outside, because of you know…climate change.” We met a thirty-year-old biracial woman from the UK who wants to visit the US, but is afraid because she “doesn’t want to get shot in the street, minding her own business.” And a Croatian Uber driver began a conversation with me about the “race” and “gun problem” we have. According to him, he wouldn’t even know how to obtain a gun in his country. He would have to “find someone in the underground, like the mafia, and even then, know exactly who to speak to to get a gun.” 

FRESH BREAD AND MEAT

If you like bread, then go to the Netherlands. The bread is freshly made, and it is evident. One time, we bought a loaf of bread on a Monday and by Wednesday or so, it was moldy. When we’re home, bread stays “good” foreva…and that’s probably not a good sign. If you like meat, then go to Croatia. That’s all we found in the grocery store: red meat and chicken. I had fish when we went to Hvar, which is off the coast; otherwise, meat is what’s for dinner there. But be careful of fillers. We bought some ground beef, and you could literally see and taste the filler. Well, that’s what we think it was.

SALADS

Both countries offer salad, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Dutch seem to really enjoy arugula, in particular. I don’t mean a spring mix with arugula, I mean…that’s the salad—arugula. In Croatia, the salads are a mix of shredded varieties, like iceberg, romaine, and arugula. Croatians also have a fresh, light vinegar and oil dressing. However, if you want something other than salad, then you will probably have to buy it at the grocery store or market, and even then, especially in Croatia, it is hard to find other types of green veggies. 

HANGING CLOTHES ON THE LINE

I know I’ve spoken ad nauseum about this, but hear me out one more time. Hanging clothes on the line seems to be cultural. When we were in the Netherlands, everyone in the apartment hung their clothes out. They even had special contraptions that allowed the clothes to hang out further and be brought back into the house. When we toured ruins and other places, I noticed surrounding areas where residents hung their clothes on the line. And when we got to Croatia, that again, was the expectation. If any of my European friends want to enlighten me about this, then please feel free in the comments. The only place I saw a dryer was at the laundromat.

WASHING WITHOUT A WASHCLOTH

Years ago, when I visited Spain and England, I learned that washcloths weren’t a thing. But I totally forgot about this on our trip. The owner of the Holland Airbnb had hand towels, but they were really too big to use as washcloths. When we visited Belgium, it was the same; there were hand towels but no washcloths. By the time we flew to Croatia, I was prepared and had purchased some smaller towels (but they weren’t washcloths). I looked this up to find out why some people, not necessarily Europeans, don’t use washcloths, and the answer is because it’s seen as unsanitary to repeatedly use a washcloth due to bacteria buildup. Who knew?

SMOKING

The Dutch and Croatians smoke…a lot. I legit thought I was going to get an illness from second-hand smoke. Whether it was when we were at home, relaxing or out and about, eating, cigarette smoke wafted through the air and into our nostrils. Europeans smoked so much I thought maybe no one had told them that it was bad, until I saw an empty pack on a table that said, “Smoking kills.

UNITED STATES IS A MICROCOSM OF EUROPE

If you’re familiar with any United States’ history, then this should be a no-brainer, but sometimes you have to see something to fully understand. When I visited parts of London, Manhattan’s setup made sense. New Orleans reminds me of parts of Spain. On this trip, I learned more about where specific cities, ideas, and people originated. For example, do these cities sound familiar: Breuckelen, Haarlem? Yeah. They originated in the Netherlands, so did the stock exchange. Neckties came from Zagreb, Croatia (as well as Nikola Tesla), and lace was invented in Bruges. Finally the Belgian waffle, which we (or I) love so much, is not Belgian due to its shape; it is Belgian because of the ingredients, which by the way, is not pancake flour.


Overall, this trip has broadened my perspective of the world and myself. I think it’s important to see how other people live, and traveling, whether it’s for a short or extended period of time, provides that. I’m grateful we were able to take this trip, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Monday Notes: 4 Weeks in the Netherlands

On Friday, May the 13th, Dwight and I ventured off to breakfast. I checked my workout pants pocket: phone, ID, no debit card. 

“I left my card at home,” I said.

But when I returned home, my debit card wasn’t inside the deep pocket of my travel backpack where I’ve kept it since we’d left the States. I’d lost it. 

I checked my bank account: 

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)

Someone found my card and had repeatedly used it at a corner store (where I probably dropped it). It had only been an hour. 


This incident describes part of how I’d felt while vacationing in the Netherlands for four weeks. 

It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation. 

The stress began week one when I found out there was no clothes dryer. I would have to hang clothes on a five-foot clothes rack. This may not sound stressful to you, but for someone like me, who successfully washes, dries, folds, and puts clothes away every Sunday, this immediately interrupted my carefully organized routine that I maintain to avoid stress. By week two, I realized it would take three days to use a small European washer and several clothes hangers to achieve what I usually did in one day. 

Stress compounded week two when we didn’t grocery shop for the week. No groceries meant no food, and no food meant buying food at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or multiple runs to the grocery store. Consequently, because Dwight worked from one to ten at night, if I wanted groceries, I’d have to do it alone. Shopping by myself wasn’t an issue; fitting this into my existing schedule was.

These new stressors occurred in between finishing Spring semester, starting Summer semester, agreeing to be on a work committee, and taking on an editing client—all manageable tasks when I’m completing household tasks under normal structured circumstances.

But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.

I needed to rely on strategies so the stress wouldn’t build up in my body and turn into uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately scheduled a virtual yoga class with a studio in Jacksonville. Unlike being in Costa Rica, where the serenity of the mountains calmed me, in Rotterdam, I needed an organized practice once a week. 

Because I’d been working hard on balancing my microbiome in relation to my digestion system, I noticed when I was eating too much sugar or too little fiber. Unlike in Panamá, I didn’t have to wait until my belly was bloated to know when I’d gone too far. Instead, I began no-weight workouts with an exercise app; I had to meditate to stay calm; I had to journal. I had to work hard to be balanced in this new environment.

Without these practices already in place, it would have been easy to spiral when I lost my debit card, and I almost did. I was angry at myself for being careless in another country. But you know what? I first settled something in my mind, and then, out loud:

“I am not about to let this f**k up my day!” I said to Dwight but more so to myself. “I’m going to get my nails done.” 

Did I choke back tears when the bank representative asked me where I was located and then the country and then my zip code—twice? Yep. Did I wallow? Nope. 

Instead of spiraling into an abyss of anger after playing twenty-one questions with customer service, I thought rationally. I am not without. I have another bank account to transfer and use money. I am not lacking because of a mistake, and I’m not some sort of dolt because I made an error. 


The reality is in between dealing with the stress of unexpected events, I’ve done the following:

  • eaten authentic Belgian waffles in Brussels, the way Belgians intended, 
  • tried premier chocolate from a chocolatier in Brussels,
  • visited Gieethorn, a wealthy town built around a canal, 
  • watched sex workers solicit clients in Amsterdam, 
  • drank shots at the nine degree below Ice Bar
  • viewed Jesus’s (alleged) blood captured in a capsule, 
  • toured the city where In Bruges was filmed, 
  • eaten at a myriad of outdoor cafes, 
  • photographed tulips on the last day of tulip season, and
  • walked an average of six miles per day. 

It’s super easy to get caught up in one or two bad events, right? But we can’t let a few negative encounters dictate our entire experience. Overall, I’ve enjoyed living in the Netherlands. Sure, there were unexpected cultural shifts for living our lives; however, there were more “good” days than “bad” days. Was washing clothes half the week a pain? YEP! Was eating an authentic Belgian waffle worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

I’ll check back in once we leave our next destination: Croatia. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.



Monday Notes: 3 Things I’m Tired of Talking About

Even though I’m not in the States, the way the world is set up, I’m still in tune with the news, and let me tell you … recent events have left me tired of recycling the same conversation over and over.

Domestic Terrorism against Black Lives

The Federal Bureau of Investitgation (FBI) defines domestic terrorism as violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. 

Therefore, when Payton Gendron not only killed ten people in Buffalo, who were mostly Black, but also left behind some type of white supremacist manifesto, it should’ve been a no-brainer that his acts were the literal definition of *domestic terrorism. What I’ve noticed, though, is that Black people seem to understand domestic terrorism and the consistent role it has played in American history. Other people, not so much. 

There’s always some person who wants to wait until all the evidence comes out, and even when all the evidence comes out, that person wants to take a meticulous look at how each piece of evidence may not really be racist, and even if they somehow agree that this incident is domestic terrorism against Black people, then they’ll only agree that it’s this one incident, not an historical pattern. And I’m tired of talking about it.

School Violence

Speaking of domestic terrorism, I’m also tired of discussing school violence in America. But I suspect conversations centered on the Uvalde incident will not last long. 

Remember Columbine? That was 1999. We were shocked. Though we have made strides in police officer and teacher preparedness, I mostly remember the US arguing about gun control. Remember Sandy Hook? That was 2012. It was a traumatic mess. Schools have done a great job of decreasing bullying, which Ron Avi Astor attributes to a decrease in overall school violence. But even then, we argued about whether it really happened, there were a bunch of lawsuits, and there was no national shift in legislation. Remember Parkland? That was 2018. It, too, was traumatic. Know what happened? There were more lawsuits, and because it’s Florida, a hasty bill was passed allowing teachers to be armed. Luckily, school districts disagreed. Still, there was no US legislation to protect public school students, faculty, or staff.

With this one, I’m tired of talking about school violence as if history hasn’t shown us things will worsen. Why do I have to convince someone there’s a problem, whether it be a mental health one, a gun control one, or a school violence one? In my opinion, the reason school violence hasn’t been resolved is because it is not a priority for elected officials. You know what is a priority? Banning critical race theory, redistricting every ten years, and drumroll please …

Abortion

Though I’ve decided to continue sharing part of my story and other people’s stories as a way to raise awareness, I’m tired of talking about abortion. Abortion has been a topic for half a decade, not reproductive rights and not women’s health, but abortion, specifically. You know why? (Aside from patriarchal ideology), it’s because it has remained a priority for elected officials, who want to advance a conservative ideology, and as the current Florida governor has shown, when elected officials prioritize something, that something gets all the attention in the world, sans what the majority of constituents actually want or need.

For example, even though the majority of US adults agree that abortion should be legal, no matter the circumstance, states continue to push for the opposite. Kind of like school violence, why do I have to convince you that a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, whether you, the Bible, or the church agree? The only thing I have left to say is I hope there’s someone left to revolt when the government comes for something you have the natural right to do.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk. Is there anything you’re tired of talking about? Let’s put it in the purge pile in the comments, then let us go effect change that will protect all US citizens.

*Officials are considering a terrorism charge for Gendron


Monday Notes: 4 Takeaways from a Writer’s Residency

Last week, I explained that I’ve been in Monson, Maine for two weeks participating in a writer’s residency. As promised, here are four takeaways from my time there:

Clearing space is important.

Before I flew to Maine, I knew it was necessary to clear space in several ways to make room for writing. I suspended all editing services and didn’t accept any new clients; I stopped judging essays for the Florida Writers Association; and I stopped writing new blogs. I focused on my actual job for one hour a day—don’t tell my director. Also worth mentioning, is that I’d already cleared space in other, more personal ways when I decided to release specific angst about people. I’m confident I couldn’t have done this if I was still worried about who was visiting, calling, or maintaining contact with me. It was taking up too much real estate in my head, which I believe can affect your creativity. Clearing space helped me to center my attention solely on my new project. While I was in Monson, I wrote for five or six hours straight, with the exception of eating meals and taking bathroom breaks. 

There’s a difference between grind and flow.

One of the other writers and I had a great conversation about the difference between grinding and flowing. Grinding can occur when you’re worried about the goal; flowing is akin to floating with no worries, yet somehow accomplishing the goal. If you’re doing something you love, but you find yourself stressed about it, then that is the opposite energy you probably want to have. Grinding can manifest in several ways. For me, I developed a headache and felt lethargic. (Remember, my body clearly talks to me). Once I sat down and evaluated why this could be, I determined it was not only because I’d been staring at my laptop too long, but also because I’d been thinking deeply about narrative and research connections too long. I was straining my brain. Even if you love something and are in the flow, you can still overdo it. I needed to not write for an entire day to remove the grind mentality.

Being around like minded people is pertinent.

I really enjoyed being around other artists. On day three and nine, we had to do an artists share. I listened to and viewed some very interesting projects. Artists, no matter the medium, are different. They see life differently, and being around them felt as if I wasn’t in the real world. For example, no one called anyone’s project outlandish, no matter what the idea was. No one was negative or judgmental. Each person was supportive of whatever they heard. This warm response is different from how people interact outside of residencies. In my experience, non-artists always have a lot of questions, like why would you do that? What is that supposed to be? Why don’t you do it this way? There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but I’ve noticed these questions are usually rooted in a lot of judgment. We’d all do better to take a page out of artists’ ways of functioning and simply head nod and find something nice to say about one another and our ideas.

I need more freedom than I thought.

Every time I leave my house for an extended period of time, I realize freedom is top priority for me. But this time, being away from everyone and everything solidified it. From day one, I was hella excited to wake up whenever I wanted, with nothing to do for the day, except whatever I conjured up. Even though it was nineteen degrees one day, I bundled up and started walking toward the Appalachian trail. Another day, I made up my own yoga routine, and another day, I stayed in bed all day and wrote. No one questioned my safety when I was walking, my sanity when I stayed in bed , or my decision making when I decided to finish my book. My life and time were mine to create. If you’re thinking these seem like small things, you’re right. But guess what? If you’re not careful, then small things add up to one big ball of resentment. For me, I’ve realized I have to build a sense of freedom into my regular life. It’s mandatory.


Turning Page Farm

Participating in this residency is one of the few places I’ve gone in my lifetime where I felt as if I belonged. I didn’t expect to find a sense of belonging among people who, at first, seemed so unlike me. But as time wore on, I saw it clearly. There was an energy that bound us together. I understood when my housemate, who is a visual artist, didn’t wake until ten, spent the day in her studio until two in the morning, and then came home. Likewise, others understood when I closed the door, skipped lunch, and didn’t socialize sometimes. Other than having beer with goats, no one tried to guilt me into hanging out. There was a mutual understanding for artist’s behavior, and quite honestly, after getting to know each person, a common liberalism that superseded race, age, gender, or sexual identity constructs emerged. While I get along with mostly anyone because I love people and socializing, this residency showed me who my people are.


Monday Notes: Playing: It’s Not Just for Kids!

“Christmas and birthdays are for kids.”

I hear this a lot, and whenever someone says it, I feel as if I’m being childish or something. I love celebrating Christmas and my birthday!

For Christmas, I go to the nail salon and have my toes painted full on Christmas colors: red on one foot, white, silver, gold, or green on the other. Sometimes, I alternate toes.

For my birthday, I love it when restaurant workers have some spectacular situation where singing and clapping are involved. When we were in Panamá, someone sang happy birthday to me in Spanish! Do you know how dope that was to be in Panamá while a Spanish-speaking singer sang Feliz Cumpleaños?

I also wonder if Christmas and birthdays are for kids, then what’s for adults? Paying bills, watching TV until you fall asleep, and getting colonoscopies? Yeah. No. That’s sounds awful.

But then I read Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way. Her book helped me to see that playing—an activity also viewed as only for kids—is something that adults can and should do more of. Cameron associates play with opening up your creativity, but since finishing The Artist’s Way, I’ve recognized playing as a natural human activity that can simply get you out of your head.

Ways I’ve Played

Dwight and I went to a vegan fest at a park. As soon as I saw the swings, I suggested we swing, and of course, take photos and videos.

“You look so happy,” he said watching and re-watching me gliding higher.

“I was,” I confirmed. I felt free.

The day after Christmas, we drove to Myrtle Beach. That night we went to The Great Christmas Light Show. I saw a million little kids walking around with these lighted sword-looking things that shot out bubbles. As soon as I saw the kiosk, I bought one. If anything, being an adult is great in these situations because you don’t have to ask permission or have someone tell you no because you just got Christmas gifts. I shot bubbles out all the way to the car.

The next day, we went to Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach. There was an exhibit called Penguin’s Playhouse. I don’t know if it was for little kids or not, but Dwight and I were able to crawl through a little tunnel, which led to a bubble where you could stand in the middle of the penguin habitat. Again, I felt so exhilarated. Crawling was fun and looking at the penguins from an insider’s perspective was, too.

So, I’ve added a new directive for myself and others. Go play! Celebrate holidays and birthdays, and all of the things. You’re not too old. I mean, pay your bills and go get your colon checked, too, but don’t let that be the only concept of adulthood that leads your life. It’s okay to “act like a kid.”

If you have other ideas for playing, feel free to drop them below.

Monday Notes: The Relationship I Have with My Body

“When is the last time you felt good about your body?” the naturopath asked me.

I thought about it for a few seconds, then I said, “I think I’m going to cry.”

“That’s okay,” she and my husband affirmed.

I knew it was okay to cry. But I was taken off guard by own emotions. When I really stopped to think about it, I didn’t know.

It wasn’t in the past year, when out of the blue, I developed a rash that took up my entire forearm. It’s healed now, but it looks like a faint trail of bacteria.

Last year is also when perimenopause seemed to have ramped up and took a hold of my physical being. It’s also when I decided to get a crown on my front tooth, instead of a cap. Since December, I’ve worried everyday about my crown falling off when I eat or when I sleep and grind my teeth, leaving a gaping hole in my mouth.

So, no. I didn’t feel good about my body last year.

What about ten years ago? Nope. That’s when I started gaining a pound a year, even though I worked out four times a week and ate mostly healthy foods. My primary care physician didn’t seem too worried about it, so I figured I didn’t need to be either. Still, I didn’t feel good about my body. I felt fat.

What about twenty years ago? Definitely not. That’s when I had to deliver my second child as a C-section. I wrote about this experience recently, but I want to reiterate that there’s no way anyone can prepare you for your body being sliced open and sewed back together in what seems to be a lackadaisical way.

What about twenty-six years ago? Almost. I almost thought I was okay. It was a year before my wedding. I was talking to my grandmother, and she mentioned that I was fat.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids before you get fat,” were her exact words.

I was 125 pounds.

The next week, I began eating 1200 calorie meals and doing aerobics five times a week. By the time I stood at the altar, I was 100 pounds and a size one, something I’ve never been in my life before or after that date.

What about thirty years ago? YES! The last time I felt good about my body was thirty flipping years ago when I was an eighteen-year-old high school senior. I was petite. I was cute. Curves were curving in all the right spaces. Skin was tight and bright. All of the things were where they were supposed to be.


It’s amazing what can be revealed by just one question.

I’ve never thought of myself as having issues with body image, not really. But as I sit here and reflect on how long it took me to come up with a real answer (30 minutes) and what it took for me to figure out an answer (blog), I admit I have. If I didn’t, I would’ve been able to answer that question much quicker or at least three weeks ago, while I was actually at the doctor’s office.

So, today, I have questions, instead of answers:

  • When is the last time you felt good about your body?
  • If you already feel good about your body, how do you maintain that feeling?

Until then, I’ll be offline, staring in the mirror, saying some affirmations or something.

Monday Notes: Award-Winning Blog

A lot of times, I do things based on how I feel in the moment. I attribute this to a strong sense of intuition.

This year, my gut led me to judge the Florida Writers Association’s (FWA’s) Royal Palms Literary Awards (RPLA). I had done it before, but it was a long time ago. I felt it was time for some writerly service.

When I read the guidelines, I saw there was a new category: blogging. “What?” I thought. “I have a blog. Will this be a conflict of interest?” I decided it wouldn’t be. FWA is hella professional; they use rubrics and very careful directions, so I made a firm decision to go for it.

When I read that entries could be singular or a series, again, I was a bit excited. “I’ve done many series,” I thought. But which would be appropriate?

It was between Corona Chronicles and Mental Health Matters. I based my decision on stats. Both series were released during 2020, but Mental Health Matters was pretty successful in terms of readership.

Entries were limited by word count, so I had to decide which part of the series I’d submit. Again, I based it on stats, not on which ones I personally liked. According to WordPress, the following were hits:

So, I got all of my materials together and emailed them.

Months later, I was quite surprised to learn I was a semi-finalist.

Then, over the weekend, during the virtual ceremony, I was again surprised to learn I’d actually won. FWA awarded me first place in the blogging category!

But guess what? I wasn’t as excited as I was the first time I won a writing award, and here’s why:

  • I’m a different person. I’ve learned not to rely on awards to make me feel good about myself. Sure, I’m happy, but I’m not ecstatic. The first time I won was 2016, and I was still developing my identity outside of external rewards, so it was still exciting because I was associating it with my self-worth. Today, I know awards and compliments are not connected to how great of a person I am.
  • Awards mean something in the writer community. This second award gives me credence in the writer world. I can add this to my CV when publishers ask for it. I can include it in my bio. It means something because other people believe it means something. I get that and use it accordingly.
  • Comments on my blog are the real reward. And they are no match for any award. The other day, I legit teared up at a blogger’s words because it was so authentic. This has happened before. Anytime someone tells me they understand what I’ve said, or a story resonates with their experience, or I’ve helped them feel heard and less alone, I feel a sense of purpose and deep satisfaction. That’s something a state award can’t give me.

So, yes. I’m appreciative and proud of myself for having won another award for writing, specifically for something I literally do for free just for authenticity and connection. However, I do know that it is not the end-all be-all for my talent. What truly matters is how I’m impacting the world with my words. And for that I’m truly grateful.



Monday Notes: I Let Go

I let go of relationships of convenience, where people put you on hold, until you fit into their lives.

I let go of relationships which lack symbiosis, where I visit, and they make excuses for passing my home en route to see someone else.

I let go of relationships where I am not a priority, where careers and other people constantly come first.

I let go of relationships bound to outdated traditions, ones where innovative ways to interact are dismissed.  

And when I let go, I allow for experiences aligned with who I am today.

I open space for new relationships to develop. Relationships where I have authentic discussions with friends about overall wellness—mental and physical.

I recognize friends who have been consistently present, those who communicate in multiple ways during varied times and those who’ve settled in for a lifetime of connection.

I embrace my sister, someone I’ve known for three years, but someone with whom interacting is as natural as breathing. A recent international trip solidified what I’ve always suspected; relationships are not hard.

I notice old friends reentering, reengaging, and recalibrating at just the right moment. Either I need them, or they need me right now.

I accept my cousin’s invitation to commune with her and her family post-Christmas in a different city and state. Her suggestion is timely.

When I let go, I allow myself to expand in newness.

And when I expand in newness, I’m no longer stagnant, resentful, or bitter. Instead, I am growing and evolving in self-awareness and self-love. In this state, I can begin accepting current circumstances, accepting that all relationships don’t last forever, not even if you wish upon a star and meditate on them during the new moon. Some connections are seasonal, and that’s okay.

Peace to everyone letting go of something this fall.



Monday Notes: 3 Ways Unresolved Trauma Showed Up In My 25-Year Marriage

Dwight and I met in 1993, four years after my mother died and three years after my father agreed to give up his parental rights. We married three years later. I’ve spent the last seven years deconstructing how these events (and others) impacted how I’ve functioned in relationship. Now, I’m ready to share some of it with you.

#1: I married out of fear. When I married Dwight, I legitimately believed no one else in the world was going to love me. NO ONE! Given my history of abandonment by all primary caregivers (i.e., biological and adoptive parents), this is not strange. I had a sense that if my parents couldn’t even stick around, then why would anyone else? I (unconsciously) thought that if this man, who I perceived as perfect, wanted to marry me, then I’d better say yes and speed to my “happily ever after.” This isn’t to say I didn’t love him. It’s just that I had a feeling that this was my last chance ever at being loved. I entered our marriage as a scared little girl, and I maintained that fear for at least eighteen years.

#2: I thought being married could replace the love I should’ve had for myself. My husband once said, “I love you more than you love yourself.” That’s deep. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It sounded ridiculous. But he was right. My self-worth was so low that I (unconsciously) thought marrying him would solve my abandonment issues. I thought marriage could save me from that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling. Life doesn’t work that way, though. If you feel sad and dejected, once you get married, then you’ll just feel sad and dejected with a partner alongside you. And even though misery loves company, the company doesn’t love misery, especially when he didn’t ask for it. The only way to improve self-worth is to acknowledge your importance sans external validation. Worth doesn’t have to be earned. Self-worth is a birthright.

#3: I thought being married meant melding identities. I wrote about this here, but it’s worth reiterating. When Dwight and I were first in relationship, I was already dealing with the common identity issues associated with being an adoptee. I’d dissolved this already shaky sense of self and replaced it with his likes and desires. I thought I had to be someone else to maintain my husband’s love. This is unhealthy. It’s important for two people to have a clear sense of who they are and what they like prior to becoming a union. And afterwards, it’s just as important to maintain separate identities. At this point, I remind people that my husband and I are not Bobbsey twins; we do not do everything together. If you see me out and about by myself, it’s because that’s what I preferred at the time. Our separate actions have nothing to do with the love we share or the years we have.

There is a difference between how my personal issues affected our marriage and how much I love Dwight. One has nothing to do with the other. When we first met, there was an undeniable sense that we were supposed to be together. We both felt and still feel it; it’s kind of like a magnetic pull. It’s just that when you don’t resolve trauma prior to marrying, then you end up resolving it while you’re married. It’s not an impossible feat, but there will be negative consequences for one or both people.

Seek therapy. Get to know yourself. Then, commit. In an ideal world, that’s how healthy relationships would be created and maintained. But I also know we’re far from living in an idyllic society. And if we each waited for perfect wholeness in ourselves or another being, we’d probably remain by ourselves forever. Sounds contradictory, right? It is. Ultimately, I’d advise new couples to do their best to be healthy versions of themselves, while holding space for the one another to grow. That’s what we ended up doing, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years.



Post-script: I’ve got 3 more ways, but I gotta leave material for the memoir 💁🏽‍♀️

Monday Notes: Self-Expression and Personal Power

I was raised as an only child in a family of older relatives. In addition to my parents, there were two grandmothers, one grandfather, three great-grandparents, and three great aunts. Most of my cousins were actually my mothers’ cousins; meaning, they were each around my parents’ age. That’s a lot of older people who believed that “children should be seen and not heard.”

In case you cannot tell, I always have something to say about almost everything. This is not a new development.

So, what happens when a child, who has a lot to say, is raised in a family where she cannot express herself? What happens when a child is raised in a family where she is slapped in the mouth for saying something “out of line?” What happens when a child is raised in a family where she is told to “shut up?”

Well, I don’t know about others, but as soon as I was of age, I said what I wanted in the unhealthiest of ways. I was extremely sarcastic because I didn’t know how to safely communicate my emotions. I used to run around telling people to “shut the f*ck” up” when I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I’d berate people’s ideas by asking them if they were “stupid,” something my grandmother frequently used to ask me.

But when I began this blog, I did it with the purpose of being able to express myself differently—in healthy ways that I value.

I promised myself that what someone else had to say about how I’m communicating my thoughts would not matter. There’s no way I can write about the topics I do (i.e., abortion rights, imposter syndrome, etc.) while thinking about how others who may have been involved are going to interpret a narrative from thirty years ago.

Initially, this worked because I wrote about issues centered on people who are deceased (e.g., my mother) or jobs where I’m no longer employed.

However, I quickly learned it is impossible (for me) to maintain a blog and only talk about dead or distant relatives and jobs from years ago. Life happens, and because I’m living it with others, I may have something to say about a conversation from yesterday or an experience I had last week.

But recently, it seems my blog has made people uncomfortable. One person said, “Don’t put this on the blog,” before engaging in conversation, and another re-quoted words from something I’d written to “prove” I was exhibiting hypocrisy.

And you know what happened? With the former request, it felt like the person was trying to control what I write…on my blog. With the latter, it seemed as if my words were being used against me. Neither of these felt good, especially because I’ve struggled to have a healthy voice in the world for so long.

I had to reflect for a minute. What you’re reading is the result. I had to remind myself of a few things:

  1. I’m not a child or teenager. This reminder is not in an immature, I’m grown; I do what I want South Park kind of way. It’s literally a way to ground myself in the here and now to say, “KG, you’re an adult and you’ve learned how to communicate in healthy ways, so do that girl!” I had to give myself a pep talk.
  2. My power is in communicating. Subsequently, no one can take it away. I can give my power away. I can acquiesce to the needs and wants of others, consequently yielding power, but no one can take it from me.
  3. My “why” on this blog is always to inspire. As long as I sense I am affirming readers’ experiences or inspiring you to do or think about something in a new way, then I will continue…in my own way.

Sending love, light, and the ability to garner your personal power to anyone reading this.